Menendez Touts Major Wins in Federal Farm Bill to Spur Economic Growth, Job Creation in NJ Cities

Menendez Touts Major Wins in Federal Farm Bill to Spur Economic Growth, Job Creation in NJ Cities

Menendez led fight in Washington to include urban farming in USDA programs

   

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today visited Newark-based AeroFarms, the world’s largest indoor vertical farm, to highlight major wins for urban farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill that passed Congress last week.  Urban farming is revolutionizing one of America’s oldest industries and redefining what it means to be the Garden State, while creating jobs and new economic opportunities for New Jerseyans.

“Urban farming is changing the way we think of traditional farming and redefining the Garden State. From creating local economic opportunities to providing fresh, healthy produce to urban food deserts, AeroFarms has been a great addition to New Jersey,” said Sen. Menendez. “I’m proud to have led the charge to ensure vertical farms have the same economic opportunities as traditional farms. We need to make sure our federal policies keep up with innovation and changing industries to incentivize creating the jobs of tomorrow and protect our economy’s competitive edge on the global stage.”

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When Sen. Menendez visited AeroFarms last year on his Jersey Jobs Tour, it was brought to his attention that urban farmers have largely been excluded from federal programs and funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that have been designed for traditional farming.  Sen. Menendez cosponsored a provision included in the 2018 Farm Bill to correct this disparity.  The Urban Agriculture Act requires the USDA to update its policies to ensure urban and indoor farmers can access loans, conservation programs, and risk management tools, unlocking much-needed capital and resources to start-up or expand their operations, leading to local economic and job growth.

“During my time as Mayor of Newark, I was proud to be a strong advocate of AeroFarms as part of our broader efforts to increase access to healthy food options and help create the jobs of the future,” said Sen. Booker. “Today, AeroFarms continues to help New Jersey lead the way in agricultural innovation by finding solutions to feed the world, all while using 95 percent less water and zero pesticides. This provision that I co-sponsored in the Farm Bill will support urban farming and help level the playing field for this ground-breaking industry.”

“I want to thank Senator Menendez for ensuring that urban farms have access to the programs that traditional farms have benefitted from for decades,” said Rep. Albio Sires (N.J.-08).  “These innovative systems are a useful tool in the fight to guarantee access to healthy food sources in urban areas.  I look forward to seeing what urban farmers will be able to do with the support of the USDA.”

“I have long been an advocate for urban and vertically stacked farming,” said Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10).  “Innovative farms like AeroFarms are the future. It is past due for the Farm Bill to extend to them the benefits of federal programs and resources. I worked hard to help get AeroFarms to Newark, and I am thankful that Sen. Menendez was able to get urban farms resources in the Farm Bill.”

“AeroFarms is a distinctive and important part of how we have strengthened Newark’s economy, bringing high-tech farming to our city, providing 21st-century jobs and healthy food sources to our residents. Senator Menendez’s efforts to bring federal support to urban farming in New Jersey as a whole will enable us to expand it here in Newark,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “We will make Newark a national leader in urban farming.”

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The Farm Bill also creates an Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production within the USDA to manage urban agriculture programs, such as urban and vertical farms, community gardens, and rooftop farms.  The Office will also advise the Secretary of Agriculture on policy development and create resources to navigate local urban agriculture policies.  

“The inclusion of urban farming provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill is a truly watershed moment for AeroFarms and the broader urban farming community. This is also a win for American agriculture and will help to foster greater innovation and ingenuity overall,” said Marc Oshima, Co-Founder of AeroFarms. “We are excited by the positive impact it will have on job creation and increasing access to healthier food in New Jersey and throughout the US.”

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New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and Freeholders Wayne Richardson and Carlos Pomares and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined Sen. Menendez at today’s presser.

 

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Headquartered in Newark, AeroFarms currently operates nine facilities around the world, including four in Newark, and is opening a new site in Camden.  In a few short years, it has grown from a small start-up of eight to a thriving company of over 120 employees.

AeroFarms’ main facility in Newark’s Ironbound is where primarily leafy field greens, like watercress, arugula and kale are grown without sun or soil in a fully-controlled, indoor environment, utilizing its patented aeroponic growing system for faster harvest cycles, predictable results, superior food safety and less environmental impact. The process relies on plant-specific, engineered LED lighting and misting, using 95% less water than field farming, 40% less than hydroponics, and zero pesticides, to grow the same seed in half the time as the traditional field farmer, leading to 130 times more productivity per square foot than a commercial field farm.