|Annual Report 1998|
The New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service, a joint federal-state program, collected and distributed agricultural production data and conducted special surveys of the industry throughout the year.
The State Soil Conservation Committee (SSCC) is responsible for coordinating programs related to the conservation and development of soil, water and related natural resources in New Jersey through a partnership which includes the 16 soil conservation districts (SCDs), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service (RCES).
The SSCC establishes statewide policy and provides technical assistance and training, creates technical and administrative standards, administers non-point pollution control and agricultural cost-sharing programs, and establishes measures to assure program accountability at the state and district levels. The SSCC also establishes standards for soil and water management practices on construction, mining and other land disturbance activities associated with development to protect water quality and avoid damage from storm water runoff. These standards are implemented at the local level by the SCDs.
Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act
During the year the SSCC developed revisions to the Standards for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control in New Jersey for publication in the New Jersey Register. The revisions were prepared following consultation with an advisory group comprised of builders, planners, consultants, state and federal agency representatives and other stakeholders. These standards serve as the technical basis for approval of soil erosion, sediment and storm water controls on construction activities. They include seven new storm water runoff treatment standards, developed in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which clarify agency jurisdiction and expedite project approvals. These special standards will be implemented in accordance with a revised interagency agreement with DEP.
During the year plans for soil erosion and sediment control for more than 3,800 construction and related land development projects involving over 25,400 acres of land were certified by local SCDs for compliance with SSCC standards for soil erosion and sediment control. Under a cooperative program with the DEP's New Jersey Pollution Discharge Elimination System, storm water discharge was authorized for 550 construction and mining projects. To assure compliance with the requirements of these programs, more than 61,000 site inspections were performed by the 16 conservation districts. Compliance with certified plans was required by all municipalities as a condition for certificates of occupancy.
The SSCC, in cooperation with the SCDs, performed a detailed evaluation of the 28 municipalities which independently implement state-approved soil erosion and sediment control ordinances to ensure that appropriate controls were applied to construction projects.
Storm Water Hydrologic Model Development
Under the direction of the SSCC, SCDs have collected and compiled storm water data for the development of models on a watershed area basis. Models will enable designers and engineers to predict the storm water runoff impacts from proposed development projects and provide a uniform basis on which state, county and local entities can evaluate storm water plans.
Conservation Assistance to Agriculture
To comply with recent amendments to the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, NJDA worked closely with DEP to finalize a memorandum of understanding incorporating non-point source pollution control measures for agricultural activities into the State Plan. A voluntary approach to implementation of conservation plans by farmers was adopted with enforcement planned only at sites where pollution- generating activities are verified and conservation planning assistance is refused.
Under the state Watershed Planning and Management Act, DEP approved funding for a $1.3 million demonstration project developed by the SSCC for installation of conservation management practices in two watershed management areas involving Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties. Landowners will receive cost-sharing assistance for planning and installing non-point pollution control practices in areas of the watersheds where water quality impairment has been documented by DEP. The project will be administered jointly by the SSCC and the county SCDs.
Through continuing programs carried out in cooperation with the NRCS, conservation plans were developed for 29,275 acres of farmland. Land treatment practices installed on 6,659 farmland acres prevented the loss of nearly 19,000 tons of productive soil. In addition, conservation tillage techniques were used on almost 15,000 acres of farmland to reduce soil loss from wind and water erosion. Nearly 22,000 acres of conservation buffers and grazing land management practices and 40 animal waste management systems were installed.
Pollution prevention control projects were implemented on 65 newly enrolled farms, involving nearly 8,500 acres of land in the Raritan/Delaware River and Musconetcong Watersheds as part of demonstration projects funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
This year the SSCC developed a manual to help farmers identify non- point source pollution from agricultural operations and plan and install best management practices to correct such problems. On Farm Strategies to Protect Water Quality was developed as a self-help guide in conjunction with the New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts. The manual will be distributed to agricultural producers and educational seminars based on the manual will be scheduled.
Urban Area Conservation
Through the Urban Conservation Action Partnership (UCAP), a federal- state pilot program serving Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic and Union Counties, several extensive and complex natural resource management projects in urban communities have been completed. Managed jointly by the SSCC and the SCDs for those counties, $500,000 worth of projects were funded with public and private resources.
Projects included installation of vegetative stream bank buffers in Morristown and Denville, development of a plan for revitalizing the Rockaway River and establishment of farm markets in several urban communities. Renew America, a national environmental organization, gave UCAP their National Award for Environmental Sustainability in recognition of the program's achievements.
