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December 17, 2003

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Bill (S2832/A3936) – The Department of Agriculture has been working with a coalition of agencies and advocacy groups including Farm Bureau and the League of Municipalities to support the development and approval of enabling legislation that would allow all municipalities in New Jersey to institute a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program in their jurisdiction. TDR protects landowner equity while preserving open space and agricultural lands by designating “sending” (or preservation) areas and “receiving” (or development) areas. The Assembly version of the bill contained some last-minute revisions which the Department believes will undermine the intent and functionality of the TDR legislation, requiring the purchase of transfer credits only in those situations where a developer seeks to increase the development density of the receiving area over what the current receiving area zoning permits. This revision effectively eliminates any incentive for the purchase of development credits, a process that TDR utilizes to achieve landowner equity in the sending district. The Department drafted comments on the revision and has been working with the Department of Community Affairs and other agencies and groups to have this modification reversed.

Smart Growth – Following the State Board of Agriculture’s approval of the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan, Department staff posted the document on the Department’s official web page and contracted with a printer to have bound copies produced. A bound copy of the plan will be included in each delegate’s package, and additional copies will be available at the State Agricultural Convention in February.

Farmland Preservation – Thus far in 2003, the Farmland Preservation Program has preserved 225 farms, totaling 17,505 acres. The statewide goal is 20,000 acres per year. SADC staff also hosted an informational Planning Incentive Grant summit attended by 20 municipalities and seven counties.

Affordable Farm Labor Housing – The Department and the State Board forwarded comments to the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regarding the latest iteration of proposed new rules pertaining to municipal COAH obligations. The Department and Board asked COAH to revise the regulations to include year-round farm labor housing as an eligible component of a municipality’s fair share obligation. Under the rules as proposed, agricultural labor housing did not count toward the municipality’s fair share obligation. For many rural municipalities, low- and very-low income residents are largely farm workers; therefore, counting ag labor housing towards the COAH obligation allows these rural towns to better meet the needs of their residents and helps ensure an adequate supply of agricultural labor housing, a goal of the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan for New Jersey.

Apiary Issues – Despite educational efforts by the state apiarist, Paul Raybold, and the NJ Beekeepers Association, the Borough of Alpine adopted a municipal ordinance in November, which prohibits the raising, keeping, or harboring of any bees for commercial or non-commercial purposes. This ordinance is technically flawed because it does not differentiate between managed honeybees or wild, native bees, and due to opposition to the ban by some residents, there may be further discussion of the ordinance at a future meeting. The Department continues to monitor this situation. All Department County Agricultural Board liaisons have been notified of the situation in Alpine and have informed their respective County Boards about both the trend and resources for outreach and education should they heard of a local municipality with similar plans.

Agricultural Education – Four Fall Career Development Events were held for 194 participants representing 23 FFA Chapters. The first place teams were:

§ Dairy Foods – South Hunterdon FFA (will represent NJ at 2004 National FFA Convention)
§ Fruit and Vegetable Identification – Allentown FFA
§ Land Judging – Allentown (will represent NJ at 2004 Land Judging Competition in Oklahoma)
§ Turf Management – Monmouth County

The top three participants are eligible for scholarships in Rutgers Turf Program.

Food Distribution – During December, 480,290 pounds of commodities were direct shipped to approved donated food processors from USDA vendors. Commodities included whole chicken, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and coarse ground beef. These commodities will be processed into various finished products and distributed to eligible recipient agencies.

Alampi Laboratory Shares Expertise – Laboratory staff from Clemson University visited the Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory to view production methods and to receive hands-on training for rearing the hemlock adelgid predator, Pseudoscymnus tsugae. The training was part of Clemson University’s efforts to establish a rearing a laboratory for the hemlock adelgid predator. The visit was part of an on-going association between the Alampi Laboratory, the Chatooga Conservancy, and other organizations interested in beginning biocontrol program to protect hemlock in the Great Smokey National Park. Also, a consortium of biologists from Penn State University, Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum and private environmental consultants toured the Laboratory to learn of New Jersey’s history in biological control and to view current programs. Visiting workers were especially interested in the Laboratory’s production of predators to control purple loosestrife and hemlock adelgid, and were complementary of the Department’s biological control efforts.

Marketing – The Secretary and Al Murray, Director of Markets, attended the first of several meetings with New Jersey farmers, discussing the marketing efforts of the Department. The first meeting, held in Cumberland County, offered local growers an opportunity to share their thoughts on the current strengths of the New Jersey Fresh Program and suggest opportunities for expanding the program to meet changing marketplace demands. Topics included biosecurity, product traceability, and the relationship between New Jersey’s growers and retailers.