WHEREAS, water is the lifeblood of the agricultural industry, and agricultural access to adequate water supply is a critical concern for New Jersey’s farmers; and this need is especially urgent during periods of drought when restrictions on water use could catastrophically affect farm income for the production year; and
WHEREAS, even absent drought conditions, ensuring an adequate water supply, both now and in the future, is essential to protecting the production capability and economic stability of agriculture; and
WHEREAS, many New Jersey farmers implement water-management practices as a routine part of their conservationist approach to agriculture, resulting in New Jersey agriculture using just six percent of the state’s total water use, less than other comparable areas in the United States and worldwide; and
WHEREAS, the Department has worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to restore some of the agricultural water allocations in the restricted water supply areas in Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester Counties in Critical Area 2 and in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties in Critical Area 1; however, despite these efforts (which included advocating for the Tri-County Pipeline), agricultural water concerns still persist, and New Jersey’s farmers face increasing water supply restrictions, particularly in Critical Areas 1 and 2; and many agricultural water certifications are being subjected to reductions in their allocations based upon actual water usage; and
WHEREAS, in 1987, the NJDEP completed a study that showed the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy (PRM) aquifer, at the time the major source of drinking water in southwestern New Jersey, was being rapidly depleted, resulting in the Tri-County Pipeline project to provide potable water from sources other than the PRM aquifer.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 98th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 6-7, 2013, direct the Department of Agriculture to continue working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to address water supply and water quality issues by continuing to participate in the NJDEP’s Statewide Water Supply Master Plan process and by strategically planning and promoting the implementation of federal and state conservation cost-share programs.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the NJDEP to ensure that they plan for adequate water resources for New Jersey’s farmers, realizing that such resources are critical to overall farm management.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the NJDEP to amend their water allocation restrictions to exempt farming operations from further water-allocation reductions if they have already implemented water management practices.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department and NJDEP to explore the establishment of an Agricultural Water Allocation Credit Program, whereby farmers who employ water conservation practices that utilize water at a rate that is below their permit allocations at certain times, be permitted to correspondingly increase water use at other times. Such a program would encourage the implementation of water conservation measures within the agricultural community and improve the viability of the agricultural industry by allowing water usage to be tailored to fit the needs of each agricultural operation. We also request that all agricultural water use authorizations that are reverted back to the NJDEP be set aside for agricultural use only.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department to work with NJDEP to ensure that all water-related plans, policies and programs of the state recognize the critical role that farmland plays in providing recharge of water to underlying aquifer systems and surface water supplies.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge all municipalities located along the Tri-County Pipeline project and those served by the Raritan Water Supply Authority to utilize those sources of potable water, as opposed to utilizing groundwater, thereby reserving as much available groundwater as possible for agricultural operations.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request that the previous efforts of the Department and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, who were working with the New Jersey Water Supply Authority (NJWSA) in developing a draft Ag Water Conservation Plan that will outline specific best management practices addressing water conservation and water quality protection, be revived.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that once the Plan is developed and agreed upon, farmers withdrawing surface water from the NJWSA’s Manasquan Reservoir and Raritan Basin water systems be encouraged to implement these plans on their operations when contracting with the NJWSA.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge the NJDEP to consider the needs of agricultural operations when developing policies and programs that involve water quality issues, such as stormwater management and impervious coverage limitations.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage producers to use water conservation technologies and to utilize any available state and federal cost-share grants to implement such measures and continue to look for new and efficient methods to conserve water on farms, including drip irrigation, water recapture and reuse, and enhanced on-farm water storage techniques.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge a review by the Attorney General to reaffirm the longstanding interpretation of the statutory language that agricultural operations are exempt from fees and surcharges for water and water use.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that while we support the search for a permanent funding source for Farmland Preservation, and we understand one approach under discussion in the Legislature is to create such funding through a fee on water usage, with agricultural and horticultural operations being exempt from that fee, we oppose the provision in the current bill (S-813) addressing this issue that would reduce the 40-60 percentage split of funding for Farmland Preservation and Green Acres open space lands to a 35-65 split, with Farmland Preservation losing five percentage points.