ASSEMBLY PANEL APPROVES RILEY MEASURE TO HELP PRESERVE CRANBERRY, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION BY EASING BURDENSOME PERMIT COSTS

A measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley that would ease some of the cost burdens for cranberry and blueberry harvesters in the Garden State was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

“Some of our environmental regulations and associated costs have the potential to render cranberry production in New Jersey economically non-viable,” said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “We need to do everything possible to maintain our reputation as the Garden State by helping cranberry and blueberry operations stay alive and thrive.”

The bill (A-2925) would extend blueberry field and cranberry bog permits from five to ten years while also allowing a field to be designated as “active” if any combination of crop production, maintenance, or renovation has taken place on the field within 10 years. Together, these measures would significantly reduce the costs associated with New Jersey’s stringent environmental standards.

Because the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protections’ (DEP) wetlands regulations go far beyond federal regulations when it comes to administering certain permits, mitigation costs for a cranberry expansion permit can reach up to $30,000 per acre and far exceed all other normal costs of new cranberry bog construction.

“The DEP considers any cranberry bog un-harvested for five years to be abandoned. To reactivate the bog requires an Individual Wetlands Permit, something that is very expensive to apply for and rarely granted,” added Riley. “These regulatory restrictions on new cranberry acreage are forcing several multi-generational family farms to consider leaving New Jersey for the Eastern Canadian provinces.”

The measure was released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural ReDests Committee.