Open Space Ballot Item – Secretary Kuperus attended the open space ballot item information campaign kickoff at the State House. Governor McGreevey along with representatives from the agricultural and natural resources community spoke to the overwhelming benefit to the people of New Jersey by the approval of Public Question #1, which seeks to utilize the current interest rates to refinance the funds allocated by the Garden State Preservation Trust Act of 1998. If passed, the ballot item will make available an additional $150 million for use in land use preservation cost share without raising taxes or adding to debt service. A portion of the funding will be dedicated to farmland and open space preservation specifically in the Highlands, and the remainder will be used to leverage local public dollars to enhance attractive recreational land in cities and older suburbs.
NASDA Annual Meeting –Secretary Kuperus attended the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting held in Boise, Idaho. Homeland Security was an important issue at this year’s meeting, and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture was included as a member of NASDA’s new Homeland Security committee, formed to address terrorism threats to the nation’s food supply and agricultural infrastructure. NJDA submitted an amendment to NASDA’s Plant and Animal Health and Disease Control policy statements to urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to place greater emphasis on the mission of safeguarding the nation’s agricultural resources.
The Secretary also attended a ceremony hosted by Wal-Mart to announce their national agriculture partnership initiative dedicated to actively marketing locally grown produce. Both Wal-Mart representatives and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne mentioned the Jersey Fresh brand name several times in their remarks before the assembly and media.
Pinelands Commission Working Group – Secretary Kuperus, Greg Romano, Executive Director of the SADC, and Monique Purcell, Division Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources, met with John Stokes, Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission and his staff to discuss inter-agency cooperation and communication. The meeting covered several topics, ranging from the Farmland Preservation Program’s Pinelands’ formula to the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan for New Jersey. The result of the meeting was the formation of a Pinelands internal working group that will meet regularly to facilitate coordination between the Department and the Commission.
NJ Lottery Cash Crop Event – New Jersey Treasurer John McCormac and Secretary Kuperus joined with Lottery Executive Director Virginia Bauer at the Trenton Farmer’s Market in Ewing to announce the New Jersey Lottery’s “Cash Crop” instant game, which spotlights Jersey Fresh. The event featured a Jersey Fresh trivia contest for winning lottery tickets. The “Cash Crop” program is a successful example of inter-departmental cooperative cross-promotion.
Smart Growth Plan – The Agricultural Smart Growth working group is reviewing the comments received on the draft Ag Smart Growth Plan and the SADC’s Strategic Targeting Project. The soft deadline for the Plan was September 15; however, comments will continue to be accepted through September. The draft will be revised based on the feedback received and graphics will be added. The final plan is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year. As part of the Department’s continued outreach on this important planning effort, Tim Brill and Monique Purcell made a presentation to the NJ County Planners Association.
Eastern State Exposition (The Big E) – State FFA President, Jennifer Wilson, was selected through a competitive application process to serve as a Big E FFA Intern. Only three FFA Presidents from the fifteen-state Eastern Region were awarded the honor of serving as an intern. Jennifer’s duties included helping to deliver 22 competitive career development events, preparing biographies of the star candidates, and assisting at the awards recognition dinner that concluded the exposition. Forty New Jersey FFA members representing seven FFA Chapters attended the expo and competed in many of the career development events, including: nursery/landscape, forestry, horse evaluation, dairy cattle evaluation, livestock evaluation, poultry judging, agricultural mechanics, extemporaneous public speaking, creed speaking, farm business management, and environment and natural resources.
West Nile Virus (WNV) 2003 – The Division of Animal Health has had the busiest WNV season since WNV hit NJ in 2000. To date, the Division has confirmed 58 positive cases of West Nile virus in horses, surpassing last year’s number of 47 cases. The majority of our equine cases have been in South Jersey, including Gloucester and Salem Counties. To assist practitioners combat WNV disease in their patients, the State Veterinarian approved the distribution of a new treatment for this disease in NJ on 9/11/03. On August 7, 2003, the USDA granted Novartis a conditional license for their West Nile Virus Antibody, USDA Product Code 3995. This product is restricted to use by a veterinarian and Novartis must provide the State Veterinarian quarterly reports of sales of the product within the state as well as any adverse reactions reported.
Overseas Market Development – Marketing and Development staff is managing a major promotion of U.S. foods in Europe. Staff is working to provide targeted market research to U.S. companies as they prepare to attend the ANUGA 2003 in Cologne, Germany. ANUGA is world’s largest food trade show with more than 160,000 buyers from over 140 countries expected to attend. The participating companies will receive product specific market research about the price, packaging, distribution and retailing of their European competition. The marketing research services will include a profile of their product category in Europe, as well as a list of the major distributors, wholesales and retailers in that product category. Additionally, participating companies will benefit from pre-show promotion of their products and on-site buyer introductions, access to interpreters, a retail store tour of Cologne plus post show lead evaluation and follow-up letters in the local language. The Department is managing this federally funded export development program on behalf of 38 states throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Five New Jersey companies will be participating.
Open Order for Peaches – In order to assist New Jersey Peach growers, the Division of Food and Nutrition, Bureau of Child Nutrition created a special additional “open order” allocation of New Jersey grown fresh peaches for all participating school districts for the month of September. This is a key strategy of the Farms to School component of the Department’s Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids initiative. In order to encourage schools to accept as many fresh peaches as possible, the Bureau waived its normal per-case assessment charge. The Jersey-grown peaches will be purchased through the Department of Defense’s fresh produce program for New Jersey school districts. Thanks to the extra efforts of Bureau staff, this special allocation project was successful.