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February 25, 2004

Agricultural Water Certifications In response to concerns expressed by the agricultural community regarding excessive delays in the issuance of agricultural water certifications to agricultural producers, the State Soil Conservation Committee (SSCC) staff has secured a list from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) of 100 pending applications and will coordinate with the DEP, Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agents and farmers to help expedite approval of these irrigation water needs prior to the 2004 growing season. In an effort to prevent such delays in the future, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Water Working Group has developed recommendations to revise the agricultural water certification rules to make the program more “farmer friendly” and to assure adequate water supplies for farmers in the state, especially in the Critical Water Areas.

New Jersey Peach Industry Marketing Task Force –The New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Division of Markets and Development is leading a new task force to address marketing and promotion efforts dedicated to New Jersey’s peaches and peach products. The task force’s mission is to assemble peach industry and other agricultural leaders to develop a strategic action plan that will re-position New Jersey grown-peaches in the marketplace as well identify new markets and opportunities that will strengthen the industry. To fulfill its mission, the task force will work within the industry to create a unified marketing plan within 90 days, renew the dialogue between growers and retailers to communicate the benefits and advantages of selling New Jersey-grown peaches, strengthen peach industry support for the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading program, brand all peaches with the Jersey Fresh label this season, and promote and conduct third-party audits on all peach farms. Members of the task force include representatives from the Division of Markets and Development, the State Board of Agriculture, Farm Bureau, Rutgers University, and New Jersey’s peach industry.

NASDA Annual Meeting –Secretary Kuperus attended the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) midyear meeting held in Washington, DC. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is a member of NASDA’s Homeland Security Committee, which continues to address biosecurity issues as they pertain to the nation’s farms, food supply, and agricultural infrastructure. International trade issues were also discussed in depth in response to the recent mad cow disease incident in Washington State and the ongoing concerns regarding avian influenza and the poultry industry. Secretary Kuperus is also the president of the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA), and met with the NEASDA committee to discuss this year’s upcoming meeting, to be hosted by NJDA, as well as national regulations that have a unique, and often deleterious effect on the Northeast. The Secretary plans to have a draft Northeast agricultural statement ready for endorsement at the June NEASDA meeting. The statement will address the unique opportunities and constraints of the Northeast’s agricultural industry, as well as the critical role of their agricultural sectors to the national economy.

Avian Influenza – Low-path Avian Influenza (AI) is a highly infectious disease in birds that spreads through contact with migratory waterfowl, bird feces, cages and other equipment that have been contaminated and also through the air (aerosolized). Although low-path AI can be fatal in birds, it is not harmful to people who eat the meat or eggs of birds with this disease. The human concern with low-path AI is the fear of it mutating to a high-path form. The current AI outbreak in Asia that has resulted in human cases and deaths is the high-path form of the disease. Earlier in the month, low-path Avian Influenza (AI) had been detected at two poultry farms in Delaware. Flocks on both farms were depopulated and Delaware has prohibited the movement of live poultry into or out of its affected areas. To protect New Jersey’s poultry producers, the Department drafted an emergency rule signed by the Governor on Monday, and State inspectors and veterinarians from the Division of Animal Health have stepped up their inspection of live bird markets throughout the state.

International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (ILSSO) – State FFA Parliamentarian Heather White was selected as one of 38 state FFA officers nationwide to participate in ILSSO. The leadership experience was coordinated by the National FFA Association to expose participants to the global industry of agriculture. This year’s seminar took participants to England, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Gypsy Moth – The Department’s Division of Plant Industry is happy to report that due to the success of the parasitic fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga only one municipality—Upper Township in Cape May County—has qualified for this year’s gypsy moth aerial suppression program using Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (B.t.k). Originally imported decades ago, spores of E. maimaiga adheres to the spines on the gypsy moth caterpillar, and under the right conditions, grows and eventually kills the caterpillar before it can mature into a moth. The recent outstanding success of the program is two-fold: years of aerial application have substantially decreased high gypsy moth populations in residential areas and the abundant amount of rain in the last two years created a situation where the dormant fungus could be activated and its activity sustained long enough to make a significant dent in the gypsy moth population. Division staff are hopeful that the next two seasons will prove that the gypsy moth threat has been effectively contained and can be controlled in the long-term without the use of chemical pesticides.

89th State Agricultural Convention - The 89th State Agricultural Convention was held on February 2 –4 at the Ocean Place Conference Center and Resort in Long Branch, NJ, and was a resounding success. On the 2nd, delegates attended various “Farmer’s Institute” workshops, hosted by agribusiness professionals and agency staff, and ranging in topic from marketing strategies to pesticide application. On Tuesday the 3rd, Governor McGreevey and USDA Administrator, James Little signed a $100 million agreement establishing the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), a federal/state partnership program designed to help farmers protect the state’s waterways. This agreement establishes a special funding pool to cost share the ecological restoration and preservation of stream banks to filter pollutants and sediments that run off farmland. On Wednesday, February 4th, the delegate body adopted the 2004 resolutions, which addressed important agricultural issues including land equity, agricultural water, farm safety and security, open burning, and New Jersey’s equine industry.