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WHEREAS, the Governor and Legislature have signed an Aquaculture Development Plan for the State of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the United States of America and the State of New Jersey have both declared aquaculture to be agriculture; and

WHEREAS, aquaculture is one of the fastest growing forms of agriculture; and

WHEREAS, aquaculture offers the opportunity for new farm crops, expanded marketing, and the chance to diversify into a potentially profitable on-farm enterprise as a supplement to their current farming operations; and

WHEREAS, those promoting aquaculture envision farmers using ponds, cages in existing private impoundments, tanks in greenhouse structures, innovative structures for shellfish production, for producing species that are highly marketable to local consumers and the export market; and

WHEREAS, Rutgers University has continued significant aquaculture research programs, and has plans to assist commercial development by incorporating the existing experience of local, regional and international contacts; and

WHEREAS, development of the Multi-species Aquaculture Demonstration Facility, by Rutgers University and funded by grants from the US Government, the State of New Jersey, Rutgers University, and Public Service Electric and Gas, is to be completed within the next 6 to 9 months; and

WHEREAS, four Aquaculture Development Zones (ADZ’s) have been established in the Delaware Bay, which will expand current production by permitting structure in shellfish aquaculture, and necessary state and Federal permits have been obtained by NJDEP; and 

WHEREAS, regulation covering the use and allocation of leases in these ADZs needs to be developed by NJDEP, along with statutory changes to Title 50 to allow leasing in ADZ-4 (Cape Shore); and in the interim, ADZs will be handled as research areas for an indefinite time period; and

WHEREAS, the Aquaculture Development Act was passed to help facilitate critically important small business and start-up investment and provide government assistance to deal with an onerous regulatory structure; and 

WHEREAS, this responsibility is assigned to the Department of Agriculture; and specifically to the Department’s Fish and Seafood Development Program (FSDP); and

WHEREAS, the FSDP currently provides support to the aquaculture industry through technology transfer projects, marketing assistance and technical assistance with required state permit processes; and

WHEREAS, in 2004 the department published final rules for an aquatic farmer license and the permit applications are available from the department, and to date 182 Aquatic Farmer Licenses have been issued; and

WHEREAS, an Agricultural Management Plan for aquaculture has been adopted by the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) and is supported by a set of Aquaculture Management Practices and an Aquatic Organism Health Management Plan, developed to protect the environment, wild stocks and the growing New Jersey Aquaculture industry; and

WHEREAS, the Right to Farm protection is currently conferred as per this adoption; and

WHEREAS, Legislation on Open Ocean Aquaculture Policy has been introduced in the United States Senate; and

WHEREAS, this Legislation has tremendous potential to establish the guidelines under which the 3 to 200 nautical mile limit can be utilized to foster environmentally sustainable and economically feasible aquaculture; and

WHEREAS, the United States trade deficit for seafood products in 2004 was $7.8 billion.  Among all food items, seafood is the largest contributor to the U.S. trade deficit. 

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 92nd State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 13, 2007, urge the Department of Agriculture to enthusiastically support the development of aquaculture in New Jersey by:
  • Supporting continued development of aquaculture at Rutgers University through the Multi-species Aquaculture Demonstration Facility by advocating that the State of New Jersey annually support basic operations including salaries and supplies required for conducting aquaculture demonstrations and research that will benefit the aquatic farmers of New Jersey in the amount of $335,000;
  • Working with NJDA in its efforts to get the NJDEP to provide ADZs in addition to the General Permit for shellfish aquaculture so that there is greater flexibility for farmers to develop shellfish aquaculture in other private lease areas that work.  Department of Agriculture shall also seek to have a regulatory fast track given to holders of riparian grants who want to develop shellfish aquaculture in these areas.  Owners of riparian grants are paying taxes on these submerged lands and many were written to specifically authorize the culture and harvest of shellfish; 
  • Endorsing and supporting the development of the aquaculture industry in New Jersey and the central role of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture in bringing about a streamlined protocol for the establishment of production practices, providing government assistance to deal with an onerous regulatory structure, and facilitating important small business and start-up investment; and
  • Supporting the proposed federal Open Ocean Aquaculture Policy legislation.