(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Eric Houghtaling, Bob Andrzejczak and Vince Mazzeo to help support the Jersey Fresh Program by allowing taxpayers to contribute to the program through their gross income tax returns was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-3999) would enable the collection of voluntary contributions for the Jersey Fresh Program through gross income tax returns by establishing the Jersey Fresh Program Fund in the Department of Treasury. Taxpayers would indicate in their New Jersey gross income tax return that a portion of their tax refund or an enclosed contribution should be deposited in the special fund.
“The state’s agriculture and food industry is an essential part of New Jersey’s local economy and merits our support,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “This would create an additional funding source to help support the program’s advertising, promotional, and quality grading program activities.”
“This is a simple way for taxpayers to support the state’s agricultural industry, which is helping to put New Jersey on the map,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Anything we can do to further promote the Jersey Fresh brand and the state is a good thing.”
“This provides a great opportunity for New Jerseyans who take pride in the Jersey Fresh brand and want to support it, to do so directly through their gross income tax returns,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “This not only helps the program, but the farmers who really are the heart of it.”
In 1984, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture created the first in the nation state-sponsored agricultural branding program, Jersey Fresh, in order to distinguish the high quality of New Jersey produced fruits and vegetables from others in the marketplace.
This state-sponsored branding program was later expanded to include Jersey Grown for nursery crops, Jersey Seafood for aquacultured and wild-caught fish and shellfish, Jersey Equine for equine livestock, and Made with Jersey Fresh for processed food made with New Jersey sourced agricultural products. These additional programs related to Jersey Fresh could also receive funds under the bill.
The fund is scheduled to begin receiving contributions for the first taxable year beginning after the date of enactment of the bill into law. The bill directs that fund deposits are to be annually appropriated to the Department of Agriculture for the purposes of providing support to the Jersey Fresh Program, which would include, but need not be limited to, funding advertising, promotional, and quality grading program activities. The quality grading program guarantees that each Jersey Fresh commodity meets a certain quality standard for size, shape, and coloring.
The bill would take effect immediately and apply to taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1, following the date of enactment.
The bill was released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.