WHEREAS, at the same time, New Jersey’s grain and forage producers harvest more acres than any other agricultural commodity, but historically their per-acre total receipts have been among the lowest in the state, despite stronger prices in 2007; and whereas those stronger prices have leveled off and in some cases begun to decrease, and keeping those acres in active agriculture will require an innovative approach to new market opportunities that increase demand and keep prices competitive; and
WHEREAS, fuel costs continue to place financial burdens on other sectors, diminishing even the positive effects of improving prices paid to farmers, such as those in New Jersey’s dairy industry, which depends on making the most of all their products and byproducts, even the manure created by their cows; and bio-gas production using manure can help reduce dairy and other livestock producers’ costs of handling manure and may be a potential revenue source; and
WHEREAS, bio-gas facilities also have the potential to remove large amounts of food waste and other refuse from the waste stream, to be mixed with manure in the production of bio-gas, lessening the state’s reliance on landfills and thereby enhancing the environment and reducing municipal waste-disposal costs; and
WHEREAS, farmers throughout the state have shown an enthusiasm for becoming part of the biofuels and alternative energy production market, including but not limited to the growing of grasses and other cellulosic materials to be turned into pellets for use in woodstoves, as fuel for generating electricity or as feedstocks for the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry; and
WHEREAS, the 2008 Farm Bill included, for the first time, an energy title that includes funding and a direction for the agricultural industry’s involvement in the production of biofuels and other alternative energy sources; and
WHEREAS, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking a leadership role in New Jersey in working with farmers to produce cellulosic materials such as grasses for use in biofuels and alternative energy generation and has initiated cooperative efforts with the Department to expand these efforts among New Jersey farmers; and
WHEREAS, from both the producer and consumer standpoints, New Jersey’s agricultural community would benefit from a concerted effort to pursue and advocate the use of renewable “green energy,” such as ethanol, bio-diesel, wind power, solar power, biogas and biomass; and
WHEREAS, ethanol, bio-diesel, and biogas in particular, offer opportunities for the producer, to expand the markets for crops, byproducts and waste stream items; and
WHEREAS, ethanol plants currently under development in New Jersey are projected to produce anywhere from 3 to 40 million gallons of ethanol, and this process also would produce distillers’ grains for use as livestock feed and liquid carbon dioxide, which in part could be used in flash freezing operations for Jersey-grown fruits and vegetables; and
WHEREAS, agricultural producers are more likely to participate in programs encouraging the installation of alternative energy systems if the energy cost savings from these systems are not diminished by an increase in property taxes due to such systems being treated as improvements to real property; and
WHEREAS, the New Jersey Legislature passed, and the Governor signed on October 1, 2008, a bill restoring the property tax exemption to landowners who install alternative energy systems on their property; and
WHEREAS, solar energy offers one of the best and cleanest alternative sources of energy for agriculture, industry, and residential dwellings, and there is a demand for more alternative energy produced on preserved or non-preserved agricultural lands, which offers New Jersey farmers a potential source of income; and
WHEREAS, we strongly support all farmers having the ability to utilize solar, wind and other renewable energy to meet the energy needs of their agricultural operations as cost-effectively as possible, whether their farms are preserved or not; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey, at the direction of Governor Jon S. Corzine, has developed an Energy Master Plan that addresses all areas of energy production and consumption in the state; and
WHEREAS, the Energy Master Plan’s section on transportation fuels contains guidelines for the production, distribution and use of alternative biofuels, many made from farm products, byproducts or waste; and
WHEREAS, the Department has worked since June 2006 in a cooperative effort with the Board of Public Utilities, the Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Rutgers University and the Governor’s Office of Economic Growth to create the most conducive environment for biofuels projects to thrive in New Jersey; and
WHEREAS, this “Biofuels Action Group” has identified numerous viable alternative energy proposals from entities interested in locating in New Jersey; and
WHEREAS, among those technologies presented to the group are those that incorporate the safe and environmentally sustainable transformation of municipal solid waste into energy; and
WHEREAS, much of New Jersey’s municipal solid waste currently is disposed of in landfills, where, once buried, it breaks down and creates methane gas, which, when captured through existing technology at landfills, qualifies as a Class One renewable energy source; and
WHEREAS, municipal solid waste fed directly into a system that transforms it into energy does NOT qualify as a Class One renewable energy source, even though it is the same waste that, if landfilled, broken down into methane and captured, DOES qualify as a Class One renewable; and
WHEREAS, legislation has been introduced in the New Jersey Senate (S-2269) and Assembly (A-3171) to create a “Task Force on the Production and Use of Cellulosic Biofuels,” with said task force to be composed of representatives from various state departments, the State Assembly and Senate, and the public; and
WHEREAS, the legislation does not currently call for a representative from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, which created and has hosted the Biofuels Action Group since June 2006; and
WHEREAS, the legislation charges the task force with completing a number of information-gathering and process-review duties, many of which already have been performed and continue to be performed, by the Biofuels Action Group.
