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Right to Farm Program
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 August 2008 adopted new rules that extend Right-to-Farm protection to equine service activities, including boarding, keeping, rehabilitation and training of horses, as well as complementary equine activities that meet certain conditions, and establish an AMP for equine activities that sets the standards with which equine farms need to comply to be eligible for Right-to-Farm protection; and

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

WHEREAS, the SADC in 2009 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 Department; and

WHEREAS, upon adoption of the agritourism AMP, the SADC will have greatly expanded protection for the two sectors of the agricultural industry – equine and agritourism -- 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, New Jersey municipal planning and zoning board members continue to receive Right-to-Farm information as part of their mandatory training as a result of a module developed by the SADC, Department of Community Affairs and New Jersey League of Municipalities; and

WHEREAS, the SADC continues to conduct other outreach efforts to local planning and zoning officials, including a Right-to-Farm presentation at the June 2008 meeting of the New Jersey Association of Planning and Zoning Administrators as part of the organization’s continuing education programming; and

WHEREAS, the SADC in early 2008 published the brochure “Farmer-to-Farmer Advice for Avoiding Conflicts With Neighbors and Towns,” a collection of advice, tips and strategies farmers have employed to avoid conflicts and maintain good relationships with their neighbors and municipalities; and

WHEREAS, panels of farmers also presented this information to other farmers at a series of conferences in 2008, including the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey’s conference, the State Agricultural Convention, the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association’s South Jersey Growers Conference, an open meeting of the New Jersey Horse Council, Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s North Jersey Commercial Fruit Growers meeting and a New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program seminar; and 

WHEREAS, despite the important work of the Right to Farm Program, its $85,000 allocation in FY2009 continues to be insufficient to fund the program; and

WHEREAS, the SADC was successful in securing $14,755 in additional funding for its Agricultural Mediation Program for federal fiscal year 2008 through the USDA’s Agricultural Mediation Program.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 94th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 10, 2009, 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 FY2010 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 with direct farmer input, 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 all reasonable legal fees and associated costs that the farmer may incur to defend against complaints where the farmer is determined by the State, county, or judged in a court of law 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 commercial farm operators under the Right to Farm Act.