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October 28, 2015

USDA Under Secretary Avalos Visit
-- USDA Undersecretary Edward Avalos traveled from Washington, DC to spend several days recently visiting different agricultural venues in New Jersey.  Various sectors that were showcased to the Undersecretary included: A nursery, a pick-your-own, “agri-tourism” operation, a winery, a Rutgers Research Farm, the Far Hill Steeplechase Races, and New Jersey’s aquaculture industry.

Emerald Ash Borer – The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees, is currently active in 14 towns in six counties in New Jersey.  A trapping program in 82 towns over the summer and reporting from homeowners has resulted in the discovery to date of the beetle in Hillsdale, Bergen County; Edgewater Park and Westampton, Burlington County;  Ewing, Hamilton Township, Hopewell, Princeton, West Windsor., Mercer County; Monroe and South Brunswick, Middlesex County; Bridgewater, Franklin Township and Hillsborough, Somerset County; and Allentown, Monmouth County.  In an effort to protect the state’s ash trees, the Department of Agriculture initiated the field release this fall of biocontrol parasitoids for emerald ash borer in four locations in Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Franklin and Ewing Townships.  Releases of over 14,336 larval (Tetrastichus spp.) and 1,600 egg (Oobius spp.) EAB parasitoids were made in wooded ash sites containing low levels of EAB during September through October in an effort to help suppress building EAB populations.  The beneficial insects were supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s EAB Biocontrol Laboratory in Brighton, Michigan.  Municipal officials and residents of those towns and counties are encouraged to visit the New Jersey Emerald Ash Borer website where they can find resources on how to protect their ash trees or what to do with dead or dying trees. Emerald ash borer was first discovered in New Jersey in May 2014 by a private citizen in Bridgewater.  EAB is now present in 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.  It was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has since killed tens of millions of trees.

Gypsy Moth Surveys – With only 28 percent of the fall egg mass surveys completed, 10,102 acres in 11 municipalities in three northern counties have qualified for the spring 2016 gypsy moth spray program.  The remaining surveys will be completed by the end of December.

Equine West Nile Virus Case -- A 10 year old Gloucester County gelding is the first reported case in 2015 of West Nile Virus, a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological system.  The horse became ill on September 27 and was humanely euthanized on October 3.  No cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) were reported last year.  The disease is transmitted by mosquito bite.  Another risk to horses from mosquitoes is Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), which causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection.  This year, there has been one case of EEE, in Gloucester County, and in 2014, New Jersey had four cases of EEE.  The viruses cycle between birds and mosquitoes with horses and humans being incidental hosts.  WNV and EEE infections in horses are not a significant risk factor for human infection because horses (like humans) are considered to be "dead-end" hosts for the virus.  Effective equine vaccines for WNV and EEE are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both WNV and EEE.  For more information about WNV and EEE in horses, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site at:

Outstanding Young Farmer – Secretary Fisher announced Jessica Niederer, Hopewell Township organic produce and flower farmer as the 2016 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer, chosen by the State Board of Agriculture, during a visit to Niederer’s Chickadee Creek Farm on October 22.   Niederer will be presented with her award at the February 2016 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City.  Niederer grew up on her parents’ farm where her father produced soybeans, wheat, straw and her mother ran an eight-stall horse boarding operation.  After college, Jess came home to become the 13th generation of Niederer farmers.  Currently, she grows 17 acres of fruits, vegetables and flowers, selling through Community Supported Agriculture.  She attends five farmers markets and has become a certified organic grower. New Jersey annually recognizes the outstanding achievements of a young farmer who is an upstanding leader, respected agriculturalist and is active in community or faith organizations.  The Department of Agriculture is accepting applications now through January 15, 2016 for the year 2017 Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) Award. For more information on the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit: or call Joe Atchison, OYF Program Manager at (609) 984-2223 or email 

Fall Agritourism – Secretary Fisher toured New Jersey farms on October 9 to highlight all that the state’s farms have to offer in the fall months.  His stops included Brook Hollow Farm in Columbia and Mood’s Farm Market in Elk Township, where he picked apples and enjoyed other fall activities.  Many farms and wineries around New Jersey invite the public during the fall season for hay rides, corn mazes, pumpkin and apple picking, winery tours, fall festivals and many more activities, which bring added revenue to farms to make them more viable and help to ensure that the land remains in active agriculture.   New Jersey had 347 farms that offered agritourism activities in 2012 that generated $18.4 million in revenue.  New Jersey ranks 9th in the nation in total agritourism dollars and nine New Jersey counties, including Gloucester and Warren, rank in the top 10 percent in agritourism sales. Gloucester County had 21 farms and Warren had 23 farms offering agritourism activities. 

School Lunch Week – Secretary Fisher marked National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month on October 13 with a visit to Community Park Elementary School to applaud the Princeton School District’s efforts to offer students meals that are nutritious and appealing as well as provide New Jersey produce and teach students about agriculture.  Secretary Fisher joined students in a Garden State on Your Plate tasting, in which farmers and chefs paired up to demonstrate a single ingredient.  Organic broccoli leaves from Chickadee Creek Farm in Hopewell were prepared by chefs from Princeton University Campus Dining.  The students tasted the raw broccoli leaves, then squeezed lemon on it and tasted it again, noting how the lemon changed the taste of the broccoli.  Finally, they tasted broccoli leaf slaw. Following the tasting, Secretary Fisher observed lunch in the cafeteria, which was oven-baked ziti or chicken Caesar salad, and a side dish of cucumber with hummus or ranch dressing.  Princeton School District is in its first year with Nutri-Serve Food Management, and fresh vegetables such as carrot sticks, broccoli and celery with a choice of dip are offered every day.  Students also receive a hot vegetable with the hot lunch.  The district also participates in the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s DoD Direct Delivery, which brings even more fresh state produce into Princeton schools.

FFA Funding – FFA advisors met with NJ Department of Education Career and Technical Education Director Marie Barry recently.  Funding for local programs has become an issue this year with some school districts.  Schools are challenged with funding and in some cases will not pay for buses to transport FFA members to FFA events or for program fees that allow students to attend leadership events or career development events.  These decisions will have a negative impact on the number of FFA members participating in state FFA events.

State Food Purchase Program – More than $1.8 million is being distributed by the Department to the state’s six contracted food banks for the second quarter of the State Food Purchase Program.  These funds will be used to purchase healthy foods with an emphasis on fresh, local produce for distribution to the state’s food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Sire Stakes -- The 2015 Sire Stakes season concluded on Saturday, October 17 with the final races of the Green Acres Series at Freehold Raceway.  The total purse distribution for the Green Acres program was $368,000, down slightly from last year’s total of $382,000.  This was due solely to a decrease in participation in the program as only 49 horses raced in the program this year.