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WHEREAS, increased energy costs have placed a greater financial burden across New Jersey, increasing the cost of doing business for all New Jersey’s producers from all agricultural sectors; large increases have been seen especially in the cost of petroleum products and natural gas, making traditional fossil fuels less attractive for farm operation use; and

WHEREAS, at the same time, New Jersey’s grain and forage producers harvest more acres than any other agricultural commodity, but historically their per-acre total receipts have been among the lowest in the State, despite stronger prices in 2006; AND keeping those acres in active agriculture will require an innovative approach to new market opportunities that increase demand and keep prices competitive; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s dairy farmers have faced record-low prices for their raw milk and increasing fuel and feed costs, and their economic viability depends on making the most of all their products and byproducts, even the manure created by their cows; AND bio-gas production using manure can help reduce dairy and other livestock producers’ costs of handling manure and may be a potential revenue source; and

WHEREAS, bio-gas facilities also remove large amounts of food waste and other refuse from the waste stream, to be mixed with manure in the production of bio-gas, lessening the State’s reliance on landfills and thereby enhancing the environment and reducing municipal waste-disposal costs; and

WHEREAS, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station is conducting the first comprehensive biomass/waste inventory assessment of New Jersey, as well as a bioenergy technology assessment, to determine the state’s current and projected bioenergy capabilities. The NJAES is also developing the first comprehensive statewide mapping of biomass/waste resources, and this will be critical information in the development of a strategy to move New Jersey into the forefront of bioenergy; and

WHEREAS, from both the producer and consumer standpoints, New Jersey’s agricultural community would benefit from a concerted effort to pursue and advocate the use of renewable “green energy,” such as ethanol, soy diesel, wind power, solar power, biogas and biomass; and

WHEREAS, ethanol, bio-diesel, and bio-gas in particular, offer opportunities for the producer, to expand the markets for corn, soybeans and other crops, and for byproducts and waste stream items; and

WHEREAS, ethanol plants currently under consideration in New Jersey are projected to produce anywhere from 3 to 40 million gallons of ethanol, and this process also would produce distillers’ grains for use as livestock feed and liquid carbon dioxide, which in part could be used in flash freezing operations for Jersey-grown fruits and vegetables; and

WHEREAS, although advancing technology has made solar and wind power, as used in land-based farm operations, more affordable to implement and has provided an opportunity for farmers to reduce their operational energy costs in the face of rising fossil fuel prices, the application of property taxes to these systems as improvements to real property, currently allowed under New Jersey law, threatens to inhibit the use of such systems on New Jersey farms; and

WHEREAS, there are several bills currently pending before the Legislature, such as bill number A1882, which would provide a property tax exemption to landowners who install alternative energy systems on their property; and

WHEREAS, a study recently completed by Rutgers University for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities concluded that the State could, indeed, draw 20 percent of its overall power needs from renewable sources by 2020, creating energy reliability benefits and leading to savings of as much as $330 million in health and environmental benefits from harm caused by pollution that results from traditional fuels; and

WHEREAS, agricultural producers would be more likely to participate in programs encouraging the installation of alternative energy systems if the energy cost savings from these systems were not diminished by an increase in property taxes due to such systems being  treated as improvements to real property; and  

WHEREAS, New Jersey, at the direction of Governor Jon S. Corzine, is in the process of designing an Energy Master Plan that will address all areas of energy production and consumption in the State, and that Energy Master Plan is scheduled to be completed by October 2007; and

WHEREAS, this Energy Master Plan will contain guidelines for the production, distribution and use of alternative biofuels, many made from farm products or byproducts; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Agriculture has worked since June 2006 in a cooperative effort with the Board of Public Utilities, Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission, Rutgers University and the Governor’s Office to create the most conducive environment for biofuels projects to thrive in New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, this “Biofuels Action Group” has identified numerous viable alternative energy proposals interested in locating in New Jersey.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 92nd State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 14, 2007, support the continued development of renewable energy sources in New Jersey and support the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s comprehensive “green energy” strategy from both the producer and consumer perspectives, which will best position New Jersey’s agricultural community to benefit from the pursuit and advocacy of renewable energy.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the work of the Biofuels Action Group in creating the most conducive environment for biofuels projects to thrive in New Jersey.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and the Legislature to support, pass and sign into law, legislation embodying the concepts proposed in A1882, that would exempt alternative-energy systems placed on residential and commercial properties from being taxed as improvements to real property, since it is in both the environmental and economic best interests of the State to encourage installation of these systems.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and the Legislature to work closely and cooperatively with proposed ethanol, biodiesel, bio-gas and other alternative fuel projects, so that the benefits of locally grown alternative fuel can be reaped by all citizens of the State of New Jersey in the near future.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the committees and working groups designing the State’s Energy Master Plan to consider input from the Biofuels Action Group in compiling the section of the Energy Master Plan addressing the creation, distribution and use of biofuels in New Jersey.