Farmers plan rally to save Department of Agriculture

Farmers, landscapers and other groups plan to rally at the statehouse in Trenton Tuesday to protest against Gov. Jon Corzine?s plan to eliminate the Department of Agriculture.

Farmers like Peter Melick, of Oldwick, worry that the absence of the department will further harm agriculture in the state.

?It?ll be just another nail in the coffin that precipitates the demise of agriculture in our state,? said Melick.

State estimates show the move could save the state about half a million dollars. However, with a state budget of $33 billion, some see the potential savings as merely a drop in the bucket.

Tricia Abbondazo, who owns a landscaping business, worries about how the state will be able to respond to plant disease or infestation outbreaks.

?The Asian Longhorn beetle crisis was huge and we can?t afford to have another one of those,? Abbondazo said.

Under Corzine?s plan, the functions of the department, which currently include oversight of school nutrition, plant inspections and animal health, would be absorbed by other departments.

The plan hasn?t been finalized, though, and protesters are hopeful that Tuesday?s rally will help.

Corzine proposes $2.7B in tough cuts to balance budget

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