Trenton bills directed at helping state’s small farmers

AFP Correspondent

TRENTON (July 1, 2016) — Two bills with the aim of assisting New Jersey small farmers are working their way through the New Jersey State Legislature.
Assembly Bill 3732 directs the state Department of Agriculture to authorize the establishment of food hubs in the state and “establish a program to assist and support farms and farmers seeking to belong to food hubs in their area of the State.”
The food hub or food incubator concept came to Northwest New Jersey through the efforts of the Foodshed Alliance.
In presentations around the northern area of the state, the alliance and other experts explained various ways a food incubator could benefit small farmers.
In the bill, “food hub means a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local or regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”
A food incubator can offer farmers access to markets, to cooperative buying of products such as fertilizer and to value added products that can be sold along with itesm from the farm.
A food hub is a collective of farmers that work together, but it doesn’t provide the value-added products.
The bill was introduced and referred out of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, according to Lou Crescitelli of Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus’ office.
Phoebus was one of the sponsors, along with Parker Space, also of District 24, and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak of District 1.
Another bill sponsored by Phoebus, is A3057 which allows for loans to two or more farmers for the purchase of equipment directly used for farming.
Eligible farms are defined as “independently owned and operated, operate within this State, participate in an agricultural commodity or product marketing and development program operated by the (New Jersey) Department of Agriculture, and satisfy other criteria that may be established by the authority,” according to the text of the bill.
Kendrya Close, executive director of the Foodshed Alliance, sent a comment on the bill in an e-mail: “The bill seems to be a big help to the smaller and mid-sized farmers to allow them access to money for purchases. There are some concerns over the shared use as much of the larger equipment that would be purchased would likely need to be used at the same time in season.”
She said that is not an insurmountable problem but is something that would have to be worked out.
That bill is still in the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
It is listed as a bipartisan bill. A3732 is listed as slightly partisan with more Republican sponsors than Democrat.