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Had another full weekend traveling around the Garden State meeting families, business owners, and neighbors spreading the message of common sense. We are on a mission to discuss common-sense public policy that will create an atmosphere in New Jersey to encourage small family businesses.

Right now the regulatory burden and oppressive taces are working against family businesses. People often think of the farm tax exemptions that make it supposedly "easy" for farms to afford to stay in Jersey. What you may not know is that the family farmers who live on the farm are actually subject to the same onerous taxes as everyone else.

Our visit to Borota Farms in Burlington was an eye-opener. The farm is 57 acres in Burlington County complete with chickens and cows with a pig on the way. Although the taxes on the farm acres are reasonable (according to the farmers) they are paying slightly more than the average burden in NJ on the acre where their home sits. So here's a family, mom, dad, and three daughters all working seven days a week to tend to the farm with no break from the tax collector. Those who would argue that the farming acreage tax break is enough, most likely have never worked or maintained a working family farm. Without the tax break, the farm would simply not exist.

We need to extend tax breaks to farmers who live on the land and offer additional breaks for those who choose to home-school. Remember, the kids in these families are typically up at the crack of dawn to feed the animals, move fencing and get the day started hours before nearly every other school kid is getting up to catch the bus. And these girls in particular, Jocelyn, Madelyn, and Adesyn, own and run their own Etsy shop too.

Additionally, we need to revisit open space that is spread throughout the state and move many of these properties back into grazing and cropland. We need to be smart about the expansion of warehousing and find a balance so all businesses can thrive without losing small family farms across the state.

Beyond the incentives to bring about more local farms which should include partnerships with local schools in order to build up an agriculture studies program, we need to make the purchase of farm food easier. Raw milk needs to be legalized and sold directly from farms. Local eggs need to be deregulated so they can be sold unwashed. Our fresh eggs from our new chickens stay unwashed until we are going to eat them and they last for weeks out on the counter.

These simple ideas are the start of how we empower NJ family farms and create a healthier and more prosperous environment and economy. More to come. It's common sense to stand with our farming community.

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