Farmland Preservation -- Burlington County held an event on Tuesday, May 17, to mark the fact that it has surpassed the 20,000-acre milestone in farmland preservation. Burlington County, where the first five farms of the state’s preservation program were preserved 20 years ago, became the first county in the state to reach the 20,000-acre mark with the recent addition of a 300-acre Mansfield Township farm.
Green Energy -- Secretary Kuperus met on Wednesday, May 18, with officials from the Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Program to discuss ways of increasing the use of alternative or “green energy” sources such as solar, wind, and biogas among the farm community and the state’s population in general. Also related to Green Energy, the Senate Environment Committee on Thursday, May 19, approved a bill that would phase out the use of the gasoline oxygenate additive MTBE by January 1, 2009. The bill had been backed by an array of groups because of increasing evidence that MTBE, a suspected carcinogen, is contaminating water systems in New Jersey. Agricultural interests prefer that MTBE be replaced with ethanol, which is made from corn or sorghum and would not contaminate groundwater. The Senate committee amended the bill to ask Governor Codey to direct the Department of Environmental Protection to seek a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency from the use of oxygenates in gasoline in the state, which have been mandated as a method of creating cleaner air.
Rutgers Tour -- Secretary Kuperus joined Rutgers University President Richard McCormick on the agricultural leg of the university’s annual new faculty tour on Tuesday, May 24. The group toured Sheppard Farms, a large, multi-generational farming operation in Cedarville, Cumberland County. Also educating the new faculty about agriculture were SADC Executive Director Susan Craft, Cumberland County farmer Bruce Cobb and the Board of Public Utilities’ Scott Hunter, who spoke about the prospects for Green Energy in agriculture.
Animal Health Issues -- The Department is continuing to watch and communicate on a consistent basis with state animal practitioners on the following two diseases: Equine Herpes Virus -The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has placed three barns (approximately 100 horses) at Churchill Downs under quarantine while awaiting definitive test results for Equine Herpes Virus. These actions are in response to horses that exhibited neurological signs and fever. Two horses required euthanasia due to the severity of the neurological signs. Vesicular Stomatitis -- As of May 2, 2005, Vesicular Stomatitis had been confirmed in 2 Southwest counties of New Mexico, one county in Arizona and one county in Texas. The infected premise has been placed under quarantine.
Supermarket Tour -- Agriculture Secretary Kuperus visited major food retailers in the state in May to talk about their buying patterns for the upcoming produce season. Many reported they would be looking to increase their purchases of Jersey Fresh products for their superior freshness and taste, especially this year with the costs associated with transporting produce from longer distances. The increases in fuel costs are anticipated to hike the price of bringing a single truckload of produce from California to as high as $6,000 to $7,000 this year, leading the retailers to focus more heavily on buying locally.
PDC Bank -- Secretary Kuperus initiated a conference call with Banking and Insurance Commissioner Donald Bryan to confirm the Pinelands Development Credit (PDC) Bank is processing PDC severances in a timely fashion. Commissioner Bryan informed the Secretary he has assigned temporary staff to assist the PDC Bank and the Bank is now current in its workload. Also discussed was the importance of connecting PDC holders with developers seeking PDCs. The PDC Bank will be including a feature on its website to assist PDC holders and purchasers in locating each other. The Secretary offered the assistance of the SADC in conducting a private PDC auction and suggested that staffs of the SADC/TDR Bank and PDC Bank meet quarterly to discuss common issues.
Soybean Rust Web Page -- The New Jersey Department of Agriculture recently launched a webpage devoted entirely to soybean rust, a serious disease causing crop losses in other parts of the world. It has been identified in the southern United States and is primarily spread by wind-borne spores transported over long distances. Once pod set begins on soybean plants, infection can spread rapidly to the middle and upper leaves. Yield losses have been reported from 10 to 80 percent. Prevention is the key to managing soybean rust. The new webpage directs New Jersey farmers to available fungicides in the state and gives links to USDA’s One-Stop Soybean Rust Website; EPA’s Soybean Rust Fungicide List; Soybean Rust, Crop Insurance and You brochure; the Northeast Plant Diagnostic Network; and Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension. The page may be accessed through the NJDA website at www.state.nj.us/agriculture.
Asian Longhorned Beetle -- There are now two contractors with multiple crews working to remove trees from the Middlesex/Union Counties Infestation area. To date, approximately 8,500 trees are scheduled to be removed. As of May 19, 5,014 trees had been removed from the quarantine area. Of those, 507 were infested host trees and 4,507 were high-risk exposed host trees. Seven USDA Forest Service Smokejumpers continue to survey trees with a total of 17,527 inspected. Tree treatments in that area are set for late May, with approximately 20,000 trees to be treated with the insecticide imidacloprid. The insecticide will be injected into the tree’s trunk or into the soil surrounding the tree.
Gypsy Moth Spraying -- The Department has completed its 2005 Gypsy Moth spraying program. Spraying took place in Dennis, Upper, and Jackson Townships, Southampton, along the Garden State Parkway, and in Brendan Byrne State Forest, encompassing 656 acres.
2005 Envirothon -- Thirty-seven teams competed in the 12th annual NJ Envirothon held May 7th at North Branch Park in Somerset County. This event tests the knowledge of students in 6 environmental subject areas including wildlife, soils, aquatics, forestry, current environmental issues and a team presentation. High Tech High School team #1 from Hudson County was the 1st place winner and will advance to the Canon Envirothon competition in Springfield, Missouri on July 18, 2005. The New Jersey Envirothon is sponsored by the NJ Association of Conservation Districts, USDA- Natural Resource Conservation Service, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.
2005 Conservation Education Awards Ceremony -- An awards ceremony on May 23 at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton honored the 24 winners of the 2005 poster & bumper sticker contest, whose theme was “Celebrate Conservation”. In addition, the three National Poster Contest winners from New Jersey were presented with Legislative and Congressional Resolutions and this year’s Envirothon winners were recognized.
Agricultural Education -- Two new FFA chapters have been chartered, bringing the total number of chapters in New Jersey up to 37. On Thursday, April 28, state officers chartered the Northern Burlington Middle School FFA Chapter. Following the chapter chartering ceremony, middle school members received their Discovery Degrees, the first degree of FFA membership. National FFA Local Program Success Specialists, Kevin Keith and Jeff Papke were present for the chartering ceremony. On Monday, May 9, the 37th New Jersey FFA Chapter was chartered at Bergen County Technical School – Paramus Campus. In addition, the 76th Annual New Jersey State FFA Convention kicked off on Tuesday, May 24, in New Brunswick.