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Farm Bill Priorities

, New Jersey agriculture is diverse, spanning 10 major sectors, and depends upon the vitality of a variety of agricultural products and enterprises to make the overall industry a success; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey farms’ proximity to population centers brings with it unique challenges not faced in those states where significantly lower population densities make it less likely that farmers will confront noise, odor and other complaints from neighboring residents; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey’s diversified economy and various industries make it more of a challenge for farm operators to find, train and retain adequate labor; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey’s continuous dedication to protecting and improving the environment has created the need for farmers to be ever-mindful of the need to be stewards of their land, water and other natural resources; and
WHEREAS, for these reasons, New Jersey farmers face unique challenges in their efforts to keep their farm operations viable and thriving, creating the need to rely on certain government programs to help them meet these challenges; and
WHEREAS, the State of New Jersey can cover the costs of operating these essential government programs only with the assistance of federal funding; and
WHEREAS, the federal Farm Bill, set to be renewed in 2012, contains within it the spending priorities for the nation’s agricultural industry; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey farms’ needs from federal programs are significantly different from those of farms in many regions of the country; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey’s diverse agriculture, typified by smaller farms producing a variety of crops, benefits from a strong emphasis on Specialty Crops Grants designed to increase consumer awareness about fresh produce, improve access to foreign markets, ensure food safety, strengthen research efforts, enhance conservation programs and encourage investment and efficiency; and
WHEREAS, fruit, vegetable and tree nut production in the United States accounts for $40 billion in farmgate value, and when combined with nursery and greenhouse production, accounts for more than 50 percent of total farm cash receipts; and
WHEREAS, a broad array of fruit and vegetable trade associations representing United States growers and shippers are continuing to work on achieving mutual objectives for the Farm Bill and assuring a common platform across regions, commodities, and other interests, including allies in support of the production of “specialty crops”; and
WHERAS, the fruit and vegetable industry is a critical and growing component of United States agriculture, deserving of full and equal consideration as is provided to other sectors in the Farm Bill; and
WHEREAS, the fruit and vegetable industry would not be well served by direct payment to growers but instead by building the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the United States; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey works closely with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service to support a number of feeding programs that bring nutritious products to children, the elderly and those in need; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey is committed to bringing more of the fruits and vegetables produced by its farmers into these programs to ensure that the offerings are of the highest practicable nutritional value; and
WHEREAS, funding targeted for these feeding programs can be stretched by ensuring, whenever possible, that products be bought locally first, regionally second and nationally and internationally as a last resort, thereby cutting the associated transportation costs, especially in times of rising fuel prices; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey also is home to numerous grain and forage producers who receive a much needed benefit from the Farm Bill’s commodities funding; and
 grain and forage producers strongly support a minimum safety net for grain producers throughout New Jersey.
WHEREAS, New Jersey is also home to dairy and livestock producers whose stewardship maintains a large percentage of state agricultural lands.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates of the 97th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on January 18-19, 2012,
 urge the Congress of the United States to include within the next Farm Bill, and urge the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to advocate for and support the following:
  • Create new definitions and eligibility standards for federally funded economic development programs, such as USDA Rural Development, so that businesses or entities with a direct connection to the agriculture and food complex that are in or near metropolitan areas will not be excluded.
  • Fund grant and/or loan programs for innovative projects that would: (1) catalyze investment for cooperatives and companies to develop and improve agricultural infrastructure; (2) boost research and development projects through universities and agricultural groups, through both competitive and non-competitive formula funds to advance the use of science and technology in the industry; (3) provide additional funding for educational programs designed to encourage potential future farmers and those new to the industry; and (4) provide technical assistance to farmers dealing with changing regulations or methods of production.
  • Provide matching funds for state farm viability programs and agricultural innovation centers. To support innovation centers, offer a round of $1 million matching grants to start new centers and $500,000 matching grants to continue developing the initial models.
  • An emphasis on creating a balance between commodities funding and Specialty Crops Grants /Value Added Grants to ensure that all sectors of New Jersey agriculture benefit from the Farm Bill.
  • Refinement of the Value-Added grant programs to ensure greater producer participation.
  • Due consideration to equine breeding operations as akin to production agriculture, and their eligibility for the same programs as crops that are currently considered production agriculture, especially given that the equine sector is among the largest agriculture sectors in New Jersey and contributes greatly to keeping farmland green and free from development.
  • Funding of a forestry title to encourage agricultural owners of forest land (42 percent of the nation’s forest land is owned by farmers) to effectively manage and improve those properties.
  • Distribute funding for technical assistance and conservation programs more equitably around the country, with allocations tied to the percentages of market value of a region’s agricultural production.
  • Streamline Conservation Program application processes by allowing a farmer to apply for multiple programs with one application.
  • Support increases in conservation technical assistance dollars for all producers seeking assistance regardless of their enrollment in other Farm Bill programs.
  • Provisions that give priority for grants and loans to young farmers determined to sustain agriculture into the next generation.
  • Adequate funding to supplement existing farmland preservation programs in New Jersey.
  • Amend USDA’s policy of distributing funds for the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FFRPP) to allow block grants to states and/or preservation entities with qualified preservation programs, with state Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices developing qualification standards and determining which programs meet the standards.
  • Allow impervious cover/building envelope standards to run parallel to the state’s preservation program.
  • Provisions to encourage the continuation and expansion of Food and Nutrition Service programs, and that emphasize buying locally first in order to lower the costs and environmental impacts of transportation.
  • An emphasis on nutrition education in the Food and Nutrition Service programs to encourage people benefiting from these programs to make informed nutrition choices.
  • A focus on access to and availability of fruits and vegetables, particularly to children, through expansion of the school fruit and vegetable snack program, increased commodity purchases, higher allocations to the Department of Defense (DOD) Fresh program for schools, development of a new nutrition program to assist producers in enhancing their markets, and a general requirement that food banks and commodity purchasing programs comply with beneficial dietary guidelines, except where they illogically remove products which provide important health and nutritional benefits.
  • Expand support of Farm to School initiatives, including the use of a bidding mechanism that gives preference to purchasing locally produced food for school meal programs to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate.
  • Provide adequate funding for The Emergency Feeding Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the associated transportation and storage expenses incurred by states to increase the selection of nutrient-dense foods in concert with USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid.
  • Provide financial support for developing shared electronic platforms to improve customer service, help farmers better compete in a global economy and enhance food accessibility, affordability and nutrition.
  • Significant new investment in prevention of unintentional introduction of plant pests and diseases.
  • Adequate funding for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers University, our land grant college, and Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension, to develop and maintain their leading-edge technology and support their contributions to agriculture nationally.
  • Adequate funding in research for specialty crops and integrated pest management, particularly through Smith-Lever and Hatch funding, as well as both the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and programs within the National Institute for Food and Agriculture and Agriculture Research Service (ARS).
  • Adequate funding for programs that educate students and young farmers, as well as those that encourage new people to enter farming.
  • Continued adequate funding for farm labor housing programs, with special consideration given for the higher costs of real estate and construction in New Jersey.
  • Dairy and livestock producers strongly support a modern safety net insurance program for dairy and livestock, a new way that protects minimum margins of milk and livestock prices over input costs, while allowing producers to increase production within their local milk shed to match consumption within the market area and export share.
  • Adequate funding for soil conservation practices on agricultural lands.