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 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 SADC in August 2011 published an adopted AMP for solar energy generation, developed in cooperation with an interagency task force and farmer and industry representatives, and continues to work in a similar manner to develop an AMP for wind energy generation; and
WHEREAS, the SADC has released a draft AMP for On-Farm Direct Marketing/Agritourism facilities, activities and events; and
WHEREAS, the Right to Farm 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; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Mediation Program recently informed the SADC that its grant funding for state agricultural mediation programs may be used only to support conflict resolution of disputes involving USDA agencies and agricultural credit matters; and
WHEREAS, the agricultural community continues to view Right to Farm as critically important, with Right to Farm consistently ranked first among the New Jersey Farm Bureau’s annual ranking of its top 10 policy issues.
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, 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 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 we support the Right to Farm Program’s 2012 work plan that includes adoption of an AMP for direct marketing/agritourism, and plans to continue outreach and education efforts; amend 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, 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 SADC’s reorganization, including the planned hiring of a Chief of Agricultural Resources, to place greater emphasis on stewardship and agricultural development, including AMP development.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the SADC to continue its education efforts with the general public, farmers 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 passage 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 Governor and Legislature to appropriate a minimum of $300,000 in the FY2013 state budget for the SADC and counties to adequately administer the Act.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the SADC and the New .Jersey Department of Agriculture to work with the USDA Secretary of Agriculture to address federal Agricultural Mediation Program grant funding issues and enable the New Jersey Agricultural Mediation Program to continue to use federal funding to support mediation and conflict resolution efforts for right-to-farm purposes.