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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 State motto is "The Garden State" for a good reason. Before the rise of the industrial centers in the northeastern section of the state and along the Delaware river during the post colonial era, agriculture was a vital economic interest. Farms in New Jersey provided produce and grain to these expanding centers of commerce and to the growing cities of New York and Philadelphia. While its importance to the States economy has diminished over the decades, agriculture still plays an important part, especially in the southern portion of the State.

Agricultural activities which may disturb special areas of the State regulated by the Department, may require an approval from the Division prior to construction. An area containing sensitive and endangered plant species for example, may be irreparably damaged by such activities. It is important therefore to closely examine a proposed activity relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted.

Agricultural activities may require multiple approvals from the Division, depending on the special areas impacted by the activity. If you don't know what special areas are on your site, please check out the before you buy, before you build section of this website for guidance on determining if your site has one of these regulated special areas on it.

For information on Land Use permit requirements for agricultural activities within specific "special areas", please click on each of the tabs above.*

*For impacts to Streams, Rivers, Lakes, Ponds, Flood Plains, Flood Way, Riparian Zones and other water body related areas, please click on the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please click on the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, click on the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab. Information on Tidelands can be found in 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 requires authorization of some type under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.  This depends upon whether or not the project area is regulated under the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) rules.  Specifically, if regulated under CZM, then no separate flood hazard approval is required.  In this case, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as part of the CZM permit application. 

Assuming there is no jurisdiction under CZM, authorization may be granted under a Permit by Rule (PBR).  Potential qualifying PBRs include those found in 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.  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.

Agricultural activities are divided into two categories. The first category consists of farming activities, such as cultivation and harvesting of crops or pasturing of animals. The continuation of existing and legal farming activities described above generally does not require coastal permits unless there is a new expansion that  will result in impacts to any Special Areas, General Water Areas, or Resources as described in the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) or when 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 the construction of housing for workers, sheds or farm stands, the reconstruction of legally existing development, the addition of parking spaces, the grading, excavation or filling of land, the realignment of water areas, the mining of land for sand and gravel, the placement of dredged material on fields, the installation of surface water intakes, or the application of pesticides to coastal wetlands. In the coastal area, activities supporting agriculture as described above are generally considered commercial activities. Proposed activities which fall into this second category of agricultural activities may require coastal permits.

Please refer to  the “Jurisdiction” section of the "Coastal Permitting" section of the website to determine which areas regulated under the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) and the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) occur on your site. The availability of certain permits for a project depends on where your project is proposed.

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: January 9, 2014