|State Board of Agriculture
DIVISION OF AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Agricultural Development in the Highlands
Proposed New Rules: N.J.A.C. 2:92
Authorized By: State Board of Agriculture and Charles M. Kuperus, Secretary
Authority: N.J.S.A. 13:20-1 et seq; specifically 13:20-29
Calendar Reference: See Summary below for explanation of exception to calendar requirement.
Proposal Number: PRN 2005-288
Michelle Hammel, Legal and Legislative Affairs Specialist
The agency proposal follows:
The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (Highlands Act), signed into law on August 10, 2004 as P.L. 2004 c. 120, divided the 800,000-acre Highlands region into two areas: (1) a Preservation Area, where development will be strictly regulated, and (2) a Planning Area, where development will be monitored. A Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council (Highlands Council) was established and charged with preparing and implementing a regional master plan for the entire Highlands region.
The proposed new rules will have a positive social impact as they will help ensure the protection of the soil and water resources of the Highlands preservation area while recognizing that the agricultural industry is a unique, vital and necessary economic component of the Highlands region.
The proposed new rules will have an economic impact on farmers in the Highlands preservation area who are looking to construct agricultural or horticultural buildings, structures or facilities that will result in three percent or more of new agricultural impervious cover to the total land area of the farm management unit, as Farm Conservation Plans or Resource Management System Plans will be required. It is anticipated that there will be little or no costs associated with plan development. Technical assistance for developing Farm Conservation Plans or Resource Management System Plans will be available from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the NJDA at no cost to the landowner.
Federal Standards Statement
Executive Order No. 27 (1994) and P.L. 1995, c.65 require State agencies that adopt, re-adopt or amend State rules that exceed any Federal standards or requirements to include in the rulemaking document a comparison with Federal law. The proposed new rules are based on the USDA policy of incentive-based development and implementation of farm conservation plans, using the Federal technical standards as contained in the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide. Although the Federal FOTG standards are not currently mandatory under Federal law, the proposed new rules nevertheless incorporate standards that are recognized and encouraged by the NRCS. These rules are, therefore, no more stringent than the Federal standards and no Federal standards analysis is necessary.
These proposed new rules will not result in the generation or loss of jobs.
Agriculture Industry Impact
The Highlands Act recognizes the agriculture industry in the Highlands region as vital to the economy and the quality of life to the citizens of the Highlands and the State. This recognition resulted in a separate and distinct process for agricultural and horticultural development in the Highlands preservation area. The Act identifies new agricultural impervious cover triggers resulting from such development that, when met, would require the development and implementation of farm conservation plans. The agricultural community is familiar with these plans and the process for creating them; however, until now, they have engaged in the process on a voluntary basis only. The Highlands Act is the first law to make these plans mandatory.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
In the absence of new agricultural or horticultural development that increases the impervious cover beyond three percent of the Farm Management Unit, the proposed new rules do not require any compliance, reporting or recordkeeping requirements. However, for those entities that undertake the modification or expansion of their operations, the proposed new rules will impose compliance, reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
Smart Growth Impact
The proposed new rules will have a positive impact on smart growth efforts in New Jersey. The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act recognized that the agriculture industry is a vital and necessary economic component of the Highlands region and to the quality of life to the citizens of the Highlands and the State. That recognition resulted in a separate process for agricultural and horticultural development in the Highlands Preservation Area. Unlike the other types of development activities that will be subject to strict regulations, agricultural and horticultural development that increases new agricultural impervious cover by three percent or more will need to be constructed in accordance with a Farm Conservation Plan or a more comprehensive Resource Management System Plan. The agricultural community is familiar with these plans and the process for creating them. These plans will be developed by the owner, operator or his agent with the assistance of NRCS or appropriate agent and implemented by the applicant, thereby reducing the regulatory burden on farmers. It is anticipated that the more complex plans will be eligible for cost-share assistance. The development and implementation of Farm Conservation Plans is strongly encouraged in the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan to address natural resource concerns. The type of analysis required by these plans is meant to ensure that agricultural development takes plan in an appropriate manner. Therefore, these proposed new rules will have a positive impact upon the achievement of smart growth and upon the State Development and Redevelopment Plan.