fdu public mind pollMADISON, NJ - According to a recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll and co-sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau, eight in ten (80%) of New Jersey residents support the continuation of public funding for the preservation of open space and farmland, similar to results of a survey from a year ago (83%).  More women (86%) than men (74%) favor the land preservation, and Democrats (86%) are more likely than Republicans (78%) to favor it.   “Even with all of the economic challenges in New Jersey and elsewhere, New Jerseyans still recognize the importance of continuing to invest in open space acquisitions to keep the Garden State green,” said New Jersey Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam.

             Once again, however, residents are not as certain as to how the land preservation should be funded.  Provided with two choices, a plurality (44%) say a voter approved bond referendum should be put forth to provide several years of funding, while a third (32%) say it should be funded with long-term allocation of existing tax revenues.  One in four (24%) are not sure how the preservation should be funded.   Men (37%) are more likely than women (28%) to support the allocation of existing tax revenue.  Those in the Northwest (40%) are more likely than those from the Northeast (26%) or Central NJ (27%) to favor using tax revenues.  “Despite this overwhelming support by New Jersey residents to fund open spaces, the funding has dried up,” Suydam said. “Hopefully this can help drive additional focus and resources by the Governor and legislature on this issue.”

            More than half (57%) favor 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.  This is virtually unchanged from the 2012 survey (55%) (http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2012/farm/) Only one in three (31%) would oppose such a program.  “We take note of this support for an agricultural visa program for temporary foreign workers, and hope that this support is manifest in the legislation now before Congress that we hope is adopted," 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.”

           Nearly four out of five (77%) New Jersey residents say they or a family member have purchased locally grown produce at a farm stand or farmers market in the past 3 months.  Those in the Northeast (71%) are less likely than those from South Jersey (86%) to have bought any produce at a farm stand or market.   

        The question of locally grown produce was also touched upon.  When asked what they consider to be “Locally Grown,” a plurality of New Jersey adults – 44% – say produce grown anywhere within the state of New Jersey should qualify as locally grown.  An equal number believe the definition should be more restrictive, either grown within 30 miles of the store (17%) or within 50 miles of the store (13%).  Fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) believe the definition should extend to 30 miles outside of New Jersey’s borders (8%), or be from any state bordering the Garden State (8%).   “It is clear residents of New Jersey expect their locally grown fruits and vegetables to be grown locally; whether that is within 30 miles or 50 miles of their store, or grown anywhere in New Jersey,” Suydam said.  

And the majority of residents are willing to pay something extra for such locally grown produce.  Sixty-six percent say they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to pay 10% extra for locally grown fruits and vegetables, while 56% would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to pay 25% extra.  “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 24 to October 30, 2013 of 601 New Jersey adults using a randomly selected sample of 600 New Jersey adults aged 18 and over.  The margin of error for a sample of 600 is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.