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April 28, 2010

Fresh Promotion – Secretary Fisher and Jeffrey Zeiger, General Manager of the Trenton Marriott Downtown hotel announced on April 26 that the Marriott made a commitment with the Department of Agriculture to offer menu items at its Archives Restaurant featuring Jersey Fresh produce starting on May 3.  The restaurant will purchase produce from local farmers, highlight a different Jersey Fresh item on its menu once a month, and hold a monthly after-work cooking demonstration of the menu item.  The dish for the month of May will feature Jersey Fresh asparagus. That will be followed by endive, blueberries, tomatoes, peaches, and butternut squash. 

National Produce Company Seeks NJ Farmers -- C.H. Robinson, a national produce company recently approached the Department to help them access New Jersey’s produce industry.  The Secretary and members of the marketing staff have worked with company representatives to help them learn about New Jersey’s produce industry, as well as help foster relationships with New Jersey farmers.  Several meetings have taken place, and the Department recently hosted members of their buying office on a tour of vegetable farms in southern New Jersey.  C.H. Robinson, founded in 1905 and headquartered in Eden Prairie, MN, has evolved to be the fourth largest produce buyer in the United States with gross revenues topping $8 billion.  As consumer interest in locally grown has exploded across the US., Senior Management at C.H. Robinson tasked its New Jersey office to develop a model of working with local farmers to develop relationships and ultimately access local products into the C.H. Robinson distribution chain.  New Jersey was selected largely due to the success of the Jersey Fresh advertising and promotion program.  By working with an established, nationally recognized program, C.H. Robinson believes it will greatly aid them in setting up a locally grown program with their customers.  To date, several farmers have entered into agreements with the company.

Marketing NJ Agricultural Products – The Department was represented at two large trade shows in April to help obtain markets for New Jersey growers.  At the 10th annual New England Produce Council trade show in Boston, Jersey Fresh was promoted to re-establish relationships with chain store produce managers, brokers, and wholesalers after the winter hiatus.  New England represents the Garden State’s second largest produce market.  Jersey Fresh is well recognized, and supported through out this region.  Staff members distributed Jersey Fresh point of sale, as well as various buyers’ guides, farm brochures, and current crop condition reports.  The Jersey Fresh program was represented at the United Fresh national trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, a uniquely concentrated business opportunity to meet with more than 20,000 retail and food service executives and buyers.  Key produce industry buyers and decision makers from more than 33 countries were in attendance. These attendees are the all important gate keepers that can allow or deny access for NJ farmers to the increasingly consolidated and difficult to penetrate retail marketplace.  Food safety was a major issue at both shows.

Jersey Fresh Reports -- The seasonal "Jersey Fresh Availability & Forecast Report" has begun again for the 2010 growing season to update the regions produce industry, Cooperative Extension staff, Department personnel, restaurateurs, Jersey Fresh licensed growers, and food media communicators on the current and future availability of Jersey Fresh produce. The report indicates the general quality and quantity of produce available in the marketplace. This information can help buyers with their purchasing and marketing decisions as they relate to Jersey products since retailers typically design their store circulars and marketing strategies three to four weeks in advance. By making the advance availability of farm products known to buyers, the Department can make a bottom line difference in farm agri-business profitability and sustainability. The Department also helps retailers to provide the best quality and value that Jersey Fresh can offer to their customers.

Hunger Funding – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture distributed State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), funds totaling $2,225,655 to New Jersey’s six contracted emergency feeding organizations, which supply nutritious foods to approximately 793 food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters around the state, to feed the hungry on Monday, April 19.  With the check distribution, the total amount of funds allocated for the State Food Purchase Program during Fiscal Year 2010 was $6,918,000.  Governor Christie’s proposed budget includes continued funding for the program.

Dairy – A hearing on issues concerning the state’s dairy industry that began on November 19, 2009, closed on April 26, following the receipt of written positions from interested parties.  The Department is reviewing testimony, briefs and responses regarding the testimony and must render a decision by May 17.

Equine Herpes Virus -- On March 24, 2010, the Department began an investigation  into a possible outbreak of equine herpes virus 1 (EHV-1) at a farm in Farmingdale, Monmouth County where two horses were euthanized with clinical signs consistent with the neurological form of EHV-1, and another horse died with similar signs. Eventually, five Monmouth County farms and one Gloucester County farm were placed under quarantine during the investigation.  By April 13, 2010, all farms were released from quarantine.  The EHV virus spreads quickly from horse to horse and can cause respiratory problems, especially in young horses, and spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares. The neurologic form of the disease can reach high morbidity and mortality rates.

Bee Colony Deaths – Bee inspections have yielded the finding of quite a few dead bee colonies.  Bee samples collected from these colonies have been analyzed at the USDA lab in Beltsville MD.  Results have shown very high levels of Nosema disease along with high levels of varroa and tracheal mite parasitism. Nosema causes diarrhea in honey bees and a general unthriftiness which weakens the bees and their colonies. The State Apiarist is developing recommendations for New Jersey beekeepers with this beekeeping problem.

Live Bird Market Closure -- A Newark live bird market was closed in early April when it was discovered that it had been processing red meat.  During the closure, two hundred of the 1,366 live birds had to be humanely euthanized.  The Department worked to ensure that the birds were adequately cared for during the shutdown.  The red meat was disposed of, sewer line problems were addressed and the market was allowed to reopen on April 6.

Eat Right, Move More Visits – The Department has worked with the New York Jets to begin visiting the five remaining winning schools for this school year in the Eat Right, Move More school nutrition program.  Three of the five were visited in April.  On April 13, Secretary Fisher, Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Assemblywoman Munoz were on hand for the program at Summit High School.  On April 22, Arleen Ramos-Szatmary of the Division of Food and Nutrition represented the Department for programs at programs at two Bergen County Schools with Jets defensive end Mike Devito.  At Brookside School in Allendale, Assemblywoman Vandervalk spoke during the program and at Elmwood Park Memorial High School, Assemblywoman Wagner and County Executive Dennis McNerney spoke.  Two more visits are scheduled for May.

Sussex County Landslide -- On March 13, 2010, after significant snow and rainfall, a sizeable area of mountainous slope being developed for single family homes, collapsed above Sussex County Route 620, depositing many tons of soil, water and mature forest timber on the county road and adjacent rail road. SSCC staff is assisting the Sussex soil conservation district with identifying the soil erosion and sediment control measures that will be required to be.