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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
July 23, 2008Salmonella Outbreak -- Since early June, the Department has monitored and responded to the FDA’s advisories against eating certain foods related to an outbreak of Salmonella saintpaul that has sickened more than 1,250 people in 43 states, Washington D.C. and Canada. Early on, the FDA singled out certain tomato varieties as the suspected source. The Department acted to have New Jersey added to FDA’s “safe list” of states whose tomatoes were not suspected as being related to the outbreak. After a month of trace back investigations, in which the FDA expanded its search for a source to include jalapeno and Serrano peppers; the FDA last week rescinded its advisory against eating tomatoes. On Monday, July 21, the FDA announced it had found a jalapeno contaminated with Salmonella saintpaul that matched the genetic fingerprint of that found in people stricken during the outbreak. The pepper was grown on a farm in Mexico and was found in a produce distributor in McAllen, Texas. The trace back investigation is continuing to determine the exact point at which the pepper was contaminated. FDA has now issued an advisory against eating fresh jalapenos or products made with fresh jalapenos.
Gypsy Moth – The Department’s annual gypsy moth aerial defoliation survey showed 339,240 acres of trees defoliated in the state, as compared with 2007, when 320,610 acres of trees experienced leaf loss. In 2006, 125,743 acres were defoliated. A total of 134 municipalities in 17 counties experienced defoliation – most of it heavy to severe – from gypsy moth caterpillars this year, compared with 19 counties and 124 towns last year with mostly severe damage. The hardest hit counties for a second year were Sussex and Burlington counties, however, Sussex County’s tree damage increased by 40,500 acres, while Burlington County’s decreased by 34,300 acres. Advisory letters were sent to the 134 affected municipalities along with applications for requesting ground egg mass surveys, which will begin at the end of August. Egg mass surveys are used to identify areas for treatment in next year's program. In addition, an aerial survey is currently being conducted to determine the amount of tree mortality since gypsy moth populations have increased. Computer modeling has predicted as many as 45,000 acres of trees will have died.
Hunger Initiative Funding -- More than a million dollars has been distributed to New Jersey’s six emergency feeding operations in the state as part of Governor Jon S. Corzine’s Hunger Initiative to feed more of the state’s neediest residents. Governor Corzine’s budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1st allocated $4 million for the State Food Purchase Program, administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The funding is disseminated to the food banks for the purchase of nutritious foods in four quarterly installments throughout the year. The first quarter checks mailed out July 18 totaled $1,155,000. The food banks use the funding to purchase fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods and distribute the items to their networks of food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program – Secretary Kuperus, Yvette Jackson, Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle on July 17 announced additional funding this year for a program that promotes consumption of Jersey Fresh fruits, vegetables and other local products for senior citizens. The federal Farm Bill authorized an additional $500,000 for the Garden State to provide low-income seniors with four $5 checks, valid through November 30, to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs. Total funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program in New Jersey, administered locally by the Department of Health and Senior Services, and funded through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, is now $1,171,273 for 2008 with the additional money. The additional funding was announced at the Teaneck Farmers Market.
Seafood Cook-off – New Jersey’s top seafood chef Peter J. Fischbach, food service director for the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark will represent the state in the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans August 2 and 3. To prepare, Fischbach held practice sessions at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune, Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing and the New Jersey Restaurant Association’s Trenton office. Fischbach feels he has perfected his dish of Pan-seared Black Sea Bass. His goal is to highlight the best of New Jersey Seafood and produce, using mostly local ingredients. Fischbach will compete against up to 20 other chefs around the nation for the title of King or Queen of American Seafood.
Smithsonian Soil – The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC will open an exhibition showing the complex ecosystem supported by "Soil" which sustains life on Earth. Among the 54 soil monoliths, representing all states in the U.S. is a predominant New Jersey soil. The Department of Agriculture in 2004 contributed to this important and extensive effort by the Soil Science Society of America and its partners. This educational exhibit will run through January 2010 when it will go on the road, visiting states around the nation.
Agricultures' Low Volume Irrigation System -- An estimate prepared by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service-NJ state office showed that since 2001 farmers enrolled in conservation cost share programs who installed low pressure, low volume and trickle irrigation systems reduced water use by 3.8 billion gallons when compared to the high volume systems. Records showed that approximately 500 acres per year were converted to these low volume systems and applied water according to crop needs and incorporated water management practices. The farms utilize weather station data, soil moisture readings, calibrated equipment and other water conservation techniques.
Marketing Report – Community Farmers Markets: About 60 new markets have opened in New Jersey in the past six years, with 15 opening for the first time this season in Margate, Camden, Princeton, Atlantic Highlands, Asbury Park, West End/Long Branch, Linden, Crystal Springs in Hardyston Township; Washington Park, Newark; Grove St. Path Station, Jersey City; Rutgers Gardens, New Brunswick; Bradley Beach; Millstone; Pompton Lakes; and Edison. In total, there are 108 community farmers markets
Agricultural Fairs: Agricultural fair season has begun in New Jersey. Fairs have already been held in Bergen County, Freedom Fest, Cape May County, Lion’s Strawberry Fair, Cumberland, Ocean and Passaic Counties. Coming up are: Monmouth County Fair, July 23-27; Burlington County Fair, July 23—26; and Morris County Fair, July 25-27. For a complete listing of ag fairs, visit www.njagfairs.com.
Advertising: Jersey Fresh 60-second radio commercials began airing on New Jersey’s Millennium Radio stations starting the week of July 13. Secretary Kuperus recorded the commercials and each features a specific commodity, including blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, eggplant, Jersey Seafood, Jersey Grown, peppers, corn and cut flowers.
JerseyFresh Availability Report: The weekly Jersey Fresh Availability and Forecast Reports will continue to update food writers, industry and consumers throughout the summer and fall.