CITY) – New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus and
Andrew M.G. Law, State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture
Rural Development Program, today awarded a $47,100 USDA Value-Added Producer
Grant to a group of seven aquaculture producers in the state for the marketing
of clams under the Jersey Seafood brand name.
“Expanding upon New Jersey’s successful Jersey Fresh branding
and marketing program, this new Jersey Seafood brand of clams will highlight
that the Garden State is home to high quality shellfish,” said Secretary
Kuperus. “The USDA Value-Added grant program provides essential
economic resources so that new ventures such as this can take the first
steps to success.”
seven entrepreneurs of the newly formed New Jersey Seafood Marketing
Group will use the grant to begin their efforts to launch and market
a Jersey Seafood brand of clams. New Jersey Department of Agriculture
staff, as well as professionals from Rutgers Cooperative Extension and
Food Innovation Center, will assist the group in its marketing efforts.
“We in Rural Development are enthusiastic about the creativity demonstrated
by these entrepeneurs and benefits of the value-added grant program,”
said Andrew Law. “With the assistance of the Office of the Secretary
of Agriculture, professional branding with the Jersey Seafood logo, our
seafood industry will be recognized for its fresh shellfish -- with its
corresponding shelf life -- harvested in the Garden State. The industry
will be strengthened and the new branding will help create a continuing
and sustainable economic climate for family-owned shellfish operations
now and into the future.”
The New Jersey Seafood Marketing Group, led by George Mathis – a
third generation bayman who operates Mathis Clam Farm in Egg Harbor Township
-- will sell high quality, fresh, locally- raised hard clams, in mesh
bags at local retail establishments and farm markets. The group will be
the first in the state using newly developed Jersey Seafood standards
and brand logo for an aquacultured product.
“I hope that the quality standards that we are implementing as well
as the new packaging, will go a long way towards furthering consumer interest
and purchasing of the best available products,” said Mathis. “Jersey's
best seafood is joining Jersey Fresh in setting the standard for only
the best of quality.”
New Jersey fishermen harvest a wide variety of seafood in addition to
clams, including scallops, blue crabs, mackerel, squid, monkfish and flounder.
In 2003, 170 million pounds of seafood was harvested, valued at $120 million.
Six major commercial ports thrive in the state – Cape May, Atlantic
City, Belford, Point Pleasant, Point Norris and Barnegat Light. In 2003,
Cape May was the sixth largest port in the nation landing $74 million
dollars of seafood. The New Jersey Seafood Retail and Import Export industry
has annual sales in excess of 2 billion dollars.
New Jersey also is home to at least 152 aquaculture farms with total sales
estimated in 1998 at $5.8 million. This includes 86 hard clam farms, 34
oyster farms, and 14 farms producing both types of shellfish. New Jersey
has the second highest number of molluscan farms in the Northeast and
ranks third in sales from those farms. In 1998, these farms account for
an estimated $3.3 million in sales. The total acreage of aquatic farms
in New Jersey is 1,466 of which 1,402 are saltwater and 64 are fresh water.
In 2004, New Jersey established a program to license the possession and
ownership of aquacultured stock. Currently, 138 licenses have been issued
to aquatic farmers in the state.
To emphasize the significant seafood industry in New Jersey, a Jersey
Seafood website was developed by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture
last year. Found at www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov, the site provides consumers
with a wide array of information on seafood products from the Garden State.
The Jersey Seafood concept underscores the fresh and healthy nature of
seafood caught or grown in close proximity to the markets where it is
“Besides the variety, great taste and healthy diet benefits of our
seafood, the industry is an integral part of the state’s heritage
and economy,” said Kuperus. “Through joint ventures such as
this and the USDA Value-Added grant program, the state’s shellfish
industry will be strengthened.”
Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for planning activities and working
capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based
renewable energy. Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer
and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled
producer-based business ventures. The maximum amount that can be awarded
is $500,000, and all grant funds must be matched by an equal amount of
funds from the applicant or a third party. In 2004, approximately $13.2
million was available for grant awards.