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Freiman & Calabrese Bill Package Granting More Autonomy for Owners of Preserved Farmland, Wineries Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – To provide owners of preserved farmland and local wineries with more autonomy, Assemblymen Roy Freiman and Clinton Calabrese sponsored legislation allowing these landowners to hold certain agriculture-related events on their land and allowing wineries to expand where they are allowed to sell and sample wine. The bills cleared the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Thursday.

“New Jersey agriculture is something to be celebrated, and it is only fair that we give our landowners the right to make decisions regarding events on their property,” said Freiman (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “These events can bring people together for social engagement while helping the economy at a very local level.”

The first bill (A-3644) provides that a person may hold an agriculture-related event on preserved farmland so long as the owner of the land first obtains a permit from the county agriculture development board.

The bill defines “agriculture-related event” as a festival or other event taking place once or a few times in a year on a specific day or specific consecutive days featuring an activity or group of activities highlighting an agricultural or horticultural practice or product implemented or grown on a farm.

These events may include, but are not limited to, hay bale races, flower shows, pumpkin tossing, tractor pulls and similar activities.

The bill also provides that the county agriculture development board may issue an agriculture-related event permit to the owner of preserved farmland in the county if:

1) No more than four permits are issued for the farm per year; and
2) The event only temporarily disturbs the use of the land for agricultural or horticultural purposes, and does not interfere with the use of the land for those purposes after the event has concluded.

The bill specifies that holding an agriculture-related event for which a permit has been issued shall not be considered a violation of any agricultural deed restriction for farmland preservation on the land if the person holding the event complies with the terms and conditions of the permit as it was issued.

The second bill (A-3642) requires applications for winery salesrooms to be processed within 90 days, permits winery licensees to vary certain fees associated with the salesrooms and permits winery licensees to provide samples of wine and sell in any area of a salesroom.

“Not only does this bill regulate and expedite the process for obtaining a winery salesroom application, but it also allows for winery and salesroom owners to conduct business with more autonomy,” said Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This will help producers and consumers of New Jersey’s wines alike.”

In addition, this bill clarifies that the holder of a plenary winery license, a farm winery license or an out-of-state winery license may vary the restocking fee, agreed to by both parties, paid to the owner of a retail or restaurant where a winery salesroom is located.

Finally, the bill allows plenary winery, farm winery and out-of-state winery licensees to provide samples of wine and sell wine in original packages in any area of a salesroom, unless otherwise prohibited by federal law.

The primary benefits of this bill are that it would allow people to buy wine on premises and expedite the way in which permits are distributed.

The bills now await further action in the Assembly.