As overdevelopment encroaches, New Jersey farmers are under attack with bad faith complaints

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Legislation sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho that would strengthen the legal protection of commercial farmers under the Right to Farm Act was endorsed today by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

The bipartisan bill (S-3838) would allow farmers to be awarded reimbursement for reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred from defending against bad faith complaints.

“Farmers are essential, and the law protects their right to work the land and raise livestock, but normal farm activities can lead to conflicts with residents who moved into homes near the agriculture land,” said Oroho (R-24). “Too often, neighbors offended by the normal farm noise and odors harass farmers through the courts. This bill would discourage bad faith litigation by allowing judges to compensate farmers for costs and attorney fees.”

The Right to Farm Act establishes a presumption that a commercial agricultural operation does not constitute a public or private nuisance if the operation conforms to farming practices adopted by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and complies with all relevant state and federal regulations.

Under the bill, a farmer seeking to recover costs and fees would apply to the county agriculture development board or the SADC for determination if the preponderance of evidence supports that the complaint was made in bad faith. If the determination is confirmed, the appropriate board would issue an order for the complainant to pay the reasonable costs and fees to the farmer.

“This is an important step in protecting the Garden State’s agricultural heritage,” said Oroho. “It is tough enough for New Jersey farmers to compete with the monstrous agriculture operators in other states. We want to protect them from nuisance court filings that waste time and money for farmers who have too little of each.”