SENATE, No. 1848

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED MARCH 24, 2014

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  DIANE B. ALLEN

District 7 (Burlington)

Senator  JEFF VAN DREW

District 1 (Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Concerns permits, letters of exemption, and enforcement with regard to agricultural activities under “Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act.”

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

 


An Act concerning freshwater wetlands and supplementing P.L.1987, c.156 (C.13:9B-1 et seq.).

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    a.  For the purposes of any permit or letter of exemption involving agricultural activities issued by the department, or any enforcement action undertaken by the department involving agricultural activities, pursuant to the “Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act,” P.L.1987, c.156 (C.13:9B-1 et seq.):

     (1)   An agricultural field shall be considered active, and not deemed abandoned, if any combination of crop production or maintenance or renovation of the field for agricultural purposes has taken place on the field within five years.  The lack of a commercial harvest or production of a crop on or from the agricultural field shall not be a determining factor in designating the agricultural field as abandoned;

     (2)   In any case in which an agricultural field has not been maintained or renovated for agricultural purposes, or used for commercial harvest or production of a crop, within five years preceding an application for a permit or letter of exemption, the resumption of crop production or maintenance or renovation of the agricultural field for agricultural purposes shall be considered minimally adverse to the environment and permissible if:  (a) the crop production on, or maintenance or renovation of, the field is related to the previous use of the agricultural field for agricultural purposes within the 25 years preceding the resumption of crop production or maintenance or renovation of the field; or (b) during the previous use of the agricultural field for agricultural purposes, it was disturbed, developed, or otherwise built upon for those purposes such that the agricultural field cannot return to a natural wetland state regardless of the length of time it is inactive, poorly maintained, or uncultivated.

     b.    As used in this section, “agricultural field” means a field used for agricultural purposes, including a blueberry field or cranberry bog; and “previous use” means crop production on, or maintenance or renovation of, a field.

 

     2.    a.   With regard to cranberry production, in addition to the provisions of section 1 and 3 of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the department shall issue any necessary permit or letter of exemption to the owner of an agricultural field, or the lessee or previous lessee of an agricultural field on State-owned land, and authorize the restoration of cranberry production on the agricultural field, provided that:

     (1)   the owner or lessee previously used the agricultural field for the production of cranberries, or maintained or renovated it for that purpose; and

     (2)   the department determined, within the 25 years prior to the effective date of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the agricultural field to be abandoned because it had not produced a crop for five years, although it was being maintained or renovated for agricultural purposes at the time of its designation as abandoned.

     b.    Any necessary permit or letter of exemption issued pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall authorize the owner or the lessee to produce cranberries on the agricultural field, and to maintain and renovate the agricultural field for the production of cranberries until such time as production of a cranberry crop is warranted.

     c.    The department shall renew the lease of any lessee or previous lessee of an agricultural field on State-owned land previously used by the lessee for the production of cranberries but whose lease was revoked or expired within the 25 years prior to the effective date of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) as a result of a department determination as described in paragraph (2) of subsection a. of this section.

     If, after the department determined the agricultural field to be abandoned, another individual or entity leased the land previously leased and used by the previous lessee as described in subsection a. of this section, the department shall:

     (1)   reissue a lease to the previous lessee, as soon as it is practicable to transfer the lease of the land, or lease comparable land for the same purpose to the previous lessee of the land; and

     (2)   authorize the resumption of cranberry production on the leased State-owned land, including but not limited to, maintenance and renovation of the agricultural field until the lessee determines that production of a cranberry crop is warranted.

 

     3.    No agricultural field regulated pursuant to section 1 or 2 of this act may be deemed abandoned if any combination of crop production or maintenance or renovation of the field for agricultural purposes has taken place on the field within the prior five years.  The lack of a commercial harvest or production of a crop on or from the agricultural field shall not be a determining factor in designating the agricultural field as abandoned.

 

4.     This act shall take effect immediately.


STATEMENT

 

     The bill provides that for the purposes of any permit or letter of exemption involving agricultural activities issued by the Department of Environmental Protection, or any enforcement action undertaken by the department involving agricultural activities, pursuant to the “Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act”:

     (1)   an agricultural field shall be considered active, and not deemed abandoned, if any combination of crop production or maintenance or renovation of the field for agricultural purposes has taken place on the field within five years;

     (2)   in any case in which an agricultural field has not been maintained or renovated for agricultural purposes, or used for commercial harvest or production of a crop, within five years preceding an application for a permit or letter of exemption, the resumption of crop production or maintenance or renovation of the agricultural field for agricultural purposes shall be considered minimally adverse to the environment and permissible if:  (a) the crop production on, or maintenance or renovation of, the field is related to the previous use of the agricultural field for agricultural purposes within the 25 years preceding the resumption of crop production of maintenance or renovation of the field; or (b) during the previous use of the agricultural field for agricultural purposes, it was disturbed, developed, or otherwise built upon for those purposes such that the agricultural field cannot return to a natural wetland state regardless of the length of time it is inactive, poorly maintained, or uncultivated.

     In addition, the bill provides that the lack of a commercial harvest or production of a crop on or from an agricultural field would not be a determining factor in designating the agricultural field as abandoned.

     This bill would address a recommendation in the “Report on the Department of Agriculture,” published January 15, 2010 by the Transition Team – Agriculture Subcommittee for then-Governor-elect Christie.

     The bill also provides for, in the case of cranberry production, reinstatement of leases and necessary authorization to produce cranberries on State-owned land.  The bill also provides for the issuance of necessary permits or letters of exemption for cranberry production when the department determined within the 25 years prior to the bill’s enactment the agricultural field to be abandoned because it had not produced a crop for five years, although it was being maintained or renovated for agricultural purposes at the time of its designation as abandoned.