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November 19, 2007
Farmland Preservation/Public Question 3 -- New Jersey voters, by a 54-46 percent margin, approved Public Question #3 on the November 6 ballot that will provide $200 million to preserve open space, farmland and historic resources, as well as purchase flood-prone properties through the Blue Acres Program. Of that, $73 million will be directed to farmland preservation, maintaining the 40/60 farmland/open space funding split and extending available farmland preservation funding through FY2009. While the question passed with a narrower margin than previous preservation ballot questions, it is significant that it was approved while two other funding measures failed. Voter concern about state debt, property taxes and other fiscal concerns was widely believed to have influenced voting on the ballot questions. Despite this, voters decided we can't afford not to preserve farmland and open space. Moving forward, as the Governor and Legislature work to identify a long-term, stable source of preservation funding, the Department will focus on ensuring that all the public understands that preserving farmland helps keep property taxes down through the avoided costs of development; the State Agriculture Development Committee's implementation of its recently adopted rules that encourage counties to plan for preservation and that streamline farmland preservation processes to maximize the amount of farmland preserved; and complementing those farmland preservation efforts by encouraging innovative land use strategies like transfer of development rights. 

Gypsy Moth – After surveying half the municipalities that requested gypsy moth egg mass surveys this year, 67,517 acres in 36 municipalities and one county college have been proposed for treatment in spring of 2008.  About 72 percent of the area proposed for treatment contain at least 4,000 egg masses per acre and would require double applications of B.t.k.  Last year, the amount of proposed acreage for double applications was about 20 percent of the total.  As predicted, gypsy moth populations are increasing throughout the state.  Egg mass surveys for all 130 municipalities that had made requests are expected to be completed by the end of December. 

Disaster Declaration – Charles Conner, Acting US Secretary of Agriculture, last week declared a natural disaster for Hunterdon County, having determined there were sufficient production losses to warrant the declaration. Farms in Hunterdon were impacted by hail and high winds on August 17.  The declaration covers the contiguous counties of Mercer, Morris, Somerset and Warren, as well, making them eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

Jets School Nutrition – The Department and the New York Jets will kick-off the second year of the Eat Right, Move More program on Tuesday, November 27 at one of the six winning schools, Port Reading School #9 in Woodbridge.  That day, the school will get a visit from Secretary Kuperus, Mayor John McCormac and Jets players D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Adrien Clark.  Four other schools will receive player visits in the spring:  Rittenberg Middle School in Egg Harbor City; Northfield Elementary School in Northfield; Cecil S. Collins Elementary School in Barnegat Township and Halsted Middle School in Newton.  Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington will be able to select representatives to attend a Jets home game in December and be honored on the field during the game.

Dairy Hearings – The Department will hold a series of hearings on the review of the results of a 2006 dairy decision, to determine what should be continued or changed from that decision.  Each hearing will be held 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The first hearing will take place Tuesday, November 27 at the Harris Building Auditorium on the grounds of the New Jersey Department of Corrections in West Trenton; the second on Wednesday, November 28 at Allamuchy Town Hall; and the final on Friday, November 30 at the Salem County Extension office in Woodstown.

Deer Fencing – After reviewing applications for the 2007 Deer Fence Program, 36 farmers will receive up to 5,000 linear feet of exclusionary fencing and related materials.  Out of the 36 recipients, 8 farms qualified as new or beginning farms, a category that was added to the program this year.  That allowed farms established since 2000 with farmland assessment and documented proof of $5,000 in sales of agricultural commodities produced by the applicant on a New Jersey farm to be able to participate in the deer fence program.

Bees – After several months without an apiarist, new State Apiarist Tim Schuler reports that honeybees look good going into the winter in many parts of New Jersey with mite levels low and colonies heavy with stored honey.

Animal IllnessesRabies:  In the past month, a goat from a Peapack-Gladstone farm and a two-year-old cow from a Sussex County farm were confirmed positive for rabies.  The goat was present during the farm’s invitation-only Annual Harvest Festival.  The local health and police departments attempted to contact all attendees of the festival to alert them to the sick goat.  The cow was sick for about a day prior to its death.  The farm has been quarantined for a six-month observation period. 

MarketingChristmas Trees:  The Department of Agriculture sent out letters to New Jersey Christmas tree growers to alert them about a television ad promoting choose and cut Christmas trees that will be aired November 26 through December 15 on such cable stations as Family Channel, Nickelodeon, TNT and TBS during the prime family viewing hours of 7:00pm – 10:00pm Monday through Sunday.  The Department also will distribute public service announcements about choose and cut Christmas trees to radio stations all over the state.  Finally, Secretary Kuperus will hold his annual Christmas tree cutting ceremony on November 26 to kick-off the choose and cut season at Wyckoff’s Tree Farm in Belvidere.

Sweet Potatoes:  The Department also will begin airing television advertisements on November 26 promoting sweet potatoes, “Born to be Sweet as Pie.”

Wine:  With more than 25 wineries in the state, some of which are producing wines that are gaining state, national and international recognition, Secretary Kuperus visited Amalthea Cellars in Atco on October 25, proclaiming New Jersey an up and coming wine region that could someday be as well known as Sonoma and Napa in California.  During his visit to Amalthea, a winery that has been producing wines with its own grapes and those of other local growers for a quarter of a century, owner Louis Caracciolo demonstrated how his grapes are crushed on their way to becoming wine.  Kuperus also noted the importance of the state’s wineries to our agritourism industry.

Organic Certification:  After becoming accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture earlier this year to conduct organic certifications, the Department has received certification/update paperwork from 54 producers and 20 handlers.