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June 23, 2004

Farmland Preservation -- The State Agriculture Development Committee purchased the development rights on June 7 for the Joseph J. White farm – a fifth-generation cranberry operation that played a key role in the history of both cranberry and blueberry production, and second largest cranberry producer in the state. At a press event on June 8, the Secretary was joined by Senator Martha Bark. Of the 594 acres preserved, 538 acres are in Pemberton Township, Burlington County, and 56 acres are in Manchester Township, Ocean County. Joseph Darlington, primary owner and manager of the farm, said the proceeds from preservation would be reinvested in the operation to make improvements and launch agri-tourism activities, including tours and a retail store that will sell a variety of cranberry products. The farm produces 70,000 barrels – or 7 million pounds – of cranberries annually. The Joseph J. White farm dates back to 1857. It was among the first successful cranberry operations in the Pinelands, helping to change the local economy’s focus on bog iron to the great potential of cranberry cultivation. Since February 2003, 26 farms covering 2,735 acres have been permanently preserved in the Pinelands, with an additional 52 farms covering 8,274 acres approved for preservation. In the prior 20 years, only one farm covering 190 acres had been permanently preserved.

Jersey Grown Rule -- Building on the success of its Jersey Fresh program, the Department announced in May that consumers will soon be able to buy plants, trees, and shrubs branded Jersey Grown. The New Jersey State Board of Agriculture recently adopted rules for the Jersey Grown program that will begin this fall. Nearly 900 nurserymen and growers of nursery stock in New Jersey could be eligible to use the Jersey Grown logo when marketing their plant material. Horticulture is the largest sector of agriculture in the state, producing high-quality plants, trees, and shrubs for use in our state and throughout the region. Nursery, sod and greenhouse sales in New Jersey totaled $337.6 million in 2002 -- more than a third of total agricultural sales. The Jersey Grown promotion program will be based on the Jersey Fresh program, using a quality grading standard, labeling, and advertisement to make quality New Jersey grown plants more visible to consumers. To participate in the program, growers in New Jersey need to possess a current nursery certificate from the Division of Plant Industry; all plants must be maintained free of injurious insects and plant diseases; and, any nursery stock grown under the program must be propagated or grown in New Jersey for at least six months prior to sale. Plants must meet or exceed the plant standards developed by the American Nursery and Landscape Association to be marketed under the Jersey Grown designation.

Jersey Fresh Activities -- Jersey Fresh is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Department kicked off the celebration with a breakfast held at Drumthwacket on June 8 to provide an opportunity for the Governor and the Secretary to thank the state’s leading supermarket chains, restaurant industry, and other food buyers for their past and future support for buying Jersey Fresh agricultural products. The Governor’s welcoming comments were well received by the supermarket executives in attendance, who were optimistic about a good season.

On June 15, Secretary Kuperus spoke at the Eastern Produce Council dinner, where he told more than 200 produce retailers, wholesalers, buyers, brokers, growers and government officials that the Jersey Fresh campaign has become the premier state agricultural marketing program, consistently achieving its mission to increase consumer awareness and preference as well as trade usage of New Jersey’s farm products. First unveiled at the 1984 State Agricultural Convention in Cherry Hill, the program has grown from a $350,000-a-year regional billboard and radio campaign to a $826,000 multimedia effort that touts New Jersey farm products throughout the East Coast and Canada. In addition to media advertising, Jersey Fresh is promoted through point-of-purchase materials, such as signage and labeling.

The 2004 edition of the Jersey Fresh program will include: radio ads, print ads, and two alternating television advertisements beginning the week of July 1. The television advertisements have been edited for the 2004 season to feature Secretary Kuperus as the commercial’s voice-over and will remind consumers that Jersey Fresh products are “locally-grown.” The “locally-grown” message is repeated in both the radio and consumer print ads.

The Jersey Fresh program is continuing to be supported by the use of point of sale materials. Point of Sale materials include: Generic and commodity specific price cards, banners, stickers, & bin wrap. Two student interns have been hired to help the staff distribute these items in retail chains during the season. Staff members have also been coordinating an effort to provide the materials to those roadside markets making a request for them.

The Department this month issued a press release to statewide and trade media, as well as major newspapers in Toronto, Montreal, and Boston, and print and broadcast food editors to announce that Jersey Fresh blueberries are in season and consumers should look for them on store shelves. Similar press releases also are planned for peaches, sweet corn and tomatoes.

