WHEREAS, a sufficient land base must exist for agriculture to remain viable in New Jersey, and of the approximately one million acres of remaining developable unpreserved open space in New Jersey, approximately 800,000 acres are unpreserved farmland and privately held forest land actively devoted to agricultural and woodland production; and
WHEREAS, a public referendum approved by voters in November 2009 has provided an additional $146 million to continue to fund farmland preservation efforts, but 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 offset increasing impervious cover, wherever possible, that is inevitably a byproduct of residential, commercial and industrial development, thereby having a positive impact in recharging groundwater; and
WHEREAS, the State Planning Commission (SPC) reconvened in February 2011 and the Christie Administration announced a new State Strategic Planning project to transform the existing land use planning framework into one that prioritizes and supports sustainable economic growth; and
WHEREAS, after seven public hearings, the State Planning Commission was scheduled to adopt the new State Strategic Plan in November 2012, but the vote was delayed due to the state dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, allowing for additional public comment on the draft plan; and
WHEREAS, the proposed final draft of the State Strategic Plan was released in October, and focuses the state’s policies and investments on vibrant regions by fostering targeted job growth, supporting effective regional planning and preserving critical resources, and can be adopted by the SPC after a series of public hearings; and
WHEREAS, Hurricane Sandy in October-November 2012 caused severe damage to many areas of the State of New Jersey, and rebuilding of those areas will take significant time and resources; and
WHEREAS, proposals may be put forth to redevelop areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy in a way that reduces current agricultural lands or the opportunities for the development of further agricultural lands.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 98th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 6-7, 2013, 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 and encourage the Department to incorporate these concepts into the Department Strategic Plan based on the new State Strategic Plan goals and objectives with guidance from OPA .
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department to continue taking 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 urge 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 urge 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 therefore is counter-productive to the principles 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 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, tied to a percentage of the land with impervious cover, 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 support the participation of the Department and the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) in helping to implement a New Jersey Future Task Force report of recommendations to encourage the use of TDRs at both the municipal level and regionally through changes to relevant statutes, regulations, policies and programs as recommended in the draft State Strategic Plan.
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.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge state, county and local governments to reject any plans proposed for rebuilding areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy that would reduce the current acreage of agricultural lands in the area covered by the redevelopment plan or which would reduce the opportunity to further develop those areas for agricultural purposes.