(TRENTON) – A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Bob Andrzejczak, Adam Taliaferro and Eric Houghtaling to help promote New Jersey’s farms and farm-to-table eateries and support the state’s agricultural industry was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
“Consumers are becoming more conscious about their food, preferring to invest in locally grown food that is fresher, more environmentally sensitive and has a greater economic impact on the community,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “These bills would help ensure that New Jersey’s farms and farm-to-table eateries can continue to take advantage of this trend, by boosting our promotion and support of agricultural operations and agritourism in the state.”
“The state has a proud agricultural history that often goes unrecognized,” Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Many equate New Jersey with that they see on TV and are unaware of our farming background and the variety of fruits and vegetables grown right here in the state. This is an excellent opportunity to further promote our agricultural and culinary offerings, boost our local and state economies and introduce potential visitors to another side of New Jersey.”
“Farm to table businesses support the local ecology and economy. It is in our best interest to help these businesses thrive,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Making it easier for people to locate these eateries and celebrating the best farm-to-table restaurant through an awards program are simple ways to draw more attention, and hopefully visitors, to the farm-table movement in the state.”
The first bill (A-3052), sponsored by Andrzejczak and Taliaferro, would require the Department of Agriculture, in coordination with any agricultural or farming organization it deems appropriate, to establish a cooking contest for using the most “Jersey Fresh” agricultural products or commodities. The department would also be required to develop and adopt guidelines for the contest, and in the awarding of premiums, prizes, or rewards for the successful contestants.
The second bill (A-3053), sponsored by Houghtaling, Andrzejczak and Taliaferro, would direct the Division of Travel and Tourism to publish on its website information on farm-to-table restaurants in the state, by region. The information would have to be updated as appropriate. The bill would also direct the division to establish a process by which farm-to-table restaurants may register for posting on the site, including the criteria for designation as a “farm-to-table restaurant.”
The third bill (A-3054), sponsored by Andrzejczak, Houghtaling and Taliaferro, would require the Department of Agriculture, in coordination with any agricultural, aquaculture farming, or restaurant organization it deems appropriate, to establish and promote an awards program known as the New Jersey “Farm-to-Table Restaurant” awards program. The program would annually recognize the best aquaculture farms, and farms that provide products to restaurants that are locally sourced, as well as the best restaurants that offer food made with locally sourced aquaculture farm products.
The last bill (A-3732), sponsored by Andrzejczak, would direct the Department of Agriculture to: authorize the establishment of food hubs in the state; establish a program to assist and support farms and farmers that want to join food hubs in their area of the state; and adopt rules to implement the bill. The bill defines “food hub” as 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.
The bills were released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.