Federal farm bill expected to benefit urban farmers in New Jersey

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez paid a visit to a farm in Newark Monday to discuss how the federal farm bill passed by Congress last week would benefit the Garden State.

Menendez said the bill would produce "major wins" for urban farmers while creating jobs and new economic opportunities for New Jerseyans.

Menendez said until now, urban farmers have been excluded from federal programs and funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that have been designed for traditional farming.

He said he cosponsored a provision included in the 2018 Farm Bill to correct this disparity.

The remarks came during a visit to AeroFarms, the world's largest indoor vertical farm, growing organic produce all year, every day.

"This is about how we transform agriculture," said Mark Oshima, co-founder of AeroFarms. "This is about how we can bring the farming indoors and be able to grow with greater efficiency."

AeroFarms has five facilities in Newark and hires most of its workers from the city. The company is expanding and says the new farm bill is expected to make that easier.

"Companies like AeroFarms are proving that agriculture can thrive not only in our beautiful farmlands but here in the midst of our bustling cities," said Menendez.

Urban farms were not eligible to participate in federal programs that offered money, low interest loans and other business assistance that traditional farms have had access to. But this new growth industry will now, under the farm bill.

"As farming moves to urban farming centers we should be able to take advantage of that, the jobs that it's creating," said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Beyond jobs, AeroFarms hopes to make a local impact on the nutritional habits and choices in urban communities. It has hydroponic farms in two Newark schools and a dietician on its staff.

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