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WHEREAS, water is the lifeblood of the agricultural industry, and agricultural access to adequate water supply is a critical concern for New Jersey’s farmers; and this need is especially urgent during periods of drought when restrictions on water use could catastrophically affect farm income for the production year; and

WHEREAS, even absent drought conditions, ensuring an adequate water supply, both now and in the future, is essential to protecting the production capability and economic stability of agriculture; and

WHEREAS, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture established an Agricultural Water Working Group that includes members of the Department of Agriculture, Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE), the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Services, United States Geological Survey, Farm Bureau and the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP); the mission of the working group is to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on the water needs of agriculture and to assist in the development of essential rules, policies and guidelines to ensure that there will be an adequate water supply to meet the current and future needs of New Jersey’s agricultural industry; and

WHEREAS, the working group has been successful in establishing an on-going dialogue between the agencies and organizations that regulate, and advocate for, agricultural water; including NJDEP Bureau of Water Allocation staff, county agricultural agents, the State Board of Agriculture, department staff and others to help resolve some ongoing water allocation procedural issues and to provide insight into the NJDEP’s water allocation decision-making process; and

WHEREAS, most of the backlog for agricultural water certification/registration applications was cleared by September 2005 through the implementation of a strategic plan that focused on expediting the processing of applications developed by the NJDEP Bureau of Water Allocation; and

WHEREAS, the Department is also working with the NJDEP to restore some of the agricultural water allocations in the restricted water supply areas in Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties and Category One watersheds; however, despite the efforts of the working group, agricultural water concerns still persist; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s farmers face increasing water supply restrictions, particularly in critical areas 1 and 2; and many agricultural water certifications are being subjected to reductions in their allocations based upon actual water usage; and

WHEREAS, the present water demands of agriculture represent approximately 6% of the State’s total water demand in the State, and the long-term water needs of New Jersey’s agricultural community must be equally considered during the ongoing Water Supply Master Planning process; and

WHEREAS, a subcommittee of the Agricultural Water Working Group prepared and presented a report titled, Agricultural Water Needs to 2020, to the Water Supply Advisory Council in December to inform the New Jersey Water Supply Master Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Department prepared comments outlining agriculture’s concerns with the proposed amendments to DEP’s Agricultural Aquacultural and Horticultural Water Usage Certification Rules and met several times with the Division of Water Supply staff in conjunction with RCE to discuss those concerns; and

WHEREAS, the agricultural community’s concerns with the proposed rule changes continue to be the new reporting requirements including Ag Development Plans, the total amount of impervious cover on the farm management unit and filing with the Delaware River Basin Commission as well as the proposed “regulatory” role of the County Extension Agents.

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, call upon the Department of Agriculture to continue working with the Department of Environmental Protection to address water supply and water quality issues by participating in the NJDEP’s Statewide water supply planning process and by strategically planning and promoting the implementation of Federal and State conservation cost-share programs.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the efforts of the Agricultural Water Working Group, and encourage them to continue their work on behalf of New Jersey’s agricultural community.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request the NJDEP to ensure that there is adequate water for New Jersey’s farmers, realizing that water allocation planning is critical to overall farm management.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request the NJDEP to amend their water allocation restrictions to exempt those farming operations from further water allocation reductions who have already implemented water management practices that have reduced their water consumption.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request the NJDA and NJDEP to explore the establishment of an Agricultural Water Allocation Credit Program, whereby farmers who employ water conservation practices that utilize water at a rate that is below their permit allocations at certain times, be permitted to correspondingly increase water use at other times. Such a program would encourage the implementation of water conservation measures within the agricultural community and improve the viability of the agricultural industry by allowing water usage to be tailored to fit the needs of each agricultural operation. We request that all agricultural water use authorizations that are reverted back to the NJDEP be set aside for agricultural use only.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NJDA should work with the NJDEP to ensure that all water-related plans, policies and programs of the State recognize the critical role that farmland plays in providing recharge of water to underlying aquifer systems and surface water supplies.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the findings and conclusions of the report titled Agricultural Water Needs to 2020, prepared and presented by the subcommittee of the Agricultural Water Working Group, and we urge the Governor and Legislature to provide the funding necessary to implement the recommendations of that study.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we insist that the NJDEP consider the needs of agricultural operations when developing policies and programs that involve water quality issues, such as stormwater management and impervious coverage limitations. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage producers to use water conservation technologies, to utilize any available State and Federal cost-share grants to implement such measures and to continue to look for new and efficient methods to conserve water on farms, including drip irrigation, water recapture and reuse, and enhanced on-farm water storage techniques.