NJDA is reinventing its approach to supporting organic agriculture in New Jersey


originally published: 04/04/2022

When one door closes, another opens: New Jersey’s organic and regenerative farmers eagerly await a much-needed increase in support from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture as it moves from its organic certification program to May 2022 under new management. The NJDA became the only Accredited Certification Agency (ACA) in the state in 2007 after the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA NJ) had performed the duties in cooperation with the Department since 2003.

Going forward, the NJDA plans to focus on educating, marketing, and expanding organic agriculture to growers across the state. Organic food continues to be the fastest growing sector of local, national and international agriculture, showing an increase in growth equal to 20% per year. Recently, several NJ organic farmers and associated non-profit organizations attended the March State Council of Agriculture meeting in Trenton to voice their support for increased NJDA resources being offered to the organic farming community.

NOFA NJ Chairman of the Board, Michael Rassweiler, and Executive Director, Devin Cornia, both made public comments at the March 23, 2022 meeting, inviting the NJDA to further collaborate with NOFA NJ to develop their updated offers to organic and regenerative producers. “I’m excited to cultivate a more cohesive relationship with the NJDA and the State Board of Agriculture,” says Cornia. For more than 35 years, NOFA NJ has been the driving force behind organic agriculture in New Jersey, providing support, training, education, policy advocacy and connection for the growing agricultural sector.

Farmers are not alone in recognizing the importance of regenerative practices. Letters written to the NJDA in support of increasing resources for organic agriculture came from NOFA NJ, the Foodshed Alliance, the Watershed Institute, the NJ Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, as well as a group letter signed by over 90 farmers and community advocates. hosted by Hannah Conner (Ramblin’ Sol Farm, Cream Ridge NJ). Upon receiving these comments, NJ Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joe Atchison, and representatives of the State Board of Agriculture all sincerely expressed their enthusiasm to work hand in hand with the organic farming community and to support it further.

Farmers around the world continue to face difficult and unique challenges, whether organic or not. New pests, erratic weather, loss of land to develop, and lack of labor are constant struggles, and the rapidly rising cost of goods is making it even more difficult for farmers and growers to be profitable. Additionally, the companies’ organic farms continue to grow their market share, competing with local farms on price and their ability to grow a variety of crops year-round. “I can’t stress enough the need for increased partnership and cooperation among all members of our farming community, starting yesterday,” Cornia said. “If we succumb to pressures that threaten local farms and local food, we could all lose our livelihoods.

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