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WHEREAS, New Jersey agriculture is diverse, spanning 10 major sectors, and depends upon the vitality of a variety of agricultural products to make the overall industry a success; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey farms’ proximity to population centers brings with it unique challenges not faced in those states where significantly lower population densities make it less likely that farmers will confront noise and odor complaints from neighboring residents; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s diversified economy and various industries make it more of a challenge for farm operators to find, train and retain adequate labor supplies; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s continuous dedication to protecting and improving the environment has created the need for farm operations to be ever-mindful of the need to be stewards of the land, water and other natural resources; and

WHEREAS, for these reasons, New Jersey farmers face unique challenges in their efforts to keep their farm operations viable and thriving, creating the need to rely on certain government programs to help them meet these challenges; and

WHEREAS, the State of New Jersey can cover the costs of operating these essential government programs only with the assistance of federal funding; and

WHEREAS, the federal Farm Bill contains within it the spending priorities for the nation’s agricultural industry; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey farms’ needs from federal programs are significantly different from those of farms in other regions of the country; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s diverse agriculture, typified by smaller farms producing a variety of crops, benefits from a strong emphasis on Specialty Crops Grants designed to increase consumer awareness about fresh produce, improve access to foreign markets, ensure food safety, strengthen research efforts, streamline the process for involvement in conservation programs, encourage investment and efficiency, and  allow for flexibility in the definition of “rural” when determining which communities can benefit from USDA’s Rural Development programs; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey also is home to numerous grain and forage producers who receive a much needed benefit from the Farm Bill’s commodities funding; and

WHEREAS, grain and forage producers in New Jersey rely on a minimum safety net that can be strengthened and more widely accepted through changes in the Farm Bill’s commodity title; and

WHEREAS, fruit, vegetable and tree nut production in the United States accounts for $35 billion in farmgate value, or 33 percent of farm cash receipts, and when combined with nursery and greenhouse production, accounts for 51 percent of total farm cash receipts; and

WHEREAS, a broad array of fruit and vegetable trade associations representing U.S. growers and shippers have worked and are continuing to work on achieving mutual objectives for the Farm Bill and assuring a common platform across regions, commodities, and other interests, including allies in the production of specialty crops; and

WHEREAS, the fruit and vegetable industry is a critical and growing component of U.S. agriculture, deserving of full and equal consideration as is provided to other sectors in the Farm Bill; and

WHEREAS, the fruit and vegetable industry would not be well served by direct payment to growers but insists on building the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the United States; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey works closely with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to support a number of feeding programs that bring nutritious products to children, the elderly and those in need; and

WHEREAS, funding targeted for these feeding programs can be stretched by ensuring, whenever possible, that products be bought locally first, regionally second and nationally and internationally as a last resort, thereby cutting the associated transportation costs, especially in times of rising fuel prices.

WHEREAS, Congress is meeting in Conference Committee to resolve differences between the bills passed by each house in late-2007, with the aim of crafting a final bill that can pass both houses and attain the President’s signature. 

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 93rd State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 6, 2008, urge the Congress of the United States, and especially the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, to continue giving priority to the passage of a Farm Bill that is acceptable to both Houses of Congress and the Administration and which includes within it support for the following:

  • Adoption of New Jersey’s Farm Bill principles, initiatives and action items as set forth in the attached documents; and
  • Create new definitions and eligibility standards for federally funded economic development programs so that businesses or entities with a direct connection to the agriculture and food complex that are in or near metropolitan areas will not be excluded; and
  • Fund grant and/or loan programs for innovative projects that would:  (1) catalyze investment for cooperatives and companies to develop and improve agricultural infrastructure; (2) boost research and development projects through universities and agricultural groups to advance the use of science and technology in the industry; (3) provide additional funding for educational programs designed to encourage potential future farmers and those new to the industry; and (4) provide technical assistance to farmers dealing with changing regulations or methods of production; and
  • An emphasis on creating a balance between commodities funding and Specialty Crops Grants/Value Added Grants, including measures to ensure greater producer participation in Value-Added grant programs, to ensure that all sectors of New Jersey agriculture benefit from the Farm Bill; and
  • Streamline Conservation Program application processes by allowing a farmer to apply for multiple programs with one application; and
  • Provisions that give priority for grants and loans to young farmers determined to sustain agriculture into the next generation; and
  • Allow impervious cover/building envelope standards to run parallel to the state’s preservation program; and
  • A focus on access and availability of fruits and vegetables, particularly to children, through expansion of the school fruit and vegetable snack program, increased commodity purchases, higher allocations to the Department of Defense (DOD) Fresh program for schools, development of a new nutrition program to assist producers in enhancing their markets, and a general requirement that food banks and commodity purchasing programs comply with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines; and
  • An expansion of crop insurance programs beyond those commodities currently covered, and flexibility within the program as determined by the unique requirements of each crop.