Section 24. (a) There shall be an agricultural lands preservation committee in the department of agricultural resources, the members of which shall be the commissioner of agricultural resources, who shall be chairman, the secretary of environmental affairs, the director of housing and community development, the director of the office of state planning, the chairman of the board of agricultural resources or their respective designees, and 4 members appointed by the governor, 2 of whom shall be owners and operators of farms within the commonwealth. Members appointed by the governor shall receive $50 for each day or portion thereof spent in discharge of their official duties not to exceed $600 annually and shall be reimbursed for the necessary expenses incurred. The dean of the college of food and natural resources of the University of Massachusetts and the state conservationist of the United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service, or their respective designees, shall serve as nonvoting members.
(b) The committee shall evaluate and accept or reject projects submitted by cities and towns. In so evaluating, the committee shall consider at a minimum the following:
(1) the suitability of land as to soil classification and other criteria for agricultural use;
(2) the fair market value of such land and the fair market value of such land when used for agricultural purposes as determined by independent appraisals; and
(3) the degree to which the acquisition would serve to preserve the agricultural potential of the commonwealth.
(c) The commissioner of agricultural resources may establish such rules and regulations as may be deemed necessary to carry out this section.
(d) Each member of the committee appointed by the governor shall be appointed for a term of 4 years, and until his successor is qualified. Of the first such members appointed, 1 shall serve for a term of 1 year; 1 shall serve for a term of 2 years; 1 shall serve for a term of 3 years; 1 shall serve for a term of 4 years. A person appointed to fill a vacancy shall serve for the unexpired term of such vacancy. Any member may be eligible for reappointment.