Conservation Planning to Protect Both the Environment and Agriculture
WHERAS, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) through the State Board of Agriculture, the State Agriculture Development Committee and the State Soil Conservation Committee/Soil Conservation Districts, is charged by statute with strengthening and supporting the continued viability of New Jersey’s one million acres of agricultural and forest lands and providing for natural resource conservation in New Jersey through a variety of programs, partnerships and personal contacts; and
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, 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 few years the concept of an alternative approach 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 NJDEP Commissioner Robert 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 offset 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 evaluate and mitigate impacts on a site-specific basis.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 97th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on January 18-19, 2012, 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 an alternative approach 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; which 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.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we specifically call for this approach in the re-adoption of the Stormwater Regulations.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will continue to encourage this approach when the NJDEP reinstitutes their 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 an alternative approach and other appropriate remedies, namely Farm Conservation Plans, 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.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge the Governor and Legislature on the state level, as well as the federal government, to provide adequate funding for the programs and activities that are necessary to give farmers the tools to operate in the most environmentally responsible way in order to retain farmland and maintain a viable agricultural industry.