Drought Update - The State continues to operate under a drought emergency. Recent regular rains have improved surface water supplies and maintained soil moisture for crop production. The Department of Environmental Protection relaxed homeowner restrictions occurred to permit statewide odd/even lawn watering and limited car washing.
Misbranding Notice - A memo explaining state and federal laws regarding the misbranding of produce was sent to approximately 900 members of the agricultural industry. Misbranding is an issue that affects the profitability of all New Jersey farmers, and addressing any instances of it is important in maintaining consumer confidence and a valuable Jersey Fresh brand name.
Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program - Jersey Fresh inspections were performed on 16 different commodities to ensure they met with the standards of the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program. These inspections were performed at farm packinghouses, broker warehouses and co-op packinghouses.
To date, 174 Jersey Fresh applicants have been signed for 2002. A strong effort is being made to get the more farms signed by the end of June.
Prison Produce Purchases - The Departments of Corrections, Agriculture and Treasury have agreed on a waiver under state purchasing procedures that will enable the Department of Corrections to purchase seasonal produce from New Jersey farmers when prices are low.
Produce Study Release - A study of the wholesale produce industry in New Jersey, sponsored by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, The New Jersey Farm Bureau and the Department of Agriculture, is scheduled for release on June 27th.
Secretary Visits Processing Facility - The Secretary visited the Ready Pac Corporation processing facility in Florence, Burlington County. He was greeted by Chairman of the Board Dennis Gertmenian who flew in from corporate headquarters in California. Mr. Gertmenian personally gave the Secretary a tour of the Florence facility. Ready Pac processes value-added products such as sliced tomatoes, many different salad mixes, and fresh vegetables. It services the retail industry, fast food chains and food service organizations. At the height of New Jersey's growing season, this plant utilizes more than 40 percent of its produce items from New Jersey.
Department Sponsors June Meeting of Eastern Produce Council - The June meeting of the Eastern Produce Council was sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and several New Jersey commodity organizations. Council members heard reports on crop status from the New Jersey Vegetable Growers, New Jersey Blueberry Council and Jersey Fruit Cooperative Association. Secretary Kuperus discussed the revised Jersey Fresh marketing and advertising promotion, indicating that this year, efforts were being made to provide timely radio advertisements as crops become available. The Council saw its largest audience for the year at this Jersey Fresh-sponsored meeting, with more than 180 council members in attendance.
Annual Conservation Conference - Plans for the September 23-24 joint Conservation Conference was developed with the theme, The New Jersey Conservation Program - We're up to the Challenge. The conference will include statutory requirements for elections of members to the State Soil Conservation Committee, training for conservation district supervisors and staff, a tour of the USDA Plant Materials Center and awards for conservation achievement. The 80 soil conservation district supervisors, staff and partners will be invited to participate in the conference to be held in Avalon.
Conservation Cost Share Program - Notices will be mailed to this year's applicants on upcoming changes in the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the State Conservation Cost Share Program as a result of the 2002 Farm Bill.
Collaborative Ag Ed Agreement improvement grants to schools - Grants to fund agricultural education were issued to seven schools this year under three regional collaborative agreements. Schools used funds to deliver lessons to different sites using distance-learning technology, incorporating student interaction from all locations. Funds were also used to enhance current computer technology and improve delivery of the supervised agricultural experience component of agricultural education. Participating schools were Newton, North Warren, Allentown, Freehold, Cumberland and Woodstown High Schools and the Monmouth County Career Center.
2003 Outstanding Young Farmer - The Outstanding Young Farmer for 2003 is Ryan J. Ploch, a 27-year-old fresh-market and vegetable grower from Vineland. He will represent New Jersey at the 47th Annual National Outstanding Young Farmer Awards Congress to be held in Louisville, Kentucky on February 14-17, 2003. The first runner-up for the award was Paul "Duce" Tallamy II, a 30-year old livestock/greenhouse operator from Wantage, Sussex County.
Avian Influenza (AI) - Dr. Ernie Zirkle attended a USDA meeting last month in San Antonio, Texas, where he was appointed to serve on a special subcommittee of the U.S. Animal Health Association's Infectious Diseases of Poultry Committee. The committee will develop a uniform national program to eradicate low pathogenic avian influenza in poultry.