Christie addresses agriculture conference

Dr. Larry Katz, director of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, embraces Gov. Chris Christie, while Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher looks on, after the governor's address Wednesday at the annual conference of the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture and The Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey at Trump Taj Mahal.

Barbara Errickson

Gov. Chris Christie assured hundreds involved with the state's agricultural industry Wednesday that New Jersey will recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Speaking at the second annual joint convention between the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture and the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey State Agricultural Convention Christie thanked he state's farming leaders for their perseverance and dedication to keeping New Jersey the Garden State.

"We're proud of you. You give us our nickname," he said. "As long as I'm governor, you will have an ally and friend in Trenton."

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Christie, who did not take questions after his roughly 30-minute speech, spent the majority of the time discussing the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the current efforts to rebuild. Christie called it "unconscionable" for Congress to wait 90 days after the Oct. 29 storm to pass more than $50 billion in aid.

The governor said the state will work to rebuild, which will include various agricultural sites that were hit hard.

"It's a great opportunity to make the state stronger and better than the year before," he said.

Christie, who also spoke at last year's event, noted some accomplishments the state made in the past year, including preserving its 200,000th acre of farmland and expanding programs to purchase state-grown produce and distribute it to schools, food banks and homeless shelters.

"We are the Garden State," he said. "The only way to remain that way is to work with farmers to ensure preservation of more farmland in the state."

Wednesday was the first day of the two-day conference at the Trump Taj Mahal. The event is geared to discuss improvements to the industry and is attended by farmers, agribusiness leaders, representatives of county agriculture boards, agriculture organizations and others involved in the industry.

At the convention, the delegates will also discuss issues affecting the industry, help set agricultural policy for the coming year and determine the new members of the State Board of Agriculture.

Today the conference will discuss a new program for farmers to use Twitter to help their business and facilitate produce purchases at schools.

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