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, support the continued development of renewable energy sources in New Jersey and support the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s comprehensive “green energy” strategy from both the producer and consumer perspectives, which can be found on the Department’s web site at www.state.nj.us/agriculture/news/hottopics/topics060222.html, and which will best position New Jersey’s agricultural community to benefit from the pursuit and advocacy of renewable energy.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the work of the Biofuels Action Group in creating the most conducive environment for biofuels projects to thrive in New Jersey.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we congratulate the Governor and the Legislature for supporting, passing and signing into law, legislation to exempt alternative-energy systems placed on residential and commercial properties from being taxed as improvements to real property, since it is in both the environmental and economic best interests of the state to encourage installation of these systems.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy generation, on preserved farmland to meet the needs of the agricultural operation, provided that the daily energy generation capacity does not exceed the annual farm energy need plus 10 percent, (plus any additional energy production atop agricultural buildings) or, in the alternative, permitting a maximum of 1 percent of preserved farm acreage be used for solar panels; and that non-tillable farmland and land around buildings, or land where buildings once existed, be used for solar panel placement when possible, so as to ensure preserved farms remain devoted to agricultural, rather than energy production, in accordance with farmland preservation restrictions and the public's expectation that its investment in farmland preservation protects the land for agricultural production.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and the Legislature to work closely and cooperatively with proposed ethanol, bio-diesel, biogas and other alternative fuel projects, so that the benefits of locally grown alternative fuel can be reaped by all citizens of the State of New Jersey in the near future.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support measures that will spur local production of biofuels and alternative energy from agricultural crops, byproducts and waste, providing an expanded market for these commodities that will enhance farmers’ economic viability.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the cooperative efforts of the Department with NRCS, and any other state, federal or local agencies, to increase the participation of farmers in the growing of cellulosic crops that can be used in a variety of alternative-energy processes.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Board of Public Utilities and all other appropriate agencies to re-examine the classification of municipal solid waste fed directly into an energy-creation system and to re-classify such waste as a Class One renewable energy source, or other such preferred designation, provided it is being used as a feedstock in an alternative energy system.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge state, county and municipal waste directors and planners to reduce, wherever possible, the amount of municipal solid waste being landfilled and increase, wherever possible, the use of municipal solid waste as a feedstock for alternative energy systems.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would bestow “inherently beneficial use” status upon alternative energy systems in recognition of their benefits to the economy and ecology of the state, thereby giving them deserved preferential status when coming before local planning and/or zoning boards.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge the Legislature to amend the proposed creation of the “Task Force on the Production and Use of Cellulosic Biofuels” to include a representative from the Department of Agriculture, and further that we urge the Task Force, upon its creation, to work closely with the Biofuels Action Group to capitalize on the work the Group already has done that can inform and aid the Task Force’s efforts.