Regulatory issues remain among the most challenging hurdles to overcome in establishing or operating a farm or agribusiness. The department offers a wide range of services to help growers and businesses address individual or industry-wide issues as they arise. These services range from providing technical assistance in meeting requirements of state and local governments and locating funding sources for agribusiness expansions or starts to broad-based agricultural policy issues.
This year the farm community was particularly interested in modifications enacted to the sales tax exemption for farm operations. The statute originally provided that tangible personal property used "directly and exclusively" [emphasis added] in the production of agricultural or horticultural commodities was exempt from sales tax. As modified, the law now exempts from sales tax tangible personal property "used directly and primarily" [emphasis added] in agricultural or horticultural production.
Another tax issue addressed this year concerned the assessment of farm buildings by local tax assessors. The department worked with the Department of Treasury's Division of Taxation to amend the New Jersey Real Property Appraisal Manual as it relates to farm structures. The updated Farm Building Section of the Manual will be used by assessors during the 1999 tax year.
NJDA also worked closely with the Department of Community Affairs to modify the fact sheet for commercial farm buildings included in the standards of the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code. Because the Code has undergone a number of changes over the last few years which have reduced construction code costs for farmers, the availability of the new document by December 1998 will be invaluable to farmers. Agricultural construction continues to thrive under the relaxed construction code, with construction of almost $13 million worth of agricultural buildings undertaken.
To help farmers locate new or additional sources of funding, the department worked with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, USDA's Farm Services Agency, and the Casino Reinvestment and Development Authority to develop A Financing Resource Guide for New Jersey's Farmers. The guide provides an overview of the various credit programs and contacts available to agricultural producers and businesses.
The department and Rutgers University co-hosted the first Food Industry Summit, attended by 140 representatives of the food industry, academia and government. New Jersey's food industry complex is one of the state's largest economic sectors with 22,000 firms, 313,000 workers, $55 billion in sales, and a $5 billion payroll. As a result of the conference, a New Jersey Food Industry Partnership was established which will explore and define ways to shape public policies to benefit the food industry.
NJDA, with a grant from DEP, continued last year's extremely successful pilot project to recycle clear nursery and greenhouse plastic, an effort for which the department received national recognition in 1997. To date, over 678,000 pounds of film have been diverted from landfills through the film recycling program.
Agricultural Grant Programs
In FY98, almost $1 million in state funding was available for the department's Agriculture Economic Reinvestment and Development Initiative (AERDI), a program of economic and management training aimed at making New Jersey farms more profitable. To maximize the benefit of the available funds, it was allocated in two critical areas, revitalizing the Board of Public Utilities' (BPU) Business Energy Improvement Program (BEIP) and expansion of DEP's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife's (FG&W) limited program to provide deer fencing to qualified farmers.
The BEIP program distributed grants and loans for investment in energy conservation measures on the farm such as renovations, equipment replacement and energy conservation and demonstration projects. Farmers were eligible for matching grants of up to $20,000. Thanks to the NJDA's $687,050 grant and an additional match of dollars by the BPU, 186 farmers around the state were able to participate in the program.
With the remaining $300,000 in AERDI funds, NJDA worked with FG&W to make nearly one million feet of deer fencing available in time to protect thousands of acres of crops in the coming growing season. The grant enabled FG&W to completely eliminate the five-year backlog of farmer requests for the triple galvanized, hingelock wire fence and fill new requests for the protective fencing.
In addition, the low-interest loan program, co-sponsored by NJDA and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, continued to make capital and operating loans to eligible farms in the nine southernmost counties.
State Plan Revisions
NJDA continued to represent the interests of the agriculture community during the State Plan revision process. The State Development & Redevelopment Plan: Reexamination Report & Preliminary Plan, the product of an extensive review of the current plan, retained as its first statewide policy the statement on preserving landowner equity. Moreover, the wording of the plan has been enhanced to promote greater support for agriculture as an industry, including a more realistic description of today's challenges.
In addition, four new agricultural policies have been incorporated into the plan covering the right to farm, wildlife management, agritourism and young/first-time farmers. These policies join the existing 16 agricultural policies.
The department also worked with agricultural interests to encourage local planning and implementation strategies that consider the needs of farmers.
Although the Garden State is better known for its production agriculture, the commercial fishing industry remains an important part of the economic life of New Jersey, with almost 22,000 people working on boats, in processing plants and in the wholesale/retail sectors of the commercial fishing industry. The department is moving ahead with plans and programs that will supplement the state's $600 million wild harvest with farm-raised fish and seafood products, an effort that is particularly important to revitalizing the oyster industry along the Delaware Bay.
Domestic and International Marketing
As other states launch major promotional campaigns aimed at New Jersey's fish and seafood markets, the department has focused its seafood promotion efforts on developing an identity for locally harvested and processed fish and seafood products. Special emphasis has been placed on promoting locally farmed clams and oysters.
