what is agriculture
Sun, 12 May 1996 13:15:11 -0400 (EDT)
It has been most interesting to see what other people think the word
"agriculture" means. Maybe some concensus of opinion can help our
situation. Our N.E. dairy farm, like most, is a haven for all types of
gamebirds and animals. We decided to see if we could diversify into
gamebird propagation and then the hunting of those species that we
propagated on our farm and the other farm lands that we lease. Our dairy
operation uses a land base that is located in 10 different towns. These
field lands are all located in agricultural, agricultural rural ,
agricultural residential or agricultural mountain zoned areas (based on
local zoning laws in each of the different towns). So what's the problem?
Zoning boards or municipal authorities have as many different opinions of
the definitions of agriculture as there are people on such boards.
The words agricultural practices in N.H. is defined in N.H. Law as
"Agricultural operations or (Farm, Agriculture, Farming) including the
words, agriculture and farming shall mean all operations of a farm such as
cultivation, conserving and tillage of the soil, cultivation, growing and
harvesting of any agricultural commodities or any practices on the farm as
an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations. It also
excludes others. "the removal of sand, gravel, clay, soil or earth". Like
most political definitions this one is interpreted by people in many
different ways. We have found it most difficult to persuade some zoning
boards to allow us to hunt (harvest) on the same land we propagate (raise)
on. We have an opinion, please evaluate and let us know if we are barking
up the wrong tree.
In determining whether a use, in this case, the hunting of propagated birds
is for an agricultural purpose. The use has to be evaluated by the
challenged activity (allowing hunting on open farm lands for the propagated
species). The courts have evaluated that activity in a discussion in People
ex rel, Pletcher v. City of Joliet (1926), 321, III. 385, 388-389.
"Agricultural is another indefinite word which renders a statute more or
less uncertain. The definition given by Webster is "of or pertaining to
agriculture; connected with or engaged in tillage". Agriculture is defined
as the act or science of cultivating the ground, including harvesting of
crops and rearing and management of livestock; tillage; husbandry; farming,
in a broader sense, the science of and the production of plants and animals
useful to man, including to a variable extent the preparation of those
products for man's use.
In this broad use it includes farming, horticulture and forestry, together
with such subjects as butter and cheese making, sugar making,, etc. Unless
restricted by the context, the words "agricultural pruposes" have generally
been given this comprehensive meaning by the courts of this country.
In applying this judicial definition, the courts have consistently focused
on the nature of the specific use, rather than the business activities or
ultimate business objectives. Furthermore, the courts have not restricted
the term "agricultural purpose" to only the growing of crops. To the
contrary, our courts have indicated that the excavation of land to create a
pond from which to irrigate sod is an agricultural purpose, as are the
training and boarding of show horses, the raising of chickens in a hatchery
and the spreading of digested sludge on farmland as a soil conditioner.
Thus whether an activity is for agricultural purposes is to be determined
from a review of the activity itself.
Under the language quoted above in the NH law, game breeding and hunting
preserve areas are established to propagate game birds and animals. The
term propagate as defined in such rules is the raising, possessing or
reproduction of wildlife for the purposes of sale or their pecuniary gain or
propagate commonly refers to the reproduction or breeding of plants and animals.
Under the pertinent provision of N.H. law 800, "The importation, possession
and use of all Wildlife" all licensees of game breeding and hunting preserve
areas are authorized to accept animals, birds, and bird eggs for breeding,
hatching and further propagation. In addition, the breeding and preserve
areas are required, prior to release, to nurture the animals and birds and
are required to follow development standards.
Upon release, game birds and animals located in game breeding and hunting
preserve areas may be taken during the season for human consumption. The
nature of this activity clearly relates to agriculture, since it involves
the use of the land for the production of animals which are useful to man.
Consequently, it is my opinion that the operation of a game breeding and
hunting preserve area does constitute use for agricultural purposes and can
thus fit into the NH definition of Agriculture. This practice can be then
allowed on land that is zoned agricultural.
Again please let us know what you think. We can use all the help we can
get. There are about 235 working dairy farms left in the State of NH.
Dairy Farmer/Hunting Preserve Owner
Hidden Meadows Farm