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 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 the SADC offers a voluntary Agricultural Mediation Program as an alternative to that formal process, since mediation can help disputing parties quickly resolve their problems, thereby saving all parties both time and costly legal fees.
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, strongly support New Jersey’s Right to Farm Act to continue to provide responsible farmers with critical protection against public and private nuisance actions and against municipal regulations that constrain farming.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the SADC to continue developing, prioritizing and adopting agricultural management practices (AMPs) that establish standards for right-to-farm protection for certain agricultural practices, in conjunction with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Rutgers University and with direct farmer input.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, in the absence of SADC adopted AMPs, we support the County Agriculture Development Boards’ continued development and recommendation of site-specific agricultural management practices, which provide a farmer with assurance that his or her specific operation or practices conform to generally accepted agricultural management practices.
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 support the Right to Farm Program’s 2010 work plan that calls for amending the program’s regulations to make them more consistent with statutory processes, including strengthening the rules to reflect the legislative intent; reduce unnecessary back-and-forth between the SADC and county agriculture development boards (CADBs); encourage mediation before right-to-farm complaints are filed; and allow CADBs to secure escrowed fees to assist in performing required engineering and technical reviews.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the SADC to continue with its reconstitution of a farm market/agritourism working group aimed at drafting agricultural management practices (AMPs) by the end of 2010.
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.
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 agritourism.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the development of legislation to discourage repeated harassment suits against farmers, including requiring complainants to pay all reasonable legal fees and associated costs the farmer may incur to defend against complaints where the farmer is determined 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 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 call on the SADC to actively pursue additional funding through the USDA’s Agricultural Mediation Program.
While New Jersey’s Right to Farm Act is considered one of the strongest in the nation, many municipalities and others are unaware of the protections and procedures under the Act. SADC staff continued 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.
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. The SADC also continues to conduct other outreach efforts to local planning and zoning officials, including a right-to-farm presentation at the September 2009 meeting of the New Jersey Association of Planning and Zoning Administrators as part of the organization’s continuing education programming.
The SADC in 2009 completed the Risk Management Education grant project, “Farmer-to-Farmer Advice for Avoiding Conflicts with Neighbors and Towns,” with a summary report to the agricultural community that highlighted the program’s positive results, farmers’ feedback on the project, and their ideas for further conflict prevention and resolution activities.
The SADC also distributed an update on the Agricultural Mediation Program to the agricultural community in July 2009 to increase farmers’ awareness of the program and to seek input on additional conflict prevention and resolution activities the program could undertake.
The Right to Farm Program’s 2010 work plan includes amending the program’s regulations to make them more consistent with statutory processes; reduce unnecessary back-and-forth between the SADC and county agriculture development boards (CADBs); encourage mediation before right-to-farm complaints are filed; and allow CADBs to secure escrowed fees to assist in performing required engineering and technical reviews. The SADC also plans to reconstitute a farm market/agritourism working grouped aimed at drafting agricultural management practices (AMPs) by the end of 2010.
Despite the important work of the Right to Farm Program, its $85,000 allocation in FY2010 continues to be insufficient. The SADC was able to secure an additional $14,303 for its Agricultural Mediation Program for federal FY2009 through the USDA’s Agricultural Mediation Program.