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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
May 27, 2009Gypsy Moth Suppression Program – Weather-permitting, the 2009 aerial spray program is expected to wrap up this week, with spraying in Sussex and Passaic counties. The spray program began on May 8 and included 35,816 acres in 55 towns in 15 counties. Thirty-three municipalities chose not to participate in the program this year, largely due to economic reasons. The Department will conduct a defoliation survey this summer to determine the success of the spray program.
H1N1 Flu – The Department took part in the state response to the arrival of H1N1 in New Jersey, working with the Department of Health and Senior Services and Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Farmers were contacted through a mass mailing with instructions on what symptoms to watch for in their employees and how to protect their livestock from humans who might be ill. A press release was posted on the NJDA website, www.nj.gov/agriculture, assuring the public that New Jersey-produced pork was not impacted by the outbreak. There are currently 56 confirmed human cases of H1N1 in New Jersey.
Farm Tours: Secretary Fisher has been visiting farmers throughout the state to see their operations and hear what problems they are encountering. He toured farms in three counties in May and will join the Warren County Board of Agriculture for a tour of Warren County farms on June 17.
Cumberland/Atlantic – On May 1, Secretary Fisher visited Sheppard Farms in Cedarville; Flaim Brothers in Vineland; Formisano Farms in Buena; Bellview Winery in Landisville; and Dan Graiff Farms in Newfield.
Hunterdon – On May 11, Secretary Fisher visited Chia-Sinn Farm, a unique garden center specializing in Asian varieties in Pittstown; Peaceful Valley Orchards, a pick-your-own farm and retail farm market in Pittstown; Melick’s Town Farm’s apple and peach orchard in Oldwick; and Fulper Dairy Farm in Lambertville.
Morris – On May 14, Secretary Fisher visited Harbe Dan Farms in Long Valley; Stony Hill Gardens in Chester; and Tranquillity Horse Farm in Chester.
Secretary Listening Tour – Secretary Fisher has been meeting with county boards of agriculture around the state in an effort to learn more about the issues facing farmers in each county. This month he visited county boards in Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Essex, and Cumberland counties.
Warren Hills Agricultural Education Center Opening -- Secretary Fisher and Education Commissioner Davy on May 14 helped to cut the ribbon on a new state-of-the-art agricultural education facility at Warren Hills Regional High School. Fisher and Davy toured the facility, which includes an over-sized classroom, storage room, animal/floral room and a greenhouse. The center was a component of a three-year school expansion project. Students moved into the classroom in March.
Hunger Funding -- State Food Purchase Program checks totaling $1,856,593 were distributed on May 11 to the state’s six emergency feeding operations. The checks represented the final quarterly payment of the 2009 Fiscal Year. Food banks use the State Food Purchase Program funds to buy fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods and distribute the items to their network of 793 food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. In December 2008, Governor Corzine included an extra $3 million in his Economic Recovery and Assistance Plan to help ease shortages that were being reported throughout the state. The food banks have received $6,852,843 million from the State Food Purchase Program during Fiscal Year 2009. Four million dollars were allocated for the program in the original FY 09 state budget. The Governor has proposed $6 million for the program for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. That amount must still be approved by the state Legislature.
School Food Service Equipment Stimulus Grants – The Department received equipment applications from 279 districts on behalf of 623 schools, asking for almost $7.2 million for projects to enhance the delivery of school food service. New Jersey received $1.8 million in federal stimulus funding for this program. Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed by President Obama in February, the Food Service Equipment Assistance Grants are designed to improve lunch program infrastructure and provide economic stimulus. The money must be distributed by June 8.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program -- Seventy-one schools applied for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, but a few did not meet the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) required criteria of being an elementary school only, with 50 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced price meals. After eliminating those, 64 schools are eligible. The Department is currently reviewing the applications.
Asian Longhorned Beetle – There have been no signs of Asian longhorned beetle in the Middlesex/Union County infestation area, after experts climbed 288 trees. During the week of May 4, 944 host trees in Linden were treated with a final round of protective chemical. In addition, 730 non-host trees were planted on both the Linden Landfill and Conoco-Phillips refinery sites, which was required under a state wetlands permit issued to the NJDA for removal of trees from these sites infested with Asian longhorned beetle. The tree-killing pest was found in 616 trees in that area between August 2004 and April 2006.
Agricultural Recycling -- The Cumberland County Improvement Authority reported that the volume of drip irrigation tape recycling in 2008 at their facility by growers increased 37 percent over the previous year. Last year, the CCIA reported that 44,060 pounds of drip tape was recycled, although this is a small percentage of the total volume of drip tape utilized by the South Jersey farm community. By recycling these materials, growers can cut their disposal fees in half.
New Jersey Envirothon -- Kittatinny Regional High School (Team #1) from Sussex County was the 1st place winner of the 2009 Envirothon held on May 9 at the New Jersey School of Conservation in Sussex County. Forty four (44) teams competed in this annual event which tests high school students’ knowledge in 6 environmental subject areas including - wildlife, soils, aquatics, forestry, current environmental issues and a team presentation. The winning team will advance to the Canon national competition at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, NC August 2- 8. The Envirothon is sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts, New Jersey Department of Agriculture-State Soil Conservation Committee, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.