New Jersey selects new agriculture secretary
by Gordon M. Hochberg | February 15, 2009
CHERRY HILL, NJ -- New Jersey Assemblyman Douglas H. Fisher has been appointed secretary of agriculture for the state of New Jersey.
Mr. Fisher, who was first elected to the state Assembly in 2001 and who most recently served as chairman of the Assembly's Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, was introduced as the state's new ag chief during the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention, held here Feb. 10-11.
He replaces Charles H. Kuperus, who resigned Dec. 31 after serving for about seven years as secretary of agriculture.
"This is a good human being," New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said in congratulating the new secretary at the opening session of the convention. Mr. Fisher has "full appreciation of the very important" role that agriculture plays in the state. "I know he has the experience," and "he works incredibly hard."
The governor added that agriculture in the state needs people who are "both knowledgeable and know how to get things done."
Mr. Fisher, 61, told the convention, "I know there are great challenges," and "I know you're dealing with very high costs of doing business, with difficulties in finding enough seasonal labor, with regulatory issues that can take your time and energy away from what you do best: farming." The governor coming to this convention "shows his commitment to agriculture."
Mr. Fisher said that he sees his new role as honoring the "cherished tradition of agriculture in New Jersey." He acknowledged that "agriculture is changing, because it must in order to survive." He added, "While we must promote individual sectors, we also must unite them under a common message." He pledged to keep the New Jersey Department of Agriculture "accessible" and added that, as secretary, if he can get something done with a phone call, "we will."
Mr. Fisher was born and raised in Bridgeton, NJ. He is a realtor, business broker and entrepreneur. For nearly 30 years (from 1971 to 2000), he owned and operated Bridgeton Meat Co., an independent supermarket. He was "very hands on" at this supermarket, doing "everything from cutting meat to marketing to hiring personnel," he told convention delegates. "And I'm a good produce man, too."
He added, "I learned much about facing the kinds of business struggles you face every day. And I learned the issues involved in getting food from the people who grow, raise, prepare and deliver it to those people who buy and eat it."
While in the legislature, Mr. Fisher sponsored organic labeling legislation and worked to help more farmers employ renewable energy systems on their farms. He was "proud to take a leading role in the effort to ensure that the [New Jersey] Department of Agriculture could continue serving the ag community," he said. "As I told the [State] Board [of Agriculture] yesterday, I think we have fabulous farmers here in New Jersey -- the best anywhere."
Mr. Fisher earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, in 1969. He lives in Stow Creek, NJ, with his wife of 34 years, Bonnie. They have three children: Susan, Eric and Carly.