If You Operate a Farm or Engage in Forestry in the Highlands Region
1995 aerial photographs showed about one-tenth of the Highlands preservation area (35,000 acres) to be held in private farms, of which 16,000 acres are permanently preserved. About 135,000 acres in the larger Highlands Region are farmland. [Source: New Jersey Department of Agriculture.]
If you are an agricultural tenant, it is possible that your rental payments will be lower than they would have been in the absence of this legislation, because the supply of land available for agriculture is likely to increase.
Structures that are built or reconstructed for "agricultural or horticultural purposes" in the preservation area are regulated differently than non-agricultural structures. [§31]
If agricultural building increases impervious cover by 3% of the total farm management unit within the preservation area, the farmer will be required to submit a "farm conservation plan" to the local soil conservation district.
If building increases impervious cover by 9%, the farmer will be required to submit a "resource management systems plan" to the soil conservation district, which will also be forwarded to the DEP for approval. The Department of Agriculture will adopt rules and regulations necessary to implement this portion of the bill.
Greenhouses are the most likely contributors to increases in impervious surface that would fall under these provisions.
Activities conducted in accordance with "an approved woodland management plan" or "forest management plan approved by the State Forester" are exempt from the bill.
The Highlands bill will not weaken protections that farmers currently enjoy under the state's Right to Farm Act.
The Highlands bill requires that most of the appointed Council members live in the region, but it does not require that one of the Council members be a farmer (four members must be "property owners, business owners, or farmers").