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July 23, 2003

Market Development - For the 2003 growing season there are 171 Jersey Fresh Quality Program licensees to date. The Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program offers farmers the added advantage of marketing with the Jersey Fresh Brand. Supermarkets and produce buyers consistently look for quality and name recognition when making purchasing decisions. Participation in the Grading program offers growers a leg up on the competition. Ten new community farm markets opened this year. Several of the states 59 markets are still looking for producers, contact Ron Good or the Market Development staff about communities that are seeking farmers to participate in markets for this season. Staff has finalized the department's listings of community farmers markets and farm stands for the 2003 produce season.

The newest Jersey Fresh television commercial began airing on Philadelphia and New York television stations on July 7, 2003. The two commercials will alternately air through the beginning of October. The advertisements are based around the concept of "citizens, selling to citizens" and feature New Jersey farmers in addition to various New Jersey agricultural products. Commodity specific radio commercials are continuing to sponsor traffic and weather reports on radio stations throughout New Jersey.

Organic Legislation - Organic certification legislation (S2379 and A3358) passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor's signature. The legislation directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an organic farming certification program and consider any national standards that may be adopted by the USDA for organic food. The Secretary may designate one or more organizations to certify organic farming and handling practices, authorize those organizations to charge fees to cover reasonable costs associated with the certification process, establish two separate certification procedures for "certified organic" and "transitional sustainable," and design a label to be affixed to agricultural products that receive certification as "certified organic" or "transitional sustainable." The bill also requires the Secretary to adopt rules and regulations necessary to implement the organic farming certification program.

Federal Funding - The Secretary sent letters to congressional delegates to urge support and funding for the specialty crop block grant program and value added grant programs. The specialty block grant, awarded to state agencies that administer agriculture programs, is used to support initiatives to expand and improve the specialty crop industries in the state. The value-added grant program assists producers or producer groups in research and development of business plans or start-up of value-added agricultural businesses. Last year, New Jersey producers or producer organizations received five grants worth $390,200 for value-added agricultural market development projects.

Farmland Assessment - August 1 is the deadline for farmland assessment applications. Nearly 30,000 applications for approximately 1.1 million acres of farmland are expected to be filed. The Department continues to have an excellent working relationship with the Division of Taxation, which administers Farmland Assessment regulations.

Livestock Operations - Secretary Kuperus and DEP Commissioner Campbell sent a joint letter to approximately 4,500 animal operations following the DEP's development of a general permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The letter informs animal operations that they are required to apply for the general permit if they meet certain criteria. The letter also encourages operations that are not required to obtain a general permit to develop and implement a farm conservation plan to avoid potential DEP enforcement actions. The Department also continues to develop rules to manage animal waste on operations that are not regulated by the CAFO general permit. The Animal Waste Advisory Committee will review the latest draft in the next few weeks. These measures are all designed to help protect New Jersey's water quality.

Agriculture Leadership Development Program - The Agriculture Society announced 25 participants for the fifth class of the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program. The participants come from 12 counties; 15 of them work in production agriculture businesses. The participants will work over the next two years on developing their communication skills, improving time and people management abilities, and learning more about how government works at the local, state and federal levels. The purpose of this training is to prepare them to better participate in and promote agriculture.

Crop Insurance - On August 1st, Secretary Kuperus and other commissioners and representatives from the Northeast states will seek approval from the Federal Crop Insurance Board of Directors on a proposal to make AGR-Lite available to New Jersey farmers and others in the region. AGR-Lite provides protection against low revenue due to unavoidable causes. The program covers a wide range of farm revenue, including income from almost all crops and agricultural commodities, animal products such as milk, and greenhouse production. AGR-Lite is easier to apply for and administer than other whole-farm insurance programs and will be advantageous for New Jersey.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) - The re-emergence of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has health officials on alert. The nation's first human case of the disease this year resulted in the death of a Georgia man. Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have seen the highest number of EEE cases in horses in years. Although EEE rarely affects people, it can be more deadly than the West Nile virus. Symptoms in humans range from mild flu-like illness to full-blown encephalitis, coma and death. Horses have long been sentinels for the disease. Clinical signs in horses include unsteadiness, erratic behavior, marked loss of coordination, seizures and death. Emus are also susceptible to the virus, but develop bloody diarrhea as the primary clinical sign. An effective preventative vaccine for horses has been available and in use in affected areas for years. The first time a horse is vaccinated for EEE, they must receive a series of two injections, separated by approximately three weeks. Horses exposed to mosquitoes for more than 6 months are often vaccinated twice a year to provide year round protection. Mosquito control is key to controlling the virus, but the protective measures recommended to protect humans, wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants and using insect repellent while outdoors, are not applicable or practical for horses. The most effective preventive treatment for horses is vaccination.