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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
October 23, 2013
Animal Rescue Trailers Presented -- In an effort to improve the ability to care for pets in the event of an emergency, Secretary Fisher and Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Edward Dickson awarded animal rescue trailers to Burlington, Hunterdon and Ocean counties Offices of Emergency Management on October 3. The three 20-foot trailers are outfitted with cages and can be used to provide temporary shelter or transportation for pets in emergencies. The trailers have heating and cooling units, electrical and water hook-ups, generators and external light sources, giving users the ability to set up a temporary animal shelter at any location. The trailers were paid for with an Urban Area Security Initiative Grant and a State Homeland Security Grant through the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. The Department of Agriculture received $150,000 with which they purchased the trailers and bought supplies. The trailers will be used by the counties Animal Response Teams (CART), first responders who are trained on animal issues in disasters. All CARTs were activated during Superstorm Sandy, with many setting up pet shelters, either on location at human shelters or at other locations. Hunterdon County officials picked up their trailer, which cost $40,382 and included $5,516 in supplies. During Superstorm Sandy, Hunterdon CART operated a temporary animal shelter for 12 days. Burlington and Ocean Counties will take possession of their trailers at later dates. In addition to the trailers, the funding included the purchase of $8,604 in CART start-up supplies for Monmouth County.
Animal Emergency Grant -- The NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness has awarded NJDA a grant of $60,000.00 to enhance NJDA and the UASI region s ability to build, maintain and sustain national preparedness capabilities for projects that will impact NJ residents dealing with animals in disasters. The major components of the plan being developed include the outreach and training capabilities to NJ residents and first responders. The project includes the development of a stand-alone website followed by the development of a public awareness ad campaign and training of CART members, leaders and other first responders.
Team Nutrition Mini-Grants -- Secretary Fisher visited Millhill Child and Family Development in Trenton on October 7 to announce the awarding of Team Nutrition Training mini-grants to eight child care centers and 11 elementary and middle schools in the state with the goal of helping children make healthier food choices and improve their overall health. Millhill is one of the recipients of the grant program, which was expanded for the 2012-2013 cycle to include for the first time early childhood centers. The Christie Administration received a $324,151 Team Nutrition Training Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2012. Eight childcare centers were selected to receive mini-grants of $1,500 each. Eleven elementary and middle schools also were chosen to receive mini-grants. Four schools that were part of the 2010-2011 Team Nutrition Training Grant program will receive $1,000 each. The new schools will receive $2,500 each. The funding will be used to plant school gardens, help students make healthier food choices and train personnel on a variety of wellness issues. The grant, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, enhances the Christie Administration s continued commitment to improving the nutritional habits of the state s school children through initiatives like the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.
Fall Agritourism -- Secretary Fisher enjoyed a morning at Etsch Farms western-themed corn maze on October 4. Agritourism offers a variety of year-round experiences such as corn mazes, pick-your-own produce, hayrides, winery tours, horseback riding, cut-your-own Christmas trees and educational experiences. Agritourism provides more than $60 million a year in revenue for farmers and an additional $33.3 million in revenue for surrounding communities. Etsch Farms, first established by George Etsch in 1931, is now operated by grandson Jim Etsch, his wife Caroline and their sons Zachary and Peter. The Etsch s grow corn, hay and straw. In the fall they offer a corn maze, this year depicting a cactus and Conestoga wagon, hay rides, a pumpkin patch and farm animals. They also have educational programs and host parties.
Fall Farmers Markets -- Secretary Fisher visited the Downtown Toms River Farmers Market on October 2 to remind consumers to continue to support New Jersey farmers by visiting community farmers markets around the state, many of which run through November. New Jersey had 141 community farmers markets this season, eight of which were new. These markets feature Garden State farmers who sell their just-picked produce directly to consumers. Many accept vouchers from the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and WIC (Woman Infant and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program administered by the Department of Health and Senior Services. The Downtown Toms River Farmers Market is open Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through November 20, with a special Thanksgiving market on Monday, November 25.
Agricultural Education -- Secretary Fisher joined in a program on October 17 geared toward getting the word out that there are jobs in agriculture and students can enroll in high school and college agricultural science courses to set them on the road to making agriculture their careers. The New Jersey Agricultural Advisory Council met at Somerset County Vocational Technical High School in Bridgewater and focused on the theme of Marketing Today s High Tech Agriscience Programs to meet the needs of the agriculture industry. Various agriculture representatives, local officials and school administrators participated. New Jersey agricultural education programs are focused on high technology agriscience courses that prepare students for professional agricultural careers where there currently are jobs available.
Food Safety Seminar -- The Department, along with New Jersey Farm Bureau and Rutgers University s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station co-sponsored an informational meeting on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for farmers in New Jersey, Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania on October 22. The meeting, held at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Columbus, included presentations on FSMA from key personnel on the topic for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the agricultural community, followed by a nearly two-hour Panel Discussion and Q&A Session dedicated to the topic of what FSMA means in practical terms for New Jersey s farmers. FSMA, which was passed and signed into law in 2011, requires the FDA to propose and adopt food-safety rules and regulations for all levels of the food system in the United States and will, for the first time, see FDA inspecting farms as well as processing facilities.
West Nile Virus -- A 33-year-old Cumberland County horse tested positive for West Nile Virus, the first case in New Jersey this year. The animal began showing signs of illness on October 4 and is now recovering. The gelding was not vaccinated against the mosquito-borne disease. New Jersey had four cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) last year. In addition, there were six cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), another mosquito-borne disease. So far this year, there have been three EEE cases. Effective equine vaccines for WNV and EEE are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both WNV and EEE.
Bees -- Secretary Fisher and State Apiarist Tim Schuler attended the unveiling of a new honey bee exhibit at the Cape May County Zoo. Each year, more than 500,000 people visit the zoo and will view the exhibit, which includes various posters educating the public about different types of bees, and issues facing the honey bee industry as well as the need for honey bees to our food supply. Schuler also presented at the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC to teach staff about bee inspection and attendees about the importance of bees.