TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey officials are hailing a legal decision that is forcing a farmer to restore preserved farmland over which greenhouses were built.
A state judge ruled June 25 that Quaker Valley Farms owner David Den Hollander in Hunterdon County is responsible for replacing the subsoil and topsoil on parts of the property and re-grading some areas. Quaker Valley is one of more than 2,000 farms across the state in which the farmers have been paid to maintain agricultural uses.
"By requiring the restoration of damaged soils on Quaker Valley Farms, this decision protects the public's investment and agricultural interest," state Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said in a statement issued Tuesday.
In a 2012 trial, Quaker Valley argued that the greenhouses were an agricultural use. But a judge agreed with the state that said putting them up came to the detriment of what had been considered prime farmland, good for growing field crops such as corn, soybeans and hay.
Den Hollander was found liable for destroying 14 acres of land. According to the farm's website, it has 185 acres overall.
A message left Tuesday at Quaker Valley was not immediately returned.
The latest ruling comes after a second trial in May to determine how the soil should be remediated.
The farmer has 30 days to submit a soil restoration plan. There are to be annual reports on progress and if a judge deems a court-appointed master is needed to oversee the process, it would be up to the farmer to pay for one.