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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
February 24, 2010Dairy Hearing – The final day of testimony in the current dairy industry hearing was concluded on Monday, February 22. Witnesses from dairy processors and milk dealers called for the Department to both find a way to help New Jersey dairy farmers receive more of the total “dairy dollar” for a gallon of milk sold at retail, and to implement policies that would stop dealers from surrounding states from undercutting New Jersey dealers’ markets. Dealers testified that out-of-state milk dealers bring low-cost, pre-packaged milk products into a New Jersey market area just long enough to drive out established New Jersey dealers before raising their prices once they’ve captured a significant portion of the market. The Department was urged to establish minimum prices at each step of the milk marketing chain to prevent “undercutting” of local markets. A dairy economist testifying on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association of Milk Dealers, however, contended the Department has adequate existing rules to prevent such undercutting, provided it could hire experienced dairy accountants at between $60,000 and $90,000 per year in salary to investigate complaints of undercutting. The hearing panel now awaits briefing by attorneys on issues raised during testimony, after which a decision will be issued by the Director of Milk Control.
2010 State Agricultural Convention – A snow-shortened convention was held in East Brunswick on February 9, highlighted by a speech from Governor Chris Christie, who pledged to preserve the Department of Agriculture and increase funding for Jersey Fresh promotion. Also addressing the convention were Ralph Izzo of PSEG and Kelly Johnston of Cambell’s Soup Company, demonstrating the business community’s interest in agriculture. Four listening sessions were held on green energy, right to farm, water allocations and farmland preservation and an informational presentation was made on the Invasive Species report.
National Outstanding Young Farmer – Richard A. Norz, a diversified fourth generation farmer from Hillsborough, Somerset County, was chosen as one of four National Outstanding Young Farmers by the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) on February 13 at their 2010 Awards Congress in Raleigh, North Carolina. Since 1999, every New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer has been among the top 10 National Outstanding Young Farmers. This is the second year in a row and the fourth time in the last 10 years that the New Jersey OYF was named one of the four National OYFs. Norz, who was honored as New Jersey’s 2010 Outstanding Young Farmer by the State Board of Agriculture, operates Norz-Hill Farm, growing a variety of produce, operating a farm stand, raising and breeding Holsteins and running an agritourism operation that attracted more than 20,000 visitors last year. He and his family currently own and rent 1,425 acres, of which about 80 acres is permanently preserved. The farm was started in 1920 by Norz’ grandparents.
Malinowski Horseperson of the Year – Dr. Karyn Malinowski, Director of Rutgers Equine Science Center received the Governor’s Trophy for the 2009 Horseperson of the Year at the 53rd annual New Jersey Bred Awards Luncheon on January 31 in Easthampton. Almost 200 people attended the event where it also was announced that Taylor Ferguson of East Brunswick, who represented the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization, was named 2010 Equestrian of the Year.
NJDA on Facebook – The Department joined the popular networking website, Facebook, at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture. The page is a useful, cost-effective way to reach the New Jersey agricultural community and will be updated regularly to provide visitors with the latest information on events, programs and items of interest. After only a few weeks, the page has 128 fans. In addition, the New Jersey FFA Association has 167 fans on its Facebook page. The page is used to promote upcoming FFA events, receive feedback from the members and supporters, and provide photos of events to members and supporters. The FFA Facebook page is also connected to a Twitter account so followers can get up-to-date information from that social media site as well.
Honey Show – The 55th Annual New Jersey Honey Show was held February 5-11 at the New Jersey State House. There were 125 entries in the show, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Beekeepers Association. Angelo and Ann Trapani of Clarksburg were deemed Best Exhibitor and Alf and Ceil Berg of Point Pleasant were named Best in Show. Honeybees are needed to pollinate $200 million worth of New Jersey fruit and vegetable crops such as apples, peaches blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, etc.
New Laboratory -- Time lines for the completion of the New Jersey Public Health, Environmental and Agriculture Laboratory (NJPHEAL) building and move have been scheduled. It is expected that the construction will be substantially complete by the end of May, with the Department’s Animal Health and Plant Industry Divisions beginning to move in this fall. A number of committees have been established to coordinate the complex nature of the moving and decommissioning of the current laboratory and to communicate the information discussed in those committees within the Department.
Community Farmers Markets – The Department has received several requests for assistance from organizations that are working on developing community farmers markets for the 2010 season. Last year, about 20 new markets opened throughout the state, bringing the total to 131 markets. The Department coordinated three regional Listening Sessions of WIC and Senior Coordinators and farmer/vendors in the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Each session was well-attended and information gathered will be used to improve the program for the coming year.
Agricultural Plastics Recycling – New Jersey growers recycling almost 1.4 million pounds of materials in 2009 in the various recycling program facilitated by the Department. Last year, nursery and greenhouse film tonnage recycled increased by 49 percent over 2008 with a record collection of 935,920 pounds. There also was a record of pesticide container for recycling with 38,709 pounds collected, an increase of 111 percent over 2008. Drip irrigation tape was up 9 percent with 330,000 pounds collected. For information about the Department’s agricultural recycling programs, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/recycling.html.
Hunger -- The NJ Federation of Foodbanks announced the findings of a study on Hunger in America by the group Feeding America. It found that since 2005, there has been a 45 percent increase in the number of people who receive emergency food. Last year, 830,200 people in NJ annually were served through emergency food providers; 42 percent of those people have children under 18; 34 percent of households had one employed adult; 40 percent said they had to choose between food and utilities; 20 percent of the clients had lost their job within the last year. Our state’s food banks provide 76 percent of the food distributed by pantries. Much of that food comes from the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program and the State Food Purchase Program, both coordinated by the Department.