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WHEREAS, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently proposed extremely comprehensive final rules to implement the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (Act) containing 372 pages; and

WHEREAS, DEP only provided a 60 day comment period despite the extremely technical and extensive nature of the proposed rules, which has made it extremely difficult to evaluate the impact of the rules within the available public comment period;

WHEREAS, the public comment period for this proposal expires on February 17, 2006; and

WHEREAS, there was only one public hearing scheduled for this extremely critical document which impacts virtually all land use decisions and activities in the nearly 850,000 acre area, involving seven counties, 88 municipalities and almost 1,328 square miles, or nearly 18% of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, at the hearing there were no media representatives present and less than 40 persons testified, suggesting that effort to inform the public about the hearing was insufficient; and

WHEREAS, the DEP final rules will be adopted prior to the development, public review and adoption of the Highlands Regional Master Plan, which may require DEP to amend their final rule.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates of the 91st State Agricultural Convention assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 8, 2006 do hereby resolve as follows:

· We request the DEP to delay action on the proposed final Highlands rules to provide further opportunity for public review and comment;
· We request the DEP to amend its Economic and Agricultural Impact Statement to address the current and additional anticipated negative economic impact of the rules on the land values in the Highlands Preservation Area, where virtually all development potential has been removed; and
· We urge the Governor and the Legislature to establish a dedicated funding source to provide compensation to property owners who have and still will suffer irreparable losses from the Act.