Following the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (the "Farm Bill"), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today visited the Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery in Pilesgrove, Salem County to discuss the impact of the legislation in New Jersey. Menendez met with local grape farmers who have recently been awarded federal grants from programs reauthorized by the legislation, including U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development's Value-Added Producer Grant program (VAPG) and Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
"From tomatoes to cranberries to grapes, New Jersey farmers produce fruits and vegetables that help keep our families healthy and strengthen our economy," said Menendez. "That's why it's critical we ensure they have the resources they need to thrive and compete. The Farm Bill will help New Jersey farmers and preserve the agricultural and rural areas that make New Jersey such a diverse and unique state."
Menendez met with Scott and Julianne Donnini, owners of Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery, as well as Ollie Tomasello, owner of Plagido's Winery in Hammonton, who together received more than $50,000 in REAP grants to install solar panels on their properties. The REAP program provide grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses and agricultural producers to purchase and install renewable energy generation systems.
Menendez also met with Bob and Mandi Cassidy, owners of Salem Oak Vineyards, and Lawrence Coia, President of the Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association, who together received three VAPGs totaling more than $77,000 to assist in planning and developing marketing strategies. The VAPG program is designed to encourage independent producers of agricultural commodities to process their raw products into marketable goods, thereby increasing farm income.
During drafting of the 2012 Farm Bill, which makes some of the most significant reforms in agriculture policy in decades, Menendez was able to ensure New Jersey communities like Pilesgrove would remain eligible to compete for federal rural development funds that are critical to local infrastructure and economic development.