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August 27, 2003

Late Blight in Tomatoes – At the Department of Agriculture’s urging, the Department of Environmental Protection last week granted waivers authorizing the use of two fungicides to combat late blight in South Jersey’s tomato crop. The waivers were necessary because the fungicides were not specifically labeled for use on tomatoes. The fungicide manufacturers and Rutgers Cooperative Extension were instrumental in obtaining the waivers. Late blight is a fungus and a serious plant disease. If left unmanaged, it can destroy tomato or potato crops. Late blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. It spreads very rapidly in moist,, humid weather. With the approval of two fungicides, growers have been able to alternate application of the fungicides for greater effectiveness. Thanks to the two approved fungicides and recent drier, hot weather, growers have been able to control late blight.

Peach Glut – A late but bountiful New Jersey peach harvest – along with competition from out-of-state growers – has produced a surplus of peaches in the marketplace. With the later harvest this year, New Jersey expects to have peaches right through September. To help move the Jersey peach crop, the Department has alerted retailers; issued a press release to alert consumers to the availability of peaches at great prices; contacted the Department of Defense, which is buying 2,700 cases for use in the New Jersey school lunch program and is looking into finding a local processor to produce a frozen peach cup for schools; and contacted the Department of Corrections, which is increasing peach purchases.

Smart Growth/Strategic Targeting Regional Meetings – The Department of Agriculture and the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) held three regional outreach meetings to solicit feedback on the recently released draft Agricultural Smart Growth Plan and to continue the dialogue on the Farmland Preservation Strategic Targeting Project. The majority of each meeting was dedicated to feedback from the public. Meeting summaries are being prepared so all comments can be considered when finalizing the draft plan. Comments should be submitted by September 2nd for the Strategic Targeting Project and September 15th for the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan.

Farmland Preservation – Governor McGreevey last week announced the preservation of nearly 600 acres of a Cumberland County nursery – the largest farm preserved since he took office. He made the announcement at Halka Nurseries, Inc., which was preserved earlier this year. “When we preserve farmland, we are investing in a high quality of life in our communities and a strong future for agriculture here in New Jersey,” said the Governor. To date, more than 110,000 acres of farmland have been preserved statewide.

Cost-Share Funding Programs – The State Conservation Cost Share Program provides funding for landowners to implement non-point pollution control practices. The following cost share payments totaling $62,814 were processed: three requests totaling $56,151 were for animal waste storage facilities; one request totaling $5,223 for 1,300 feet of grassed waterway and one request totaling $1,440 for 10 acres of hay and pastureland management.

The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) provides funding for landowners to implement non-point pollution control and irrigation water efficiency practices on lands enrolled in farmland preservation programs. Payment requests totaling $124,905 were processed for the installation of 12 irrigation systems, one underground drainage system and one livestock watering facility. The total value of these installed conservation practices is $274,800.

Michael N. Brooks Named National Finalist for Star American Farmer – Michael N. Brooks, 21, of Elmer, Salem County, has been selected as one of FFA’s four American Star Farmers who will compete for the title of Star Farmer of America - the highest recognition in the nation for an aspiring young farmer. New Jersey’s last Star Farmer of America was in 1930. Since then, Brooks is the only New Jersey farmer to advance to the finals. FFA’s American Star Farmer awards recognize students who have developed outstanding agricultural skill and competency through their career development programs; demonstrated outstanding management skills; earned the American Degree - the highest degree an FFA member can achieve; and met other agricultural education, scholarship and leadership requirements.

First 2003 Cases of Equine West Nile and EEE Cases Confirmed – The illness of a 10-year-old gelding in Gloucester County has been attributed to infection with the West Nile virus, while Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been confirmed in an 8-year-old thoroughbred in Mays Landing, Atlantic County. These are the first cases of the mosquito-borne diseases in New Jersey horses this year; it is New Jersey’s first diagnosed case of EEE since 2000. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against West Nile virus and EEE. It is important to note that the vaccine for West Nile virus does not protect horses against EEE, or vice versa. As of August 4th, Mexico is restricting the importation of horses, including those in transit through the United States, because of cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in our country. As soon as this decision is reversed, exportation will be re-established.