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January 17, 2012

Direct Certification Grant
-- The Department has been awarded a grant of $206,857 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase enrollment in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.  The funding is targeted at improving the Direct Certification system, in which students from households already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are automatically enrolled in the free meals program at their schools without having to fill out additional applications.  Last school year, there were 330,556 students in the state receiving free lunch out of the 685,101 eating lunch at school each day, with 131,738 children receiving free breakfast out of the total 173,735 eating the breakfast meal each day.  However, some eligible students are missed because their families have not submitted the free/reduced price meal application to apply for the benefits.  The Department will use the grant to enhance its customized web-based direct certification system as it relates to the process of matching student databases against the database of school-age children receiving SNAP benefits. 

School Breakfast – New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and Secretary Fisher sent a letter this week to all schools in the state in an effort to increase participation in the School Breakfast program.

Emergency Food Distribution -- The Household Distribution of USDA Foods is underway.  The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provided USDA Foods for Disaster Household Distribution to New Jersey residents as a result of New Jersey receiving a major disaster declaration.  The declaration awarded individual household assistance due to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.  New Jersey was one of eight states to receive these benefits.

Horseperson of the Year – New Jersey Farm Bureau was presented the 2011 Governor’s Trophy for Horseperson of the Year at the 55th annual New Jersey Bred Equine Breeder Awards luncheon January 15 at Charley’s Other Brother.  Roll With Joe was awarded the Secretary of Agriculture trophy for Standardbred of the Year Hermosillo received the Thoroughbred of the Year award.  Awards from the New Jersey Sire Stakes included Green Acres Horse of the YearMarket Share and Premier Horse of the Year Manofmanymissions.  Rachel VanDemark of South Brunswick earned New Jersey Equestrienne of the Year.  Kelly Elizabeth Albanir of Lambertville received the $500 Agricultural Achievement Award scholarship.  Gabby Waldell of Blairstown won the $1,000 Sara Dubinin Scholarship and Dale Levitt of Freehold was awarded the $1,000 Bell Scholarship.

Agricultural Plastic Recycling -- The Department’s nursery and greenhouse plastic film recycling program saw a 53 percent increase in the amount of materials recycled last year, making 2011 the most successful year since the program began in 1997.  More than one million pounds of plastic film was recycled instead of being dumped into landfills, saving New Jersey farmers thousands of dollars in landfill tipping fees, keeping these items out of the solid waste stream, increasing the availability of landfill space and providing a source for manufacturers to make plastic products using recycled content. The Department’s year-round film recycling program is entering its 15th year.  The film being recycled is used to cover greenhouses for environmental control and hoop houses for over-wintering of nursery material.  Since the program was initiated in 1997, growers in New Jersey have recycled more than 8 million pounds of used film and are expected to surpass the 9 million pound mark this year.  In 2011, the amount recycled was 1,111,760 pounds – the largest volume of nursery and greenhouse film recycled in a single year since the program was started

Animal Waste Management Rule – The Department has begun the process of contacting and reminding all animal operations that they must comply with the March 16, 2012 deadline for implementing their animal waste management plans.  Notices are being posted on the Departments and Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station’s websites and a flyer and poster alerting farmers, as well as a cd are being distributed to all agricultural extension offices, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and the soil conservation district offices. 

Invasive Pest Survey – Preparations are being made for the 2012 Emerald Ash Borer survey, a cooperative effort between the Department, NJ Department of Environmental Protection and the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine.  Trapping locations will be selected at 710 locations throughout the state.  Areas with host material will receive traps. Deployment of traps will begin in late April to early May and traps will be taken down in August.  Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a highly destructive invasive insect pest that has caused the destruction of millions of ash trees in the central United States. In recent years EAB has been detected closer and closer to New Jersey with positive finds in Maryland, Pennsylvania and most recently in Ulster County, New York. Although EAB has not been detected yet in New Jersey, our state is at a high risk of infestation.  New Jersey participated in a large scale national EAB survey along with 14 other states in 2011 in which 445 traps were deployed at 445 locations in Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties and no EAB was found.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – The Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Lab (PABIL) has established a viable host colony of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in advance preparation for the pending release from USDA Quarantine of Asian egg parasitoids that will be used for biocontrol of the damaging and annoying pests.  PABIL staff has successfully reared and maintained a sizeable colony through five laboratory generations while gathering valuable “stink bug” behavior, biology, and development information.

Crop Insurance – Educational efforts through the Garden State Crop Insurance Initiative resulted in an increase in the number of policies sold last year.  During 2011, 1,632 crop insurance policies were sold to New Jersey growers. A total of 172,065 acres were covered by crop insurance, an increase of 18,000 acres from 2010. 2011 also saw an additional 119 buy-up policies purchased over the 2010 coverage year. Also in 2011, almost $1.6 million of indemnity payment were issued for 116 policies.

Animal Health Lab Testing Approval -- The laboratory was approved by the USDA National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) to perform classical swine fever (CSF) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) PCR testing. Being proficiency tested for these foreign animal diseases will help the laboratory, the State, and the NAHLN respond quickly to suspect cases of foreign animal diseases in the state of NJ and the U.S. Having effective surveillance capabilities will allow early detection of an incursion of CSF and thereby decrease response time and facilitate exportation of swine and swine products to U.S. trading partners.

New Plant Lab Chemist -- Yong Pu has joined the Department as the Plant Laboratory Chemist and will support the diagnostic and certification programs.  He is becoming familiar with the rules and standards created by AAFCO (American Feed Control Officials Incorporated) and AAPFCO (Association of American Plant Food Control Official) and will be able to uphold these guidelines for the state. The chemist will also manage the laboratory chemical safety programs within agriculture.