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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, as well as dissemination of information and services through programs that support agriculture; 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 $84 billion food and agriculture industry, including but not limited to:  helping agriculture to cope with environmental regulations, ensuring the humane treatment of livestock, providing proper nutrition to school children and the hungry, administering the Jersey Fresh grading and marketing program, and protecting New Jersey’s native plant life from pests and invasive plant species; 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 165,000 acres of farmland; 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, and leading agriculture organizations and commodity groups, as well as its federal partners, such as USDA, the New Jersey offices of NRCS, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, and other regional USDA offices; and

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

  • Expanded the “Jersey Fresh,” “Jersey Grown” and related quality grading and promotional programs, including launching a “Jersey Fresh Milk” brand to help dairy farmers capitalize on the desire for fresher, more locally grown and produced foods, emphasizing the “Jersey Bred” brand to help promote the horseracing and breeding industries, and airing “Jersey Grown” promotional advertisements for Christmas trees grown in the state;
  • Continued surveillance for, and preparations to deal with, Avian Influenza (AI), including participation in multiple drills designed to test the readiness of various agencies and industries to respond to an outbreak of highly pathogenic AI;  
  • Pursued, through the Produce Safety Task Force, the training of more than 700 farmers in food safety basics while also advocating national standards for produce safety and continuing to examine the best ways to ensure that New Jersey producers meet new, higher food-safety standards that may come from government action or from within the produce industry;
  • Secured an $85,000 Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grant from USDA to develop a program of “mock audits” for New Jersey farmers to experience what would be expected of them in a third-party food-safety audit and to better prepare them to successfully complete those audits;
  • Gained accreditation by the United States Department of Agriculture to offer in-state certification services to farmers and processors who want to enter the organic market in the Garden State;
  • Boosted preparedness for the care of livestock and pets in natural disasters by establishing six animal-care sites throughout the state and equipping them with trailers and supplies;
  • Implemented the second round of Governor Corzine’s Hunger Initiative, allocating $4 million to bring more food to New Jersey’s hungry, with an emphasis on buying locally produced food first;
  • Teamed with the New York Jets and the New Jersey Lottery Commission to promote increased healthy eating among school students;
  • Implemented orders to improve the economic viability of the state’s dairy producers by providing for additional payments to producers for their raw milk that mitigate the rising costs of fuel;
  • Aggressively responded to a three-year trend of increased gypsy moth caterpillar activity in several counties throughout the state;
  • Teamed with the New Jersey Restaurant Association to increase the use of locally produced items in their members’ dishes and to promote their efforts to include Jersey Fresh produce, Jersey Seafood and other agricultural products whenever possible;
  • Worked with leaders in the equine industry to devise better marketing of New Jersey horseracing and to develop programs to keep New Jersey horseracing competitive with surrounding states, as well as helping the equine industry best showcase itself to the world as New Jersey hosted the 2007 Breeders Cup;
  • Completed the tree-removal phase of a cooperative effort to eradicate the Asian longhorned beetle in Middlesex and Union Counties, and moved toward completing surveys in Hudson County that will determine if that area can be declared free of ALB;
  • Continued working with Rutgers University to attract new beekeepers to the industry, as well as naming a new State Apiarist to ensure the health and safety of hives existing in New Jersey or being brought in for seasonal pollination work;
  • Teamed with Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Center to offer a series of five training sessions for farmers and food industry businesspeople to expose them to the latest trends in food marketing and business development;
  • Helped school districts throughout the state implement the most comprehensive Child Nutrition Rule in the nation, giving New Jersey students healthier choices in the foods served in their a la carte lines, vending machines, school stores and in-school fundraisers;
  • Worked within the multi-agency Biofuels Action Group, which meets biweekly at the Department, with the aim of creating an environment in which companies producing biofuels or energy from crops or agricultural waste can thrive;
  • Accomplished or made progress on 108 of the Economic Development Strategies adopted by the delegates to the 2007 State Agricultural Convention;
  • Improved the efficiency and effectiveness of Department operations by continuing to cross-train personnel, restructure programs, improve inter-divisional collaboration and increasing cooperative efforts with other state and federal agencies, and private industry to continue meeting its core missions;
  • Received the 2007 Produce Business Marketing Excellence Award for efforts in 2006 to restore consumer confidence in New Jersey-grown spinach following a nationwide outbreak of E. coli linked to spinach grown in California;
  • Cooperated with nationally broadcast public television program “America’s Heartland” to produce stories on farmland preservation, the “Jersey Fresh” program, New Jersey’s growing seafood industry and farmers’ efforts to feed the hungry; 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 a 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 93rd State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 6, 2008, 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 support the Department’s further efforts to influence the crafting of a new Farm Bill as Congress adopts a five-year blueprint for agriculture in the United States.

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.