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In Re Samaha Farms

A-2163-04T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

FARMS—Where the State Agricultural Development Committee appropriately rules in favor a farmer’s use of a cannon to scare away predatory birds, the farmer is insulated from common law claims of nuisance.

A sweet corn grower used a combination of methods to scare predatory birds away from his crops, including using a liquid propane cannon. The corn grower filed an application to the County Agriculture Development Committee (CADC) requesting a site-specific recommendation under the Right to Farm Act, permitting the use of the cannon as a generally accepted agricultural management practice (AMP). The application was opposed by several neighbors, who claimed that the cannon’s noise was so loud and annoying as to constitute a nuisance. The CADC concluded that the corn grower’s use of the cannon qualified for Right to Farm Act protection as a site-specific AMP based on compliance with certain conditions.

The objectors appealed the CADC conclusion to the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC), and the SADC referred the matter to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for a hearing. The OAL upheld the decision of CADC that the corn grower’s use of a liquid propane cannon to prevent bird damage to his corn crop constituted a generally accepted AMP protected by the Right to Farm Act. Ultimately, the SADC issued a final decision affirming the final result of the OAL hearing. The objectors appealed the SADC decision.

In their appeal, the objectors argued that the SADC failed to focus on local concerns and failed to consider the impact of the noise level and repetitive nature of the cannon charge on the residents. However, the Appellate Division explained that the irrebuttable presumption established in the Right to Farm Act insulated the corn grower from the objectors’ common law claims of nuisance. It held that the CADC and the SADC appropriately considered the impact of the cannon on the local public health and safety, and imposed reasonable conditions on its use. Further, based on the limited standard of review and the requirement to defer to administrative agencies, the Court affirmed the final decision of the SADC.

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