Please Help Save The Njda - Please Read


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Ok I am not normally one to get very involved in politics. A good friend of mine runs a tree farm/nursery & says that this would have wide ranging and VERY BAD consequences for everyone living here in the joke of jokes Garden State. Please write to your elected officials!

Cutting NJDA would sow seeds of destruction
Agriculture is not causing the state's budget deficit problem, so Gov. Jon Corzine's proposal to eliminate the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) as a costcutting measure is both ludicrous and wrong.

The $82 billion agriculture and food complex is one of New Jersey's largest industries, ranking after pharmaceuticals and tourism in the economic benefits it brings to the state.

Cash receipts from farm commodities in 2006 alone totaled $924 million, and on top of that, millions of dollars in tax receipts were generated from nurseries, the horse industry and hired labor.

The governor expects to save $2.5 million annually by cutting the NJDA and two other government branches. The only line item cuts he has specifically identified for the NJDA are two conservation programs and the century-old cabinet secretary post. The secretary holds a position on numerous national boards, chairs several state agencies and is generally regarded as the highest profile individual for agriculture in the state.

Of the NJDA's $354 million budget, only $26.7 million comes from the state, with the rest being federal funding.

Of the state's portion, about $5 million funds grants and $9 million funds direct state services, including personnel. The remaining $11.7 million funds school breakfast/lunch programs and other aid efforts that garner more than $190 million in federal funding and would likely not be cut.

NJDA officials have said that the actual savings of eliminating the department could be as little as $341,000, which excludes unforeseen costs of transferring the department's essential services to other state departments.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the state Department of Health and Senior Services are expected to absorb most of the NJDA's tasks.

Some farmers and fishing companies believe that it would be a conflict of interest for the DEP, their regulatory agency, to be charged with promoting their Sentinel businesses.

Beyond promoting Jersey Grown, Jersey Fresh and other agricultural products for those in the business, the NJDA provides services that affect all New Jersey citizens.

The department protects and monitors livestock for disease and other threats, coordinates the equine program, protects New Jersey from invasive plants and pests, inspects nurseries, ensures the integrity of seeds, manages programs that feed schoolchildren, distributes surplus federal foods to needy citizens, conserves soil and water resources, expands export markets for fresh and processed agricultural products, promotes the state's commercial fishing industry, oversees the state's organic farms, and administers the complete program of agriculture, food and natural resource education including the state FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) Association.

In fact, the department's tasks were considered so essential in July 2006 that when the shutdown of state government occurred, 52 percent of NJDA employees were told to report to work when the average in other state agencies was 28 percent.

Closing the NJDA would also remove the leadership for investing in state open space and keeping development at bay. Retaining productive, taxpaying farmland is critically important in New Jersey since there are 1.01 million acres of farmland in the state, which constitute 50 percent of the remaining open space and 20 percent of the state's total land base.

Furthermore, as the general economy slips further into recession, consumers are starting to fear food price inflation.

Eliminating the NJDA would remove a longstanding advocate for locally grown food commodities that cost less due to escalating shipping prices. This extraction would also be volte-face to a growing global trend to buy locally and go organic for human safety and carbon footprint concerns.

Simply put, eliminating the New Jersey Department of Agriculture would be sowing the seeds of destruction for the Garden State.
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