WHEREAS, the Department in its programs historically and aggressively supports natural resource conservation programs for the protection of the soil, water, air, plants and animals related to agriculture, and the protection of New Jersey citizens who rely on fresh, high-quality agricultural products, together with open space, forest lands and the vast natural, social and environmental benefits of these systems; and
WHEREAS, the NJDA has provided comments on the Stormwater rules, Surface Water Quality Standards amendments, Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules, Water Quality Management Planning rules, Stormwater Best Management Practices (that are not promulgated by rule) and Highlands rules and policies in order to protect responsible agriculture operations from unnecessary regulation; and
WHEREAS, during the past year the concept of a permit-by-rule procedure for agricultural operations, whereby the natural resource concerns that are being addressed in specific regulations are addressed through the development and implementation of a Farm Conservation Plan, was discussed with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and is included in the Department’s realignment and process improvement document that was submitted to the Governor’s office; and
WHEREAS, land devoted to agriculture greatly fulfills the need to avoid increasing impervious cover, which is inevitably a byproduct of residential, commercial and industrial development, thereby having a net positive impact in recharging groundwater; and
WHEREAS, we continue to oppose any hard and fast caps on the creation of impervious cover on agricultural operations, and instead support a threshold trigger for regulating impervious cover development supported by the use of science-based criteria, which are evaluated on a site-specific basis.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 96th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 8-9, 2011, hereby support the historic and ongoing programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Rural Development; the New Jersey Department of Agriculture; Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the Agricultural Experiment Station; and other agencies and groups that support the protection of agricultural land, natural resources and the agricultural industry.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we direct the Department to continue working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, soil conservation districts and others to develop, enhance and maintain conservation practices that are based on sound science, and to expand the implementation of conservation plans, including incentive-based programs to protect the quality of water, soil, air, plants and animals.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) , to adopt an overall policy direction that would allow for a permit-by-rule procedure for agricultural operations, whereby the natural resource concerns that are being addressed in specific regulations are addressed through the development and implementation of a Farm Conservation Plan; a Permit-by-Rule allows a specific regulated activity to be undertaken without prior written approval of the NJDEP provided that all conditions of the appropriate rule are met. See note on wordsmithing.
BT IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we specifically call for this approach in the Stormwater Regulations that were readopted without amendments to the agricultural development section of the rule by the NJDEP.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will continue to encourage this approach as the NJDEP continues to hold stakeholder meetings to discuss how to streamline and clarify all of their regulations.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and Legislature to ensure that a permit-by-rule approach and other appropriate remedies are implemented without delay to protect environmentally responsible agricultural operations from overly burdensome regulations that threaten the continued viability of these farms and New Jersey’s efforts to retain our farmland and a thriving agricultural industry.
Conservation Planning to Protect Both the Environment and Agriculture
The Department of Agriculture relies upon sound science, expertise and knowledge from New Jersey universities, state and federal partner agencies, advisory groups, farmers and agricultural professionals from around the state and nation to help develop sound, time tested and realistic conservation policies and best management practices to protect our state’s natural and renewable resources to support New Jersey’s agriculture infrastructure valued at more than $8.6 billion with products valued at $1 billion annually.
Agricultural producers have put their trust in the Department, state universities, conservation partner agencies and advisory groups for technical support of New Jersey’s agricultural industry and for the sustainability of producers, their way-of-life and their dedication to agriculture, such that the Farmland Preservation Program that permanently restricts the land for agricultural use – which is strongly supported by the general public and farmers – continues to be oversubscribed.
Agricultural production is hampered at times by the forces of nature such as excessive cold, heat, wetness, dryness, disease, other natural occurrences and also by overly-restrictive regulations that jeopardize the personal livelihood of producers and directly impact whether the land will remain in agriculture or will be converted to non-agricultural uses.
During the past several years there has been a dramatic increase in regulation by rules and ordinances that adversely impact agriculture, which has caused great concern and frustration in the agricultural community and is contributing to a faster conversion of land out of agricultural use.
Agricultural producers’ ability to farm is often impeded by restrictions regarding dust, sound, odor, water use, tree-harvesting, protected wildlife species and required buffers, as well as over-aggressive and inconsistent enforcement, including threats of fines and other actions that can overwhelm a responsible agricultural operation, resulting in significant income loss.
The NJDA has offered constructive and reasonable comments to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) during its rule-making process to protect agriculture against the adoption of unnecessary regulations while still ensuring protection of the environment against non-point source pollution, but often to no avail.
There is a perception that, while NJDEP advocates for the retention of agricultural and open land, it does not respect agriculture’s input on regulations that negatively impact a farmer’s ability to keep that land open and productive, despite the fact that the NJDA’s recommendations are based on the 70-year history of the natural resource conservation programs.
Agricultural producers, in turn, have not received a satisfactory response to impediments and nuisances impacting agriculture, such as geese, starlings, crows and other birds, deer, bear, erosion, invasive species from publicly held lands and other problems that are under the control of other regulatory agencies.
The Department will explore the possibility of creating an Ag Composting Program within the Department of Agriculture, separate and apart from the NJDEP Solid Waste Management Program, that would establish agricultural composting facilities and monitor program compliance.
The Department of Agriculture will continue to identify ways to assist livestock farmers with self-certified and high-density plan development and implementation to assure that the animal waste management program is effective, practical, affordable and feasible.