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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
November 19, 2008Farmland Preservation -- The Department on November 12 announced an agreement to permanently preserve nearly 1,900 acres of farmland in Mannington Township, Salem County, through a cooperative effort among the State Agriculture Development Committee, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, Salem County and Mannington Township. The agreement represents the largest acquisition in the history of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program. The SADC will purchase the development rights on approximately 1,770 acres of farmland. The Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program will purchase outright another approximately 120 acres, which will be managed by the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife as part of the Salem River Wildlife Recreation Area. The total cost of the preservation project is $15.5 million. The SADC will pay $10.45 million toward the $13.95 million cost of the development rights on the approximately 1,770 acres, with Salem County contributing an additional $3.1 million and Mannington Township $400,000. The Green Acres Program is purchasing the approximately 120 acres for $1.55 million.
Hunger – In an effort to encourage more community support to help local food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens provide food assistance to those in need, Secretary Kuperus helped pack Thanksgiving dinner baskets at two food pantries on Tuesday, November 18. At the first stop, the Salvation Army in Plainfield, Union County, he was joined by Governor Corzine and Union County Vocational Technical School FFA members. At the second stop, he joined students from Ridgeway Middle School in Edgewater Park at the Catholic Charities Emergency and Community Services food pantry in Delanco, Burlington County. There have been reports of several pantries throughout the state having to close periodically over the past two months due to low food supplies caused by increases of between 30 and 40 percent in those seeking assistance. Governor Corzine has pledged to provide up to $3 million more for the State Food Purchase Program this fiscal year to increase the amount of food available at pantries.
Gypsy Moth -- A total of 131 municipalities requested gypsy moth egg mass surveys in 2008. Surveys in 23 percent of those towns have been completed. Inspectors have observed that gypsy moth populations are showing signs of stress and are declining in many affected areas of the state. The egg mass surveys are expected to be completed by the end of December.
Bees – About 100 students completed the third Rutgers “Bee-ginner” beekeeper course in October, bringing the total of new beekeepers trained in 2008 to more than 300. There are already 30 people signed up for the next class that will be held April 23-25, 2009. At the request of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Office of Continuing Professional Education, the State Apiarist and inspector have begun work on developing an advanced level class for next year.
Farmland Assessment – An audit report on the Farmland Assessment Program was released by the Office of Legislative Services on October 23. It can be accessed at www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/auditor/Executive_Summary_Farmland_Assesment_Program.pdf. The audit identified a need for programmatic improvements. The report prompted editorials in the Asbury Park Press and Courier-Post that called for an overhaul of the farmland assessment law in an effort to weed out abusers.
Beef Recall Reimbursements – Payments of more than $42,500 were sent to 102 schools in the beginning of November as reimbursement for costs incurred for the destruction and disposal of beef that the United States Department of Agriculture recalled earlier this year. The suspect ground beef products from Hallmark/Westland Corporation had been distributed through the school lunch program nationally.
Food Safety at Farmers Markets Brochure -- New Jersey’s fast-growing array of community farmer’s markets are a great place to buy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables. Many also now offer prepared foods as well. To comply with New Jersey health regulations under Chapter 24, such foods must be prepared in licensed, inspected kitchens and meet other requirements, which vary depending on the type of food being offered. To help vendors comply with these rules, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Senior Services collaborated on “Chapter 24 and You: A Practical Guide to Selling Safely at Farmer’s Markets.” Please use the guide to ensure the prepared foods you offer at farmer’s markets are safe and in compliance with the law. It can be accessed at this link: www.nj.gov/agriculture/pdf/chapter24guide.pdf.
Sire Stakes – The 2008 Sire Stakes season concluded on October 25 with $7,119,340 in purse money distributed at the Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway. There was a decrease of 4.5 percent in purse money distributed this year over 2007 due to a decrease in starting fees, as fewer horses competed in the series in 2008.
SADC Award -- The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) has received the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association’s outstanding environmental achievement award for encouraging counties and municipalities to comprehensively plan to protect farmland and support agriculture as a condition of farmland preservation funding. Specifically, the award recognizes the SADC’s planning incentive grant program and the county and municipal farmland preservation planning process that is a requirement of that program. The 2008 Elwood “Woody” Jarmer Award for Outstanding Environmental Achievement is intended to recognize exceptional creativity in balancing environmental concerns with the realities of real estate development. The award was presented November 7 at the APA-NJ/Rutgers University Annual Planning Conference in New Brunswick.