Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose that promotes agricultural tourism on preserved farmland was recently signed into law by Gov. Christie.
The new law directs the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) to establish a 44 month pilot program to allow special occasion events to be held on preserved farmland at wineries under certain circumstances.
“With this law, farmers will now have the ability to promote their operations without conflicting with the spirit of their farmland preservation,” said Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth. “The governor’s message to the Legislature on S-837/A-1272 recognized and affirmed the Legislature’s desire to help the state’s 48 licensed wineries flourish, including the 19 that have land enrolled in the farmland preservation program. Wineries are now in all 50 states and New Jersey’s rapid winery growth market share has propelled our Garden State to rank 6th in the nation for grape vineyard wine production.”
“If we don’t allow farming to evolve, farmers will disappear even though their land has been preserved,” stated McHose, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “People look for special places to hold their special events and this will allow New Jersey farms to meet that demand. It’s a win for the consumer, a win for the farmer and for our wineries. It benefits everyone.”
Under the 44-month pilot program, special occasion events will be permitted at a winery on preserved farmland provided that:
- The gross income generated by the winery from all special occasion events conducted for the calendar year together account for less than 50 percent of the annual gross income of the winery;
- The event uses the agricultural output of the winery to promote agricultural tourism and advance the agricultural or horticultural output of the winery;
- The event is conducted on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or federal or state holiday. It may be conducted on any other day of the week with the approval of the SADC. The committee may delegate its authority in that regard to a county agriculture development board.
- The event is conducted in a temporary structure, such as an enclosed or open canopy or tent or other portable structure or facility. The temporary structure would be put in place for only the minimum amount of time reasonably necessary to accommodate the special occasion event; or in an existing permanent agricultural building, a farm or open air pavilion, or another structure used in the normal course of winery operations and activities;
- The event complies with applicable municipal ordinances, resolutions, or regulations concerning litter, solid waste, and traffic and the protection of public health and safety.
Other bill sponsors include Democrat Senators Donald Norcross and Shirley Turner and Democrat Assembly members Celeste Riley and Paul Moriarty.