National Agriculture Day – The Department marked National Agriculture Day on March 25 at Alexander Hay Greenhouses in North Haledon to view a variety of Easter, foliage and flowering plants, as well as tropical and dish gardens. Started by the Agriculture Council of America in 1973, National Agriculture Day aims to increase awareness about how food and fiber products are produced, help people appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products, value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy, and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry. Alexander Hay Greenhouses began in 1908 as a flower cart in the bustling outdoor market of Paterson, NJ. Now, the business is still family-owned and operated and includes home grown mums, azaleas, geraniums, poinsettias, a full line of tropical foliage plants, bulbs, flowers and bedding plants, including half a million bulbs for Easter time.
National School Breakfast Week -- The Department celebrated National School Breakfast Week on March 6 with a visit to Lindenwold School 4 to highlight the district’s efforts to ensure more students start the school day with breakfast. Division of Food and Nutrition Director Rose Tricario was joined by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera in delivering the meals to two classrooms and observing the students eat their breakfasts at their desks. The Lindenwold School District implemented universal free breakfast in the classroom in its two elementary schools in February 2013 and there have been increasing numbers of students eating breakfast each day. This year, the Food Research and Action Center reported in its school breakfast report card that New Jersey increased in national rank to 37th in breakfast participation from the 2011-2012 to the 2012-2013 school year. In the current school year, almost 37,000 more students are eating breakfast on a daily basis, a 16.8 percent increase over the 2012-2013 school year. There are about 255,000 children in New Jersey who participate in the program daily. National School Breakfast Week is an initiative of the School Nutrition Association. The week was launched in 1989 to raise awareness about the availability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program and increase participation, both by schools and students.
Specialty Crop Block Grants -- A total of about $375,000 will be available for specialty crop organizations in the latest round of USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants. Individual producers are not eligible to apply. The purpose of the SCBG funding is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture). Examples include; research, promotion, marketing, nutritional programs, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, “buy local” programs, increased consumption, innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, product development, and developing cooperatives. Grower organizations have until April 30, 2014 to submit an application for funding. The funding will be made available to grower organizations in early 2015.
Department of Defense Direct Delivery Pilot Program – The Department began participating in March in a new Department of Defense (DOD) produce contract. As a part of the new contract, 15 school districts will have the opportunity to receive direct delivery of Department of Defense produce. Participants will set aside a portion of their entitlement to use for DOD produce. They will select their own produce on a weekly basis for delivery directly to one site in their school district. This will allow them to receive the produce on a more frequent basis and will give them more selections as to the produce they receive.
FFA Horticultural Exposition -- Secretary Fisher on March 14 tried his hand at flower arranging during the FFA Floral Design Career Development Event at the FFA Horticultural Exposition at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. The Secretary was able to see first-hand all that goes into flower arrangements. Seventy-five students took part in the event. Secretary Fisher than toured the entries in the Horticultural Exposition. Students enrolled in agricultural education programs at 27 high schools and two middle schools from across New Jersey participated in the exposition March 14-16. The students competed for prizes in three divisions – Horticulture, Arrangement and Permanent. More than 800 entries were registered and floral industry experts determined the winners of each class, as well as a Best of Division for each. The Expo is the largest event of its kind in the state.
Avian Influenza – During a routine unannounced inspection at a Union County live bird market on February 11, an animal health technician conducted a quarterly test where all lots of poultry were sampled. One sample from a quail tested presumptive positive for Avian Influenza (H5), which was later confirmed. The market was quarantined and the market was allowed to sell down. The market was closed on February 16 for a rigorous cleaning and disinfection. USDA Veterinary Services applied a disinfectant to the already cleaned market. Subsequent environmental samples were negative and the market was allowed to reopen on February 19. The market will remain on a three consecutive month testing schedule. This will occur during their monthly unannounced inspections. After three negative tests, the market will be allowed to return to routine quarterly testing. This is the first positive result in a New Jersey live bird market since 2008.
Emerald Ash Borer Survey – New Jersey will again this year participate in the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) survey. The Department inspected trapping locations for host material in March. Trapping locations are selected based on a map generated by the US Forest Service containing 1km x 1km squares (grids) at 337 locations scattered throughout the entire state. The first phase of the survey is to visit each grid square and determine if there are any ash trees. If any ash trees are detected, the surveyor must determine who the owner of the property is and obtain permission to conduct trapping. Division of Plant Industry staff visited more than 180 grid squares so far and obtained permission for trapping at 93 sites.
Soil Erosion & Sediment Control Program -- The 2014 version of the NJ Soil Erosion & Sediment Control Standards are now published online at the Department’s website: http://bit.ly/OUCpj3. The 7th edition of the Standards includes many updates and new features, among them are new measures for stabilization in the NJ Pinelands, new design procedures for stabilizing channels on steep slopes and expanded design options for determining the stability of soils at points of stormwater discharge. The Standards also include improved procedures to evaluate the use of new erosion control products used on construction sites.
2014 Pesticide Container Recycling Program Announced -- The 2014 pesticide container recycling will again take place in Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem Counties. Collections start in April at the Atlantic and Salem sites and in May at the Cumberland site and will run through October at the Atlantic and Salem County sites and until November at the Cumberland site. The Department hopes that agricultural chemical users will continue to recycle their pesticide containers which will reduce their solid waste disposal costs. Staff promoted the recycling opportunity at the Salem County Pesticide Safety meeting and through the DEP’s Pesticide Control Program. To learn more about the program or see the 2014 collection schedule, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/recycling.html.