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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
January 23, 2008Farmland Preservation, Right to Farm Mark 25th Anniversary -- January 26th marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of two laws that have had far-reaching impacts on New Jersey's ability to retain its farmland and farmers -- 1) the Agriculture Retention and Development Act, which established the basic structure for the Farmland Preservation Program, and 2) the Right to Farm Act, which has been the primary shield protecting responsible farmers from nuisance actions and which established the State Agriculture Development Committee. The nationally recognized Farmland Preservation Program has evolved from one in which only counties had the ability to preserve farmland to today's program in which the SADC, counties, municipalities and nonprofits all have the opportunity to take the lead and partner in farmland preservation projects. The program continues to evolve, most recently with the adoption of sweeping new rules to streamline the program and encourage counties to plan not only for farmland preservation but for agricultural economic development and other strategies that will help retain and sustain agriculture as an industry. To date, more than 1,650 farms covering more than 163,000 acres of farmland have been permanently preserved, with the public investing more than $1 billion to protect New Jersey's agricultural land base.
Gypsy Moth – Municipalities have until February 8 to determine whether they will participate in this year’s Gypsy Moth Aerial Suppression Program. A Scoping Session was held on January 3 in Trenton to outline the Department’s proposal and to gather public comment concerning these proposed activities. A total of 112,259 acres of municipal residential properties have been proposed for treatment in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Somerset, Sussex and Warren Counties in May 2008 using Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, (B.t.k.). Of that number, 87,159 acres are proposed for a second application of B.t.k. because of extremely high egg mass counts throughout the areas. The acreage proposed on the 2008 suppression program is approximately double the amount of acres last spring. This trend in increasing gypsy moth population levels throughout the state is primarily due to the lack of activity of the bacteria E. maimaiga in reducing gypsy moth in untreated woodlands because of dry environmental conditions during the spring of 2006 and 2007.
Dairy Hearing – The Department has concluded receiving in-person testimony from witnesses as part of the hearing into the pricing and labeling of New Jersey-produced and sold milk. The hearing remains open, however, for the purposes of receiving confidential financial documents that members of the milk marketing chain have committed to producing to help the panel get all the information necessary to make an informed decision. That process should last into early February, after which the hearing will be formally closed and the panel will have 15 days from that closure to issue a decision. At issue are: whether to continue the fuel adjustment add-on charge dairy farmers have been receiving to help them deal with skyrocketing fuel costs; whether a premium should be ordered to be paid to farmers who forego the use of artificial hormones to increase milk production, and if so how much that premium should be; and whether the Department should consider formal rules regarding milk labeling.
Shellfish Management Bill Signed into Law -- Title 50 was signed by the Governor on Jan. 14. These statutory changes mostly update and clarify shellfish management in the State. One section removes the antiquated "clam line" in the Delaware Bay, an arbitrary and obsolete management boundary. Leasing was previously prohibited below this latitude. This now paves the way to allow leasing in the Cape Shore aquaculture development zone, an 85-acre tract in the Delaware Bay Cape Shore where growers can utilize structural aquaculture to produce high quality shellstock oysters for the half-shell market. Oysters for this market are generally in short supply. The Department of Environmental Protection must develop the leasing and allocation policy, which must be approved by the Shellfisheries Councils who have the sole authority to grant leases. This process was initiated on Jan. 18 by a panel consisting of NJDEP and NJDA staff, chairs of the Shellfisheries Councils, and members of the industry.
CREP -- An addendum to the Department’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement was signed with the USDA Farm Service Agency this week that removes the December 31, 2007 termination date of the program. The original CREP Agreement that was executed in February 2004 had an expiration date of December 31, 2007. That date is concurrent with the expiration date established by Congress in the present Farm Bill. The addendum will continue the CREP program in accordance with the date established by Congress with approval of the next Farm Bill. The goal of the CREP program is to enroll 30,000 acres of eligible farmland in 10- to 15-year contracts to implement conservation practices to address non-point source pollution on agricultural lands adjacent to water bodies. The practices include riparian buffers, filter strips, contour grass strips and grass waterways. The state matching funds that were committed in 2004 continue to be available for the implementation of this Program.
Seafood Cook-off -- Peter J. Fischbach, the executive chef and Food Service Director for Gourmet Dining Services at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, is the winner of the 2008 Jersey Seafood Challenge and will represent New Jersey at the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans in August. The day-long competition was held at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing. Fischbach competed against 10 other professional chefs and the winner of a student competition at the Academy of Culinary Arts in the cook-off sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. His winning dishes were his signature recipe, pan seared local black bass in a citrus-ginger sauce with sweet potato puree and a sauté of seasonal local produce and his “Down the Shore” platter, which is easy for home cooks to prepare, Nona’s Friday Night Fish Feast. The first runner-up in Jersey Seafood Challenge was Jahvin Carlough of JP Prime Steakhouse in Wildwood, a graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts. Third place went to the student competition winner, Michael Inferrera, who also is a chef at Caesars-Atlantic City.
Hunger Initiative Funding – The six Emergency Feeding Operations throughout the state will start the New Year with funding to feed more residents in need. Checks totaling $770,000 were distributed last week to the agencies, as the third quarterly fiscal year payment in the Governor’s Hunger Initiative. The State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) was created to distribute the Hunger Initiative funding, which totals $4 million this fiscal year and is distributed on a quarterly basis to the Emergency Feeding Operations (EFOs). The final fiscal year payment is scheduled for April.
Summer Food Service Program – The Department is hoping the new Simplified Summer Food Service Program, which began January 1st, will increase participation in the program, making nutritious meals available to more school children in New Jersey. Every year at this time, the Department seeks new sponsors for the program. The new program simplifies cost accounting procedures for summer food service providers. Sponsors will now receive the maximum rate of reimbursement (meals served times rates) without comparison to actual costs for eligible meals served to children.
SADC Website – The SADC will be launching its new website in the coming week. The new, easy to navigate site will have the same web address as before www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/sadc.htm.
Equine Breeders Dinner -- The New Jersey Equine Advisory Board will hold its 51st annual Breeder’s Dinner on Sunday, January 27, 2008 at the Holiday Inn of East Windsor. The New Jersey equine community will celebrate the state’s best in the equine field with Superior Achievement awards being presented as well as awards for Standardbred of the Year, Thoroughbred of the Year, Breeder of the Year, Bell Scholarship and the Governor’s Trophy for the 2007 Horseperson of the Year. Sire Stakes awards also will be presented during the event for both two- and three-year-old fillies and colts/gelding for pacing and trotting, as well as the New Jersey Sire Stakes Horse of the Year. In addition, the New Jersey Equestrian Contest will be held that day with the winner being announced at the