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WHEREAS, a sufficient land base must exist for agriculture to remain viable in New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, of the approximately 1.7 million acres of remaining undeveloped or unpreserved open space in New Jersey, 805,000 acres are actively devoted to agricultural production; therefore, New Jersey’s farmland is in high demand by developers and others with non-agricultural interests; and

WHEREAS, the Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) has provided the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) with an average of $86 million annually in new farmland preservation funding for fiscal years 2000-2007; and

WHEREAS, although the GSPT was established as a 10-year program expected to provide funding through fiscal year 2009, depletion of the fund has been accelerated by a number of factors; and it is critical that a stable source of funding for farmland preservation be renewed; and

WHEREAS, the GSPT currently has only approximately $75 million total remaining to fund farmland preservation projects in fiscal year 2008 and beyond; and

WHEREAS, preservation of land is only one component of preserving New Jersey’s farmers and agricultural industry; the Department’s approach to smart growth coordinates farmland preservation efforts with economic development strategies at the county and municipal levels; and

WHEREAS, the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan includes comprehensive proactive strategies that link the land, products, processing and workforce with marketing opportunities; and the plan encourages proven traditional measures as well as innovative approaches, such as clustering and using alternative wastewater treatment systems to balance the need for both preservation and growth; and

WHEREAS, the plan also opposes large lot zoning and downzoning, two practices that permanently remove the land from agricultural production at an accelerated rate, undermine preservation programs, and erode a farmer’s equity; these actions have a direct, negative impact on the retention of farms and farmers by severely reducing land values and farmland landowner equity; and

WHEREAS, the plan also recognizes long-term land value appreciation as a factor in the continued viability of New Jersey farms; and the maintenance of equity is a key concern for farmers, who use their land’s value as collateral for operating and production loans; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Agriculture’s Smart Growth Working Group has developed a web-based Planner’s Tool Kit that provides municipalities and counties with “hands-on” tools to assist with the implementation of the objectives and strategies of the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan; and

WHEREAS, land use concerns of Statewide importance continue to come to the forefront, such as restrictions on impervious cover, which are broadly defined to include any surface that is highly resistant to water infiltration; however, the definition can vary depending upon the defining entity; and

WHEREAS, although outside pressures continue to try to cap the amount of impervious cover on preserved farms, the Department of Agriculture supports a science-based approach that addresses the issue on a site-by-site basis.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 92nd State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 13, 2007, endorse the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan and its five-part approach to land use and conservation, balanced with economic development initiatives.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we recommend that the Department of Agriculture take a lead role in supporting and advancing equitable and feasible density-transfer methods, including but not limited to clustering, regional growth zones, Pineland Development Credits (PDCs) and transfer of development rights (TDRs) to coordinate preservation planning in conjunction with growth planning.  The Department should also support and advance the use of current and new wastewater technologies to allow for the implementation of sound, innovative planning techniques to assist municipalities and counties with the implementation of the objectives and strategies of the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Department should also explore funding options to advance the development and expansion of agricultural facilities and infrastructure systems. Other statewide initiatives, such as Ag Enterprise Zones, should be explored to stimulate the retention and viability of farms and the businesses that support them.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, we are opposed to downzoning or large-lot zoning or zoning that has the practical effect of large lot zoning, because it fractures and consumes farmland, promotes land-consumptive sprawl, and adversely affects landowner equity.  These zoning practices are counter-productive to the principles of smart growth and should be discouraged by the Office of Smart Growth.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we recognize that the protection of farmer landowner equity is critical to the preservation of agriculture in New Jersey, and the preservation of the land base.  The cost of stopping sprawl, preserving open space, and protecting the environment must be shared by all those who benefit, not placed primarily upon those who wish to keep their land in agriculture or open space.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we oppose the adoption of restrictive land use and wildlife management or protection ordinances by any municipality in the State of New Jersey that are not science based or that exceed the powers granted to those municipalities under existing laws and statutes. County Agriculture Development Boards are encouraged to exercise their power to monitor and make recommendations to the SADC, county and municipal governing bodies and boards, regarding resolutions, ordinances, regulations and development approvals that would threaten the continued viability of agricultural activities and farmland preservation programs within agricultural development areas.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we direct the Department to monitor the activities of, and regulations promulgated by other state and federal agencies and to monitor the activities of County Agriculture Development Boards and make recommendations to these entities when their actions and regulations have an impact on agriculture.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we oppose any conservation Programs such as the Lip Program that directly compete with farmers for rented farmland and pay 2 to 3 times the per acre rental rate.  Such programs do not benefit the farm operator and compete for prime productive acres reducing farm viability.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we recommend that all landowners involved in all preservation programs (TDR sending areas, Pinelands credit sending areas, etc.) be eligible for the same package of benefits or State incentive programs available through the State Farmland Preservation Program.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the Legislature to require that all public land acquired for open space purposes, which is farmed or can potentially be farmed, continue in an agricultural use or be placed in an agricultural use until it is needed for its acquired purpose - thereby keeping more of the State’s land base in agriculture. Doing so will expand the industry and minimize the maintenance that is needed to control exotic and invasive species. Keeping publicly-owned land in ongoing agricultural use will allow the land to be recognized as “established” in the Freshwater Wetlands Act, eligible for agricultural exemptions, where lands that have lain idle for more than five years are no longer recognized as such.  In addition, private management of public land is cost-effective; thereby saving tax dollars that would otherwise be spent on land maintenance and is likely to result in more consistent land management because farmers will want the land maintained in a manner that will result in the greatest crop yield.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, we strongly recommend that the Department of Agriculture work with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to clarify whether fallow farmland, as identified in the farm-specific management protocol or in an Agricultural Management Practice (AMP) adopted by the SADC, can be protected under the Freshwater Wetlands Act as an “established” agricultural use and to encourage the NJDEP to accommodate agricultural practices under the Act that may require land to lay fallow for a period of years.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage participation of the entire agricultural community in the smart growth planning process and the ongoing cross-acceptance process.  We direct the Department of Agriculture to work with Rutgers University, Farm Bureau, the County Boards of Agriculture, the County Agriculture Development Boards, commodity groups, community leaders and other interested partners in the implementation of the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we continue to oppose any hard and fast caps on impervious cover. We support a threshold trigger for new impervious cover and the use of science-based criteria, which is evaluated on a site-specific basis.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the State Planning Commission to integrate the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan into the State Comprehensive Smart Growth Plan to ensure a balanced approach that recognizes the importance of agriculture in New Jersey.