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Misbranding of New Jersey Agricultural Commodities
WHEREAS, each year the New Jersey Department of Agriculture receives complaints alleging that produce shipped into New Jersey from other growing regions is misbranded and sold to consumers as a New Jersey product in violation of state and federal law; and

WHEREAS, misbranding is a practice that adversely affects the profitability of all New Jersey farmers, especially in cases that affect the Jersey Fresh label, which is recognized by consumers to indicate the highest quality; and

WHEREAS, to protect the integrity of the Jersey Fresh label, as well as all agricultural products labeled as “Product of New Jersey,” the Department re-affirms its commitment to identify and eliminate the practice of misbranding; and

WHEREAS, currently, under New Jersey and Federal Law, it is illegal to misbrand any article of food; and

WHEREAS, the Consumer Protection Program of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (NJDCA) is charged with the responsibility to investigate suspected violations; and the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Office is charged to investigate violations as they pertain to federal law; and

WHEREAS, previously the NJDCA has not investigated and prosecuted mislabeled and misbranded agricultural commodities as a priority focus area; and

WHEREAS, the lack of prosecution of such mislabeling and misbranding not only compromises the integrity of the label and associated marketing programs, but also is harmful to the consumers who are not receiving the high quality produce they have come to expect from New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the  Department  has a team of inspectors in place, who in the course of their duties, routinely visit farms, wholesalers, brokers and retailers, and if given the authority, could conduct more timely investigations and issue violations more efficiently and effectively than under the current process; and

WHEREAS, Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Center (FIC) has completed a study on all aspects of the Community Farmers Market system in order to help guide future development of such markets; and

WHEREAS, use of the Jersey Fresh brand and other related brands (Jersey Seafood, Jersey Grown, etc.) at such markets holds value as a promotional tool to attract customers to the markets, but also may be abused by associating the brands with products that are not grown or produced in New Jersey.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 94th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 11, 2009 urge the Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that expands statutory responsibilities for investigation and enforcement regarding instances of misbranding of agricultural products in New Jersey to include not only the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs but also the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request the Legislature to give the Department full investigative, enforcement, and penalty authority associated with misbranding statutes.