LETTER Dancer bill clarifies improvements permitted on preserved farmlands

Assemblyman Ron Dancer introduced legislation protecting farmers of preserved land from legal action resulting from confusing language in the preservation program’s deed restrictions. The bill (A5171) establishes that the construction of new buildings for agricultural purposes and roadways necessary to service crops are permitted on preserved farms.

“Preserving the land includes preserving the farmer,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Farmers must serve as responsible stewards of the land, and we want to make it clear that they can and should make appropriate enhancements to improve the efficiency and productivity of the farm. Upgrades must be necessary for agricultural purposes, and coincide with preservation deed restrictions.”

Language in the standard deed of easement for preserved farms requires soil conservation and at the same time allows “the construction of any new buildings for agricultural purposes” and “the right to construct any roadway necessary” for agricultural operations. Some farmers have been cited for disturbing soil while making permitted improvements to the farmland. Dancer’s bill addresses the inconsistency.

“Farmers may be reluctant to invest in upgrades because of the confusion,” Dancer said. “Efforts to protect preserved land may be hampering New Jersey farmers competing in the regional marketplace.”

Dancer’s legislation reflects the recommendations of a resolution adopted by the Soil Disturbance Committee at the 102nd State Agricultural Convention in February.