[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Mansfield 9-12-2007 by Ord. No. 2007-22. Amendments noted where applicable.]
An active representative Agricultural Advisory Committee is important to Mansfield Township's efforts to preserve farming as part of its community by providing assistance to Township officials and residents in general and for farmland owners and farm operators in particular. It can help both the governing body and other Township officials plan and regulate to meet the needs of all residents while, at the same time, it can provide encouragement for farmland owners and operators to commit to longer-term farming in a community where their interests and concerns have a voice.
The agricultural community in Mansfield Township has become reduced in size and political impact even as it continues to own and control a majority of the undeveloped land in the community. Some of those involved in municipal planning and regulation may have limited knowledge about agriculture or how to use their regulatory powers to encourage and promote a viable future for the industry.
This chapter provides an opportunity for the Township Committee to stay in close touch with its farmland owners and to find ways to enhance the option to continue to farm for these landowners. This would help preserve a community's rural character by lessening pressure on landowners to sell farmland for development and also keep unthreatened farmland in active production. Many studies show that municipal master plans and ordinances have a significant potential to affect agricultural viability and the level of economic stress farm operations, with little margin to sustain them, may be experiencing.
The needs of the agricultural community should be considered if the larger community wants to preserve the historic land use of farming as well as the farmland. In fact, if a municipality wants to participate in a Farmland Preservation Planning Incentive Grant (PIG), it must establish an Agricultural Advisory Committee.
There is hereby established within the Township of Mansfield an Agricultural Advisory Committee, which will serve as an advisory committee to the Township Committee for the purposes of discussion of matters of interest to the farming community, current and pending Township ordinances affecting the farming community, farmland preservation planning, and other issues of interest to the farming community which will have an impact upon the Township as a whole.
The Mansfield Township Agricultural Advisory Committee shall be composed of five residents of the municipality, with a majority of the members actively engaged in farming and owning a portion of the land they farm. One of the Committee members will also serve as a Township liaison to the Hunterdon County Agricultural Development Board (CADB). The Agricultural Advisory Committee shall adopt bylaws that shall include a Code of Ethics that meets or exceeds state regulations and, upon approval by a majority of Committee members, submit it for approval by the Township Committee.
The Township Committee shall appoint representatives from the various scales of farming and commodities existing in the community to facilitate a broad spectrum of response and to maintain its knowledge about the ever-changing practices of this dynamic industry. Members shall be appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the municipal governing body. Appointments for the initial committee shall be one one-year term, two two-year terms, and two three-year terms. Thereafter, each appointed member shall serve a term of three years. Members shall choose a Chair, who shall serve as liaison between the Committee and the Township Committee and Planning Board. The Chair, or designee, shall keep notes of the meeting, which shall be deemed to be the property of the Township. The Chair shall serve as the spokesperson for the Committee in discussions with the Township Committee and Planning Board.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee shall meet on no fewer than six occasions per year or as needed for the following purposes:
To assist the Township Committee in carrying out its duties and responsibilities by informing it of developments in the farming community that should be considered when using municipal regulatory and land use powers.
To assist the Township Committee in development of ordinances by reviewing them for impacts upon the farming community, including all ordinances affecting land use in the Agricultural Development Area (ADA).
To assist the Planning Board in the development for adoption of a farmland preservation plan element pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-28b(13) and/or an agricultural retention plan. This plan shall include at a minimum:
An inventory of farm properties in the entire municipality and a map illustrating what the community considers significant areas of agricultural land;
A detailed statement showing that municipal plans and ordinances, such as a Right to Farm Ordinance and other agricultural viability ordinances, support and promote agriculture as a business;
A plan for preserving as much farmland as possible in the short term by leveraging monies made available by the Garden State Preservation Trust Act, N.J.S.A. 13:8C-1 et seq., or other farmland preservation funding programs through a variety of mechanisms outlined in N.J.A.C. 2:76-17.6(a)3;
A statement of farming trends characterizing the types of agricultural production in Mansfield Township; and
A discussion of plans to enhance the agricultural industry in Mansfield Township.
To assist the Planning Board and the Township Committee in adjustments and amendments to the Farmland Preservation and/or Agricultural Retention Master Plan Element and the list of farms to be included in the easement purchase acquisition program.
To assist the Planning Board in developing and considering amendments developed through master plan re-examinations and any other changes that would have an effect on the viability of farms within the Agricultural Development Area of the Township.
To provide educational opportunities for residents to learn about the history of farming in Mansfield Township, how to support the local farming community, and how to become involved in the agricultural industry. This could include development of farm tours to promote the preservation of farms and public education about farming operations.
To provide information to the Township's Open Space Committee on farmland preservation opportunities in Mansfield Township.
To review and recommend any changes to the Agricultural Development Area (ADA) to the Planning Board and CADB.
To review and recommend any changes to existing farmland preservation Planning Incentive Grant (PIG) project areas or recommend new project areas to the Township Committee and Open Space Committee.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee shall meet with the Township Committee at least once a year to report on its activities and discussions and provide the Committee with a summary of the issues it has discussed and the positions it believes should be advanced on behalf of the farming community as a whole in the municipality.