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Riley & Moriarty Bill to Boost Tourism & Commerce at New Jersey Wineries Now Law
(TRENTON) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Celeste M. Riley and Paul D. Moriarty to promote agricultural tourism in New Jersey was signed into law Wednesday.
"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."
The new law (formerly A-1272) was proposed 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 (SADC), 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.
Under the law, the SADC will create a pilot program permitting special occasion events to be conducted on wineries located on preserved farmland, under carefully prescribed rules and circumstances. By limiting the scope of the law to wineries located on preserved farmland, wineries that are not located on preserved farmland will remain unaffected by any new regulations.
"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 will 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 law's provisions is 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 subsequent offenses.
Additionally, the law permits the SADC to hold a hearing and suspend violators from conducting special occasion events for a period of up to six months for a second offense, between six months and a year for a third offense and between one and two years for a fourth or subsequent offense.
The pilot program takes effect immediately and expires on March 1, 2018.
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