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July 30, 2004

Flood Update – Damage assessment reports from the Farm Service Agency showed that cranberries, tomatoes, melons, string beans, blueberries, hay, eggplant, wax beans and carrots were most affected by the heavy rain and floods in Burlington and Camden counties on July 12-13. Those crops may see less than half their normal annual yields due to damage from standing water, according to initial estimates, which were forwarded to the Department on July 27. Complete estimates won’t be available until after harvesting has been completed, the FSA said. In addition to lost crops, $1.75 million in land damage was reported in Burlington County and $15,000 worth tallied in Camden County. Across both counties, $235,000 in damage to buildings, structures and equipment was reported. The FSA County Committee reported that storm damaged cropland and supporting acreage in the following ways: Severe erosion; washed-out dams; collapsed walls of irrigation ponds; debris deposited on cropland; drainage and irrigation ditches filled with debris and muck; and water control gates destroyed. Department personnel have been staffing the Emergency Operations Centers that were established in Burlington and Camden counties as a result of the flood and are directing farmers to the available aid. Two letters from the Department sent directly to 380 farmers in the affected areas on July 16 and July 29 provided an overview of loans and other aid available for such items as dam repair and crop damage. The Department also worked through the TEFAP program to ensure emergency food distributors had enough food.

Aquatic Farmer License Workshops -- The Department’s Office of Aquaculture Coordination completed three workshops detailing the newly effective Aquatic Farmer License Program. The three workshops were held in July in Morristown, Tuckerton, and Vineland. Topics included requirements and exemptions of the license, elements of the Aquaculture Development Act, and an overview and potential for aquaculture in New Jersey. Fifty-two people attended the workshops, including both current and prospective aquaculturists, extension agents, and educators.

Louisiana Seafood Challenge -- A top New Jersey seafood chef will go head-to-head with chefs from 14 other coastal states on Saturday, July 31 to vie for the title of “King” or “Queen” of seafood preparation in the country. The Department, the Garden State Seafood Association and the New Jersey Restaurant Association are sponsoring Chef Jim Weaver, head chef of Tre Piani Restaurant in Princeton, at the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans, along with Annie Prizzi, the head chef and instructor for the culinary program at Mercer Community College. They go to the cook-off armed with New Jersey’s freshest seafood and what they believe is a winning recipe that will prove New Jersey is number-one in seafood. They will prepare Garden State Seafood Panzanella Salad, featuring Little Neck Clams, sea scallops, calamari, monkfish, Jersey tomatoes, cucumber, fennel, basil, garlic, and scallions. The Seafood Cook-off will take place at the Louisiana Foodservice Expo. The promotion aims to showcase the seafood products characteristic of each region as well as to promote seafood to consumers as a quick, easy and healthy meal. The event will be aired on the Food Network.

Peach Promotion – Division of Marketing and Development personnel assisted the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council and New Jersey Peach Growers Association in the annual New Jersey Peach Festival in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County, July 22-25. Division staff helped judge peaches, as well as assisting in the peach media tour. Among those attending the tour were New Jersey Network, which featured the peach industry on its nightly newscast on July 23, the Bergen Record, the Courier-Post of South Jersey and the Gloucester County Times.

School Nutrition Grant – More students will get to know the true meaning of “Jersey Fresh” the next two school years, thanks to a federal grant secured by the Division of Food and Nutrition. The $200,000 Nutrition Training Grant through the United States Department of Agriculture will fund four programs over two years designed to make fresh fruits and vegetables a more regular part of students’ diets. New Jersey was among 21 states to get the grants, which were announced July 26 by the USDA. The four programs include components of adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to cafeteria menus; using fresh produce for “snack time” in the lower elementary grades; educating more parents on the need for healthy food choices; and working with school business administrators to raise standards in the school nutrition programs.

Organic Aquaculture Grant – The USDA granted $61,000 to the Department, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and Organic National Advisory Committee to identify, evaluate and quantify market opportunities for organically grown U.S. aquaculture products. The grant was part of more than $1.3 million awarded to 23 states for aquaculture market research.

Farmland Preservation – The Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) on July 21 approved the State Agriculture Development Committee's request for $129.8 million in farmland preservation funding to help preserve farms in 18 counties. The GSPT will forward the approved request to the Legislature. The approved funding includes: $39.8 million to preserve 107 farms covering 6,280 acres through the county easement purchase program; $29.5 million to preserve up to 124 farms covering 7,537 acres through the SADC's direct easement purchase program; $8 million to preserve 12 farms covering 4,058 acres in the Pinelands under the Pinelands county easement purchase program; $25 million for the SADC to purchase farmland outright from willing sellers under its fee simple program; $25 million for municipalities and counties to preserve farms in 44 project areas under the planning incentive grant program; and $2.5 million to help preserve up to six farms covering 1,489 acres under the nonprofit grant program.

Giant Hogweed – Heracleum mantegazzianum, also known as “Giant hogweed,” a foreign invasive plant listed on the Federal Noxious Weed list, was found last week growing along a stream bank in Morris County. The weed can become a public health hazard. Skin contact with the sap from the plant, followed by exposure to sunlight, can produce painful, burning blisters that may develop into permanent purplish or blackened scars. Giant hogweed can grow as high as 15 feet. It has a stout, reddish-purple stem and can be characterized by white flowers. The Department is formulating a control program in cooperation with the landowner in Morris County.