Those within the equine community can sometimes be faced with confusing regulations, issues with sales tax and how their business is taxed, or even how new legislation will affect them.
Some might decide to contact their lawyers, accountants, or local legislators, but many don’t know that they have an all-in-one resource to assist them. A resource that, even though they might not know it, is already helping them.
Horse owners and horse farm operators receive support for their interests from New Jersey Farm Bureau (NJFB). This has been the case for a long time, but may not be well known.
NJFB’s support of agriculture takes the form of a supplementary, indirect type of help in an advocacy role, which in a hard-edged metropolitan state like New Jersey can be crucial to sometimes forgotten constituents such as the equine industry.
New Jersey Farm Bureau is the private, non-profit trade association that has represented farmers and agriculture in the state for almost 100 years. With its origins dating back to the Grange movement just after the First World War in 1919, the original purpose was to raise the political profile for farmers.
Society in those days still embraced an agrarian component as a part of daily life, so much so that consensus leadership in the state allowed for a prominent role for farmers and the NJFB. Membership in those initial decades exceeded 40,000.
Today, while NJFB operates as a farm organization in support of all agriculture, it seeks a personalized relationship with each commodity sector (such as the equine industry).
Agricultural producers may not realize this, but public policy (in some key areas) considers agriculture irrespective of commodity interest. An example of this would be the regulations on farmland assessment. This regulation requires at least five acres of land to be actively devoted to production of an agriculture commodity, which must be sold and amount to at least $1000 per year. This eligibility standard is the same for all agricultural sectors.
So, NJFB encourages strong commodity organization activity even as it addresses general farm policies and concerns universally. This is especially true in its approach to equine issues and concerns.
“There are three functional aspects to Farm Bureau’s current work that can summarize its ongoing operations,” says Peter Furey, NJFB executive director, they include “in-house expertise, leadership roles with other agricultural institutions, and a new initiative to build an ever-expanding statewide coalition of commodity/rural advocates.”
While the people at the New Jersey Farm Bureau get involved with many types of work in service to its membership, being the “voice of agriculture” and having the expertise to understand the issues is perhaps its core function.
Due to its many years of experience dealing with policy, economics and regulations in many forms, NJFB is able to share with its members a better understanding of how these things will specifically a affect them. In the case of the New Jersey horse industry, these could range from the charge of sales tax on stall rental at boarding facilities to finding avenues of revenue in support of the struggling racing sector of the industry.
“All horse owners and horse farm operators in New Jersey benefit from the advocacy work NJFB conducts on their behalf, irrespective of whether or not they own a farm,” says Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center. “Once someone becomes a member their direct access to these advocates can become priceless.”
The NJFB also works proactively by meeting with key members of the State Legislature on issues of importance to agriculture. Farm Bureau’s relationship with these policy decision makers has allowed them to help shape these policies for not only the betterment of the farmers, but for the betterment of agricultural legislation and New Jersey.
The institutional role NJFB plays is equally important. New Jersey agricultural entities were organized through legislative action that began in the late 1800s. The Legislature created a State Board of Agriculture (SBOA) and New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) as the state public sector entities, and then recognized the federal land grant system by making Rutgers University the land grant institution for New Jersey. The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Board of Managers provides an advisory role for its affairs.
The New Jersey Farm Bureau movement, incorporated the county boards of agriculture to create private sector agriculture entities. Rather than establishing individual county Farm Bureau units, these county boards of agriculture serve in an advisory capacity to the Farm Bureau. This blueprint helped to form the “three-legged stool” structure (NJDA, Rutgers, Farm Bureau) which currently exists.
The third component of New Jersey Farm Bureau’s current operations is a re-branding and consumer education process. Much has changed in recent years with farming and agribusiness. As society has changed, there has become an expanding gap between farmers and consumers. The everyday consumer doesn’t realize where their food comes from, or just how close a farm might be to their house. While NJFB values its traditions, it also realizes that the general public needs to be reconnected to agriculture.
What New Jersey Farm Bureau wants now is to have its solid history and structure as advocates for agriculture serve as the foundation to a large coalition of rural and commodity-based New Jerseyans. Currently at 10,000 members, NJFB hopes to build up its membership which will help bridge the gap between the agricultural community and general public.
Equine interests and Farm Bureau/county boards of agriculture are a good example of growing new membership relationships on top of an existing foundation. NJFB now has over 600 dues-paying regular members who designate “equine” as their primary commodity affiliation.
“That’s mostly farm owners, but there should be no obstacle to others in the industry (employees, racetracks, sport competition/ recreation horse owners) to joining as an associate or farming supporter member,” says Furey. “While currently at 10,000 members there is no reason that through coalition building that we couldn’t build it to 20, 30 or even 40,000 members again.”
There have been many individuals through the recent years from equine agriculture who stepped into prominent roles in the “institutional ag” world, men and women like Dr. Steve Dey, Taylor Palmer, Jr., Bob Tucker, Dr. David Meirs, Mary Jo Herbert and Ann Dorsett. Each of them served a four-year term on the State Board of Agriculture and made contributions on behalf of the New Jersey horse industry.
“Horse owners in New Jersey should invest in themselves by building membership numbers in New Jersey Farm Bureau. We then build the legislative influence to get behind the equine industry on critical issues,” says Malinowski. “Legislators listen to constituents — the more who speak in a unified voice, the better. New Jersey’s horse industry deserves the attention to public policy that Farm Bureau can deliver with its political network and expertise in policy.”
Source: Rutgers University Equine Science Quarterly