Governor Chris Christie today signed several measures that keep New Jersey green by providing $90.6 million in grants to counties, towns and nonprofit organizations to preserve farmland across the Garden State and fund State-initiated farmland preservation projects. He also signed A-2342 to further enhance the visibility and accessibility of "Jersey Fresh" produce and "Made with Jersey Fresh" items at food concessions in state agencies.
"Farmland preservation is an investment in our future," said Governor Christie. "It's important for our farmers to ensure they have the land they need to operate successful businesses; its vital for our communities that are working hard to retain productive agricultural lands, and it's critical for future generations to ensure they will be able to benefit from all that agriculture has to offer.
"Everyone loves our Jersey Fresh produce and products, so it's equally important to have these home-grown products widely accessible and more prominently displayed for everyone to enjoy. That's why we're making these items more readily available at food concessions located in our state facilities," the Governor added.
First Lady Mary Pat Christie, who is committed to raising awareness of Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown products said, "Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown promote the Garden State's rich agricultural industry. More importantly, these products have come to signify the Jersey Pride we all celebrate."
The farmland preservation legislation (S-2894-S-2897) provides:
* $39 million in grants to16 participating counties to help preserve farmland under the County Planning Incentive Grant Program. Each county is eligible for a $1.5 million base grant. A county that spends down its base grant is eligible to compete for additional monies from a $15 million competitive grant fund while it lasts. The potential maximum grant to any county under this program is $4.5 million;
* $23 million in grants to 43 participating municipalities to preserve farmland under the Municipal Planning Incentive Grant Program. The six towns participating in the program for the first time are eligible for $750,000 each, while the 37 towns that previously qualified for funding are eligible for $500,000 each;
* $19.7 million for the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) to directly preserve farmland; and
* $8.831 million in grants to 8 nonprofit organizations to preserve farmland under the Nonprofit Program -- the largest allocation to that program to date.
The SADC administers New Jersey's Farmland Preservation Program, directly preserving farmland and providing grants to counties, municipalities and nonprofits to assist them in preserving farmland. To date, more than 2,000 farms covering more than 193,000 acres have been preserved statewide under the program.
Sponsors of S-2894 include Senators Whelan and Singer as well as Assemblymembers Riley and Burzichelli. Sponsors of S-2895 include Senators Greenstein and Oroho and Assemblymembers Moriarty, Riley, Burzichelli and Watson-Coleman. Sponsors of S-2896 include Senators Van Drew and Oroho as well as Assemblymembers Wagner, Moriarty, DeAngelo, Benson, Barnes and Diegnan. Sponsors of S-2897 include Senators Whelan and Singer as well as Assemblymembers Albano, Riley, Milam and Burzichelli.
Governor Christie also signed A-2342, requiring that an effort be made by food concession stands in state government facilities to place Jersey Fresh items and Made with Jersey Fresh products in prominent locations and to clearly identify them to patrons.
Guidelines are already in place that encourage and promote to the maximum extent practical the purchase of Jersey Fresh and other agricultural food products grown or raised in New Jersey and Made with Jersey Fresh products.
"There is a great interest in buying local and supporting our farmers," said Douglas H. Fisher, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture. "State agency food concession patrons do not have to go far to get high quality, healthy Jersey Fresh produce and other state agricultural products."
The legislation includes Made with Jersey Fresh products, which are processed food items using New Jersey's bounty. Since New Jersey's produce season runs from May to November, incorporating Jersey Fresh products into processed foods extends the season to year-round. It also will help expand distribution well beyond the region.
For a food processor to utilize the Made with Jersey Fresh logo, they must first become licensed to use the Jersey Fresh logo. Then, they must use products that are inspected through the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program. Those products must adhere to specific criteria for grading and quality.
For dairy products to be able to use the Made with Jersey Fresh Milk logo, the item must be made with milk obtained from New Jersey dairy farms, licensed under the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program, and must comply with all Jersey Fresh standards for milk.
Sponsors of A-2342 include Assemblymembers McHose (R-Sussex, Hunterdon and Morris) and Riley (D-Salem, Cumberland and Gloucester).
For listings of eligible county, municipal and nonprofit farmland preservation grant recipients, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/news/hottopics/ <http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/news/hottopics/>
For more information about Jersey Fresh products, visit www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/ <http://www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/> .