Budget Hearings - On April 24 and 25 Secretary Kuperus and the Division Directors presented testimony to the Senate and Assembly appropriation committees regarding the department's 2003 budget. The Secretary and the Staff were well received by both committees answering questions related to Farmland Preservation, Dairy, and school nutrition programs. The two days of testimony and the dialogue with the committee members was beneficial in establishing a positive relationship with the legislature.
Transition Team Briefing - On April 23, the Secretary met with some of the members from the Governors transition team to review their report and recommendations. The productive discussions covered areas of communication and outreach, review and expansion of farmland preservation, improving relationships with the food system network including labor, food processors, commercial distributors, transportation, and food banks. There was a focus on the current restraints on agriculture such as the cost of doing business in New Jersey, coupled with the opportunities for new markets and availability of innovative technologies. The Meeting ended with agreement that the agriculture community is a positive place with the opportunity for progress and profit.
Issue Teams - Inter-department issue teams are underway, the smart-growth working group held their first meeting Monique Purcell is team leader. Workgroups getting underway are Aquaculture lead by Linda O'Dierno and Industry Development lead by Logan Brown. By mid May the final working groups for Dairy, Food Safety and Water should be in place. The purpose of the working groups is to assist in coordination across division areas and create a unified working strategy.
Drought Update - The Agricultural Drought Emergency Task Force held its first meeting April 3. The major focus of the discussion was the development of best management practices (bmp's) to comply with the DEP Administrative Order that extends an exemption to agriculture. The bmp's are for use by farmers to meet the requirements for the water exemption. It was clear to everyone in attendance that responsible behavior in following the bmp's would be key to continued agricultural exemptions. Without regular rainfall to supplement current supply and the advancement into the growing season it is a real concern that there could be restrictions placed on agriculture. The committee will meet in early May to finalize endorsement of the bmp's.
Crop Insurance - The deadline for New Jersey nursery producers to obtain crop insurance is May 31, 2002. Coverage will begin 30 days after receipt of signed application. With the existing drought emergency all producers in the state were encouraged to look into the Federal Risk Management Insurance programs. More information can be obtained through Bob Bruch at the Department.
Plum Pox Survey - Pre-clearance activities for the 2002 Plum Pox Virus survey were underway. A total of 2,600 acres have been identified for survey this year thus far. Division staff visited farms and contacted growers to determine blocks to be surveyed in 2002. Locations and acreages of stone fruit blocks were confirmed. Division staff is also working to identify any stone fruit growers in New Jersey that may not have responded to Plum pox survey questionnaires, in order to ensure that all commercial stone fruit acreage in the state is tested for Plum pox.
Asian Longhorned Beetle - The Department continued surveys for Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). State and federal personnel have surveyed plots in 150 square miles in northeastern New Jersey. All survey sites have been negative thus far. Over the next three years, the Department will survey the region of New Jersey that lies within 25 miles of the epicenters of the ALB infestation in New York City, as part of the eradication program for this exotic pest. The survey encompasses approximately 813 square miles of northeastern New Jersey.
Market Development - Market Development staff worked in conjunction with Department of Health WIC staff in preparation for this season's WIC/Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Currently, there are over 100 NJ farmers as Certified Vendors participating in this program.
Working with the Department of Corrections and the Department of the Treasury, the Division of Markets is promoting new purchasing procedures for state operated institutions to reduce the operating costs of those institutions and expand their purchases of New Jersey agricultural products.
Deer and Elk import ban - On April 17 the division of Fish and Wildlife issued a ban on the importation of Deer, Elk and other members of the family Cervidea into the state of NJ. This is in response to the Midwest outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The Division of Fish Game and Wildlife consulted with the Division of Animal Health before imposing the restrictions. CWD is a transmissible spongioform encephalophy of cervids that is very similar to Mad Cow Disease. Five years ago the Department, USDA and the Division surveyed 500 hunter-killed deer for the disease (all tested negative) this action should prevent the spread of the disease here.
Important Events Dates -
Invasive Species Survey, mailed in May
Gypsy Moth Spaying to begin May 1, south May 8, north.
Plum Pox sampling starts May 8.
Release of predators to begin for Hemlock wooly adelgid (April 26), and purple loosestrife (May 1)
Ag Society Legislative Tour, Tuesday July 30, 2002
UDSA - Farm Identification Surveys mailed as part of 2002 Ag census