TRENTON – With the purpose of creating an additional funding source to help the Jersey Fresh program, legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew that would establish the collection of voluntary contributions for the program made from gross income tax returns was approved today by the full Senate.
The bill, S-2457, would establish a fund for the Jersey Fresh Program to accept the gross income tax return contribution made by citizens who wish to donate portions of their tax return to help create an additional funding source for advertising, promotional and quality grading program activities under the Jersey Fresh Program. The fund would begin receiving contributions for their first taxable year beginning after the enactment of the bill. The bill would direct the Legislature to annually appropriate the funds to the Department of Agriculture.
“The agricultural sector is of vital importance to our economy. It helps to compensate the fundamental needs of the citizens of the State and ensures employment opportunities for many of our residents. In addition, it creates and contributes to the growth of the State’s economy,” said Senator Van Drew.
Advertising and promotional materials are used to inform consumers about the availability of locally grown products. The bill would define “Jersey Fresh” to include Jersey Grown for nursery crops, Jersey Seafood for aquaculture 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.
The Department of Agriculture created the Jersey Fresh Program in 1984, to distinguish the high quality of New Jersey produced fruits and vegetables from others in the marketplace. At the time it was the first state agricultural branding program in the country.
“We are proud to promote our farmers and the great products they produce. This will give New Jersey residents the ability to support the Jersey Fresh program through voluntary contributions and support its continue success in our State,” said Senator Van Drew.
The State’s agriculture and food industry is an essential part of New Jersey’s local economy and this bill allows for the collection of voluntary contributions on gross income tax returns to help support it. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has continually worked to bring Jersey Fresh to all who want it, by working with restaurants, schools, colleges, big box stores, local communities, hotels, hospitals and more.
According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, food and agriculture are New Jersey’s third largest industry. As of 2015, the state has 9,100 farms covering 715,000 acres. Sales generated in 2014 totaled $1.02 billion. Farmers in the Garden State produce more than 100 different kinds of fruits and vegetables for consumers to enjoy either fresh or processed here in New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast, in Canada and in many countries around the world.
S-2457 was approved by the full Senate by a vote of 37-0. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.