TRENTON, N.J. – Farming in water environments, referred to as aquaculture, should have the same protections as farms on land in the Garden State, Assemblyman Ned Thomson says.
His bill (A3039) extending those protections under the Right to Farm Act was released from the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security committee Thursday. The Act protects commercial farms from public and private nuisance actions as well as burdensome municipal rules. The bill amends the definition of commercial farm to include commercial aquaculture.
“The importance of our aquaculture activities cannot be overstated. It’s not only in our economic best interest to protect water farming activities in New Jersey, it’s a rich and vibrant part of our history and culture,” Thomson (R-Monmouth) said. “Extending these protections to such farming operations will ensure their continued growth and success.”
Aquaculture is the cultivating of fish, mollusks, crustaceans and water-growing plants. In New Jersey, this $1 billion annual industry focuses mostly on hard clams and oysters harvested from the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, although other operations harvest trout, baitfish, koi and aquatic plants.
The state’s Department of Agriculture reports that most aquaculture farms don’t hatch the shellfish, but purchase juvenile shellfish called “seed” and cultivate them from that stage. Local and regional restaurants offer these cultured shellfish.
To qualify for protections, an aquaculture operation must produce $40,000 or more worth of aquatic organisms annually. The operation would not need a farmland assessment to receive Right to Farm Act protections.
The Act stipulates that neighbors and municipalities with complaints against commercial farms must file them with their local county or state Agriculture Development Board. Those boards start the formal resolution process to resolve disputes.