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Northeast ag not to be discounted (Editorial)

(Aug. 15, 2015) New Jersey’s moniker, “The Garden State,” only hints at the impact that agriculture has on the state’s economic well being as well as it character and way of life.
Driving up the New Jersey Turnpike or coming across the George Washington Bridge, it is not apparent that agriculture, in one form or another, is a major player in the state’s economy.
Recently a Farm Credit East report, entitled “Northeast Economic Engine: Agriculture, Forest Products and Commercial Fishing.”
The report found that 79,485 farms and related businesses throughout the eight-state region — all of New England plus New York and New Jersey — produced an estimated $103 billion in “economic activity” and resulted in 483,375 jobs on and off the farm.
For New Jersey, the ag sector had a $12.8-billion impact on state economic output and 56,598 jobs generated statewide.
Greenhouse and nursery production is the state’s largest sector with a $772 million impact and 7,130 jobs supported.
Vegetables are the state’s second largest ag economic contributor.
Said Farm Credit East CEO Bill Lipinski in the cover letter to the report: “One of the key takeaways of this report is the economic impact beyond the farm gate. While there are many successful agricultural businesses selling directly to the consumer, for the rest, it’s intuitive that when the milk tanker is leaving the farm, the apples are put into storage, logs are loaded on the trailer or the scallops are packed on ice, there’s more work to be done to bring that food and fiber to market.
“And that work translates into jobs, tax revenue and preserving working waterfronts and landscapers in our region.”
That’s a truth that is often overlooked when assessing the value of agricultural production.
And, added Farm Credit’s Lipinski, it’s something to consider when state and local governments decide how to allocate the expenditures of public funds for research and the support of agriculture in all its aspects.