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New York Ag News Headlines
Seeing South Jersey as an ‘Agricultural & Life Sciences Corridor’
New York Ag Connection - 05/30/2023

Economic development need not be complicated. When regions look to expand their economies, the best place to start is with pre-existing industries. As the saying goes, “there is no need to reinvent the wheel.”

For the South Jersey region, that foundational industry is agriculture. Readers do not need any reminder that Hammonton is the “Blueberry Capital of the World.” Eastern Burlington County has a long tradition with growing cranberries. Cumberland County is the home of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center and Rowan University in Gloucester County has just broken ground on a new Veterinarian School. Agriculture is strong and vibrant with the potential for even more progress. Yet many regional officials fail to notice whenever economic development is discussed.

With more focus and commitment, we could drive economic growth in South Jersey by combining agriculture, technology, and workforce development. This does not mean more mandates and regulations on any businesses or farms. Business owners and farmers know what is best for their organizations and understand their customers and markets. It is a matter of developing more mechanisms to enable further development of the agricultural sector in every segment of the supply chain.

Why can’t we ensure multiple income streams for farms? Neighboring states provide some best practices that could be adopted. Microbreweries are common sites on small family farms in Upstate New York. NJ should be making such operations easier to start in the state. In Central Pennsylvania, solar fields are a common site as they are unobtrusively placed among dairy and livestock pastures. These farmers are taking advantage of the clean energy portions of the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.

So many of our elected officials in South Jersey need to be encouraging our farmers to do likewise instead of spreading misinformation as our Congressman, Jeff Van Drew, chose to do when he spread falsehoods about the Inflation Reduction Act, in my opinion.

Another possibility for a revenue stream is the idea of carbon credits. Carbon credits are payments companies make to offset their carbon emissions. The payments are used to subsidize carbon capturing efforts. These programs have become mainstream with major financial firms servicing these carbon markets. Farms can capture carbon utilizing certain growing techniques. New Jersey should examine the possibility of giving farmers the opportunity to adopt these techniques and sell the resulting carbon credits. Carbon credits could potentially create an incentive for counties and municipalities to create economic value from their parks and open space.

Breakthroughs in technology continuously dominate the news cycle. Developments such as artificial intelligence, block chains, drones, and electric vehicles are fueling research into how this innovation can improve our lives. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to create an Agricultural Technology Center in our area? The purpose of such an entity would be to conduct and commercialize research and incubate businesses to apply new technology to improve agriculture productivity. The center would bring together the agriculture and technology sectors in partnership with local universities and compliment current initiatives like the Food Science Center in Bridgeton.


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