This year, Governor Christie Whitman participated in the first television commercial in support of Jersey Shore seafood, a promotional effort supplemented by targeted radio spots. In addition, more than 10,000 copies of The New Jersey Maritime Heritage Cookbooklet were distributed and the department stepped up its participation in local food service and culinary trade shows.
Distribution of the New Jersey Seafood Suppliers Directory and the development and dissemination of trade leads were the cost-effective foundation of efforts to expand international markets for the state's seafood harvest. Supported by strategically placed print advertisements for the publication and its distribution at trade events, large audiences were reached at minimal expense.
Given the severe economic upheaval in traditional seafood markets, the department worked to help New Jersey fish and seafood exporters to develop a core base of buyers in diverse markets. This plan enables New Jersey companies to maintain a viable customer base while taking advantage of export opportunities offered by changes in the global economy. To assist both wild harvest fisheries and aquaculture operations, the department has begun to identify important ethnic niche markets stateside and abroad for little-known seafood products.
Encouraging the fledgling aquaculture industry requires that a myriad of regulatory issues be integrated into a coherent framework that is both environmentally sound and business friendly. Many of these issues face land-based farmers as well. They include biological considerations, water supply and quality, facility siting, use and control of near-shore land, licensing and regulations, predator control, waste discharge, financial access, technology and technical assistance and marketing. To meet this challenge the department drafted an aquaculture application, a set of best management practices and a guide book and initiated a test of the process by moving two commercial facilities, one land-based and the other open- ocean, through the regulatory process.
In addition, the department worked with the Aquaculture Training and Information Center at Cumberland County College in Vineland, to create a variety of educational efforts for both state regulators and potential entrepreneurs.
The mission of FFA is to develop leadership and encourage personal growth and career success through agriculture education in public high schools. The agriculture education/FFA program has three components that provide a well rounded, practical approach to learning and help schools meet the state's core curriculum content standards. FFA members enrolled in secondary school agriculture courses study topics such as plant and animal sciences, horticulture, agri-marketing and natural resources. Students then apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to a supervised agricultural experience at home or at work. FFA, the third component, provides local, state and national opportunities in career and leadership development events. FFA connects the classroom to the workplace by providing incentive awards and scholarships for excellence.
At the national level, the state FFA dairy team from Woodstown, Salem County, won the dairy career development event during the National FFA Convention, the first time in 75 years that a New Jersey team has taken the top spot in such an event. Thanks to generous financial support from the New Jersey FFA Foundation, farmers, county boards of agriculture, agricultural councils and private industry, the team was able to represent the United States at the international competition in Scotland during the summer.
FFA in New Jersey and in the nation continues to grow with 1,800 members in 34 chapters in New Jersey and 449,500 members in 7,200 chapters across the nation.
Reinventing Agriculture Education for the Year 2020
NJDA, in cooperation with the state Department of Education and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, played a key role in New Jersey's contribution to the national initiative to AReinvent Agriculture Education for the Year 2020." The three-year process will chart a course for food, agriculture and environmental science education in the decades ahead to ensure that agriculture education prepares young people for productive careers, offers workers advanced training in their fields of choice, builds public awareness of the industry and develops leadership for the food, fiber and natural resource systems of the future.
Agriculturists, educators, school administrators, and agribusiness leaders from around the state participated in local workshops to set local education priorities. The ultimate goal of the effort is to establish a shared common vision for the future of agriculture education at all levels and develop a strategic plan for long-term implementation of the state vision.
The New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service (NJASS) provides basic statistical data on agricultural production in New Jersey and across the nation. This information is used to make management decisions and to formulate plans and policies. This service is a joint effort of the state and federal departments of agriculture.
This year, approximately 170 statistical surveys were conducted to provide the basis for official estimates of crops, livestock, poultry, dairy, commodity prices, labor and related agricultural information. NJASS responded to over 2,800 requests for information from citizens, farmers, government, media educators, students, and others interested in an accurate picture of New Jersey agriculture.
NJASS determined that this year the state's 9,400 farms covered 830,000 acres of land and brought in cash receipts totaling $777 million. The average per acre value of New Jersey farmland was $8,290, the highest in the nation.
The nursery, greenhouse and sod industry remained the leading commodity group in New Jersey agriculture with cash receipts of $255 million. Cash receipts for vegetables totaled $166 million, followed by fruits and berries at $109.6 million and equine at $101 million. Field crops brought in $66.5 million while cash receipts for the state's dairy industry were $41 million and poultry and eggs brought in $26 million.
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