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August 24, 2011

Bill Signings –
Governor Chris Christie visited Terhune Orchards in Princeton on August 17 to sign several measures that keep New Jersey green by providing $90.6 million in grants to counties, towns and nonprofit organizations to preserve farmland across the Garden State and fund State-initiated farmland preservation projects. He also signed a bill that requires an effort be made by food concession stands in state government facilities to place Jersey Fresh items and Made with Jersey Fresh products in prominent locations and to clearly identify them to patrons.  The farmland preservation legislation provides: $39 million in grants to16 participating counties to help preserve farmland under the County Planning Incentive Grant Program; $23 million in grants to 43 participating municipalities to preserve farmland under the Municipal Planning Incentive Grant Program; $19.7 million for the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) to directly preserve farmland; and $8.831 million in grants to 8 nonprofit organizations to preserve farmland under the Nonprofit Program – the largest allocation to that program to date. 

Revised Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards – The State Soil Conservation Committee has approved revisions to the Standards for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control to be released for public comment prior to final adoption. The Standards have been updated and revised to include additional design techniques, address outstanding errata, incorporate modifications from technical bulletins, combine similar Standards and given overall editing to clarify various technical procedures. As part of these revisions, SSCC staff, with the assistance of State and Federal agency partners and various interested parties, has developed draft procedures to address concerns related to potential soil compaction on construction sites. General procedures include requirements for organic matter content by soil type, measurement and testing of soil density and remediation of compacted soil where densities exceed threshold limits.  These Standards, though implemented state wide by soil conservation districts, are a key element in the Governor’s 10-point plan to improve water quality in the Barnegat Bay. Item 4 in the plan refers to the restoration of soil quality through the implementation of NJDA Erosion Control Standards which address requirements on new construction sites.

Farm to School Week – As required by New Jersey law, the Department is coordinating events to celebrate Farm to School Week September 26 to 30, in coordination with the New Jersey Farm to School Network.  Department events will include visits to:  Riverside Elementary School in Princeton for a garden tour, Bowne Munro Elementary School in East Brunswick for a program on apples, Hightstown High School for a New York Jets Eat Right, Move More program, Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market in Hightstown, PS #17 in Jersey City for a potatoes and corn cooking contest and a Vinland school.  The Department’s Farm to School website features a tool kit for schools and districts to utilize in planning and promoting their own Farm to School events.

Summer Food Service Institute – The Department of Agriculture sponsored a School Food Service Institute on August 3 and 4 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.  A major focus for the Institute was the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which mandates certain changes in school food service this year, such as:

  • Only low fat (1 percent or less) or fat-free milk can be offered in school
  • Free potable water must be available to students during meal service
  • Schools are encouraged to begin to increase fruit and vegetable offerings, as well as more whole grains to prepare for the meal changes that are coming next year.

Other new initiatives coming in future years include more emphasis on the Farm to School program, new guidelines to ensure safety of school meals; professional standards for school food service workers; more detailed public information about the program; grants for the expansion of the school breakfast program; and increased access to locally grown foods.

Animal Emergency Trailers – Targeting highly dense, high-risk areas of the state, the Department awarded animal evacuation trailers to Bergen, Hudson and Morris Counties in West Trenton on August 2.   The three 20-foot trailers are outfitted with cages and can be used to provide temporary shelter or transportation for pets and livestock in emergencies.  The trailers have heating and cooling units, electrical and water hook-ups, generators and external light sources, giving users the ability to set up a temporary animal shelter at any location.  The trailers were paid for with an Urban Areas Security Initiative Grant through the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.  The grant program’s goal is to “support the unique multi-discipline planning, operations, equipment, training and exercise needs of high threat, high density urban areas, and to assist them in building and sustaining capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism.”  The trailers will be used by the counties’ Animal Response Teams (CART), which are part of the State Animal Response Team, organized by the Animal Emergency Working Group of the Department of Agriculture, and activated under the State Office of Emergency Management.  As part of the grant, the counties also received funds for public education on animal emergency preparedness.

Forest Pest Kiosk – Visitors to the State’s Forest Resource Education Center (FREC) in Jackson Township can learn about five insects that kill trees and what to do if they see these pests through a new, interactive exhibit, part of the Center’s interpretive trail.  The joint project between the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection was funded by a $10,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.  The multi-sensory kiosk tells about the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, Scirex woodwasp, southern pine beetle and gypsy moth.  Visitors simply push a button to hear a two to three minute message with a brief history of the bug and what to look for.  The bugs are pictured on the board and a short synopsis is posted next to the picture.  Information on who to contact if there is a sighting is included.

Farmers Market Week Celebrated – Secretary Fisher and Patricia Dombroski, Regional Administrator for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service officially kicked off Farmers Market Week in New Jersey on August 8 at the Seaside Park Farmers Market by calling on Garden State residents and visitors to stop in at a community farmers market and buy Jersey Fresh agricultural products.  The Seaside Park Farmers Market, located in Marina Field, has five farmers and 14 other vendors.  The market, which operates on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., first opened in 2007.  There are 148 community farmers markets in the state, 13 of which are new this year.  Farmers who attend these markets sell produce they’ve picked at the peak of ripeness within 24 hours of sale to ensure the best taste and highest quality.  They also participate in the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, giving $20 in vouchers to those qualifying to spend on the purchase of fresh produce at the markets.  In addition, those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may use their electronic benefits cards to buy produce at farmers markets in 11 counties. 

Canon Envirothon – The winning New Jersey Envirothon team, the Marine Academy of Technology & Environmental Science Team #1 (Ocean County) placed 25th out of 52 teams from the U.S. and Canada at the 2011 Canon Envirothon, held at Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada last month.  More than 270 teenagers from high schools and other organizations attended the competition to study and compete on environmental issues and resource conservation, while competing for a share of more than $125,000 in Canon scholarships and prizes.