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Overview of Agriculture in the Garden State
Department of Agriculture Programs and Services
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The New Jersey Department of Agriculture provides promotional, service, information and regulatory programs to the agricultural community and other residents. The State Board of Agriculture is the policy-making body, while the Secretary of Agriculture is the executive officer. The Department has five divisions and the “in but not of” State Agriculture Development Committee. Below are divisional overviews and the major issues they face.

Division of Animal Health – Oversees programs protecting the health and well being of livestock, the food supply, international trade and the economy; operates an animal health diagnostic laboratory to support animal disease-control programs protecting animals and the food supply. Active in disaster preparedness and response, including efforts of the Animal Emergency Working Group to develop animal emergency response teams. Ongoing issues include implementing the Humane Standards for care of livestock, surveillance and response to the potential of an Avian Influenza outbreak, as well as other diseases impacting livestock, horses, poultry, aquaculture, and animals raised for fur.  Represents the Department as the NJ Emergency Support Function #11 Lead for animals, agriculture, and food.

Division of Food & Nutrition – Operates programs providing approximately 40 million pounds of federally donated food annually to schools, institutions, summer camps, day care centers and those most in need. The Division administers the federal School Lunch and Breakfast Programs and works with the Department of Defense to provide nutritious New Jersey produce to schools. The nation’s most comprehensive School Nutrition Policy was implemented in October of 2008, setting nutritional standards. Ongoing issues include administering increased food-purchase funding through the Governor’s Hunger Initiative and working with gleaning organizations to serve the 660 food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens throughout New Jersey.

Division of Plant Industry Provides disease and pest protection for food and ornamental crops, forests and other plant resources through detection, control and eradication. Also works to enhance marketability of New Jersey-grown plant products, through annual inspections of nurseries and plant dealers. The Division also operates the Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory, where insects are bred to control pests and diseases without the use of pesticides. An example is the parasitic wasp released to control the Mexican bean beetle, which has resulted in soybean farmers not needing to use pesticides on the crops in recent years.  Ongoing major issues include the effort to eradicate the Asian longhorned beetle, controlling the pine shoot beetle infestation, slowing the spread of the gypsy moth population and ensuring sufficient honeybee colonies for plant and crop pollination.

Division of Marketing and Development Administers inspection programs for eggs, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other items, including feed and fertilizer. Oversees Jersey Fresh quality grading and promotion campaign for fruits and vegetables, as well as the new Jersey Grown program for ornamental plants, the Jersey Seafood program for fish and shellfish, and the Jersey Bred program for equine. Also works to develop regional, national, and international markets for agricultural products. Helps organize and support approximately 100 urban Community Farmers Markets and 11 Youth Farmstands, bringing fresh produce to downtowns and shortening the market chain between producers and consumers. Protects farmers through the licensing and bonding program. Administers the state’s dairy program. The Division also administers the Sires Stakes horse-racing program, and works to promote pleasure horse breeding programs.

Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources Responsible for a variety of services and programs that maintain and enhance the viability of New Jersey Agriculture and related agribusinesses. Provides interagency coordination and assistance in the development of policy positions on land use planning issues. Represents the Department on the State Planning Commission and its subcommittees. Fully engaged in Highlands Regional Master Plan process. Administers programs to conserve soil, water and related natural resources through the State Soil Conservation Committee and the 15 local soil conservation districts. Provides and oversees the administration of financial cost-share assistance to farmers for soil and water conservation projects. Works cooperatively with state and federal agencies in the development of the aquaculture industry in New Jersey and administers the Agricultural Education Program, that reaches 2,100 students throughout the state.  

State Agriculture Development Committee The SADC administers New Jersey's Farmland Preservation Program. To date, more than 1,800 farms covering more than 180,000 acres of farmland have been permanently preserved statewide under the program. The SADC also manages the Right to Farm Program in cooperation with the 18 county agriculture development boards, issuing decisions in conflicts between farmers and their neighbors and/or local governments, and developing agricultural management practices that set acceptable standards for farmers seeking protections of the Right to Farm Act.

Click here for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Major Initiatives.