WHEREAS, the Department in its programs historically and aggressively supports natural resource conservation programs for the protection of the soil, water, air, plants and animals related to agriculture, and the protection of New Jersey citizens who rely on fresh, high-quality agricultural products, together with open space, forest lands and the vast natural, social and environmental benefits of these systems; and
WHEREAS, the NJDA has provided comments on the Stormwater rules, Surface Water Quality Standards amendments, Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules, Water Quality Management Planning rules, Stormwater Best Management Practices (that are not promulgated by rule) and Highlands rules and policies in order to protect responsible agriculture operations from unnecessary regulation; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey’s dairy industry is an important part of the state’s agriculture, not only contributing wholesome, locally produced milk and milk products, but also creating demand for field crops used as feed and for farm equipment and other industry support sales; and
WHEREAS, severe and protracted depressed market prices for milk, combined with record high input costs, have resulted in severe economic hardship for New Jersey dairy farmers; and
WHEREAS, such continued severe economic hardship will jeopardize the continuance of any dairy industry in the state; and
WHEREAS, the Department has undertaken numerous efforts to help stabilize the economics of the state’s milk industry and has heard frequently from farmers and others in the milk marketing chain that such efforts will be only partially successful at best without substantial reform to the federal milk marketing order, reform that will support the viability of dairy farmers and bring a predictable economic model to the rest of the industry; and
WHEREAS, the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, along with Congressional Delegations throughout the Northeast, when they combine their efforts, can be a major force for change to the federal milk marketing order if they work together as a bloc of major milk-producing and milk-consuming states; and
WHEREAS, the upcoming process to configure the next five-year Farm Bill is expected to begin in Congress in early- to mid-.2011, and will provide a prime opportunity to address federal milk marketing order reform; and
WHEREAS, opportunities to process New Jersey-produced milk in New Jersey urban areas that have prime access to port facilities and other transportation advantages, thereby reducing transportation costs to the processor, can provide the state’s dairy farmers with a chance to earn significant premiums over the Federal Milk Marketing Order prices; and
WHEREAS, as with all agricultural products, the return to the farmer for milk and milk products is greater the longer the farmer controls the ultimate packaging and sale of the milk his farm produces.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 96th State Agricultural Convention, gathered in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 8-9, 2011, do hereby strongly urge the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to initiate the process of bringing significant, meaningful change to the federal milk marketing order by working with the Department and representatives of New Jersey’s dairy industry to determine the best approach to effectuating change to the federal order system that will best benefit dairy farmers and bring desperately needed economic stability to New Jersey’s dairy industry.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to work with the delegations from surrounding Northeastern states, as well as those in other states and regions of the country interested in bringing stability and viability to the dairy industry nationwide, to propose and pass legislation to reform the federal milk marketing order.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we direct the Department to immediately forward a copy of this resolution to all members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation and to request that those members begin working with the Department toward the goals stated above.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we enthusiastically support projects such as the Brick City Dairies proposal in Newark, which, due to their proximity to transportation advantages, can offer New Jersey dairy farmers significant premiums for their milk, helping to reverse the tide of low prices affecting dairy farm viability in this state.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we direct the Department to investigate the feasibility of establishing projects in which one or more dairy farmers can work toward marketing products that can be processed, packaged and sold by the farmer, as opposed to the farmer selling his raw milk to another entity, thereby giving the farmer value further into the market chain.
Circumstances in the New Jersey dairy industry for the past several years have become increasing volatile, ranging from the “perfect storm” of high input costs, a 25-year low in milk prices and weather-related losses in 2006 to a short period of higher prices in 2008 and back into extremely low prices throughout 2009 and for most of 2010.
This volatility has cost the state numerous dairy farms, resulting in an all-time low of just 87 dairy farms existing statewide at the end of 2010. Meanwhile, surrounding states continue to be home to many more dairy farms, which find a ready market in the four major Class 1 processors located in New Jersey, demonstrating that there is room for New Jersey dairy farms to expand to supply more of the milk going into the processing plants, provided New Jersey dairy farmers can realize a price that will enable and support that expansion.
New Jersey dairy producers are a critical component in maintaining locally produced, high-quality milk for consumption, supporting rural economies, providing tax-paying open space, maintaining the aesthetic value of rural New Jersey and maintaining the dairy farming industry in this state, which is beneficial to all of New Jersey’s citizens.
The Department, in accordance with state law, has held several hearings on the dairy industry over the past five years, resulting in various actions being taken by the Department geared toward helping farmer viability.
These actions have included the implementation of a “fuel adjustment” payment mandated for processors to pay farmers to help cover fuel costs, since farmers must pay the hauling costs to have their milk trucked from the farm to the processor.
It is critical that a holistic approach be established to assist New Jersey’s dairy industry utilizing a multi-faceted approach implementing both short-term and long-term industry reforms.
Some of these cannot be accomplished at the state level alone, leading to this resolution targeting the efforts needed at the federal level.
However, there are projects that can be pursued at the state and local levels that would provide a price to dairy farmers that is high enough to cover their costs of production, at a minimum.
One such project is the proposed Brick City Dairies in Newark, in which a processing line is proposed to produce a range of products led by kosher dairy offerings to meet an increased demand for these products in New York and northern New Jersey. The project’s business plan calls for New Jersey farmers supplying milk to this processor to be paid a premium of two dollars per hundredweight as a reflection of the transportation cost savings attained by buying milk from farms close to Newark and selling the products to customers close to Newark.
Additionally, the Department has been approached about investigating the prospects for dairy farmers to process, package and sell their own milk at their own locations as a way of providing the farmer value further into the marketing chain.