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Riley & Moriarty Bill to Boost Tourism & Commerce at New Jersey Wineries Gets Final Legislative OK
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Celeste Riley and Paul Moriarty to promote agricultural tourism in New Jersey gained final legislative approval unanimously by the General Assembly on Thursday.
"There is a reason why New Jersey is called the Garden State," said Riley (D-Cumberland/Salem/Gloucester). "In addition to its great industrial past, New Jersey has a proud farming heritage that deserves to be showcased. This bill will give our vineyards a competitive edge and boost our economy by providing guidelines to allow special events on protected farmland wineries."
In concurring with the Governor's conditional veto, the bill would also direct the State Agriculture Development Committee to begin a pilot program permitting special occasion events to be conducted on wineries located on preserved farmland under carefully prescribed rules and under certain circumstances. By limiting this pilot program to wineries located on preserved farmland, wineries that are not located on preserved farmland will remain free from any new regulations.
The bill (A-1272) was introduced in response to a municipality prohibiting the owner of a vineyard, which is a preserved farm, from hosting large social gatherings such as weddings and fundraisers. Subsequently, the State Agricultural Development Committee, which administers the farmland preservation program, ruled that the ability to host special events on preserved farms is not protected by New Jersey's Right to Farm Act, because such events fall outside of the law's definition of agricultural use.
"We've taken great steps to preserve farmland in our state, but in an increasingly competitive economy, it's important that we give our farmers the tools they need to grow and succeed," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Allowing our wineries to entice visitors with special occasion events will help drive our economy."
Under the pilot program, special occasion events would be permitted to be conducted at a winery on preserved farmland provided that:
An owner or operator of a winery found in violation of the bill's provisions will subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for the first offense, up to $2,000 for a second offense, and up to $3,000 for a subsequent offense, to be collected in a civil action commenced by the SADC.
Additionally, the SADC will, after a hearing, suspend the owner or operator of a winery in violation of the bill's conditions from conducting special occasion events for a period of: up to six months for a second offense; at least six months, but not more than one year, for a third offense; and at least one year, but not more than two years, for a fourth or subsequent offense.
The bill now heads back to the Governor's desk for consideration.
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