WHEREAS, a sufficient land base must exist for agriculture to remain viable in New Jersey, and of the approximately 1.5 million acres of remaining undeveloped or unpreserved open space in New Jersey, approximately 800,000 acres of agricultural and forest lands acres are actively devoted to agricultural and woodland production; and
WHEREAS, a public referendum approved by voters in November 2009 will provide an additional $146 million to continue to fund farmland preservation efforts, yet there is no remaining acquisition funding for farmland preservation beyond that, making it critical that a stable source of funding for farmland preservation be established; and
WHEREAS, preservation of land is only one component of preserving New Jersey’s farmers and agricultural industry, hence the Department’s approach to smart growth coordinates farmland preservation efforts with economic development strategies at the county and municipal levels; and
WHEREAS, land devoted to agriculture greatly fulfills the need to avoid increasing impervious cover, wherever possible, that is inevitably a byproduct of residential, commercial and industrial development, thereby having a net positive impact in recharging groundwater.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 95th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in East Brunswick, New Jersey, on February 9, 2010, do hereby endorse the Department’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 urge the Department to take a lead role in supporting and advancing equitable and feasible density-transfer methods, including but not limited to clustering, regional growth zones, Pinelands Development Credits (PDCs) and transfer of development rights (TDRs) to facilitate preservation planning in conjunction with growth planning.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we direct the Department to 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, that we direct the Department to explore funding options to advance the development and expansion of agricultural facilities and infrastructure systems; and 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, that 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, and as such is counter-productive to the principles of smart growth and should be discouraged by the Office of Smart Growth.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we oppose the adoption of restrictive land use and wildlife management or protection statutes, ordinances or regulations by the state, any municipality or other government entity in the State of New Jersey that are not science based or that exceed the powers granted to governmental entities under existing laws and statutes.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we oppose any conservation programs that directly compete with farmers for rented farmland and pay two to three times the per-acre rental rate, as such programs do not benefit the farm operator and compete for prime productive acres, reducing farm viability and in some cases removing land from agricultural production.
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, and that tenants be eligible for those programs that are appropriate to them.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the Legislature and all other appropriate officials 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.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we continue to oppose any hard and fast caps on impervious cover, but instead 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.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the participation of the Department and the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) in New Jersey Future’s Task Force, which is working to develop statutory, regulatory, programmatic and policy recommendations within a year to encourage the use of TDR at both the municipal level and regionally.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we recommend that representatives from the Department and the SADC meet with the Office of the Attorney General in order to seek full compliance with the Right to Farm requirement related to regulatory agricultural impact statements.
The Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan includes comprehensive, proactive strategies that link the land, products, processing and workforce with marketing opportunities. 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.
The SADC’s planning incentive grant process implements the principles of the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan by requiring that counties and municipalities develop comprehensive farmland preservation plans that not only establish long-term preservation goals, but also explore a wide array of ways to attract and retain thriving farm operations and a sustainable agricultural industry. To aid in this effort, the Department 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.
Land use concerns of statewide importance continue to come to the forefront, such as restrictions on impervious cover, which is broadly defined to include any surface that is highly resistant to water infiltration; however, the definition can vary depending upon the defining entity. Although outside pressures continue to try to cap the amount of impervious cover on preserved farms, the Department supports a science-based approach that addresses the issue on a site-by-site basis through the conservation planning process.
The Legislature amended the Right to Farm Act in 1998 to require an agency proposing a rule for adoption to include in the rule proposal an Agriculture Industry Impact Statement, setting forth the nature and extent of the impact of the proposed rule on the agricultural industry so that the SADC is given the opportunity to evaluate the impact, because if the SADC finds that the proposed rules may have a significant adverse impact on the agricultural industry, the agency proposing the rule is obligated to consult with the SADC.
Agency rules have been proposed without appropriate consideration of the impact on the agricultural industry and, therefore, without provision of the statutorily required notice to the agricultural industry and the SADC, effectively denying the agricultural industry its mandated opportunity for consultation in the rule-making process.
TDR has tremendous potential to help preserve New Jersey’s farmland, open space and historic resources while promoting the development and redevelopment of vibrant neighborhoods and communities. The 2004 State TDR Act made TDR available to all municipalities. However, statutes and regulations can make the TDR planning process very complex, time-consuming and expensive, and discourage towns from pursuing it.
New Jersey Future has convened a strategic group of stakeholders – local and county officials, municipal planners and engineers, environmentalists, developers, smart growth advocates and representatives of the farming community – to work to develop statutory, regulatory, programmatic and policy recommendations within a year to encourage the use of TDR at both the municipal level and regionally. Representatives of critical regional and state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, have also been invited to participate.