TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee on Thursday released a bill that would provide matching grants for new farmers to make improvements on their farms.
The sponsors of the legislation (A285), Assemblyman Brandon Umba and Assemblywoman Claire Swift, say their “New Farmers Improvement Grant Program” is critical in helping these men and women grow their operations.
“Preserving farmland is not the only issue facing our state. Our other concern is the average age of a farmer in New Jersey is pushing 60, while at the same time reports indicate fewer young people are interested in pursuing a farming career,” Umba (R-Burlington) said. “Cost is one of the factors driving people away. These matching grants will help new farmers implement the latest technologies to stay competitive and profitable.”
New farmers—those at least 18 years old with fewer than 10 years of farming experience—would be eligible for grants from the Department of Agriculture ranging from $15,000 to $50,000, up to half a project’s total cost.
Those seeking to apply would have to farm on 150 acres or less and show a minimum $10,000 in gross sales from the preceding calendar year. The farmer must also be involved in the day-to-day agricultural or horticultural operations of his or her farm.
Farmers will be encouraged to apply for matching funds to not only buy equipment, but diversify their production to expand growing seasons, increase sustainability and build partnerships with other farmers to improve product distribution.
“Food insecurity is a real issue. All industries, including farming, are facing labor shortages. So, to us, secure farmers mean a secure New Jersey,” Swift (R-Atlantic) added. “Helping these new farmers to invest in their businesses and build relationships with each other and their communities is an investment in a food secure future for the Garden State.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs an average of $181,130 to run a farm annually.