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February 27, 2013

Agricultural Natural Disaster Declared
-- Governor Chris Christie announced on February 15 that United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack granted a Natural Disaster Designation for 14 New Jersey counties following Superstorm Sandy, a snowstorm, a Nor’easter, drought, high winds, hail, excessive heat and rain, and flash flooding between June 28 and November 8, 2012.  The disaster designation was requested to open up another avenue of relief to farmers who lost crops or suffered structural damages to their farms through the many severe weather events that befell the Garden State in 2012. The declaration includes Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Sussex and Warren Counties.  The disaster designation makes farm operators eligible to be considered for assistance from Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

Aquaculture Hurricane Assistance -- The Office of Aquaculture Coordination worked with the Office of the Governor and the Department of Environmental Protection to secure an emergency authorization to establish new operations for a shellfish grower in Tuckerton who submitted two Aquatic Farmer License applications following Hurricane Sandy.  Although Waterfront Development Permits will still be required, construction on these projects will begin immediately.  These temporary shellfish nursery systems will enable the grower to produce shellfish seed for the 2013 growing season until the primary hatchery/nursery destroyed by Sandy are fully rebuilt. 

Neurologic Equine Herpes Case -- The Department quarantined two farms in February, one in Franklinville, Gloucester County and one in Dennisville, Cape May County, after horses at each farm were exposed to a horse that developed the highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM).  Testing confirmed the horse developed EHM caused by Equine Herpes Virus, Type One (EHV-1).  The horse became recumbent and was humanely euthanized on February 15.  This is the second case of EHM in New Jersey this year.   A horse farm in Morris and another in Somerset County were quarantined in January when one horse tested positive for the disease.  The sick horse has since recovered and the quarantines have been lifted. No apparent relationship between the two cases is evident.

New Jersey Fresh Campaign -- The Department premiered its new Jersey Fresh advertising campaign during the annual State Agricultural Convention on February 7, with its sports-themed “Another Great Season.”  The new campaign is the first update to the Jersey Fresh promotional program since 2006 and advertisements featuring the campaign will begin running this spring.  The Department of Agriculture contracted with Princeton Partners of Princeton in October to develop the new campaign, which will include signage for retailers, utilization of social media, radio, television and print ads.

Jersey Fresh Tracking Study -- The Department’s new advertising agency, Princeton Partners and Bruno & Ridgway, a research firm released the findings of a consumer study, which found a large majority of New Jersey residents have purchased Jersey Fresh products and two-thirds of the population plan to buy Jersey Fresh in the future.  The respondents also felt popular New Jersey items, such as tomatoes and sweet corn, are thought to be superior to those grown in other states.  Additionally, restaurants that offered Jersey Fresh dishes were thought to be of higher quality.

Jersey Grown Annuals Promotion – Following last month’s approval by the State Board of Agriculture of the final Jersey Grown Annual rule, Secretary Fisher invited annual bedding plant growers in New Jersey to join the Jersey Grown program to identify their plants as locally grown as they begin distribution of their materials this season.  The rule expanded the program to annual ornamental bedding plants, allowing growers to become licensed to use the Jersey Grown logo and market their plants as Jersey Grown for the first time.  The Department worked with one large grower last season on a Jersey Grown annuals pilot project, which was met with much success and excitement.

Animal Emergency Response Recognition Ceremony -- The Department recognized the achievements of the state’s County Animal Response Teams in 2012 during a ceremony February 2 in Sayreville.  The recognition ceremony took place during the Animal Emergency Working Group’s annual review of County Animal Response Teams (CART) activities.  Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent damage presented the state with unprecedented emergency challenges, including the need to evacuate and house hundreds of pets, as well as rescue hundreds more that were left behind or lost during the storm.  The CARTs were activated by their county Offices of Emergency Management in preparation for the storm and some had continuing mission for almost 4 weeks.  Recognized CARTs activated during Sandy included: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex, and Union.

Plant Industry Emergency Exercise -- Division personnel participated in a joint emergency exercise with USDA APHIS PPQ on February 20.  As part of the exercise, Incident Command System (ICS) responsibilities were identified for both federal and state cooperators dealing with a finding of Summer Fruit Tortrex, an exotic agricultural and environmental pest.

USDA Foods Conference -- The Department, in conjunction with the New Jersey School Nutrition Association, presented the First Annual USDA Foods Conference on January 24 at the East Brunswick Hilton in East Brunswick.   More than 250 school food service professionals from around the state attended workshops and a vendor show of the latest trends in prepared school menu items made from United States Department of Agriculture foods.  The manufacturers and distributors presented foods geared to meet the nutritional requirements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act school lunch regulations, enacted this year.  The USDA Foods Distribution program takes USDA foods and distributes them to processors, who make nutrient-dense reduced fat products, such as whole wheat crust pizza or whole grain breaded chicken nuggets, that are provided at a reduced cost to school districts. 

Horseperson of the Year -- The 2012 Governor’s Award for Horseperson of the Year was presented to Linda Toscano at the 56th Annual Equine Breeder Awards Luncheon in January.  Toscano of Freehold trained the 2012 Standardbred Horse of the Year, Chapter Seven.  Over the course of her career, Toscano has had 1,439 wins and $34 million in purses.  This year she won a career best of $6.71 million.  The Secretary of Agriculture Award for New Jersey-bred Thoroughbred Horse of the Year was presented to Javerre.  New Jersey Equestrienne of the Year: Katie Washart, Seaville.  New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award: Kristie VonThun, Monmouth Junction.  Sara Dubinin Scholarship:  Juliana Isnardi, Plainsboro.  Bell Scholarship:  Monica Smetts, Brick.