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May 28, 2003

Farm Visits - On May 12th, Secretary Kuperus toured four vegetable farms in Cumberland and Atlantic counties to highlight the start of the spring planting season. Included on the tour were Ed Wuillermin Farms in Hammonton, Castellari Farms in Buena, G. Ruggeri and Sons in Buena Vista Township and Muzzarelli Farms in Vineland. The following week the Secretary joined executives and chefs from the soon-to-open Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City for a tour of Formisano Farms. This operation in Buena will supply the new casino with Jersey Fresh ingredients for its 11 restaurants. This partnership is an example of how agriculture can work with industry to expand the marketplace for farmers.

Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids - The N.J. Department of Agriculture (NJDA) joined representatives from the Departments of Education and Health and Senior Services in announcing a series of initiatives to combat childhood obesity by promoting better nutrition and physical activity in schools. The campaign - called Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids - was announced at a summit in May that was co-sponsored by the NJDA along with other members of a coalition called New Jersey Action for Healthy Kids. Secretary Kuperus announced that the NJDA will amend its child nutrition program rule to require that all schools develop a school nutrition policy, and will work with schools to replace unhealthy foods with more nutritious alternatives. The NJDA also will provide training for school administrators and food service directors on marketing nutritious foods to children and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the school meal program. In addition, the NJDA is working with Rutgers University's Farm to Schools project to increase the use of locally grown farm products in the schools.

Strategic Targeting Initiative - Meetings have been completed with 18 counties to review and discuss the Department's draft Agricultural Smart Growth Plan and the State Agriculture Development Committee's Strategic Targeting Project. Three regional follow-up meetings are planned. The meetings will be scheduled for late June and will provide the opportunity for more comprehensive feedback.

Farmland Preservation - Two counties have reached milestones in their respective farmland preservation programs. In April, Cumberland County celebrated the preservation of 10,000 acres. Next week, Secretary Kuperus will join legislators and county officials in announcing that Salem County has surpassed the 100-mark in preserved farms, bringing the county's farmland preservation total to more than 15,000 acres.

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA): The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) last month issued a clarification on IFTA and the reporting procedures for New Jersey farmers. The letter states that New Jersey "farmer" plated vehicles that travel outside the state are not exempt from IFTA. This applies to any qualified motor vehicle, defined as one used, designed or maintained to transport people or property and that: 1) has two axles and a gross vehicle weight or registered gross vehicle weight exceeding 26,000 pounds; or 2) has three or more axles, regardless of weight; or 3) is used in combination when such combination exceeds a gross vehicle weight or registered gross vehicle weight of 26,000 pounds.

Asian Longhorned Beetle Survey Update - NJDA staff continued survey and control activities for the Asian longhorned beetle in Jersey City and Hoboken. Host trees in 95 percent of the quarantine area have been pre-cleared, and 90 percent of those host trees have been climbed or identified for bucket truck inspection in Jersey City. Approximately 85 percent of the quarantine area has been pre-cleared and about 50 percent has been climbed or identified for bucket truck inspection in Hoboken. All host trees within one-quarter mile of the epicenter were removed to create a buffer. Phase I and Phase II of the tree removal operation were successfully completed; 351 trees were removed and chipped. During Phase III, 11 additional trees containing "live" Asian longhorned beetle larvae were discovered. These trees had no visible exit holes or other signs of infestation. The trees were in a predicted "hot zone" - in between known infested trees. The finding does not affect the size or scope of the infested area, but shows the importance of maintaining the buffer.

Animal Operations Outreach - The NJDA is working with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on an outreach effort directed to animal producers. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), defined as operations maintaining a specific population of animal units or operations with a direct discharge to a waterway, must comply with DEP rules and secure a general permit. The CAFO General Permit became available on March 1. The NJDA has responsibility for developing rules for animal feeding operations with animal populations fewer than those regulated by DEP. The rules will recommend or require in some cases that producers develop and implement farm conservation plans to protect water quality.

DEP Water Quality Rule - A meeting was held with DEP in response to the State Board Land Use Committee comments on the Stormwater Management rule proposal. The main focus was the proposed 300- and 150-foot buffer requirement for Class 1 waters in relation to potential conflicts with the NJDA Standards for Offsite Stability. Department staff stated that if storm water from development were discharged at the edge of the proposed buffer, serious erosion problems would result. A recommendation was made to allow local stakeholder groups to determine buffer size based on a consideration of soils, slopes and potential impacts to natural resources. The stakeholder review committee would include county and municipal engineers, planners, the local soil conservation district, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection and environmental groups. Additional meetings are planned.