Peach Task Force Report -- An op/ed authored by Secretary Kuperus appeared in New Jersey Farmer on the findings of the Peach Task Force and its efforts to revitalize the state’s peach industry. The task force concluded that New Jersey must work to regain lost markets to other state’s peaches and differentiate its peaches from eastern peaches. To accomplish that goal, the task force recommended that the Department:

· Present a unified identity for New Jersey peaches through labeling, which should include the Jersey Fresh logo or specifically show the product is from New Jersey.
· Develop a new grade and protocol that would include freshness standards for peaches to be packed under a special Premium Jersey Fresh label.
· Visit retail buyers along with peach industry members who would be able to update buyers on crop conditions, volume, size, and quality expectations to keep the peach industry visible to buyers
· Distribute special “recipe tear-off” cards that would feature peach recipes on one side and consumer storage and handling tips on the other side along with other Jersey Fresh point-of-purchase materials in an effort to give consumers more options in using their peaches.
· Initiate an in-store sampling program where shoppers at participating retail markets would be offered samples of New Jersey peaches.
· Highlight Jersey peaches in Jersey Fresh radio and television ads.
· Work with the U.S. Department of Defense, the state Department of Corrections, and Rutgers University to coordinate the purchasing of New Jersey peaches and peach products.
· Encourage new product development with such products as dried peach fruit leathers, frozen peach cups, or peach beverages for use in the school lunch program and institutionally.
· Certify all New Jersey peach farms for good handling practices and good agricultural practices through third party audits.

The Department already has begun making some positive changes that will help the peach, as well as all other commodity industries. A new Jersey Fresh protocol has been developed to sell the best of the best through: display ready packaging; stickering fruit to differentiate from other states; registering all farms in the Farm Assurance Certification Program; and upgrading the Jersey Fresh standard.

Three additional inspectors will be hired to perform third party audits and conduct Jersey Fresh Quality Grading program inspections. A special page will soon be added to our Jersey Fresh website that will include announcements telling consumers where they can find Jersey Fresh products, including peaches, for the week.

NEASDA Meeting -- Secretary Kuperus, president of NEASDA, hosted the 10 Northeast state’s Secretaries of Agriculture at a conference in Long Branch June 14-16. The Secretaries heard presentations on the USDA’s release of the Census on Agriculture, Agri-terrorism, and milk de-pooling. Secretary Kuperus also presented a report, “Repositioning Northeastern Agriculture: Building on the Region’s Past and Present to Prepare for its Future,” which indicated that farmers in the northeastern United States must adapt to new and emerging markets, grow crops more efficiently and educate the next generation about the importance of farming in order to survive the region’s development pressures. The report is expected to lead to a more comprehensive NEASDA report that will be released by the end of the year.

Agriculture Census -- The National Census of Agriculture, released June 3, showed that New Jersey is preserving farmland at nearly twice the rate it is losing it. The five-year census figures, taken in 2002 and released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), showed the state averaging a loss of 10,245 acres per year. In 2003 alone, 20,013 acres were preserved through the Farmland Preservation Program, meeting Governor James E. McGreevey’s goal of preserving 20,000 acres a year. These census figures show that our efforts to curb sprawl and protect farmland from development are working. Secretary Kuperus pointed to the most recent full year, 2003, as indicative of the increased pace of the efforts to keep New Jersey’s farms active and vital. In the five years covered by the Census, New Jersey preserved 56,903 acres of farmland while losing a five-year total of 51,227 acres.

Bonding Bill -- Governor McGreevey signed the measure on May 5th which increased the maximum bond that must be filed with the N.J. Department of Agriculture by anyone purchasing agricultural commodities from New Jersey producers on credit. Commodities include milk, fruits, vegetables, eggs, live poultry, hay, grain or straw. Legislation for licensing and bonding was first enacted in 1917 for milk and in 1931 for other agricultural commodities. Required bonding amounts had not been amended since 1972 for milk and 1978 for other agricultural commodities. On June 2, Secretary Kuperus held a press event at Vander Groef Dairy in Wantage, Sussex County, along with Senator Robert Littell and Assembly members Guy Gregg and Alison McHose, to stress that the new law provides New Jersey farmers with greater financial protection in the event that purchasers of milk and other agricultural products default on payment.

Farm Income Averaging -– The Legislature is proposing a farm income-averaging credit under the New Jersey gross income tax. S586, sponsored by Senators Stephen Sweeney and John Adler and co-sponsored by Senator Littell, and A2778, sponsored by Assemblymen Douglas Fisher and John Burzichelli, are both moving forward in their respective houses. Under these bills, a taxpayer with farm income, defined as the net profit from producing agricultural or horticultural commodities, can claim a credit against the tax due for the taxable year using farm income averaging. The farm income for the taxable year would be added to the farm income from the three previous years, with the total divided by four. The value of the credit would be the difference between the farm income without income averaging and the farm income with averaging. The maximum annual credit allowed is $5,000. The Department estimates the cumulative benefit to farmers from this credit to be between $1 million to $1.5 million per year for the 4,000-plus farmers that will have a profitable year in 2004.

Humane Standards – New Jersey Administrative Code 2:8, Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock, adopted on May 4, 2004, was published in the New Jersey Register, Volume 36, Number 11, on Monday, June 7, 2004. Proposed amendments to the rule were also published at that time. Written comments on the proposed amendments will be accepted through Aug. 6, 2004.