Governor Phil Murphy last week signed legislation (S757) authorizing commercial farms that are located on preserved farmland to hold special occasion events, subject to certain conditions. The Legislature concurred with the governor’s conditional veto of an earlier version of the legislation. Murphy recommended changes to ensure protections for agricultural or horticultural production on preserved farmland.
Under the bill, a preserved farm that produces agricultural or horticultural products worth more than $10,000 annually may hold up to a maximum of 26 special occasion events per calendar year, of which 6 may have 250 guests or more in attendance.
“As the Garden State, agriculture is quintessential to New Jersey’s identity and agritourism is the next frontier to maintaining this heritage,” Murphy said. “This law will open new revenue streams for those who work tirelessly to maintain the preserved farmland that is core to our state’s cultural fabric. I am especially proud to sign this bill in honor of the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer, whose legacy of advocacy for our state’s agricultural and tourism industries is found writ-large in this new law.”
Special occasion events allow preserved farmland owners the opportunity to introduce new streams of income to family farming operations and increase the enjoyments offered to the public by agritourism.
“This bill permits operators of preserved farms to host special occasion events that the public can enjoy with their family and friends on agricultural lands,” said NJDA Secretary Douglas H. Fisher, who is also the chair of the State Agriculture Development Committee. “I appreciate Governor Murphy signing this bill today which enables farmers to augment their bottom line which in turn helps to secure agriculture’s continued success in the Garden State.”
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Senators Paul Sarlo and Steven Oroho, and Assemblymembers Roy Freiman and Raj Mukherji. The late Assemblyman Ron Dancer also served as a primary sponsor of the bill.
Under the bill, a special occasion event is required to not interfere with the use of the preserved farmland for agricultural or horticultural production, have minimal effects on the occupied area, and must be designed to protect the agricultural resources of the land to ensure that the land can be readily returned to productive agricultural or horticultural use after the event. All applicable state and local laws and ordinances including those concerning food safety, litter, noise, solid waste, traffic, and the protection of public health and safety apply to the special occasion event.
“This legislation will allow preserved farm owners an additional economic opportunity to help sustain their farm viability into the future,” said Allen Carter, President of New Jersey Farm Bureau. “The Farm Bureau appreciates the Governor, his Administration and the Legislature’s work to help set reasonable rules for hosting events on preserved farmland.”
“Our industry keeps the ‘Garden’ in the Garden State,” said Devon Perry, the Executive Director of the Garden State Wine Growers Association. “As the fastest growing sector of agriculture in New Jersey, we celebrate ongoing support of agritourism across the board.”
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