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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
December 19, 2007Preparing for Agricultural Convention – Preparations for the 2008 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention are in full-swing. The convention will take place Monday, February 4 to Wednesday, February 6 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. The convention will begin Monday morning with a seminar, “Protecting Both the Environment and Farm Viability.” Keynote speaker, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson, will share her thoughts on how agriculture and environmental protection can work together to protect the environment and maintain a viable agricultural industry. Presentations during the day will focus on farm conservation plans, flood hazard, freshwater wetlands and endangered and threatened species rules. The convention’s business session on Tuesday and Wednesday will consist of presentations and discussions on resolutions addressing a wide range of topics including economic development and land use. The adopted resolutions will set agricultural policy for the coming year.
Resolutions: The resolutions for the 2008 State Agricultural Convention are being crafted and have already gone through one review by the Resolutions Committee. Chaired once again by Bill Cutts, the Committee includes representation from all the major sectors of New Jersey Agriculture. Some resolutions are updates to those passed at the 2007 Convention and others address new issues that have arisen since then.
Census of Agriculture – 2007 Census of Agriculture surveys will be mailed at the end of December and Secretary Kuperus is urging all producers in the state to fill out the forms and return them by February 4, 2008. Conducted every five years by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Census is a complete count of the nation’s farms and the people who operate them. The Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. It provides the other source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation. The Census provides information that benefits producers and their communities with data that can be used to guide production strategies and help policymakers develop precise plans for the future. Individual Census data for the 2007 calendar year collected by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) New Jersey field officeis confidential and summary data will not be published in a way that would identify them or data for their operation without their written permission. The Census will generate details on both a statewide and countywide basis.
Gypsy Moth – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, will hold a public meeting from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday, January 3, 2008 at the Health and Agriculture Building in Trenton to allow members of the public to raise issues and concerns relating to the gypsy moth aerial spray program proposed for spring of 2008. The proposed 2008 spray program includes approximately 80,000 acres of residential properties and 28,000 acres of state-owned properties in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex and Warren Counties. The purpose of the spray program is to slow the spread of the gypsy moth and reduce defoliation and subsequent tree loss caused by the caterpillars. Recently completed egg mass surveys, conducted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, show that gypsy moth populations have increased to extremely high levels in the above-mentioned counties.
Dairy Hearing – An additional day of hearings into New Jersey’s dairy industry has been scheduled for Friday, January 4, 2008, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Burlington County. The fourth hearing day was scheduled because all witnesses could not be heard in the first three days (November 27, 29 and 30). The first three days of hearings have focused on whether the Department should continue the Fuel Adjustment Add-on it established to help dairy producers cope with rising fuel costs after the 2006 hearings, whether an rBST-free premium should be established to compensate dairy farmers for lost productivity when processors demand they not use rBST, and labeling issues surrounding what constitutes false or misleading claims about milk being free of added hormones, antibiotics or other health- and quality-related claims. January 4 is expected to be the last day of the hearings, after which the Department will have 15 days to issue an order on the issues.
Farm Vehicle Web Page – To assist the agriculture industry on the various issues surrounding farm vehicles, a new web page has been launched on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site. “Motor Vehicle Laws and Regulations Impacting Farmers” can be found at www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/farmermotorvehicles.html. Topics covered on the web page include: farmer plates, farm use and tractor plates and tractor registration exemption, farmer and farm use regulations, commercial drivers licenses, reciprocity agreements, International Registration Plan, Unified Carrier Registration, and International Fuel Tax Agreement.
Hunger Program Expanded – Proposals from gleaning operations around the state are being reviewed to determine which qualify for a portion of $100,000 from the State Food Purchase Program to pay for expenses directly related to the collection and distribution of locally grown produce, including transportation and salary costs. Established entities which have operated a food rescue/gleaning program for a minimum of two years and are currently working with New Jersey farms by collecting surplus, locally grown products and distributing them to food pantries, shelters and kitchens in the state were eligible to apply for the funding. The entity’s program also must have a component that educates recipients on the value of nutrition which includes a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.
JetsSchool Nutrition – Five Hunterdon Central Regional High School students, the school’s food service director, food service company president and district Business Administrator were honored December 9th by the New York Jets and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture during the Jets/Cleveland Browns football game at the Meadowlands. Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington won the Eat Right, Move More contest which challenged New Jersey schools to submit their meal menus to determine the six schools with the most creative meal selections and that have made the most significant changes to improve their school nutrition environment. Four of the other schools -- Rittenberg Middle School in Egg Harbor City, Northfield Elementary in Northfield, Cecil S. Collins Elementary in Barnegat Township and Halsted Middle School in Newton -- will receive a visit from a Jets player next spring in recognition of their commitment to good nutrition. Port Reading School #9 in Woodbridge was visited by offensive tackles D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Adrien Clarke on November 27 www.nj.gov/agriculture/news/press/2007/approved/press071127.html.
NJNLA Awards – The Department’s Bob Bruch was honored December 4 by the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association. Bruch received the NJNLA’s Distinguished Service Award. Bruch has assisted the nursery and landscape industry on a variety of issues, including putting together an informational guide on landscaping services and New Jersey sales tax.