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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
November 23, 2009Dairy -- After two informal work sessions in October and November, the Department opened its formal dairy hearing on Thursday, November 19, to examine ways in which dairy farmers could be helped through times of extremely low prices, as have happened in 2009. Dairy farmers, co-op representatives and processors were among those testifying. Themes included: the need for some financial assistance to the farmer when on-farm prices drop dramatically; the need to ensure that such assistance does not cause processors to look outside the state for cheaper milk; the need for dairy farmers to be innovative in how they cut costs and in developing value-added products that could be sold directly to the consumer to avoid pitfalls in a commodity marketplace; and the need for federal milk marketing order reform to allow for processors to “lock in” prices paid to farmers for longer periods of time, thereby bringing more stability to the pricing process. The hearing has been continued to December 8 to allow for more testimony.
Farmer Plates -- New Jersey farmers may now drive their farm vehicles into Maryland without having “commercial” registrations. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture received a letter from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration this week underscoring Maryland’s recognition of New Jersey farm plates as restricted, exempting them from the need for significantly more expensive commercial registrations. Through joint participation in the International Registration Plan (IRP), New Jersey recognizes Maryland restricted plates as well. New Jersey also has agreements with Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware allowing operators of vehicles with ‘farmer’ license plates to drive those vehicles from New Jersey into those states and vice versa without being cited by police. Without these agreements, farmers either had to pay for the commercial registrations, face detainment by police putting their perishable materials at risk, or hire commercial haulers to deliver their goods.
Jets Eat Right, Move More Program – Secretary Fisher and NY Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson kicked off the fourth year of the Eat Right, Move More school nutrition campaign at the grand prize winner for this year, Harrison High School in Hudson County, on Tuesday, November 17. Harrison High School’s prize included the student program that day as well as a $5,000 kitchen makeover, made possible by the Jets at the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council’s Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign. School officials plan to use the money to purchase a refrigerated salad bar. The other winning schools, Brookside School in Allendale, Elmwood Park Memorial High School/Middle School in Elmwood Park, Cold Springs School in Gloucester City, Summit High School in Summit and Old Turnpike School in Tewksbury, will get visits from a Jets player later in the school year.
Equine Piroplasmosis – Four New Jersey horses have tested positive for piroplasmosis, a disease transmitted to horses, donkeys and mules by ticks and from animal to animal by contaminated needles. Symptoms include: fever, anemia, jaundiced mucous membranes, swollen abdomens, and labored breathing. Infected horses also may have roughened hair coats, constipation, and colic. In milder form, the disease can cause equine to appear weak and show lack of appetite. Anyone with knowledge of the existence or suspected existence of the disease must report this information to the Department of Agriculture within 48 hours. Additional testing on the imported horses and contact horses is underway. Quarantines were placed on the affected premises and precautions implemented to prevent the spread of this disease to other horses. Veterinarians in the state were notified and information was sent to trade publications to heighten awareness of the disease.
FFA Lunch with the Secretary -- The threat of development, the high cost of farming and potential new food safety regulations were the top concerns of Cumberland Regional High School FFA members when Secretary Fisher visited the school for a lunchtime discussion with 18 of the teens on November 10. The purpose for this “Lunch with the Secretary” was to find out what young people in agricultural education are thinking because they are the ones who might eventually take over the family farm or enter new, higher technological areas of agriculture in our state. His goal was to try to encourage them to pursue careers in agriculture because there is, and will be in the future, a great need for skilled workers in this industry.
Trenton Farmers’ Market Study – The Department has completed a two and a half year infrastructure stabilization project with the Trenton Farmers Market. The Department partially funded the comprehensive architectural and engineering survey of the 51 year old market. As a direct result of the evaluation, the farmers market was able to qualify for financial support from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Office of Clean Energy’s “New Jersey Smart Start Buildings Program” which provided funding for the installation of new, more energy efficient, lighting throughout the market. Also utilizing the results of the study, the market members selected and had installed new insulated steel doors with glass windows. The improved doors will prolong the market’s effective marketing season. Finally, the project funded a modern renovation to the market’s front entrance.
2010 Agricultural Fair Ambassador -- Timothy J. VonThun, a 17 year old South Brunswick High School student, was honored as the 2010 New Jersey Agricultural Fair Ambassador by the Agricultural Fair Association of New Jersey at their fall dinner meeting on Sunday, November 1 in Eastampton. As ambassador, VonThun of Monmouth Junction is charged with visiting the state’s agricultural fairs in 2010, discussing the fairs and promoting agritourism to the public, and bringing people together to support the state’s agriculture industry. VonThun was raised on his family’s farm, VonThun’s County Farm Market in Monmouth Junction, where they grow various fruits, vegetables, and nursery stock, offer pick-your-own produce, a corn maze, and educational programs and operate a retail market.
Equine Scholarship -- The New Jersey Equine Advisory Board has announced a new $1,000 scholarship to help 4-H or FFA members pursue their equine activities. The first 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 31, 2010. 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 4-H or FFA members interested in receiving the scholarship must submit an essay on, “How horses have affected my life and how horses figure into my future.”
NJDA Worker Holds Statewide Position – Bill Walker of the Division of Marketing and Development, who is a certified agriculture teacher, has become the chairman of the New Jersey Agricultural Education Advisory Council. This organization seeks to encourage New Jersey agricultural education through the involvement and guidance of New Jersey agriculturalists.
H1N1 Testing – The Department’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory is now offering a test for presumptive diagnosis of the novel H1N1 influenza virus in pets, following news reports about a house cat and a couple of pet ferrets testing positive for the virus.