Disaster Declaration – U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack granted a Natural Disaster Designation for 20 New Jersey counties following flooding and high winds from Hurricane Irene and several other weather disasters for farmers so far this year. Governor Christie requested the disaster designation prior to Hurricane Irene but the request was open-ended and covers damages and crop loss beginning May 14, 2011 and continuing. Besides the hurricane, farmers suffered through excessive heat and rain, flash flooding, and hail during 2011. The designation includes all counties in the state, except for Hudson. This Natural Disaster Designation makes farmers, some of whom have lost entire crops, eligible for federal disaster relief programs offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Hurricane Irene Response – The Department of Agriculture in the emergency preparation and response to Hurricane Irene and subsequent flooding, staffed the state emergency operations center 24 hours a day for several days. The Department provided web, Facebook and fax updates about animal sheltering and relief opportunities throughout the emergency. The Division of Food and Nutrition moved school commodities to assist with the feeding of sheltered NJ residents: 1,760 lbs. of chicken; 1,200 lbs. of ham; 750 lbs. of cheese; 114 cases of canned corn; and 84 cases of canned peaches. They worked with Pennsylvania to obtain additional commodities. The Department also sent out a survey seeking more large animal facilities that could be used as shelters during evacuations in future emergencies.
Farm to School Week – The Department, in cooperation with the New Jersey Farm to School Network planned events for the week of September 26 for the first ever Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week. Secretary Fisher attended the kick-off at Riverside Elementary School in Princeton on the 26th to see their large school garden, used as an outside classroom and also as a training ground for other schools seeking to start their own school gardens. On September 27, students at Village Elementary School in West Windsor sampled Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and MacIntosh apples and voted on their favorite. On September 28, a tour was scheduled for School Food Service directors of the Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market in East Windsor. On September 29, students will judge a cooking contest between three school chefs, enjoy potatoes and corn on the lunch menu and visit two farm markets to see what’s in season. Finally, on September 30, Secretary Fisher will debut Made with Jersey Fresh dishes, developed under a grant by Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton for use in New Jersey schools. Last year, the Department of Agriculture was awarded a $51,000 federal grant to create new food items derived from New Jersey agricultural products for use in the National School Lunch Program. The Food Innovation Center has been working on the project and will taste test several of these items, which also meet the state’s nutrition standards.
Jets Eat Right, Move More – Hightstown High School was visited by Department of Agriculture officials and NY Jets Tight End Matthew Mulligan as their prize for being one of last year’s five winners of the Eat Right, Move More program, a partnership between the Jets, the Department of Agriculture and the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council’s Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign. Due to the NFL lockout last spring, the Eat Right, Move More visits were postponed. The NJDA and Jets will visit Jersey City P.S. #25 next week, Haledon School on October 11 and Oak Street School in Lakewood on November 1. The Department is soliciting for entries in the current school year’s program. The winners will be announced on November 29. Eat Right, Move More encourages New Jersey school children to take advantage of healthy foods in their school cafeterias and become more active.
Fall Gardening Month – The Department and New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association partnered on September 21 to promote the horticulture industry by proclaiming the month of October as Fall Gardening Month. An event was held at Hall’s Garden Center in Berkeley Heights, Union County and was attended by Senator Tom Kean and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, as well as many industry officials. The group urged people to head out to their local garden center or nursery or call their landscaper to begin planting now for a beautiful spring landscape.
Fall Agritourism – Secretary Fisher on September 23 visited Fralinger’s apple cider facility in South Harrison Township, Gloucester County to celebrate the beginning of fall agritourism season. Owners Fred and Cheryl-Ann Sorbello are third generation farmers, who also offer hay rides and pick your own apples at Hill Creek Farms. Secretary Fisher urged people to visit a New Jersey farm not only for the fun experience, but to support our state’s farmers, some of whom suffered losses due to the severe weather this season.
New State Veterinarian – Dr. Manoel Tamassia was officially named the new State Veterinarian and Division of Animal Health Director in September. Tamassia served as acting State Veterinarian since April and held the position of Principal Veterinarian and Assistant Division of Animal Health Director for the past 2 and a half years. Tamassia’s goal in his new position is to keep our agricultural animals safe from foreign animal diseases at the same time assuring that they are being raised humanely. Treating animals humanely includes educating the population about the need of having plans to care for animals during disasters. He also wants to work with the veterinary community and offer them the services of our diagnostic laboratory.
Equine Scholarship -- The Equine Advisory Board has announced a $1,000 scholarship to help 4-H and FFA members, as well as any young adult that is a member of a New Jersey Equine organization represented on the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board, pursue their equine activities. The Sara Dubinin Scholarship, in memory of Sara Dubinin, who loved horses, will be presented at the New Jersey Bred Equine Breeder Awards Dinner on January 15, 2012 At Charley’s Other Brother Restaurant in Eastampton. Sara, a Sayreville resident, graduated from Cardinal McCarrick High School in South Amboy in 2006. The 19-year-old was attending Middlesex County College when she succumbed to injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident in September of 2007. Those interested in receiving the scholarship must submit an essay on, “How horses have affected my life and how horses figure into my future.” Consideration of applications will be weighted upon the candidate’s financial need.
Mosquito Biological Control -- During the 2011 season, more than 50,000 copepods being reared for control of mosquitoes in New Jersey, were provided to Monmouth, Cumberland, Gloucester, Atlantic, Warren, Bergen, Burlington, and Hunterdon, Cape May, and Ocean counties. As part of an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and County Mosquito Control Commissions, copepods were produced at the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Lab and delivered to participating counties upon request. An assessment of the success of the program is expected in the next month or two.
Gypsy Moth Surveys – Egg mass surveys have begun to determine the need and extent of a gypsy moth spray program in 2012. The state received requests from 52 towns to perform surveys, which will be completed by the end of the year. Sixty-eight municipalities suffered various degrees of tree damage from gypsy moths in spring of 2011.