Reorganization/Relocation: The Department's reorganization went into effect on January 28th. The six former divisions have been reorganized into five, and a new division has been created. The new divisions and directors are: Agricultural and Natural Resources (formerly Rural Resources), Monique Purcell; Animal Health, Dr. Nancy Halpern; Food and Nutrition, Kathy Kuser; Marketing and Development (formerly Markets and Dairy and Commodity Regulation), Al Murray and Pat Mullen, acting directors; Office of Operations (formerly Division of Administration), Jack Gallagher; and Plant Industry, Carl Schulze.
Economic Development: The Department's economic development strategies for nine major sectors of the agricultural industry were unveiled last month at the State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City. The strategies, designed to provide more opportunity for farmers and greater access to locally grown farm and food products for consumers, can be viewed on the Department's website at www.state.nj.us/agriculture.
Division of Food and Nutrition: A total of 533,876 pounds of federal TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) foods were distributed in February to six Emergency Feeding Organizations (EFOs). Commodities included almonds, canned peaches, mixed fruit, low-fat bakery biscuit mix, egg noodles, vegetable oil, canned corn, canned tuna, canned pork and frozen chicken. An additional 355,362 pounds of commodities were directly shipped to one EFO from USDA vendors. Commodities included canned pineapple, sliced frozen peaches, canned green beans, canned sweet potatoes, walnut pieces, instant non-fat dry milk, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and breaded pork patties.
Smart Growth Working Group: The delegates of the 2003 State Agricultural Convention concurred with the Department's strategy to develop an agricultural smart-growth plan that addresses five major areas: farmland preservation, innovative conservation planning, economic development, agriculture industry sustainability and natural resource conservation. The Smart Growth Working Group is scheduling outreach meetings with County Boards of Agriculture, County Agriculture Development Boards and county planners. The outreach meetings will focus on identifying target areas for preservation and also encourage discussion of the four other components of the plan. The SADC has developed a draft statewide map identifying priority areas for farmland preservation and industry retention that will help focus discussion at the outreach meetings.
Asian Longhorned Beetle Survey Update: Phase I of the tree removal operation has been completed, with all 102 infested trees and 48 other exposed host trees removed by January 28. The complete removal operation consists of three phases and will result in the felling of 460 host trees within ¼ mile of the epicenter. Phase II is tentatively scheduled to begin around March 1. This phase includes the removal of 201 potential host trees. Planning is underway for possible treatment of potential host trees within the ½-mile core. All candidate trees were examined to determine the type of protective treatment to be used. There are two treatment types available: soil injection and trunk injection. Soil treatment causes less stress to trees, is less expensive and will be used whenever possible. Host tree treatment could begin in mid-March. Work is continuing on the development reforestation plan for the area. The NJDEP's Community Forestry Program is working with the property owners to finalize the tree-planting grant. The Cooperative Agreement to fund the eradication program has been signed by both state and federal officials.
New Crop Insurance Program - As a result of considerable interest by other states in its Agri-Lite insurance plan, Pennsylvania is considering expanding the program by submitting to USDA a coordinated multi-state proposal for the 2004 crop year. The AGR-Lite program provides growers the opportunity to insure their five-year average farm income, using selected items from their IRS Schedule F, 1040 Forms. This plan of insurance covers the production of crops, animals, animal byproducts (for example, milk) and greenhouse products, and provides protection from losses including those from poor quality, low price and loss of markets. NJDA has indicated to Pennsylvania its interest in helping to develop a comprehensive proposal that would expand this program to New Jersey farmers.
Jersey Fresh Dairy Products -- A feasibility study and business plan are being developed for a processing facility for Sussex and Warren County dairy products. The study and plan are being developed under the leadership of the Sussex County Milk Producers Association with assistance from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Rural Development, USDA.
Agricultural Education -- The review committee selected four lead schools for collaborative agreement grants. Newton, Freehold, Allentown and Penns Grove High Schools each will receive $9,265 to collaborate with another school to encourage the sharing of educational resources, facilities and supervision of students' workplace learning programs. Union and Essex County Vocational Schools will also collaborate with the remaining $2,000 provided by the New Jersey Department of Education for these grants.
Farmland Preservation -- On February 19, Governor McGreevey announced the permanent preservation of nearly 245 acres of farmland in East Windsor Township, Mercer County, as part of New Jersey's ongoing efforts to tackle sprawl and strengthen the state's agricultural industry. The State Agriculture Development Committee purchased the farmland for $2,394,749.79 from Cedarland Associates I. The land - located in three tracts along Windsor-Perrineville Road - had been leased in the past to farmers for corn, soybean and vegetable production. The land is adjacent to the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area. The Cedarland property will be auctioned for sale on March 14th as two preserved farms. The minimum bids are $255,000 for the 77-acre farm and $585,000 for the 166-acre farm.