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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
August 22, 2012
Lt. Governor Agribusiness Tour – Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno is touring businesses in New Jersey this month associated with agriculture to highlight the importance of the industry to the state’s economy. Secretary Fisher has joined her at First Field in Rocky Hill, a company that uses Jersey Fresh tomatoes to make gourmet ketchup; Comarco Products in Camden, that plans to use 1 million pounds of Jersey Fresh eggplant this year to process into frozen breaded patties and sticks; Griggstown Quail Farm in Franklin Township, which raises and sells natural farm poultry, including quail, chickens and pheasants; and Readington River Buffalo Farm in Readington, which raises bison for meat. Assistant Secretary Murray joined the Lt. Governor for a visit to Viking Village in Barnegat Light to showcase the vibrant commercial fishing industry in the state. In addition, the Lt. Governor plans to visit Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, Chia Sin Farms in Pittstown and Seabrook Farms in Upper Deerfield.
Gypsy Moth -- The annual Department of Agriculture statewide gypsy moth aerial defoliation survey showed 1,068 acres of trees in 21 municipalities in 10 counties received moderate to heavy damage this year from the leaf-munching invasive pests -- the lowest recorded defoliation since the Department’s Gypsy Moth Suppression Program began in 1970. The defoliation survey was conducted in July. Tree damage was found in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, Sussex and Warren counties. For more details from the survey, go to www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/pdf/2012GMdefoliation.pdf. This year, no spray program was needed due to low populations of the bugs. Egg mass surveys will be conducted this fall to determine if any areas qualify for spraying.
NJDA Emergency Response Team – The Department has formed a team that will be available to staff the state’s Emergency Operations Center in West Trenton when disaster strikes. The Department plays a pivotal role in helping the state’s agricultural community through emergencies, from coordinating the sheltering of animals to disbursing emergency food to shelters. Team members are being trained on emergency procedures and technical issues.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program -- New Jersey has received federal funding to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the 2012-2013 school year. The number of schools participating in the program will increase from 143 in 16 counties last school year to 155 schools in 18 counties starting in September. USDA has allocated $3,887,073 for New Jersey’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The program provides fresh produce to students during the school day, along with nutrition education. Some of the criteria used in selecting the schools to participate included: Elementary schools with 50 percent or more of their students eligible for free or reduced price meals; schools that planned to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible; the program would be well-publicized and all students would have access to the produce offered; and plans to partner with outside organizations to enhance nutrition education.
Summer Food Service Program -- Secretary Fisher kicked off the Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program on July 10 by serving lunch to 150 children at the Robert N. Wilentz Elementary School in Perth Amboy. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, yet it is one of the most underutilized federal assistance programs -- only 11 percent of the children who received free or reduced price lunch in New Jersey last year had access to these healthy meals during their summer vacation. This year, there are 98 organizations participating in the SFSP, with 1,100 feeding sites around the state. A list of sponsors can be found here: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/pdf/summersponsors.xls. Perth Amboy delivers free summer lunches at 40 sites to 2,154 children ages 4 to 18 on a daily basis. The sites include churches, public school summer programs, various day camps and the City of Perth Amboy indoor and outdoor recreational programs, including six park programs.
Farmers Market Week -- Secretary Fisher and Patricia Dombroski, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator celebrated the beginning of Farmers Market Week August 2 at the Long Valley Green Market in Morris County, calling on Garden State residents and visitors to enjoy Jersey Fresh produce from one of the state’s 153 community farmers markets during Farmers Market Week August 5-11 and throughout the state’s growing season.
Indian Official Visit -- Secretary Fisher and Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Sharma from the Indian state of Haryana visited Wightman’s Farm in Harding Township on Monday, July 23. Sharma was in the United States to participate in an International Conference for Speakers in Chicago in early August and visited Wightman’s Farm to learn more about the state's agriculture industry and Jersey Fresh. Agriculture is the leading occupation of residents in Haryana, which is one of the main contributors to the production of foodgrains and milk in India, a country of more than 1.2 billion. Indian-Americans are the fastest-growing group in New Jersey and comprise the largest component of Asian-Americans, which account for 8.3 percent of the state's nearly nine million population.
Organic Certification Cost Assistance -- The Department is participating in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Each qualified producer and handler of organic products is eligible for a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of its costs of certification not to exceed $750. To qualify for reimbursement under this program, an organic handler or producer must have been inspected and certified or inspected and receiving continuation of certification during the period of October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012. Certification must be through a USDA-accredited certifying agent. Applications must be received by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture no later than November 19, 2012. Applications and more information about the program are available online at www.nj.gov/agriculture/grants/organiccostshare.html.
First WNV Horse -- An 11-year-old quarter horse mare from Salem County tested positive earlier this month for West Nile Virus and was euthanized, serving as a reminder to horse owners to vaccinate their animals. West Nile Virus (WNV) is a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological systems when infected mosquitoes bite them. The disease cannot be spread from horse to horse or from an infected horse to humans or domestic pets. In 2011, New Jersey had one case of WNV.
NJ Envirothon Team -- The Marine Academy of Technology & Environmental Science Team #1 from Manahawkin placed 8th out of 54 teams from the U.S. and Canada in the 2012 Canon Envirothon, held at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania in July. More than 270 teenagers from high schools and other organizations competed on environmental issues and resource conservation, for a share of more than $125,000 in Canon scholarships and prizes.
School Nutrition Association – Cheryl Goffus of the Division of Food and Nutrition was installed in July as the Northeast Regional Director for the National School Nutrition Association, a trade association for school nutrition professionals.