TRENTON – Senator Paul A. Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, the Vice Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after the panel’s hearing on the FY 2009 Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Budget, and the need to seek efficiencies in DEP and Agriculture programs, even if the consolidation of the Agriculture Department into DEP doesn’t take place:
“As the Vice Chair of the Budget Committee, I’ve definitely heard from – and agree with – farmers who’ve called for a stay of execution for the Department of Agriculture as an important advocate and voice for their needs in State Government. As a regulatory agency, the DEP simply isn’t the appropriate torch-bearer for the agriculture industry’s concerns.
“That said, I think both the Department of Agriculture and the DEP need to work together to ensure greater efficiencies and eliminate duplication of services. This year’s budget plight should serve as a stark reminder that we cannot afford the level of government we currently have. Both of these departments need to maximize the value of State dollars, and take the necessary steps to handle more responsibility with ever-diminishing resources.
“Both the DEP and the Department of Agriculture maintain fairly aggressive land preservation programs in the State’s Green Acres and farmland preservation initiatives. This is just one example of many of the overlapping areas of responsibility shared by the two departments. While I think that the Agriculture Department and DEP should remain autonomous at the top, I think that in areas where it makes sense to share services, we need to pursue those opportunities.
“We can maintain an independent voice for agriculture while still seeking cost savings through greater cooperation with the DEP and other State programs. New Jerseyans deserve our best effort to uncover efficiencies in State expenditures, while still meeting the basic needs of the Garden State.”