TOPOFF 3 – On April 4-8, New Jersey, Connecticut, the United Kingdom and Canada participated in the TOPOFF 3 Exercise. TOPOFF, an abbreviation for Top Officials, is a series of exercises designed to strengthen the nation’s capacity to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks. In New Jersey, the exercise simulated a release of the plague in Union and Middlesex Counties. Staff participated at the Agriculture Building and the Divisions of Animal Health and Food & Nutrition staffed emergency operation centers for 78 hours. The Department’s goal for this exercise was to test its communication network with its constituents, who reported a high level of success in receiving NJDA messages in a timely fashion.
Legislative Budget Hearings -- The Department attended budget hearings before the Assembly Budget Committee and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in April. The theme of the Assembly hearing on April 7th consisted of "doing more with less." The Assembly Chairman asked for numerous fiscal items relative to the past three years. The Senate committee hearing on April 20 focused on programs.
Ag Bills Become Law -- Acting Gov. Richard Codey signed Bill A-3835 into law, authorizing the establishment of a surety fund and modifying the amount of surety (bonding) required of licensed purchasers of New Jersey perishable agricultural commodities. He also signed off on $1 million in federal appropriations earmarked for the Garden State Ethanol project and on federal funding for the Asian longhorned beetle eradication program.
Asian Longhorned Beetle – On April 14, six trees infested with the Asian Longhorned Beetle were near the Linden Municipal Airport, approximately one-half mile inside the northern border of the established Middlesex/Union Counties quarantine. Because one tree had exit holes, the quarantine area will be expanded. With these new finds, an additional 3,200 trees will require removal in Linden, mainly in wooded/industrial areas, bringing the total number of trees to be removed in the Middlesex/Union Counties ALB quarantine area to approximately 8,600.
South Jersey Planting Tour – Secretary Kuperus and Assemblyman Douglas Fisher toured five farms in Salem and Gloucester counties on April 15. These farms represented New Jersey's diverse agriculture -- two vegetable farms, a honey farm, a peach farm and an organic produce farm. New Jersey Network News, the Salem Sunbeam and the Gloucester County Times covered the tour.
Jersey Grown Kick-off – On Tuesday, April 12, the Department kicked off the 2005 Jersey Grown season by celebrating National Garden Month in Union County. The Department worked with the Union County Board of Agriculture, Rutgers Master Gardeners Program, and garden center and nursery owners to "Give a Garden" – the theme of National Garden Month – to a preschool in the urban area of Plainfield.
Process Review Committee – The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) has formed a process review committee to recommend ways to streamline and improve processes to make the Farmland Preservation Program more predictable, efficient and effective. Planning, application processing, closings and related activities are conducted not only by the SADC but also by counties, municipalities and nonprofit organizations that partner in farmland preservation. By ensuring these activities are as coordinated and efficient as possible, this review will help maximize the amount of farmland preserved and landowner confidence in the program.
Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resource Education Visits – The Secretary and program director Nancy Trivette welcomed new Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource Education teachers in visits to Hackettstown and Phillipsburg High Schools on April 19. FFA leaders led tours of the Ag Ed facilities and school officials pledged support for the programs. Press coverage included the Star Ledger, WRNJ radio and local newspapers.
Green Energy – Implementing a resolution passed at the 2005 State Agricultural Convention, the Department in April launched a new web page, www.state.nj.us/agriculture/greenenergy.htm to explain the NJDA’s renewable energy strategy. The site explains the various green energy components: sun, wind, and renewable fuels – biogas, biodiesel, and ethanol. It also gives the rationales for turning to green energy sources. The site includes many links to obtain further information on green energy, as well as links to the studies used in determining the Department’s positions.
Gypsy Moth Suppression Program -- The Division of Plant Industry is planning to conduct its 2005 gypsy moth suppression program on May 9 and 10 in Burlington, Cape May and Ocean Counties. Treatment is slated for 656 acres.
Junior Breeder Program -- The New Jersey Junior Breeder Young Farmer Advisory Committee hosted its first annual Livestock Auction in New Egypt on Sunday, April 17. Almost 100 animals were consigned and the entire day was a huge success with 96 buyers registered for the event.
2005 NJ Envirothon -- Preparations for the 2005 New Jersey Envirothon are well under way. The event will be held on May 7 at North Branch Park in Somerset County. This year’s event will be hosting 48 teams with over 220 students, a new record for the program. The teams represent 16 counties. Richard Stockton State College and Montclair State University scholarships will be awarded as prizes.
Super Saturdays -- School Nutrition staff participated in the first of two regional events being offered in April 2005. Brick Township’s event took place Saturday April 23, 2005 and Passaic was scheduled for Saturday, April 30, 2005. Super Saturday events are funded in part by New Jersey’s Team Nutrition Grant from USDA. Super Saturday is a fun-filled day of nutrition education and fitness for parents, children in grades 4-6 and educators.