Two bills sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley to push the state toward giving preference to food products and commodities grown or raised in New Jersey and crackdown on those who falsely label products as “Jersey Fresh” were approved by the General Assembly on Monday.
“Farming is part of New Jersey’s heritage, but amid increasing pressures from development and a difficult economy, that heritage is being pushed to the edge each and every day,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Salem/Gloucester). “This bill simply requires the state, whenever possible, to give preference to “Jersey Fresh,” “Jersey Grown,” and other agricultural food products and commodities grown or raised in New Jersey when entering into or renewing a contract for use by various state agencies, departments and facilities. It’s a common sense way to promote our products and help our farmers in a practical way that can benefit everyone.”
“Jersey Fresh” is an advertising and promotional program developed by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture in 1983 to draw consumer attention to the availability of New Jersey farm products. Growers who register with the department’s quality grading program are allowed to use the “Jersey Fresh” logo on their packages.
The logo indicates that the contents have been inspected and meet standards equal to, or better than, U.S. No. 1 or U.S. Grade A. Another component of the “Jersey Fresh” program is the “Jersey Grown” logo, which has been developed for nursery plants.
The bill (A-2342) is among several pushed by Riley to help New Jersey farmers. Also approved today was bill (A-2665), which doubles the fines for falsely labeling products as “Jersey Fresh.” The penalties for misuse of the outline of the state on the packaging of farm products, including the “Jersey Fresh” motto, would increase to $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.
“Jersey Fresh is an instantly recognizable brand name that consumers know means high quality fresh and nutritious products,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “We need to protect this brand identity and the hard work of our farmers, especially amid a difficult economy that makes every dollar for our farmers count more than ever.”
Riley said the bill was suggested to her by farmers in her district, which includes Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties.
For a food processor to use the “Jersey Fresh” logo, they must first become licensed to use the Jersey Fresh logo and must use products that are inspected through the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program run by the Department of Agriculture.
“Those products must adhere to specific criteria for grading and quality,” Riley said. “This is a meaningful designation that isn’t taken lightly and must be enforced with harsher penalties for those who violate it.”
Bill A-2342 was approved by a vote of 77-0 and bill A-2665 was approved by a vote of 76-1.
For more information about the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program, visit www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/jfqgp.html.