Riley & Chivukula Move to Help Preserve Cranberry Production by Easing Burdensome Permit Costs

(TRENTON) – A measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Celeste Riley and Upendra Chivukula that would ease some of the cost burdens for cranberry and blueberry harvesters in the Garden State was recently advanced by an Assembly panel.
“Some of our environmental regulations and associated costs have the potential to render cranberry production in New Jersey economically non-viable,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/ Salem). “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-932) would designate agricultural fields, such as blueberry fields and cranberry bogs, as “active” if any combination of crop production, maintenance, or renovation has taken place on the field within five years. This move would significantly reduce the costs associated with New Jersey’s stringent environmental standards for anyone wishing to restart cranberry or blueberry operations on an existing field.
Currently, the Department of Environmental Protection considers any cranberry bog that has been un-harvested for five years to be abandoned. The sponsors noted that reactivating the bog requires an Individual Wetlands Permit, something that is very expensive to apply for and is rarely granted. The cranberry expansion permit includes mitigation costs of up to $30,000 per acre and far exceeds all other normal costs of new cranberry bog construction. This has prompted a number of multi-generational family farms to consider leaving New Jersey for the Eastern Canadian provinces.
“To reactivate a cranberry bog requires an Individual Wetlands Permit, something that is very expensive to apply for and not easy to obtain,” said Chivukula (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “Consequently, a number of multi-generational family farms are being forced to consider leaving New Jersey for the Eastern Canadian provinces. This bill would help ease this burden on our farmers.”
In addition, the bill would provide that the lack of a commercial harvest or production of a crop on an agricultural field would not be a determining factor in designating the agricultural field as abandoned and, therefore, the department would be required to issue the necessary permits to any owner of an agricultural field that had previously been lawfully used for the production of cranberries, or lawfully maintained or renovated for that purpose.
The measure was released Monday by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.