(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly members Nelson Albano, Matt Milam, Celeste Riley and Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson sponsored to promote agricultural tourism and wineries in New Jersey was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
One bill (A-812) sponsored by the four members would establish a statewide motorist sign system that would be easily identifiable and promote agricultural tourism attractions.
The other (A-2495) sponsored by Albano and Riley would allow wineries to participate in any tourist-related directional sign program established by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
“Tourists represent a largely untapped market for agricultural establishments,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “The very nature of farming establishments means they’re often not on heavily traveled routes, so we should do anything we can to help tourists and others from out-of-state, as well as New Jersey residents, find these gems.”
“You may not have to live on a farm to enjoy New Jersey’s agriculture, but you surely need to know how to find these places,” said Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “These agricultural establishments are an important sector of New Jersey’s economy, but they are under economic pressures caused by ever-increasing development. They need more than local residents as their primary customer base.”
“Winery tours and the fine products offered by New Jersey wineries are key parts of our cultural and tourism trade industries, and we as a state should cooperate in promoting their efforts,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “If we’re already investing in directional sign programs to help other businesses, I see no reason why we wouldn’t offer the same to wineries that play a key role in our economic development.”
“Agricultural tourism can include, among other activities, hayrides, corn mazes, pick-your-own operations, farm stands, agricultural fairs, farm festivals, winery tours, horseback riding and historical attractions where visitors can learn about New Jersey agriculture,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This is New Jersey’s heritage and we should promote it.”
Under the bill, the Secretary of Agriculture would establish eligibility standards for participating in the program and reasonable fees to be charged to participating establishments to pay for the signs. County agricultural boards would be able to help pay.
The bill sponsored by Albano and Riley would allow plenary and farm winery licensees to be deemed eligible for participation in any tourist-oriented directional sign program established by the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, if the entrance for tourists to such licensee’s premises is located within three miles of the state or interstate highway system.
The bills were released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural ReDests Committee chaired by Albano.