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December 18, 2002

State Agricultural Convention - The 2003 State Agricultural Convention will be held January 27, 28 and 29 at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City. This year's convention and resolution process have been reworked to address emerging issues and trends in agriculture.

Farmers week begins Monday afternoon with the re-introduction of the "Farmers Institute," so named after the workshops and discussion sessions held prior to the agriculture conventions of the early 1900s. Workshop topics include Direct Marketing, Water Quality, Marketplace Expansion, and Farm Safety and Labor.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the convention gets into full gear with speakers, discussion sessions and resolutions. Focused presentations will provide background and updates in the areas of Smart Growth, Economic Development, Education, the Food Industry and Water Issues. There will be updates and presentations by partnering agencies, youth speakers and elections of new State Board members. Richard McCormick, the new President of Rutgers University, also is scheduled to address the convention.

Market Development - Pick-your-own operators have begun submitting updates for the annual Pick Your Own brochure. The brochure, which is traditionally available on or about May 1, is distributed at travel and tourism sites throughout the state, at county agent offices, or upon request to the Department. An electronic copy also can be accessed on the Jersey Fresh website. If you would like to be included in the new brochure, please contact Jackie Feldman in the Division of Markets at 609-292-5567.

New Jersey State Domestic Preparedness Task Force - The Department of Agriculture has been formally recognized as a permanent invited member of the New Jersey Domestic Security Task Force. The Department's participation on this task force role will enhance the state's ability to protect against and respond to animal and agricultural emergencies. The task force also endorsed the Department's proposal to establish the N.J. State Animal Emergency Task Force to develop and implement safe, effective and efficient responses to animal emergencies at the local, county, state and federal level.

New Jersey Junior Breeder Program - The 3rd Annual New Jersey Junior Breeder Symposium is scheduled for February 22 at the Gloucester County 4-H Center and February 23 at New Egypt High School. Saturday will showcase beef and dairy industries, with sessions at the Eachus dairy farm and the Coleman beef operation. Sunday will be working with goats and sheep at Concord Farm in Cream Ridge.

Asian Longhorned Beetle Update - With the winter weather settled in, the Asian longhorned beetle population is dormant. This rest period is allowing the Department time to complete tree surveys in the surrounding communities and prepare a strategy for removal of the infested trees.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Expanded - Food Distribution staff met with the Community Food Bank of Hillside, regarding the use of USDA TEFAP commodities in the food bank's Kid's Café program. Kid's Cafés are after-school programs where children receive a variety of services and an evening meal. As part of the food bank's culinary arts program, trainees prepare meals at an on-site commercial kitchen under the supervision of a professional chef. Meals are flash frozen and delivered weekly to eight Kid's Café sites in the food bank's service area. After reviewing the program, the Bureau of Food Distribution determined this was an appropriate use of TEFAP commodities.

2002 Farm Bill -Secretary Kuperus met with USDA senior staff in Washington to discuss New Jersey's needs and opportunities for funding through the 2002 Farm Bill. Also attending were representatives of the Conservation Partnership and senior Natural Resource Conservation Service officials. The Farm Bill contains a regional equity provision that will allocate at least $12 million annually to New Jersey for conservation programs as well as a provision for technical service providers who will assist farms requesting conservation planning.

Farmland Preservation Update and Cost-Share Application Approved - As of December 13, the Farmland Preservation Program had preserved 12,304 acres on 149 farms for the calendar year. Several more closings are expected before the year's end. Cost-sharing grants totaling $40,708.38 were issued for completed conservation practices on preserved farms. These practices provide enhanced management of water resources through precision irrigation for protection of surface and groundwater quality.

FFA State Executive Board to Meet Long Distance - The state FFA executive board will conduct the January 6 executive board meeting using distance-learning technology at the New Jersey Department of Education. Several agricultural education programs from around the state will also connect and interact with state officers during the meeting. This is the third year that FFA members statewide will participate in a state executive board business meeting via distance-learning technology. Participants will learn about current state FFA events and activities, present a chapter report, or demonstrate an official FFA ceremony.

State Veterinarian to Retire - After 23 years with the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Ernest Zirkle is set to retire on Dec 31st. Dr. Zirkle has been instrumental in spearheading the Department's efforts to protect New Jersey's livestock and develop cooperative solutions to address animal health issues nationwide. Since 1989, Dr. Zirkle has served as State Veterinarian and Director of the Animal Health. The entire Department wishes him well in his retirement.