NEW JERSEY — New Jersey lawmakers are poised to introduce legislation that would make it a crime for New Jerseyans who are not actively engaged in growing or selling produce or livestock to sell or give away the produce or to allow others to sell the produce.
A bill introduced Tuesday by New Jersey Assemblyman Mike Gonidakis, D-Morristown, would expand a 2011 law to include “commercial farming” as a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
Gonidakis said that because of the potential impact of the law on New Jersey’s already stretched food supply, he believes that it should be “taken into account” when considering future legislation.
Gonsalves, who represents parts of Morris, Middlesex and Sussex counties, told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday that he has spoken with officials in the state capital and has been working on the bill for a month.
He said that while the law would affect the vast majority of farms, he hopes the legislation will have the desired impact.
“There are many who don’t grow anything but sell it to others and they can still be guilty of criminal acts,” Gonidaces said.
“I think that if we were to get into the law that would be a step in the right direction.
But I’m not convinced that we can be that careful.”
The bill would make criminal the sale of food or produce to someone who is not the buyer, the seller or the primary caregiver of the animal.
It also would expand the definition of “commercial” farming to include farming for profit, including farms that grow crops for personal use.
Gone are the days when small farmers could sell a few acres of produce to restaurants or grocery stores for as little as $1.50 a pound, or a few dozen pounds for sale at $3.50.
The new law would also add “noncommercial” to the definition, which includes farms that are for a family, as well as “commercial,” which includes a “profit,” “business” or “service” based on the use of animals, water, pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, seed, or seed products.
Gansalves told NJ.com that he hopes that the bill will pass and be considered in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly.
He added that the proposed legislation is intended to address the “disproportionate” number of farms that use animals and the impacts on food and the environment.
Gains are not yet in sight for the state and Gonidas bill is expected to be considered by lawmakers before the summer.
The New Jersey Farm Bureau said last month that it has raised $7.5 million in contributions to the campaign.
The farm bureau is a nonpartisan organization that provides farmers and ranchers with the information they need to make informed decisions about what to grow and sell.
Ganidakis told NJ Live that he expects to have the bill before the full New Jersey Legislature in the next couple of weeks.
He told NJMAIL.com on Tuesday evening that the state is committed to ensuring that farmers and livestock producers are not punished.
“The Garden State is a great place for farmers and cattle producers to raise their cattle and sell their beef,” he said.
“We are also committed to protecting the environment and protecting our farmers.
It is critical that our farmers and producers are compensated for the benefits that they create.”
The Garden States farming industry, along with the livestock industry, is expected be hit hard by the bill.
In 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that New Jersey produced over $1 billion worth of beef and pork.