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WHEREAS, the ongoing viability of New Jersey’s agricultural industry rests on a tripod of preserving farmland, enhancing farmers’ economic prospects, and encouraging and training the next generation of farmers and attracting new people into the industry; and

WHEREAS, education about agricultural opportunities, economic incentives and a regulatory framework that does not discourage these new and next-generation farmers are key components to ensuring that New Jersey’s farms can continue once this current generation of farmers is gone; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey’s farming population is aging, and in the decade between 1992 and 2002, the average age of principal farm operators increased from 53.9 years old to 55.1 years old; and

WHEREAS, in many cases, the operators of today’s farms do not have children who are interested in carrying on the family business, as New Jersey’s geographic location between the New York and Philadelphia metro areas offers a plethora of opportunities in other fields within a short distance from home; and

WHEREAS, education plays a key role, as exposure at a young age to the growing technological side of agriculture and to the quality-of-life benefits of farm living can inspire children to choose an agricultural career; and

WHEREAS, another route for adding to the ranks of farmers is to tap into New Jersey’s growing immigrant community, and farms that specialize in growing non-traditional crops that are in high demand from an ethnically diverse marketplace could benefit by being operated by immigrants themselves; and

WHEREAS, encouraging people in other professions to join the ranks of farmers can bring an infusion of knowledge from their previous careers that improve the technological, financial management or marketing aspects of a farm.

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, support the Department of Agriculture’s establishment of a “Young, New and Beginning Farmer” working group that will explore ways in which the Department and its constituent organizations can best encourage and support these new farmers through the areas of education, incentives and regulations.

BE IT FUTHER RESOLVED, that we support the Department‘s strong ties and productive working relationship with youth agricultural organizations and its growing presence in the classrooms of many New Jersey schools.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage the Department to continue its outreach to minority and ethnic farmers and its exploration of the markets for New Jersey-grown farm products that are in demand among the state’s growing ethnic populations.