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WHEREAS, the New Jersey food and agricultural complex is one of the largest industries in the State, with cash receipts totaling over $82 billion dollars; and the State’s 8.7 million residents as well as those residing on the East Coast and parts of Canada are among the primary recipients of products grown on New Jersey farms; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s billion-dollar domestic livestock industry sells its products nationally and internationally; and

WHEREAS, recent world events have brought to light the importance of preserving New Jersey’s significant economic agricultural asset, and threats from Bio-Terrorism, invasive organisms and pests have triggered efforts to develop Best Management Practices for Security and Bio-security;

WHEREAS, the Department of Agriculture has initiated and implemented programs to stress the importance of management practices to protect the interests of each individual producer as well as the State’s interests; programs offered through initiatives such as the Garden State Dairy Alliance, New Jersey Cattle Health Assurance Program, New Jersey Sheep and Goat Health Assurance Program, and the National Animal Identification Program bring together all the components available on a State wide basis to all producers and residents; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Agriculture has also conducted programs to protect the general public as well as the agricultural interests of the State; programs such as Beef Quality Assurance Program, Milk Quality Program, Tissue Residue Inspections, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance and Best Management Practices for Agri-Tourism provide the technical assistance for producers to reduce the risk of transmission of disease from human to animal and animal to human as well; and

, as a result of requests from shippers and growers in various states to provide some type of service to satisfy wholesalers’ needs, the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Inspection and Standardization Agencies (AFVISA) began investigating the possibility of providing a national audit service in cooperation with USDA to satisfy the shippers’ and growers’ needs; and

WHEREAS, in August 2001, a USDA-approved pilot program was launched that provided audit-based services that are currently being utilized in New Jersey as well as 25 other states; New Jersey currently has five licensed and trained fruit and vegetable inspectors (Federal & Federal-State) performing Good Agriculture Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP) audits; and

, the Secretary of Agriculture is an officially invited member of the State’s domestic security preparedness taskforce, an appointment that opens the door for addressing the needs of all agricultural production during emergency situations including outbreaks of disease; and

WHEREAS, fruit and vegetable as well as animal producers raising any and all species of livestock in New Jersey must become educated, now more than ever, on farm bio-security, animal health, food safety, and emergency preparedness for possible outbreaks of disease and contamination; and

, the immediate and proper response to disasters affecting the health, safety and welfare of all animals requires the coordinated efforts of specialists in emergency medical care, evacuation, feeding, sheltering, transportation and waste disposal; and

, by the autumn of 2002, the State recognized the need to expand Animal Emergency Preparedness and Response Committee (AEPARC) to include a broader representation of people or organizations involved in the animal and livestock industry as a whole and formed the Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG); and

WHEREAS, expanding public and private membership within the AEWG refined the State’s emergency response and enhanced its scope through the integration of federal disaster planning resources; and simultaneously, this expansion assisted in the development and organization of local emergency plans; and

WHEREAS, the existing animal issues, annexes and appendices involving the State’s Emergency Support Function were reviewed and revised; and a County Veterinary Coordinator, with the authority to notify and mobilize veterinary service and animal care personnel during periods of heightened risk, was established as an integral member of County Emergency Management Programs; and

WHEREAS, to maintain a profitable industry, the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with NJAES Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension and the New Jersey Farm Bureau offer programs such as the Garden State Agricultural Re-Engineering Initiative to support management teams, and provide financial management programs to aid in profitability and sustainability of the industry.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 91st State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 8, 2006, in order to keep New Jersey's agricultural products safe, its industry competitive, its natural resources diverse, and consumer confidence high, call upon the agricultural community to embrace these best management practices, and incorporate the procedures into their farming practices to help prevent accidental introduction of disease and reduce the risk of becoming a target for terrorist activities.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the continued development of the updated Animal Emergency Working Group, an inter-agency team of animal professionals including State veterinarians, Office of Emergency Management officials, local animal control officers, and others, charged with developing standards to address the needs of animal owners during a state of emergency.

, that we support the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the Animal Emergency Working Group’s continued efforts to develop an all-hazard emergency response plan for disasters involving animals.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, we support the Livestock and Poultry Food Safety Initiatives originating from and developed by the partnership of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, including but not limited to, the Garden State Dairy Alliance, the New Jersey Cattle Health Assurance Program and the New Jersey Sheep and Goat Health Assurance Program; as well as continued support for inclusion and participation in the Mid-Atlantic Beef Quality Assurance Program, Shellfish Producers Quality Assurance Program, Regional Dairy Quality Management Alliance and National Pork Producers Quality Assurance Program.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we endorse and support the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s continued expansion of laboratory facilities and associated field staff activities that allow for ongoing and expanded surveillance of emerging animal and plant diseases.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Senior Services collaborative work through third party audits and other certifications to assure food safety and quality beginning at the farm level.

, we support the initiative of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, to develop, support, oversee and own a GIS database for the purpose of protecting New Jersey’s livestock and poultry industry in the face of a natural or man-made disaster.