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WHEREAS, New Jersey agriculture is diverse, spanning 10 major sectors, and depends upon the vitality of a variety of agricultural products to make the overall industry a success; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey farms’ proximity to population centers brings with it unique challenges not faced in those states where significantly lower population densities make it less likely that farmers will confront noise and odor complaints from neighboring residents; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s varied and seasonal climate means farmers can face hot, dry or even drought conditions in the same year as they may face floods from major storms or early frosts, all of which can dramatically reduce crop yield; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s diversified economy and various industries make it more of a challenge for farm operators to find, train and retain adequate labor supplies; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s continuous dedication to protecting and improving the environment has created the need for farm operations to be ever-mindful of the need to be stewards of the land, water and other natural resources; and

WHEREAS, for these reasons, New Jersey farmers face unique challenges in their efforts to keep their farm operations viable and thriving, creating the need to rely on certain government programs to help them meet these challenges; and

WHEREAS, the State of New Jersey can meet much, but not all of the financial burden created by the costs to operate these essential government programs that assist agriculture, thereby necessitating the need for help from federal partners; and

WHEREAS, the federal Farm Bill contains within it the spending priorities for the nation’s agricultural industry; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey farms’ needs from federal programs are significantly different from those of farms in other regions of the country; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s diverse agricultural, typified by smaller farms producing a variety of crops, benefits from a strong emphasis on Specialty Crops Grants designed to increase consumer awareness about fresh produce, improve access to foreign markets, ensure food safety, strengthen research efforts, enhance conservation programs and encourage investment and efficiency; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey also is home to numerous grain and forage producers who receive a much needed benefit from the Farm Bill’s commodities funding; and

WHEREAS, grain and forage producers strongly support the current commodity title as written in the 2002 Farm Bill, which acts as a minimum safety net for grain producers throughout the State of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, fruit, vegetable and tree nut production in the United States accounts for $35 billion in farmgate value, or 33% of farm cash receipts; and

WHEREAS, nursery and greenhouse production increases the farmgate value of specialty crops from 33% to 51% of farm cash receipts; and

WHEREAS, a broad array of fruit and vegetable trade associations representing U.S. growers and shippers are continuing to work on achieving mutual objectives for the Farm Bill and assuring a common platform across regions, commodities, and other interests, including allies in the production of specialty crops; and

WHEREAS, the fruit and vegetable industry is a critical and growing component of U.S. agriculture, deserving of full and equal consideration as is provided to other sectors in the Farm Bill; and

WHEREAS, the fruit and vegetable industry would not be well served by direct payment to growers but insist on building the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the United States; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey works closely with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to support a number of feeding programs that bring nutritious products to children, the elderly and those in need; and

WHEREAS, funding targeted for these feeding programs can be stretched by ensuring, whenever possible, that products be bought locally first, regionally second and nationally and internationally as a last resort, thereby cutting the associated transportation costs, especially in times of rising fuel prices.    

NOW, THERFORE BE IT RESOLVED,  that we, the delegates to the 91st Annual New Jersey State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 7, 2006 urge the Congress of the United States to include within the 2007 Farm Bill, and urge the New Jersey Congressional delegation to advocate for and support, the following:
  • An emphasis on creating a balance between commodities funding and Specialty Crops Grants/Value Added Grants to ensure that all sectors of New Jersey agriculture benefit from the Bill;
  • Expansion of the Value-Added grant programs to ensure greater producer participation;
  • An emphasis on renewable fuels in the Value-Added grants program to stimulate competitiveness of feedstocks for such fuels, such as corn and soybeans;
  • Due consideration to equine operations as akin to production agriculture, and their eligibility for the same programs as crops that are currently considered production agriculture, especially given that the equine sector is the third-largest agriculture sector in New Jersey and contributes greatly to keeping farmland green and free from development;
  • Funding of a forestry title to encourage agricultural owners of forest land (42 percent of the nation’s forest land is owned by farmers) to effectively manage and improve those properties;
  • Adequate funding for programs that allow farmers to continue to be good stewards of their lands;
  • An emphasis on community-based conservation, in which conservation districts set their environmental priorities, as well as adequate funding to encourage farmers to participate in conservation programs and engage in conservation practices that conserve our limited and valuable environmental resources;
  • Support increases in conservation technical assistance dollars for all producers seeking assistance regardless of their enrollment in other Farm Bill programs;
  • Adequate funding to supplement existing farmland preservation programs in New Jersey;
  • Encourage revisions of the USDA Federal Farm and Ranch Preservation program to ensure these regulations and requirements are flexible and more appropriate for farms in the Northeast, especially New Jersey, because severe limitations regarding impervious cover on farms would impede or obstruct the ability of farmers to adapt their operations to changing market conditions;
  • Provisions to encourage the continuation and expansion of Food and Nutrition Service programs, and that emphasize buying locally first in order to lower transportation costs;
  • An emphasis on nutrition education in the Food and Nutrition Service programs to encourage people benefiting from these programs to make informed nutrition choices;
  • A focus on access and availability of fruits and vegetables, particularly to children, through expansion of the school fruit and vegetable snack program, increased commodity purchases, higher allocations to the Department of Defense (DOD) Fresh program for schools, development of a new nutrition program to assist producers in enhancing their markets, and a general requirement that food banks and commodity purchasing programs comply with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines;
  • Significant new investment in prevention of unintentional introduction of plant pests and diseases;
  • Adequate funding for New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers University, our land grant college, and Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension, to develop and maintain the leading-edge technology New Jersey agriculture needs to remain competitive;
  • Significant new investment in research for specialty crops and integrated pest management, particularly through both the National Research Initiative and programs within Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and Agriculture Research Service (ARS);
  • A thorough review of all farm programs to assure that specialty crop producers have access to benefits comparable to other farmers, rather than being excluded or limited simply due to high production costs;
  • Adequate funding for programs that educate students and young farmers, as well as those that encourage new people to enter farming;
  • Continued adequate funding for farm labor housing programs, with special consideration given for the higher costs of real estate and construction in New Jersey;
  • An expansion of crop insurance programs beyond those commodities currently covered, and flexibility within the program as determined by the unique requirements of each crop;
  • Government investment in the fruit and vegetable industry to allow sustained growth in this important agricultural sector; and
  • Increased access to foreign markets, increased funding for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program, and creation of a new Export Division within APHIS to eliminate trade barriers facing our industry in SPS issues.