Agriculture’s pulse beats loudly at the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention, an annual gathering that keeps the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) in rhythm with its industry.
Now more than 100 years old, the two-day convention still packs significant grass roots influence. More than 150 delegates convene for the event to represent every aspect of New Jersey agriculture from blueberries to goats to university research. As mandated by state law, those delegates collectively set policy direction for the NJDA. They also establish the board that oversees the department.
“The Agricultural Convention serves as the status of where agriculture is, and it gives a blueprint to what the future holds,” says Al Murray, Assistant Secretary of agriculture for the NJDA. “Every year when this entire convention comes together, you’re basically getting the temperature or pulse of the industry.”
At the 101st New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in February 2016, the delegate body continued its duty to elect two new members to the eight-person State Board of Agriculture, appointments that earn final approval from the Governor and State Senate. This Board supervises activity of the NJDA and, when the need arises, recommends a Secretary of Agriculture to the Governor.
Convention delegates also debate resolutions that set the policy path for the department. In 2016, they debated 44 resolutions on a wide range of topics, including food safety, rural telecommunications, food labeling, wildlife issues and more.
“The beauty of this convention is it is a very democratic process in terms of how our department operates,” Murray says. “The State Board of Agriculture is the ruling body that oversees the operations of our department. What makes that a great process is the delegates elect a State Board, and the State Board oversees our department.”