Despite some extreme weather conditions, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the state’s farmers are resilient and will be able to pull through. He said there may be some economic impact from the weather and some gaps in crops, but he believes consumers won’t see a difference in the marketplace this season.
Fisher said farmers never know exactly what each growing season will bring and this season they experienced cold which made the season start later than usual. The rainy weather has also had an impact, damaging some crops and not allowing farmers to get plantings in or harvest in some areas.
But the news isn’t all bad, according to Fisher. “We also have bright spots right now. For instance, blueberries are starting this week. It’s gonna be a great season for blueberries,” he said. “There’s patches where there’s gonna be some gaps but right now … we’re still in the fields. Everything’s gonna be just fine.”
At this point, Fisher said corn will be a little later than usual, but it will be available for July 4 weekend. He added that some of the greens are delayed and the strawberry season ended slightly early. “You’re gonna see some weeks there where it won’t be quite as plentiful, but still in all, our farmers are very, very adaptable. So you’ll see in the marketplace what you always see. It’s just it’ll be not quite as plentiful in certain areas,” he explained.
While Fisher said it’s too early to tell what the economic impact might be for farmers, he said there haven’t been any severe losses. “We won’t really know for a bit exactly what some of the damages that they’ve suffered. But there have been areas where they’ve been under water,” he said, adding that there will be an economic impact in the northern and central parts of the state.
Legislative attempts to protect farmland are important, according to Fisher, who said land was taken during the economic real estate boom. While he said the amount of farmland has somewhat stabilized, preservation is important to ensure land is available for agriculture for future generations.
“A farm bill is important because of the risk management. It helps the farmers be able to cycle their risk by the plans that they have available as a result of the farm bill,” Fisher said.
With Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy affecting New Jersey in the past two years, some may wonder if the state’s farmers can survive another blow from similar storms. Fisher said farmers were fortunate that Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of the season and it was mostly a coastal storm.
“Although we had losses inland, they didn’t suffer like our barrier communities suffered. But of course the markets, the availability for them to be able to buy fresh produce suffered a bit. As I said, our farmers are very adaptable,” Fisher said. “So, yes, of course we’ll be able to take a hit. Unless it’s a hit that’s so catastrophic that it’ll be more than just farmers suffering.”