For more than a decade, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has worked with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey to certify organic producers and handlers. In September 2003, the legislation passed allowing the Department to establish rules and regulations for a New Jersey Organic Certification Program. The New Jersey regulations defining the organic certification program were established in 2006.
In 2007 the New Jersey Department of Agriculture earned National Organic Program Accreditation to certify crops, livestock, wild crafting, and handling operations. In that year the program certified more than sixty organic farms representing with over 2,350 acres of organic production. In addition to two organic dairy applications in another twenty-two certified organic handling facilities will be accredited making various products from humus, to pasta products; coffees to non-dairy organic frozen deserts.
The Department provides New Jersey farmers and processors access to a quality organic certification program. Farmers who are transitioning to organic production now have the ability to market their products under the new Department "Transitional Sustainable" label, which is not available under the NOP program. In doing so, New Jersey farmers will not have to wait the required 36-month "free of prohibited materials" to realize increased prices this niche market supports.
In support of the marketing of organic products, the Notice of Adoption for the Department’s Jersey Organic rules was published in 2006. Organic price cards are printed and distribution will began with the mailings of price cards to NJDA certified farms who had requested them this summer. The next step in the Jersey Organic Program will be to establish and define the infrastructure to be used to implement the program, and to conceive and order promotional materials.
Over the last several years the Department received USDA funds to help offset the costs of organic certification. In 2009, the Department will continue to promote and administer cost sharing of organic certification fees for eligible operations, preparing informational brochures and fact sheets, and fully integrating organics into the Department’s promotional programs.
7.1 Promote Cost-Sharing
55) STRATEGY – Continue outreach efforts to educate growers about federal funds available to help offset organic grower certification costs. Through a cost-sharing agreement with the Department and USDA, each operation is eligible for a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of its certification costs, not to exceed $500.
7.2 Educate Growers and Food Handlers about Regulatory Requirements
56) STRATEGY – Following the USDA accreditation efficiently implement the Department’s Organic Certification Program to offer quality organic certification services to growers and food handlers in New Jersey.
57) STRATEGY – Continue to distribute fact sheets outlining the legal and regulatory requirements for production and sale of organic products, including livestock and livestock products. Make the fact sheets available on the Department’s website and distribute to handlers and retailers of organic produce.
7.3 Promote the Marketing of Organic Agricultural Products
58) STRATEGY – Encourage integration of the marketing of the Jersey Organic brand along side of the Jersey Fresh promotional program. Represent the Jersey Organic brand at national produce industry trade shows and promote the availability of organic products and the use of the Jersey Organic promotional brand to wholesalers and retailers.
7.4 Encourage Technical Assistance
59) STRATEGY - Encourage research and technical assistance for organic growers including certification requirements, production practices and the harvesting and handling of organic products.
60) STRATEGY – Update the certification process and incorporate the Department’s Information Technology improvements to allow for Department services to be accessed on-line.