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December 14, 2011

Aquaculture Development Plan Update Roll-out
-- Secretary Fisher released an update to the state’s Aquaculture Development Plan on December 13 at the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center of Rutgers University that focuses on the potential to sustain and grow aquaculture in the state by identifying business opportunities and policy changes, as well as developments in research.  The report, “Opportunities and Potential for Aquaculture in New Jersey,” was compiled by the Aquaculture Advisory Council, which is made up of public officials, industry representatives and members of the public.  Contained in the plan are recommendations, some of which can be accomplished without funding and some that could cost money.  The plan is designed to act as a roadmap to a successful and vibrant aquaculture industry.

Jets Eat Right, Move More Kick-off – The Lillian M. Steen Elementary School in Bogota is this school year’s grand prize winner in the NJDA and Jets Eat Right, Move More program.  Secretary Fisher and New York Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson visited the school on November 29 for a special program and to present the school with a check for a $5,000 kitchen makeover, made possible by the Jets and the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council’s Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign.  School officials plan to use the money to purchase equipment to wash, cut and prepare fresh produce and blenders to make smoothies.  The program is in its sixth year and helps encourage students to take advantage of the healthy choices in their school cafeterias.  Four other schools, in Englewood, Hamilton, Linden and West Orange, will be honored through the program this school year with Jets player visits in the spring.  In addition, the NJDA brought a group of students and staff from the Steen School to the December 11 Jets game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, where they were honored on the field for their achievements.

Annual Christmas Tree Cutting Ceremony – As part of Governor Christie’s ‘Season of Service’ Initiative, Secretary Fisher and Military and Veterans Affairs Chief of the Joint Staff Brigadier General James J. Grant, joined by soldiers and their families, cut down a Christmas tree at Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm in Belvidere on December 1, ceremonially kicking off the choose and cut Christmas tree season while encouraging residents to support military families during the holiday season.  Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm visits are part of the Garden State’s four seasons of agritourism.  Almost 79,000 trees are cut in New Jersey each year.  The 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture ranked New Jersey sixth in the nation in the number of Christmas tree growers, with 1,150 farms that grow more than 6,000 acres of Christmas trees in the state.  The tree cut by Fisher and the General was donated to Trees For Troops, a charity program that donates real Christmas trees to service members and their families, sponsored by FedEx and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation.  The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association is a supporter of Trees for Troops and hosted collection points for donated trees.  Members of the organization also are collecting funds for Trees for Troops to support next year’s efforts.

State Food Purchase Program Funds – Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, joined by Secretary Fisher and Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, announced $1,363,600 in funding for the state’s six food banks to purchase healthy foods to feed the hungry this holiday season during a visit to Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside on November 29. The funding was timed to go out just before the holidays to ensure food assistance for those in need.  The three cabinet officials also, as part of the Christie Administration’s ongoing ‘Season of Service,’ volunteered at the food bank packing bulk food into family bags for distribution. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey distributes 37 million pounds of food and groceries a year, ultimately serving 1,500 non-profit programs including 436 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations. Through their combined efforts, they assist 900,000 low-income people in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Also receiving the funding were:  the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Foodbank of South Jersey, NORWESCAP, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and Southern Regional Food Distribution Center.

Season of Service Soup Kitchen Visit – Secretary Fisher, joined by Division of Food and Nutrition Director Rose Tricario and some of her staff helped serve lunch to almost 100 people who regularly visit New Visions Homeless Day Shelter’s soup kitchen in Camden on November 21.  New Visions serves a cold breakfast and hot lunch weekdays for area homeless and anyone who wants a meal.  The organization’s food pantry also distributes 150 emergency food bags each month to those in need.  New Visions receives most of its food from the Foodbank of South Jersey and the rest from donations.

Food Export Grant – The Department has been awarded a $5,000 export development grant from Food Export USA – Northeast.  The funds will be used to target the Canadian marketplace which is the destination for about 95 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables exported outside the country.  New Jersey's small family farms export about $40 - 50 million dollars of fresh fruits and vegetables directly to Canada every year.   In addition to shipping to Canada all summer long there are two periods in the early Spring and late Fall where New Jersey has a unique market advantage as the primary east coast supplier to the Canadian eastern provinces.  The grant will fund the promotion of New Jersey agriculture at the 2012 Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) Convention and Trade Show which is the largest produce industry trade event held in Canada each year. 

NJ FFA partnering with Farmers Against Hunger – FFA Chapters from around the state assisted the gleaning group Farmers Against Hunger in November and December: November 5, Monmouth County FFA and Middlesex East Brunswick FFA members and advisors helped pick sweet potatoes at Hallock’s Farms in New Egypt; November 14, Secretary Fisher joined more than 15 Ocean County FFA members in preparing bags containing white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and apples for families for Thanksgiving; at the same time, more than 40 Allentown FFA members also bagged potatoes, sweet potatoes and apples; and on December 5, Monmouth County FFA members and advisors attended a gleaning at Honeybrook Farms in Chesterfield, NJ.  The new director of FAH, Kristina Guttadora, is a former agriculture teacher.

Gypsy Moth Suppression Program – The Department will not have a gypsy moth aerial spray program this year.  After gypsy moth egg mass surveys in were conducted in 52 towns this fall, no spray blocks were identified for spring of 2012.  Populations of the leaf-eating pests continue to remain at low levels following an overall statewide population collapse in 2009.

New Lab Building – The Division of Plant Industry and its lab moved to the New Jersey Public Health Environmental and Agriculture Laboratory in West Trenton in November.  It is expected that the Division of Animal Health and its lab will move to the new building in early 2012.

Equine Awards Luncheon -- The NJ Equine Advisory will hold its annual awards luncheon January 15, 2012 at Charleys Other Brother in Westhampton.  The 2012 Equestrian of the Year will be chosen that day as well as the presentation of the Secretary of Agriculture Awards for both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred of the Year and the Horseperson of the Year.   NJ Sire Stake Awards, scholarship presentations, and the Superior Horse Awards also will be presented.