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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
March 28, 2007Hunger Funds Distributed -- Checks totaling $750,000 were issued March 5 to emergency feeding operations throughout the state as the third installment of increased funding under the state’s Initiative to Fight Hunger. The bulk of the money will be used to purchase, nutritious foods, with a first priority on buying locally, to help feed an additional 500,000 people this year. A small portion of the money -- $54,000 -- will be used for storing and distributing the food. A final installment in the $3 million allocated to the program in this year’s budget will be distributed in May or June. Governor Jon Corzine has proposed an increase in next year’s budget for the program to $4 million a year that would be spent entirely on food purchases.
Gypsy Moth -- More than 63,000 acres of residential, state and federal forested properties in 34 municipalities in 11 counties are scheduled for treatment in the Department’s 2007 Gypsy Moth Aerial Suppression Program. The spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (B.t.k.) to protect trees from defoliation by gypsy moth caterpillars is slated to begin May 1 in the southern counties and May 7 in the northern counties. The Department of Agriculture has received word that the United States Forest Service will likely provide $1.1 million to the state for cost share assistance for counties, municipalities and agencies participating in this year’s gypsy moth suppression effort. The Department is projecting a 50/50 cost share with local agencies for gypsy moth treatment costs. The US Forest Service is also planning to provide $150,000 to the New Jersey Forest Service to cost share treatment of state owned lands. For more information on the gypsy moth suppression program, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/prog/gypsymoth.html.
Farm Safety -- Secretary Kuperus visited Northern Burlington County Regional High School on March 15 to view the training agricultural education students receive on farm safety. The Department also launched a new web page about Farm Safety at www.nj.gov/agriculture/home/farmers/farmsafety.html.
Food Safety -- The Department launched a new web page on Food Safety on March 22, to assist farmers who might soon be impacted by new food safety protocols. The page talks about the work of the newly-formed Produce Safety Task Force and explains the state’s third-party audit system. It also includes a section for consumers to assist them in proactively protecting themselves against food-born illnesses. Visit the Food Safety page at www.nj.gov/agriculture/news/hottopics/approved/topics070319.html.
Agritourism Advisory Council Meeting -- The New Jersey Agri-Tourism Industry Advisory Council met March 27 and was updated by New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Nancy Byrne on the outlook for the 2007 tourism season. The 2007 economic development strategies for agritourism were considered. The group also discussed efforts to promote the state’s travel and tourism industry and agri-tourism at the ’07 Breeders Cup equine event at Monmouth Park scheduled for September. Brian Schilling of Rutgers’ Food Policy Institute talked about the April NASS agri-tourism survey and the new www.visitNJFarms.org website.
Aquaculture Working Group -- An Aquaculture Working Group has been formed to identify strategies for continued growth in aquaculture in New Jersey. The Group is comprised of representatives from Cumberland County College, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers Food Policy Institute, the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The Group will focus on the potential for the growth of this industry and how policy and regulations would impact that potential. In addition, the group will work to harmonize and optimize the efficiency of aquaculture training and outreach activities from aquaculture centers across the Garden State; to expand into innovative techniques, test alternative species, and identify new market opportunities for aquaculture products; and recommend strategic investments in the human resources that will benefit current and prospective aquatic farmers across the region.
Asian Longhorned Beetle -- Asian longhorned beetle was found on Prall’s Island, New York, an island located in the Arthur Kill between Staten Island and New Jersey. Due to that find, host trees in the Tremley Point section of Linden were re-surveyed and found to be negative. Tree stump removal continues in the Middlesex-Union County quarantine area. Surveys in the Jersey City quarantine zone showed no sign of the beetle. A second round of surveys later this year will determine whether the beetle will be considered eradicated in Jersey City and Hoboken.
Pet Food Recall -- New York State agriculture officials announced March 23 that a rat poison, Aminopterin, was found in cat food samples from Menu Foods, the manufacturer of many brands of dog and cat food that are currently the subject of a nationwide recall. The recall was initiated after there were numerous illnesses in dogs and cats across the nation after eating the products. New Jersey Department of Agriculture inspectors have been visiting retailers to ensure the products have been taken off the shelves. One of Menu’s three manufacturing facilities in the U.S. is located in New Jersey, however a plant in Kansas City, Missouri, is the focus of the investigation.
Status of New Jersey Agricultural Education Programs -- The Department encourages a renewed focus on the current programs and the building of new agricultural education programs across the state. The Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources employment demands outlined by USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service and Purdue University indicate that there are 52,000 Ag, Food and Natural Resources job opportunities predicted each year and only 32,000 college Ag and Natural Resource graduates expected annually until the year 2010. The industry and county boards of agriculture are encouraged to communicate this need and subsequent support for current agricultural education programs to local school boards and decision makers whenever possible.
The Department continues to improve and expand our secondary school programs to introduce more students to the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources career cluster at the middle and high school levels so that we can connect them to college programs in agriculture and on to careers in agriculture. Industry representatives and county board of agriculture members are encouraged to serve on our schools’ local Agriculture Advisory Committees to insist on program and facility improvement and expansion to meet the employment demands over the next five years.
Marketing Report -- The Department is working on the 2007 advertising campaign to promote the Jersey Fresh, Jersey Seafood and Jersey Grown branding programs. Division of Marketing and Development staff advised several communities on their development of community farmers’ markets in their towns for the 2007 season. It is possible that four to six of these markets will open this year. Staff is working on securing farmers for existing community farmers markets plus is assisting new markets with recruiting farmers. The Division is continuing to recruit farmers for the WIC & Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program as well as conducting face-to-face training for Certified Farmer Vendors in the FMNP. Letters have been sent out to more than 830 farm marketers along with order forms for ordering Jersey Fresh point-of-purchase materials and Jersey Fresh cookbooks.