According to a recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind and co-sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau, more than eight in ten (83%) New Jersey residents support the continuation of public funding for the preservation of open space and farmland. Those in the Northwest region of the state (88%) are more likely than those in the Northeast (76%) to support the funding. “New Jersey may be among the most densely populated states, but that doesn’t mean Garden Staters don’t value the protection of open space,” said New Jersey Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam.
Residents are not as certain, however, as to how the land preservation should be funded. Provided with two choices, half (53%) say a voter approved bond referendum should be put forth to provide several years of funding. About a third (30%) say it should be funded with long-term allocation of existing tax revenues, and one in six (17%) are not sure how the preservation should be funded. Those in the Northeast (66%) are more likely than those from the Northwest (49%) or Central NJ (47%) to support the bond referendum. “New Jerseyans have long supported the preservation of open spaces to keep the Garden State green, but the bottom line is funding has decreased significantly over the past few years,” Suydam said. “This may be the impetus to drive additional resources.”
Residents overwhelmingly favor (81%) state-funded research programs for food production and farming methods at Rutgers University that benefit New Jersey’s farming and agriculture. The study found no differences exist across the regions of NJ. “The strong support for this type of program should inform the Christie administration and legislature about the importance of such funding in the upcoming state budget,” said Suydam.
New Jerseyans favor (55%) an agricultural visa worker program which would permit NJ farmers to temporarily hire workers from other countries to harvest fruits and vegetables before returning to their home country at the end of the growing season. Only two in five (38%) would oppose such a program. Those in the Northwest (67%) and South (65%) are most likely to support such a program. “We take note of this support for an agricultural visa program for temporary foreign workers, which is in line with similar surveys in other states,” said Suydam. “If a domestic workforce for agricultural labor is lacking or does not exist, we need to have a legal means of recruiting workers.”
Residents offer positive appraisals concerning the treatment of livestock by New Jersey farmers. About three in five (57%) believe farm animals are treated humanely. Fewer than one in ten (7%) say they are not treated humanely, but more than a third (36%) are uncertain as to how the animals are treated. Those from South Jersey (68%) are more likely than those from the Northeast (51%) or Central part of the state (54%) to believe farmers treat their livestock well. “There are well-defined guidelines at the state Department of Agriculture and other organizations to ensure farm livestock are treated humanely in accordance with best management practices,” Suydam noted. “The NJ Farm Bureau is highly confident that NJ farmers follow these guidelines,” he added.
Finally, about half (51%) of the respondents say they or someone in their household has visited a NJ farm in the past 12 months for activities such as pick-your-own fruit or pumpkins, hay rides or corn mazes. Those in the Northwest (61%) are more likely than those in the Northeast (42%) to have visited a farm. “We always believed that New Jerseyans understood the importance farming has in the state and the collective results from this survey confirm that our residents fully support farmers and agriculture in the great Garden State,” Suydam concluded.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau and conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from October 26 through October 29 and again from November 12 and November 16 using a randomly selected sample of 600 New Jersey adults aged 18 and over (Polling was suspended for approximately 2 weeks due to hurricane Sandy). The margin of error for a sample of 600 is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.