WHEREAS, New Jersey’s agricultural community is faced with a multitude of challenges that threaten its viability and sustainability, including: land use regulation; rising production costs; Right to Farm issues; water-quality concerns; wildlife damage; and rising taxes; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey agriculture’s viability and sustainability are also impacted by unexploited market opportunities and limited access to innovations that would enhance prosperity, stewardship potential and compatibility with other land uses; and
WHEREAS, given the economic impacts and public benefits of the agricultural and food complex, not only in rural areas but also in the state’s urban and suburban communities, the constraints on the industry impinge upon the assurance of food security, nutrition and health, water quality and supply, environmental sustainability, economic development, and the quality of life for all residents of the Garden State; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey’s status as the nation’s most densely populated state means its environmental pressures exceed those of other states, and thus have raised the environment to become a key quality-of-life issue; and
WHEREAS, this requires new policies and technologies that are effective in maintaining the delicate balance between environmental quality and economic growth, and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) provides the expertise and information needed to develop the policies and technologies that strike that balance; and
WHEREAS, the recent budget constraints faced by NJAES, including recent large budget cuts or flat budgets, and the need to continue meeting operational costs, have meant that less funding is available for programs and research, and funding dedicated to production agriculture projects in particular has been strained, leading to a constant danger of outlying extension stations losing capacity to be productive; and
WHEREAS, the NJAES’ ability to support production agriculture has decreased as agricultural agents and specialists have retired and not been replaced, forcing some agents to take on the research responsibilities of missing specialists, without the needed training or support personnel; and
WHEREAS, exacerbating the funding cuts has been a change at the federal level from strictly formula funding for state agricultural experiment stations to a partial formula funding plus a competitive grant funding, and that system has not proven to be effective in increasing efficiency in research or agricultural productivity.
WHEREAS, as specialists are not replaced, the time-consuming process of applying for and administering grants falls to agents, leaving them less time to make farm visits and keep abreast of what is happening in the fields; and
WHEREAS, applied research areas formerly covered by specialist have been left uncovered, replacements for highly effective extension specialists who have retired have not been found; and
WHEREAS, the circumstances detailed above have all occurred during a time when NJAES continues to expand services to other areas, further diluting scarce funds for production agriculture research and extension; and
WHEREAS, further implementation of similar measures will further negatively impact the delivery of crucial agricultural programs across the state; and
WHEREAS, the people of New Jersey fund Rutgers University, and intellectual and financial return is expected to create more employment and a higher standard of living for the population of New Jersey and the United States, and
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 97th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, N.J. on January 18-19, 2012, do hereby declare that support for production agriculture must be improved and maintained if production efficiencies are to be achieved to feed our State and nation at the levels required to make food affordable.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon the Rutgers University New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), in cooperation with its Board of Managers, County Boards of Agriculture and the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture to work with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension staff to develop a strategic plan for filling faculty positions (agents and specialists) in a manner that will enable the continued delivery of quality programming to production agriculture, and to develop new programs as identified by stakeholders in agriculture and natural resources.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge that this strategic plan incorporate a balance of maintaining tenure-track agricultural agents that deliver educational programs to the agricultural community and sufficient specialists to meet the applied research needs of that community, and that such hires include consultation with the State Board of Agriculture, the Board of Managers and the New Jersey Farm Bureau in the evaluation process before any of these hiring decisions are made.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture, the NJAES Board of Managers and the New Jersey Farm Bureau to work with the Governor and Legislature to restore adequate funding for agricultural research to compliment the extramural grants, contracts and bequests secured by NJAES staff in the past fiscal years.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we also urge the USDA to provide a stable source of funding for the Land Grant University and Extension programs by returning to the formula funding process previously used.