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July 13, 2004

Olympic Equine Event -- The Horse Park of New Jersey is hosting for the first time on July 13 the final mandatory outing for horses and riders competing for a place on the U.S. Olympic team for three-day eventing. Fifteen horses from across the country will participate in the competition, consisting of dressage, cross-country and show jumping. Four horses and an alternate will be chosen for the Olympic team, which heads to Athens, Greece for the 2004 games, August 13 to 29.

FY2005 Budget – The Department and related agricultural interests will be able to expand some programs due to increased funds in the FY2005 state budget. Additional funding included $819,000 for soil and water grants through the SADC. The Department also received $1.5 million for conservation assistance to farmers, including technical and cost-share assistance, education and outreach, and economic development programs. A small portion of that money also will be used to revive a program through which farmers can obtain wildlife-control fencing to protect their crops from damage by animals. That program had been dormant in recent years due to budget cutbacks. The Department will finalize administrative details by early August with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, which will be the administrative agency for farmers seeking this fencing. The Department also saw an increase of more than $1.1 million in school lunch and breakfast funds for the expansion of those programs. Finally, Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Research and Extension Center received a $1.8 million grant for the construction of its proposed food incubator facility in Bridgeton.

Highlands Preservation – As chair of the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), Secretary Kuperus has proposed, and the SADC supports, a regulatory change enabling the SADC to deny state funding for municipally- or county-initiated projects where those governmental entities’ policies are inconsistent with state law. The proposed change was prompted by the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders’ actions to deny funding to three previously approved farms because they are in the preservation area. The SADC is working to identify alternative funding to make up for the county’s cost share to preserve the three farms. Additionally, the SADC has publicly reaffirmed its commitment to preserving farms in Hunterdon County, both within and outside the preservation area, and to ensuring that all landowners are treated fairly, have access to the Farmland Preservation Program and are properly compensated for preserving their farms.

WIC and Seniors Farmers’ Markets – Division of Marketing and Development staff is working in collaboration with the Department of Health and Senior Services on a program to involve faith-based groups in boosting the redemption rates within the WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Four urban areas in New Jersey are targeted for efforts to increase the participation in this program. Division staff represented the Department on June 25 at the Faith Based Expo, sponsored by the Department of State in Atlantic City, to learn more about the roughly $2 billion in federal funds that can be accessed to help faith-based initiatives.

Jersey Fresh Activities – Special peach point-of-sale materials are currently being distributed by staff to regional retail chains. The materials include a tear-off card with selection and storage tips and a recipe. Weekly e-mails with up-to-date crop information, harvest volumes and forecasts are sent to more than 125 retailers, wholesalers, restaurants and others who purchase large quantities of New Jersey farm products. Consumer print ads have appeared in 14 of New Jersey’s largest daily newspapers through mid-July, with another scheduled for August. Ten-second radio spots began at the end of June, and will continue through the first week of October, which run primarily during weekend shore traffic reports and highlight different commodities as they come in-season. A 30-second Jersey Fresh television commercial began airing on July 1 and will continue through mid-September on New Jersey/Philadelphia/New York stations. Press releases have announced the arrival of blueberries in June, corn and tomatoes for July 4th and peaches on July 10.

Agricultural Society Sampling– Complementing Jersey Fresh efforts, sampling of produce has begun and will continue through the summer at retailers in New Jersey. The New Jersey Agricultural Society targeted raising $20,000 in donations, in exchange for which it would realize a total goal of $100,000 worth of sampling through the 141 ShopRite stores in the state. The program kicked off on July 9 with the sampling of blueberries, and will continue in the weeks to come with tomatoes, corn, peaches and peppers. Each consumer who receives a sample of produce will also get a recipe card with nutritional, storage and safe handling information.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy – The Division of Animal Health continues to be in contact with the USDA regarding the surveillance program for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as “mad cow disease.” To date, two “inconclusive positive” results have occurred in the nation through the use of a highly sensitive screening test. Further tests using the “gold standard” immunohistochemistry test determined that both of those samples were actually negative for BSE. Neither animal that initially tested “inconclusive positive” was from New Jersey. The USDA makes a public announcement that an inconclusive positive result has occurred, but does not tell the public or the media what state the animal is from.

Port Risk Assessment – The Director of the Division of Plant Industry attended a conference in Port Elizabeth for state and federal agencies that safeguard agriculture at the port. The various agencies discussed cooperation and data sharing opportunities to improve pest interception and pest detection efforts. Agencies represented at the meeting included Customs and Border Protection, USDA APHIS, Rutgers University and Plant Protection and Quarantine staff from the Port of Philadelphia.