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WHEREAS, the Right to Farm Act provides eligible, responsible farmers with protection from restrictive local government ordinances, as well as public and private nuisance actions; and it provides increased protection to those farmers who operate in accordance with agricultural management practices (AMPs) that have been adopted by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC); and

WHEREAS, the Act gives primary jurisdiction in resolving complaints against agricultural operations to county agriculture development boards and ultimately to the SADC if the decisions of the county boards are appealed; and

WHEREAS, the SADC offers a voluntary Agricultural Mediation Program as an alternative to the public hearing process, that can help disputing parties quickly resolve their problems, thereby saving all parties both time and costly legal fees; and

WHEREAS, the SADC in July proposed three rules that would extend right-to-farm protection to equine service activities, such as boarding, keeping, rehabilitation and training of horses, as well as complementary equine activities that meet certain conditions; establish an AMP for equine activities that sets the standards with which equine farms would need to comply to be eligible for right-to-farm protection; and clarify the equine activities that are permitted on preserved farms and the conditions under which those activities will be permissible; and

WHEREAS,adoption of these equine rules will provide critical protections to an important and growing sector of New Jersey agriculture; and

WHEREAS, the SADC in 2008 will reconsider and revise its draft AMP for agritourism based on comments received from the agricultural community and an agritourism survey completed by Rutgers University and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture; and

WHEREAS,the SADC plans to pursue two additional AMPs in 2008 that address farm markets and greenhouses based on work performed by Rutgers staff; and

WHEREAS, upon adoption of these AMPs, the SADC will have greatly expanded protection for the four sectors of the agricultural industry most frequently subject to right-to-farm complaints; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s Right to Farm Act is considered one of the strongest in the nation, yet many municipalities and others are unaware of the protections and procedures under the Act; and SADC staff continue to educate and inform local government entities and the public about the Right to Farm Act and advise various local officials and landowners on a regular basis; and

WHEREAS, the SADC in Spring 2007 secured a grant for $15,000 from the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education to solicit, compile and publish a collection of advice, tips and strategies farmers have employed to avoid conflicts and maintain good relationships with their neighbors and municipalities; and

WHEREAS, this information also will be presented to farmers at a series of winter conferences, including the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey’s conference in January and the SADC’s third annual Farmland Preservation Program Summit in April; and  

WHEREAS, the SADC worked with the Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey League of Municipalities to include a Right to Farm module in the new mandatory training for local planning and zoning officials; and

WHEREAS, despite the important work of the Right to Farm Program, the program’s $90,000 allocation in the FY2008 State budget continues to be insufficient to fund the program;

WHEREAS, the SADC was successful in securing $17,545 in additional funding for its Agricultural Mediation Program in federal fiscal year 2007 through the USDA’s Agricultural Mediation Program.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 93rd State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 5, 2008, strongly support New Jersey’s Right to Farm Act and call upon the Legislature and Governor to appropriate a minimum of $300,000 in the FY2009 State budget for the SADC and counties to adequately administer the Act.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the SADC’s continued development, prioritization and adoption of AMPs in conjunction with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Rutgers University, and, in the absence of SADC-adopted AMPs, the County Agriculture Development Boards’ continued development and recommendation of site-specific agricultural practices.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the right-to-farm public hearing process and the SADC’s Agricultural Mediation Program as a voluntary, cost-effective alternative to that process.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support initiatives to discourage repeated harassment suits against farmers, such as development of legislation that would require  complainants to pay the farmer’s legal fees in cases where the farmer is proven to be operating in compliance with all appropriate AMPs or is otherwise entitled to right-to-farm protection.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED,that we call on the SADC to actively pursue additional funding through the USDA’s Agricultural Mediation Program.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the SADC to continue its efforts to provide the maximum protections under the Right to Farm Act.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon and direct the SADC to continue to take the necessary steps to insure that owners of deed-restricted farms enjoy the same flexibility in adapting their agricultural operations to achieve economic viability as do owners of non-deed restricted farms under the Right to Farm Act, specifically in the areas of marketing and agri-tourism.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the SADC to continue its education efforts with the general public and municipal, county and judicial officials with respect to the protections afforded legitimate commercial farm operators under the Right to Farm Act.