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Division of Land Use Regulation
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Agricultural Activities

  • Overview
  • Freshwater Wetlands
  • Flood Hazard
  • Coastal
  • Tidelands

New Jersey's nickname is "The Garden State" for a good reason. Before the rise of industrial centers during the post-colonial era in the northeastern section of the State and along the Delaware River, agriculture was a vital economic interest. New Jersey farms provided produce and grain to these expanding commerce centers and to the growing cities of New York and Philadelphia.  Today, New Jersey’s agriculture industry continues to contribute to the State’s economy by bringing in billions of dollars in revenue.  Additionally, according to the Department of Agriculture, New Jersey is one of the top ten national producers of blueberries, cranberries, peaches, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, snap beans, spinach, and squash.

Agricultural activities may result in disturbance to “special areas” regulated by the Department and may require multiple permits from the Division of Land Use Regulation prior to site preparation or construction. The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb.  Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required.  Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed activity relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted. 

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to agricultural activities.  For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab.  Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the "Tidelands" tab.

As a general rule, ongoing agricultural activities in a Freshwater Wetland or Wetland Buffers are not regulated by the Department. This could mean planting, tending and harvesting of crops, maintenance of an existing farm pond, any normal farming practice that is ongoing. New construction may be regulated, or exempted, depending on the activity. For more specifics on what farming, ranching and silviculture activities are exempted from the rules, please see the section of our rules on: Activities exempted from permit and/or waiver requirement.

One activity which does require a permit from the Division is the Expansion of cranberry growing operations in the Pinelands. Please click on that link for more information about this permit.

Important: The Division considers a farm field to have been "Abandoned" if the field was used for agriculture, but has not been used to produce a crop or product for five years or more. In these cases, wetlands and wetland buffers in these abandon fields are considered regulated and no renewed farming activity can occur within these areas without a permit.

Performing agricultural activities in regulated areas may require authorization pursuant to the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules. Assuming there is no jurisdiction pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, authorization may be granted through the Flood Hazard Area Permits-by-rule (PBRs) at N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)1, N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)2, N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)3, or N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)4. If the project does not qualify for one of these PBRs as provided below, it may require a General Permit or an Individual Permit.

If the project is regulated pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, then no separate Flood Hazard approval is required. In these instances, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as part of the coastal permit application. Please refer to the rules to see the all of the applicable conditions where each PBR would apply. Some special notes about these PBRs are listed as follows.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)1 – This PBR only applies for the continuation of a lawfully existing agricultural activities upon land that has been actively farmed since October 2, 2006.  This PBR does not allow for the expansion of agricultural activities or the construction of any aboveground structures, fences, silos, or buildings. 

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)2 – This PBR applies for the commencement of new agricultural activities on land that is not actively farmed.  This PBR does not allow for changing the grade of the land or for constructing aboveground structures, such as fences, silos, or any buildings.  Please note, this PBR does not allow for the clearing, cutting or removing of vegetation in the riparian zone, except where previous development or disturbance has occurred. 

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)3 – This PBR applies for the continuation or commencement of soil conservation practices that are approved in writing by the local Soil Conservation District or the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.  However, no work can occur in a floodway under this PBR.  Additionally, please note that this PBR does not allow for the clearing, cutting or removing of vegetation in the riparian zone, except where previous development or disturbance has occurred and does not allow any disturbance within 25 feet of any top of bank. 

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(f)4 – This PBR only applies for the construction of a building with an agricultural use.  Such a building may not have a foundation, and its size is limited.  Please note that this PBR does not allow for the clearing, cutting or removing of vegetation in the riparian zone, except where previous development or disturbance has occurred and does not allow any disturbance within 25 feet of any top of bank. 

If an activity does not meet any of the above listed PBRs, there are several Flood Hazard Area General Permits (FHAGPs) that may apply.  These FHAGPs are collectively referred to as FHAGP2, and they only apply for activities that are solely intended for agricultural purposes on land that is actively farmed.  There are six different FHAGP2s to utilize on agricultural lands for agricultural purposes.  These include soil erosion control activities, channel cleaning activity, construction roadways over streams, filling in manmade watercourses to restore freshwater wetlands, building fords to manage livestock, building fences for livestock, and constructing water intakes or pumping systems for livestock.  Each of these FHAGPs is described at length in N.J.A.C. 7:13-8.4.  All of the work covered under the FHAGPs must have prior approval from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.  Otherwise, the project would be ineligible for a FHAGP.

If the proposed project does not qualify for any of the PBRs or FHAGPs listed above, then the applicant must obtain a formal, written flood hazard area verification and individual permit prior to construction.

In terms of permitting, agricultural activities can be divided into two categories.

The first category consists of farming activities, such as cultivation, harvesting of crops or pasturing of animals. The continuation of existing and legal farming activities within coastal areas does not generally require a coastal permit.  However, a coastal permit may be required if the proposed project will impact special areas, general water areas, or resources as described in the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7 or if the farming activity is located within mapped coastal wetlands which were not continuously farmed since April 13, 1972.

The second category consists of activities that support agriculture, such as construction or reconstruction of a shed, farm stand, or building; the addition of parking spaces; grading, excavation or filling of land; realignment of water areas; mining of land for sand and gravel; placement of dredged material on fields; installation of surface water intakes, or the application of pesticides to coastal wetlands.  These activities are more likely to require a coastal permit(s).

The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated.  The availability of certain permits depends on the project’s location. If the proposed project does not meet the requirements of an exemption, Permit-by-rule, or General Permit, the project may require a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit. 

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 should you require further assistance.

Tidelands, also known as riparian lands, are all those lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway; that is to say any land that is currently or was previously covered by tidal waters.  The State of New Jersey, and therefore the people of New Jersey, owns all Tidelands except for those to which it has already sold its interest in the form of a riparian grant.  It is important to note that the State generally does not own artificial waterways such as lagoons however, the State does claim those lands within a lagoon that were flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway which existed prior to the creation of the lagoon.

Agricultural activities that are proposed in a tidelands area may require a tidelands license if the activities are taking place at or below the mean high water line of a tidal waterway or a tidelands grant if the activities are taking place in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide.

A tidelands license is a short term revocable rental document to use tidelands generally for structures such as docks, bulkhead extensions, mooring piles, and other temporary structures as well as for dredging projects. Licenses are project specific and expire after a finite term ranging from one to ten years. Most licenses may be renewed.

A riparian grant, or tidelands grant, is a deed from the State of New Jersey selling its tidelands. Tidelands grants are generally only issued for lands that have already been filled in and are no longer flowed by the tide.

For more information on tidelands instruments, please see the tidelands section of this website.

For information and instruction on how to determine whether you are in an area that may require either a license or a grant, or for information how to apply for Tideland instruments please see the "Before you Build, Before you Buy" webpage.

 

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Last Updated: July 6, 2015