Amy On The Issues

Supporting Our Farmers, Fishers and Producers

Food and agriculture are at the heart of South Jersey’s economy—from Jersey Shore fisheries to the farms that make up the majority of agricultural land in our state. The industry is the third-largest in New Jersey, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue every year and creating the scenic vistas that make us the Garden State. It is also incredibly diverse, boasting some of the nation’s largest sod, nursery, berry, peach, spinach, and pepper industries, among many others. 

But our farms and fisheries also face enormous challenges. Labor shortages threaten production and have been exacerbated by the coronavirus. Reckless and irrational trade wars have cut off access to markets. Development threatens farmland. And it is too difficult to start a farm, and often too expensive to maintain one.

In Congress, I will be a champion for our farmers, fishers, and producers, partnering with them to protect, grow, and sustain a strong and vibrant agricultural sector. 

Preserving Our Agricultural Heritage

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country, making it both important and difficult to protect South Jersey’s productive agricultural land. Our state does more than any other to preserve farmland, and in Congress, I will be a strong champion of these efforts. I will work to increase funding for USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, which partners with local communities to improve, retain, and conserve farmlands. I will support smart-growth and other planning programs. And I will fight for favorable tax policies for our farmers and producers, including those that encourage the conservation or sale of land to other qualified farmers.

Addressing the Farm Labor Crisis

Labor is the top concern for many of the farmers and producers in South Jersey. They need access to a legal, reliable workforce, but our broken immigration system doesn’t provide it. Last year, the House passed bipartisan legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, that would make sure employers can meet their labor needs year-round. This legislation reforms the agricultural visa program while also giving farmworkers a pathway for earning legal status. In Congress, I will work to make this bill law.

I will also work to address labor shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmworkers are among the most high-risk for the coronavirus both because of the nature of their work and because they can’t afford to stay home. We need to expand testing and continue working with farmers to put effective safety standards in place.

Protecting and Increasing Farmers’ Incomes

Our agricultural system is constantly evolving. New markets like agritourism and organic farming are growing, and farmers and producers are using value-added agriculture to increase their incomes. And local farmers markets connect consumers directly to producers, creating new customers and fostering a stronger and more sustainable regional food system. In Congress, I will work to increase investments in grant programs that support local markets and dynamic or emerging agricultural practices.

I also recognize that South Jersey farmers and producers need a strong safety net to weather uncertainties, including those caused by COVID-19. I will fight to protect and strengthen risk management programs, while reforming these programs to better support small- and mid-sized farms.

Helping New and Beginning Farmers

New and beginning farmers are a critical part of our agricultural system, yet too few resources exist to help them start a successful operation. In Congress, I will fight to increase loans for new and beginning farmers, including ownership, operation, and micro loans. I will also work to expand access to credit and capital and support training and technical assistance programs, as well as programs that support veterans and minority producers and farmers.

Promoting Fair Competition

America’s food supply chain—from the seeds farmers plant to the products in our grocery stores—has become concentrated in the hands of a small number of large corporations. This squeezes farmers on both sides: giant agribusinesses keep charging higher prices for seeds, fertilizer, and other inputs; while processers pay less for farmers’ products and labor.

In Congress, I will stand up for small- and mid-sized farmers, pushing federal regulators to enforce laws meant to ensure fair competition and hold big agribusinesses accountable. I will investigate and take steps to limit foreign ownership of farmland, which has grown dramatically in recent years. And fight to make sure the next Farm Bill focuses on supporting independent and family farmers.

Advancing Commonsense Trade Policies

Republicans have spent the last three years engaging in reckless trade wars and asking our farmers to pay the price. Our agricultural exports have dried up, prices have plummeted, and farm bankruptcies have skyrocketed, producing a farm crisis at a scale not seen since the 1980s. And the programs meant to help those hurt by the trade wars are also picking winners and losers and giving tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to foreign corporations—even though our farmers would rather sell their products than be forced to take government bailouts.

In Congress, I will fight for trade policies that work for South Jersey farmers, fishers, and producers. That means opening up access to markets, building alliances, and promoting our agricultural products abroad. We can stand up to countries like China while also putting our workers and farmers first.  

Ending Hunger and Food Insecurity

I believe that no one should go hungry. I also believe that every family should have access to healthy, affordable food in their community. That’s why I will always fight to protect and expand funding for food stamps and other nutrition assistance programs, and to quickly ramp up these programs during emergencies like COVID-19. In addition to being one of the most effective ways to help families during recessions, food stamps benefit local retailers, who accepted nearly $1 billion in benefits last year; and local farmers, by supporting farmers’ markets and driving demand for their products.

Fighting Climate Change

One of the reasons I am so concerned about climate change is because of the threat it poses to farmers and producers in our district. South Jersey needs leaders in Washington who will fight for the resources and support needed for our agricultural industry to effectively respond to climate change.

That’s why I will support popular, voluntary programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and work to greatly expand them so that more farmers are rewarded for using sustainable practices like cover crops and soil conservation. I will also work to expand funding for rural energy programs to support clean and distributed electricity generation. We need to do more to encourage and reward farmers and rural businesses for using clean energy or energy efficiency to reduce their energy costs.