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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
March 25, 2009School Lunch and Breakfast Participation – Participation rates have increased in both the school lunch and breakfast programs this year over the 2007-2008 school year. Daily breakfast participation increased by 8 percent overall, while the number of free breakfasts increased by about 15 percent. Daily lunch participation increased by 3 ¼ percent, while the number of free lunches went up by about 11 percent. At the same time, the number of full-price breakfasts and lunches decreased.
Bees -- There will be no shortage of bees to pollinate New Jersey crops this growing season, according to State Apiarist Tim Schuler. Schuler and New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher visited Trapani Farms in Clarskburg on March 24 to see their honeybee colony and hear from the beekeepers about how their bees fared over the winter. Schuler said that large farms, such as those who grow blueberries, are finding there are commercial out-of-state bees available for pollination. He said when it comes to New Jersey bees, though, he has seen a number of dead hives over the winter and is investigating the possible causes. In 2008, there was a 17 percent over-winter death loss when death loss should only be 10 percent or less. A survey is currently being conducted for this past winter’s death loss and hopes are that it will be less than 15 percent. Due to declining numbers of beekeepers a few years ago and the state’s great need for honeybees for crop pollination, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture sponsored an incentive program with Rutgers University and the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, to encourage new beekeepers. The program offered starter hives and basic beekeeping equipment, worth up to $300, for first-time beekeepers who successfully completed the 2006 “Bee-ginning Beekeepers” course, offered by the Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education. Angelo and Anne Trapani, who have a chrysanthemum farm, participated in the program and from their starter hive now have 10 hives and are adding to their colony every year. The Department sponsored another incentive program in 2008. It was so popular that two additional courses were added that year, even though only the first class received the startup equipment. This year’s April course is already filled and a second course in May is half-filled. Because of the great interest, an advanced, hands-on beekeeping course for people who have kept bees for at least a year is being offered for the first time this year. Since 2006, 600 new beekeepers have registered with the Department. To register for the Rutgers “Bee-ginning Beekeepers” course being held May 21-23 at Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown, visit www.cpe.rutgers.edu/courses/current/ae0401ca.html.
Animal Waste Rule – The final adoption of the Criteria and Standards for Animal Waste Management rule occurred on March 16. The rule is posted on the Department’s website at www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/agriassist/animalwaste.html as well as the rule timelines.
Farm Preserved -- The 32-acre Riverforks Farm in Winslow Township, Camden County has been preserved. The SADC purchased the development rights to the farm for $885,416. When landowners sell their development rights, they continue to own the land but agree to permanent deed restrictions that protect the land for agricultural use. Owner, J. Evans Jennings Jr.’s family has been farming in South Jersey since 1677 and in Sicklerville since the 1800’s. He grew up on the farm and purchased it from his farther in the 1960’s. He grows hay for sale to equine operations.
Farm Auctions -- The SADC will hold public auctions in May and June to sell 11 preserved farms in Salem, Hunterdon, Warren and Burlington counties. Farms to be auctioned are: in Salem County, the former Heil Farm in Alloway Township, the former Sassi Farm in Carneys Point Township and the former Schroeder Farm in Pittsgrove Township; in Hunterdon County, the former Riback Farm in Lebanon Township, the former Case Farm and the former Holcombe Farm in West Amwell Township, and the former Segreaves Farm in Alexandria Township; in Warren County, the former Jayne Farm in Greenwich Township and Alpha Borough, and the former Eagle Valley Farm in Mansfield Township; and in Burlington County, the former Erb Farm and the former Limm Farm in North Hanover Township. Information on the farms and bidding procedures can be obtained on the SADC’s website at www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/farmpreserve/auctions/index.html.
Specialty Crop Grants – The Department is developing an application for the $137,758 Specialty Crop Block Grant received from USDA for 2009. To be eligible projects must “enhance the competitiveness” of specialty crops and might include, but are not limited to: research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, “buy local” programs, increased consumption, increased innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, product development, and developing cooperatives. For the purpose of these grant “specialty crops” are defined as; vegetables, fruits including grapes for wine, nuts, horticultural products including Christmas trees, honey, herbs, potatoes, sweet corn and other specialty crops.
National School Breakfast Week – Then Acting Secretary Al Murray and USDA FNS Regional Administrator Yvette Jackson celebrated School Breakfast Week with a visit to Harriet Tubman Blue Ribbon School in Newark. They shared a healthy breakfast with a class of second grade students, reminding them of the importance of eating breakfast every morning.
Deer Fencing – A limited amount of deer fencing is being offered to producers this year. Eligible applicants may receive up to 5,000 linear feet of fencing and up to 30 percent of the corresponding fence posts. Material is extremely limited with only about 40,000 linear feet available at Snyder Farm in Hunterdon County as the Department is seeking to distribute the surplus materials from the 2007 program. Applications must be postmarked by April 1, 2009 to be considered. The application and more information are available at www.nj.gov/agriculture/grants/deerfence.html.
Horticulture Expo – Secretary Fisher learned firsthand what it is like to participate in an FFA Career Development Event on February 27 when he and 63 students took part in the Floral Design competition at the Horticultural Exposition. His and the students’ arrangements were donated to Lourdes Medical Center. Fisher also viewed the many displays throughout the Burlington Center Mall. More than 640 entries were judged at the Expo. Floral and horticultural talent from 27 middle and high schools in New Jersey participated in the three-day event.
National Conservation Poster Contest Winners – A high school student from Belle Mead earned top honors this year in a national poster contest designed to raise awareness of natural resources and related issues among young people. Wilson Pei’s poster about the theme, “Water is Life,” won first prize in the Grades 10-12 category in the National Association of Conservation Districts conservation poster contest. Connie Han of Chatham received second place honors in the Grades 2-3 category and Phoebe Chow of Parsippany won second place in the Grades 7-9 category. All were first place winners in the state level competition sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Committee.