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November 19, 2014

Superstorm Sandy Anniversary Commemoration -- Secretary Fisher volunteered at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties on October 29 along with First Lady Mary Pat Christie and his fellow Cabinet members, sorting food donations to commemorate the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Later in the day, he joined Governor Christie in Belmar, a town hard-hit by Sandy but on the road to recovery.

USDA Under Secretary New Jersey Visit -- On October 24 and 25, 2014 New Jersey was honored by a visit from Edward Avalos, USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. He had requested the visit after hearing about the wonderful successes the state has had in promoting its agricultural programs. Secretary Fisher met with Under Secretary Avalos on his two-day excursion through the Garden State, and was guided by Assistant Secretary Al Murray.

Gypsy Moth – With more than three-quarters of the requested municipal ground egg mass surveys completed, 498 acres in Hunterdon, Morris and Passaic counties have been identified as qualifying for gypsy moth treatment in the spring of 2015.  A financial request has been made for $51,000 to the USDA Forest service to cover a portion of the financial costs associated with the proposed treatments.  

Emerald Ash Borer – A task force has convened to plan a coordinated response from the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection and Rutgers to the emergence of the emerald ash borer in New Jersey.  Last spring, several trees in Bridgewater, Somerset County were determined to have been infested with EAB and bugs have turned up in traps in Burlington and Mercer counties.  EAB has killed tens of millions of trees across the country and in Canada.  The response is expected to include a public information and awareness campaign, a tool kit for municipal and county officials and data collection.

Ebola in Animals – The Department of Agriculture is part of the Ebola State Agency Working Group and is working on the state’s response to Ebola and how it relates to animals.  It has been found that certain animals can contract Ebola and some of those animals could possibly further spread the disease.  The Department is working with the Governor’s Ebola Virus Disease Joint Response Team to include animals in the Ebola Virus Disease Operation Plan. 

Bees – State Apiarist Tim Schuler submitted the final report to the USDA for the 2013 National Honey Bee survey, which showed varroa mite levels continue to hold at six per 100 bees, which is too high to be sustainable.  Pathogenic bee viruses are slowly increasing and there were half as many pesticides found in fresh pollen samples as were found in the 2012 survey.  In addition, although there was a good spring honey flow this year, the fall honey flow was very spotty.  Most New Jersey beekeepers will need to provide supplemental feeding to colonies to prepare their bees for winter.  And, Schuler taught a beginning beekeeping class through Rutgers, the seventh year in a row that he has taught three classes in a year, indicating interest in beekeeping continues to be strong.

Digester Progress – Secretary Fisher visited Landis Sewerage Authority in Vineland on November 17 for an update on construction of a facility that will take food waste and manure and turn it into fuel.  The Department of Agriculture is the administrator of a $475,750 U.S. Department of Energy grant to construct a digester that authority officials say will help make their facility self-sufficient.  Construction of a receiving station will be close to complete by the end of November.  The station will accept cow manure, food processor waste, oil, grease and fats.  This waste will be processed and fed into the digester, which uses heat and bacteria to break it down into methane, which will then be used by an engine to generate electricity.

New Jersey Turf at Sports Stadiums -- Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Al Murray was at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, on November 13as Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton re-sodded the field with New Jersey-grown sod. In addition, New Jersey sod can be found on the fields of Green Bay, Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as well as the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park, Red Bull Arena in Harrison and Fenway Park in Boston.

FFA Convention – More than 145 New Jersey representatives from 16 FFA Chapters and the State FFA Association attended the 87th National FFA Convention in Kentucky October 29-November 1.  During the convention, Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources Director Monique Purcell was honored at the with an Honorary American FFA Degree.  She was one of four recipients from New Jersey.  The others were Dr. James Sarruda, Superintendent, Northern Burlington Regional High School; Worth Christian, Newton High School Agriculture Education Teacher; and Debbie Pribell, NJ Farm Bureau.  The honorary degree is awarded to those who have provided exceptional service on a national level to agriculture and/or the agricultural education-FFA program.  Purcell was nominated by the New Jersey FFA Association for her support of the state’s agricultural education program, encouragement of division and staff members to coordinate and participate in FFA events, her own participation in FFA events and support of the New Jersey FFA Alumni Association events.  In addition, Purcell supports hiring current and past state FFA officers to serve as interns in the Office of Agricultural Education within her Division.

New Jersey Agricultural Fair Ambassador -- Kirsten Jeansson of Tabernacle has been chosen as the 2015 New Jersey Agricultural Fair Ambassador.  The 16-year-old Seneca High School Junior was selected from among seven contestants by the Agriculture Fair Association of New Jersey during the group’s fall dinner on November 1 in Easthampton.  As ambassador, Jeansson is charged with visiting the state’s agricultural fairs in 2015, discussing the fairs, promoting agritourism to the public and bringing people together to support the state’s agriculture industry.   Being named Agricultural Fair Ambassador is not the first honor Jeansson has received for her involvement in New Jersey agriculture.  She is the current New Jersey 4-H Equestrian of the Year and the Burlington County Farm Fair Queen.

Jersey Fresh Availability and Forecast Report -- The final report of the season was disseminated on November 17 to alert the industry and public on the availability of Jersey Fresh produce. This information helps buyers with their purchasing and marketing decisions as they relate to Jersey Fresh products. The reports can be found via a link on the Jersey Fresh website home page.

Thanksgiving Emergency Food – Secretary Fisher will visit the ST. Andrew-Resurrection Ministries Food Pantry in Atlantic City on November 20 to see how preparations for the Thanksgiving meal distribution are progressing.  Dinners for about 70 families will be given out on Monday, November 24.  Secretary Fisher also will deliver Thanksgiving meals to families in the Cherry Hill area on Tuesday, November 25 as part of an annual distribution through the Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantries in Cherry Hill.

Horticultural Therapy Visit – Secretary Fisher and Assistant Secretary Murray visited the Adult Day Center of Somerset County in Bridgewater on November 12 to see the program Horticultural Therapy Connections.  Joining them were Senator Kip Bateman and New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association Executive Director Dominick Mondi.  The horticultural therapy program was established using a grant from the Grotta Fund for Senior Care of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ.  The program provided benefits on physical, emotional and social levels.  Participants used their fine and gross motor skills to plant seed and assemble flower arrangements.  Gardening also helped relieve stress and afforded the seniors time to socialize. Laura DePrado, President of Final Touch Plantscaping and the center’s horticultural therapist, organized the visit.