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February 22, 2012

Speciality Crop Block Grant Applications -- The Department is now accepting applications for USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants.  A total of $375,000 is available to organizations representing New Jersey’s specialty crop industry for use during 2013.  Individual producers are not eligible to apply.  Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, nursery crops and floriculture.  Most of New Jersey agriculture falls into the specialty crop category.  To be eligible for a grant, projects must "enhance the competitiveness" of specialty crops and might include, but are not limited to: research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, "buy local" programs, increased consumption, increased innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, product development and developing cooperatives.  The deadline for submitting applications is April 30, 2012.  Twenty projects were awarded $792,000 in grants this year.

National Outstanding Young Farmer -- For the fourth year in a row and the sixth time in the last 12 years, a New Jersey farmer has been chosen as a National Outstanding Young Farmer.   Paul “Duce” Tallamy II, a beef and produce farmer from Wantage, Sussex County, was named one of the four 2012 National Outstanding Young Farmers on February 11 by the National Outstanding Young Farmer Congress in Springdale, Arkansas.  John Melick from Oldwick, Richard A. Norz from Hillsborough and H. William Sytsema from Wantage, were 2011, 2010 and 2009 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmers who went on to become national winners.   Since 1999, every New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer has been among the top 10 National Outstanding Young Farmers, as well.  The Tallamy’s operate four retail markets, all within 20 miles of the home farm, selling their own sweet corn, cut flowers, fruits and vegetables.  At their farm in Wantage, they offer pick-your-own strawberries, cut flower and pumpkins and USDA-certified all natural beef.  Joy Tallamy runs class trips and farm education tours and they host yearly strawberry, ice cream, sweet corn and harvest festivals.

Sudden Oak Death Survey – A survey looking for Phytophthora ramorum, the invasive plant pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death in oak trees, concluded this month with no positive test results.  The Department conducted the New Jersey 2011 Farm Bill Phytophthora ramorum Landscape Environment Survey in 89 towns within 17 counties, centering on nurseries and garden centers with either P. ramorum infection or trace forwards.  Sudden Oak Death has caused the death of many oak species on the West Coast of the U.S.  The fungus also infects many other species of plants typically sold in the nursery trade, including Camellia and Rhododendron.  P. ramorum does not kill these plants, but the plants serve as hosts that could potentially bring the fungus to the East Coast.

HealthierUS School Challenge Award – The U.S. Department of Agriculture and New Jersey Department of Agriculture held ceremonies for three schools that earned the HealthierUS School Challenge Award, which recognizes schools that promote good nutrition and physical activity.  John Hill School and School Street School in Boonton and the Irene E. Feldkirchner Elementary School in Green Brook attained the Bronze Level of the award, which earned each school $500.  The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.  Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages all schools to take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime. 

Delicious Orchards Anniversary – Secretary Fisher and State Board of Agriculture member Hugh McKittrick helped Delicious Orchards, the popular Colts Neck country food market, celebrate its 100th anniversary by visiting the store on January 31, along with Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande, the Monmouth County Freeholders and Colts Neck Mayor Jarrett Engel.  Starting out in 1911 as wholesale apple growers, Delicious Orchards has evolved into a destination, not just for nearby residents, but for people from all over the region. The store specializes in fresh produce – local when in season – from scratch baked goods, cheeses, meats, seafood – wild caught and local when available – gourmet groceries, coffee and tea.

Beekeeping – State Apiarist Tim Schuler and the President of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association may have been instrumental in allowing beekeeping in Lower Township.  The Township Planning Board was considering placing restrictions on residents who keep bees on lots less than one acre.  The pair educated the board on the Department of Agriculture’s Best Management Practices for keeping bees in popular areas, as well as the behavior of honey bees in comparison with other types of stinging insects.  Several days later, it was reported that the board would not put restrictions on beekeeping in their township.  Currently there are six municipalities which have prohibitions or restrictions on beekeeping out of the 566 municipalities in the state.

Sea Clam Meeting – The Department will hold a meeting in Bridgeton on March 15 to discuss improving utilization of sea clam processing wastes in New Jersey.  The meeting will bring together sea clam processors, researchers, feed companies, protein separation technologists and industry support professionals who have been in communication on this issue over the past few months.  New Jersey is the nation’s leading harvester of both sea clams (38.5 million pounds) worth $25.3 million.  Early estimates are that processors of ocean quahogs and surf clams in the region incur aggregate costs of approximately $250,000 to send over 3.5 million pounds of processing byproducts to landfills every year.  Proteins and oils recovered from this waste stream could be worth over $250,000 as animal feed ingredients or feed palatability enhancers.

Animal Waste Management – The outreach effort is continuing to alert animal operations about the March deadline for developing and implementing animal waste management plans as required by the Animal Waste Management Rules.  No significant response has been received yet but reports of inquiries by animal operations are reported by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension offices. Only six declaration pages have been received by the Department during this reporting period, bringing the total number of plans to 403.

Avian Influenza Detected in Backyard Flock – Low-path Avian Influenza, H5N2, was identified in a Monmouth County backyard poultry flock in January during routine surveillance.  The flock of about 100 birds was quarantined and additional biosecurity measures were placed on the farm to prevent the spread of the disease.  There was no increase in morbidity or mortality on the farm.  The flock and environment were sampled weekly and after four consecutive negative tests for avian influenza, sampled seven days apart, the flock was released from quarantine on February 7.