WHEREAS, New Jersey’s agriculture, including farming and fishing/aquaculture, is a growth industry in the state, with farm-gate sales posting increases in each of the past five years and now totaling more than $1 billion annually in raw product sold alone; and
WHEREAS, the economic benefits to the state from its agricultural producers increase exponentially when those raw agricultural products are processed into value-added items, when farms incorporate agri-tourism into their operations, and when food retail and restaurants can capitalize on the popularity of “Jersey Fresh” and related brands to attract consumers to their locations; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey farmers and fishermen face many issues – including increased costs for labor, fuel, energy and other inputs – that negatively impact their industries’ net income potential; and
WHEREAS, difficulty in maintaining profitability is a reality for many sectors of the seafood and agricultural industries, making it less appealing for individuals to start or continue agricultural or seafood businesses, and discouraging people interested in exploring careers in these industries from investing in the land and assets associated with them; and
WHEREAS, development pressure to consume undeveloped agricultural land has not only resulted in the loss of the agricultural land and assets, but contributes to overcrowding and strain on existing municipal and school resources; and
WHEREAS, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has prepared and is implementing an Agricultural Development Initiative to bolster the economic prospects for agricultural producers in all sectors, which includes recommendations to assist in agriculture viability and growth as described in the “Background” section attached hereto.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 95th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in East Brunswick, New Jersey, on February 9, 2010, support the Agricultural Development Initiative presented by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and respectfully urge the Governor and Legislature to work with the Department to further implement the components of that Initiative.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and State Legislature to provide funding for educational and incentive programs designed to encourage potential future farmers or farm industry entrepreneurs to join the industry, such as funding for “Ag in the Classroom” programs; labor training to improve the efficiency of farm management and communication between farm operators and their non-English speaking employees; business incubation assistance to help farmers turn what they grow into value-added products; and incentives to attract biofuels and bioenergy companies to New Jersey that would use farm products or agricultural waste, including manure, in alternative-energy production.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department to work toward these goals in cooperation with partners such as the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, the United States Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Bureau, other state agencies, leading agricultural organizations and commodity groups to build an agricultural development initiative acceptable to all.
The future of New Jersey’s agricultural industry relies not only on the success of its current members, but also upon the recruitment of new and young farmers who bring fresh ideas and new approaches into the industry. However, a decline over recent years in ag-related industries, and the loss of land and assets associated with them, has a proven negative impact on the quality of life for all New Jersey residents.
In order to continue current practitioners’ enthusiasm for the industry, and to provide others with the hope that agriculture in New Jersey can still be a financially as well as culturally rewarding experience, the Department acknowledged several years ago that a concerted effort had to be launched that had at its core the steps necessary to ensure viability of current operations and promise for the future.
Several of these projects have been accomplished by the Department in recent years, including:
- Continuing to create labor training for producers, managers and workers, including farmer entrepreneurial training; continued food safety training for farmers, which now stands at more than 1,500 farmers trained by the Department working cooperatively with Rutgers University; and conducting a “mock audit” program to prepare farmers for third-party auditing.
- Continuing to develop and implement Right to Farm AMPs that encourage and support innovation and protect the producer’s bottom line, including adoption and implementation of the Equine AMP.
- Continuing to promote green energy through the work of the Biofuels/Bioenergy Action Group and participation in the State Energy Master Plan process, contributing heavily to the plan’s section on the use of crops and waste for biomass-based fuels and energy, as well as working to ensure that all farms can have an opportunity to employ alternative energy systems.
- Continuing to develop and implement annual Economic Development Strategies that address 10 major sectors of New Jersey agriculture and serve as a roadmap for day-to-day pursuit of greater opportunity for the industry.