New Jersey’s Right to Farm Act aims to reduce the loss of agricultural resources by limiting the circumstances under which agricultural operations may be the subject of nuisance suits and ordinances. Legally speaking, “a nuisance is a substantial interference with the right to use and enjoy land, which may be intentional, negligent or ultrahazardous in origin, and must be a result of defendant’s activity.” While recognizing the fact that there is a need to provide proper balance among conflicting interests of all lawful activities in NJ, the general intent of the act was to aid commercial farm operations.
Understanding the Right to Farm Act Use as Defense Against Nuisance Suits
- For a farm operation to be entitled to Right to Farm Act protections in NJ, it must meet certain criteria. These criteria have changed over time with the most recent criteria found on the NJ State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) website.(1) The SADC -comprised of 11 members, four of whom must be actively farming- “shall generally act as an advocate for and promote the interests of product[ion] agriculture…” (2)
- One criteria for NJ Right to Farm Act protection is compliance with Agricultural Management Practices (AMP) created by the SADC or, if no AMP exists, with generally accepted agricultural management practices. The SADC is charged to study, develop, and recommend to the departments and agencies of State government a program of recommended agricultural management practices.(3)
- Agricultural activities that have not been specifically addressed by the SADC AMP are not prohibited; However, it is unclear as to whether or not unaddressed agricultural activities fall under Right to Farm Act protection against nuisance suits and ordinances.
- The Right to Farm Act does not prohibit nuisance lawsuits but instead attempts to 1) avoid increasing chances of such complaints being delivered in the future and 2) act as a defense against such complaints.
Resources for NJ Right to Farm, Agricultural Management Practices
1. SADC criteria for Right to Farm http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/rtfprogram/eligibility/
2. SADC Right to Farm Program http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/rtfprogram/rtfact/
3. SADC Adopted AMP http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/rtfprogram/amps/adoptedamps/index.html