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WHEREAS, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, created in 1916 and reorganized in 2002, is responsible for regulating and promoting agriculture in the State of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the Department’s five Divisions – Agricultural and Natural Resources, Animal Health, Food and Nutrition, Marketing and Development, and Plant Industry – handle a wide range of issues facing New Jersey’s $82 billion food and agriculture industry, including but not limited to: the disposal of livestock waste, controlling Avian Influenza, providing proper nutrition to school children, administering the Jersey Fresh grading and marketing program, and protecting New Jersey’s urban forests from the Asian longhorned beetle; and

WHEREAS, the Department also encompasses the State Agriculture Development Committee, which oversees farmland preservation in New Jersey and which, to date, has preserved more than 140,000 acres of farmland and led the State to the highest percentage of eligible farmland – 17 percent – in the nation being preserved; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Agriculture has a close working relationship with its colleagues in the State, including Rutgers, the NJAES/Rutgers Cooperative Research Extension, leading agriculture organizations, and commodity groups, as well as its Federal partners, such as USDA, the New Jersey offices of NRCS, Farm Service Agency, and Rural Development, and other regional USDA offices; and

WHEREAS, in the past year alone, the Department has, in partnership with other agencies:

o Reduced the incidence of Avian Influenza in New Jersey’s live bird marketing system from a high of over 40 percent to a low of 1.4 percent in a given monitoring period.
o Developed and received the Governor’s approval for the most comprehensive Child Nutrition Rule in the nation, giving New Jersey school students healthier choices in the foods served in their a la carte lines, vending machines, school stores and in-school fundraisers.
o Addressed and controlled an infestation in Middlesex and Union counties of the Asian longhorned beetle, a serious invasive pest that can wreak untold havoc on maple and other varieties of trees.
o Developed and gained approval for new rules establishing a Premium Peach Grade, mandating that New Jersey tomatoes advertised as “vine-ripened” must indeed have ripened on the vine, and enabling New Jersey vintners to put the Jersey Fresh quality guarantee on bottles of wine, assuring the public that the ingredients were grown in New Jersey using the highest standards.
o Worked in a federal-state partnership to install the first conservation measure under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which works with farmers to convert pastureland or cropland along streams from production to natural grasses, trees and other vegetation.
o Developed and launched the Garden State Dairy Alliance, involving dairy farmers and other agricultural officials and leaders in an effort to bolster the state’s dairy industry.
o Undertaken an analysis of New Jersey’s horseracing industry to determine what initiatives would best help the industry remain viable in the face of increasing competition from surrounding states, and how efforts to help the racing industry can benefit the entire equine sector.
o Began offering organic farm certification through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) for any producer selling more than $5,000 worth of product marketed as organic.
o Worked with officials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to forge an agreement allowing operators of farm vehicles to drive those vehicles across state borders, recognizing each state’s exemption from the commercial drivers license requirement for farmers.
o Established a Jersey Grown Community Awards Program to honor municipalities who undertake community beautification projects using plant materials grown in New Jersey.
o Made available, through the Department’s web site, a “tool kit” of resources to help municipal governments, businesses, non-profit groups, and local citizens plan to retain agriculture in their communities along with the many benefits it provides.
o Expanded from seasonal to a year-round basis the nationally recognized program of collecting nursery and greenhouse film to encourage more growers to recycle used white and clear film.
o Launched a year-long study with Rutgers University to identify the agri-tourism opportunities in New Jersey that producers could take advantage of to augment their farm income.
o Published a detailed analysis of the state’s wild harvest and aquacultured seafood industry, identifying the challenges faced by fishermen and aquaculturists and the opportunities for the industry to grow in New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the above list is far from exhaustive and does not include the hundreds of routine tasks accomplished each week in inspecting, regulating, promoting and otherwise aiding agriculture in the State of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the Department also works at both the State and Federal levels to ensure that the interests of New Jersey’s agricultural community are effectively communicated to legislators and that the laws they pass are not detrimental to agricultural producers in this State; and

WHEREAS, the Department is committed to keeping New Jersey’s agricultural community ahead of the curve in changes to the dynamics of the industry in New Jersey; tracking those changes and advising agricultural producers on how to adapt their operations to capitalize on them; and

WHEREAS, the Department annually proposes more than 100 Economic Development Strategies to aid the 10 major sectors of New Jersey agriculture in making the most of production and market trends; and

WHEREAS, the Department takes an active role in representing the interests of New Jersey’s agricultural community as part of the Northeastern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA); and

WHEREAS, the Department accomplishes this myriad of regulatory and promotional goals with a minimal workforce and lean, efficiency-driven budget, giving New Jersey’s agricultural community and general public the biggest “bang for their buck.”

NOW, THERFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 91st State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 8, 2006, do hereby commend the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for its outstanding work in helping to keep agriculture green and growing in the “Garden State.”

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the efforts of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to continue setting a high standard of service to the agricultural community and the residents of the State of New Jersey.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to provide the New Jersey Department of Agriculture with the tools and resources necessary to continue effectively and efficiently serving the interests of agriculture and the residents of the State of New Jersey.