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Legislation to Diversify and Strengthen Farms Through New NJ Registry Advances

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TRENTON – In an effort to expand diversity in agriculture ranks, strengthen the farm sectors of the state’s economy, and foster greater inclusion and equity for minorities, women and other underserved populations, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced legislation that would direct the Department of Agriculture to establish a New Jersey Minority, Women, and Underserved Farmer Registry.

Through the Farm Liaison designated by the Secretary of Agriculture, the bill, sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou and Senator Joe Pennacchio, would direct the department to:

  • coordinate outreach to minority, women, disabled, LGBTQIA+, and socially disadvantaged farmers in the State who have been historically underserved by farm loan assistance programs, including programs for beginning farmer loans, emergency farm loans, farm loan servicing, farm operating loans, guaranteed farm loans, direct operating loans, direct farm ownership down payment loans, microloans, and other business assistance available to farmers in the State;
  • register minority, women, disabled, LGBTQIA+, socially disadvantaged, and historically underserved farmer owners to receive notification of opportunities to apply for and participate in farm loan and business assistance programs;
  • assist in the prioritization of applications of historically underserved farmers, who are State registrants, for farm loan and business assistance programs;
  • provide each registrant with information concerning the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) minority farm register; and
  • provide each registrant the opportunity to register with the USDA minority farm register.

“The vast majority of farmers in New Jersey and throughout the United States are predominantly white and have the advantage of coming from families that have farmed the same land for generations. For decades now, racial injustice has left Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other nonwhite workers to endure a long history of discrimination in the farming industry, from violence and land theft in the Jim Crow South to banks and federal farm offices that refused them loans, or government benefits that went to white farmers. This bill aims to begin to remedy those disparities, and to bring more diversity and equity into New Jersey agriculture,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic).

In 1920, there were more than 925,000 Black-run farms, accounting for over 14 percent of all farms in the United States. However, U.S. Census data, as recent as 2017, reveals that there are under 35,000 left, representing less than two percent of American farmers. Most are concentrated in the Southeast and Texas.

The USDA Minority Farm Register was established to promote inclusion and diversity in the agricultural and horticultural sectors of the nation’s economy. Establishing a parallel registry in New Jersey would include and bolster the participation of New Jersey minority, women, disabled, LGBTQIA+, and historically underserved farmers in the available State and federal loan and assistance programs for farmers.

“New Jersey’s agricultural sector has a proud tradition as the Garden State,” added Senator Pou. “Through the establishment of this Minority Farm Registry, we can begin to see the fruits of our collective farm labors and bolster our agriculture economy to better represent all segments of society.”

The bill, S-772, was released from committee by a vote of 12-0.