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WHEREAS, each year the Department of Agriculture receives complaints alleging that produce shipped into New Jersey from other growing regions is misbranded and sold to consumers as a New Jersey product in violation of state and federal law; and

WHEREAS, misbranding is a practice that adversely affects the profitability of all New Jersey farmers, especially in cases that affect the Jersey Fresh label, which is recognized by consumers to indicate the highest quality; and

WHEREAS, to protect the integrity of the Jersey Fresh label, as well as all agricultural products labeled as “product of New Jersey,” the New Jersey Department of Agriculture re-affirms its commitment to identify and eliminate the practice of misbranding; and

WHEREAS, currently, under New Jersey and Federal Law, it is illegal to misbrand any article of food; and

WHEREAS, the Consumer Protection Program of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (NJ DCA) is charged with the responsibility to investigate suspected violations; and the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Office is charged to investigate violations as they pertain to federal law; and

WHEREAS, recent cuts to the federal budget will result in the closure of the regional office of the PACA located in New Brunswick, New Jersey; and the office will be moved to Manassas, Virginia, causing any federal investigations required in New Jersey to be conducted from the Virginia office; and

WHEREAS, previously the NJDCA has not investigated and prosecuted mislabeled and misbranded agricultural commodities as a priority focus area; and

WHEREAS, the lack of prosecution of such mislabeling and misbranding not only compromises the integrity of the label and associated marketing programs, but also is harmful to the consumers who are not receiving the high quality produce they have come to expect from New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has a team of inspectors in place, who in the course of their duties, routinely visit farms, wholesalers, brokers and retailers, and if given the authority, could conduct more timely investigations and issue violations more efficiently and effectively than under the current process.

, that we, the delegates to the 91st State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 8, 2006 urge the Legislature to pass legislation that transfers the statutory responsibilities for investigation and enforcement regarding instances of misbranding of agricultural products in New Jersey from New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

, that we request the legislature to give the New Jersey Department of Agriculture full investigative, enforcement, and penalty authority associated with misbranding statutes.