Nutrition Rule -- Secretary Kuperus joined Acting Governor Richard Codey on June 6 at South Orange Middle School to announce that, by September 1, 2007, New Jersey school districts will be required to adopt a comprehensive statewide policy that will encourage and teach better eating habits. The amended Nutrition Rule, which includes the Model School Nutrition Policy, was published on June 20 in the New Jersey Register. The policy will be phased in, giving school districts time to adjust. By September 1, 2006, districts will have to adopt a school nutrition policy. By September 1, 2007, districts will have to match their policies to the Model School Nutrition Policy as laid out in the amended Nutrition Rule. Under the policy, soda and other foods of minimal nutritional value, items listing sugar in any form as the first ingredient, and all forms of candy may not be served, sold or given out free as promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day. Schools will reduce the purchase of any products containing trans fats. And, all snack and beverage items must have no more than 8 grams of total fat per serving, and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving, all beverages shall not exceed 12 ounces except water, or milk containing 2 percent or less fat, and whole milk shall not exceed 8 ounces. Each school’s curriculum must include nutrition education. The nutrition event was covered by most daily newspapers in New Jersey, as well as the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, all major radio stations in the New York-metro area, and several New Jersey and New York television stations. Subsequent editorials in major New Jersey newspapers including the Trenton Times, Star-Ledger and Bergen Record have applauded the efforts to improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages offered to students.
Jack Gallagher Retirement -- After 28 years with the Department of Agriculture, Jack Gallagher, Chief of Operations, will retire, effective July 1. Mr. Gallagher has had an exemplary career with the Department. A true leader, he helped make the Department of Agriculture one of the most efficient, well-run departments in state government. He will be missed. Michelle Hammel will take over Mr. Gallagher’s policy duties. Louis Bruni, who has been with the Department since January and has been a state employee since 1983, will assume Mr. Gallagher’s administrative duties. Over the past few months, Mr. Bruni has worked closely with Mr. Gallagher to ease the transition. In addition, Mr. Bruni will take over Mr. Gallagher’s duties as liaison to the Horse Park of New Jersey.
Farmland Preservation Funding Advances -- The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) expects the Legislature to approve and Governor to sign farmland preservation appropriation bills totaling $141.6 million by June 30th. The bills were approved by the Garden State Preservation Trust in May and last week cleared the Senate Economic Growth Committee. They include $45 million in grants to preserve 122 farms covering 7,540 acres through the county easement purchase program; $44 million for the SADC to purchase development easements or farmland outright; $31,415,464 in grants to municipalities and counties to preserve farms in 49 project areas they have identified under the planning incentive grant program; $5.015 million to provide up to 50 percent cost-sharing grants to nonprofit organizations seeking to preserve farmland; $1,225,000 to Atlantic County to preserve the 232-acre John Bertino Trust farm in Hammonton under the Pinelands county easement purchase program; and $15 million in supplemental funding targeted for preservation in the Highlands region, to be distributed on an as-needed basis among all preservation programs.
Ethanol Check -- Secretary Kuperus and Chief of Operations Jack Gallagher presented the principals of Garden State Ethanol with an oversized check on June 16 at the EcoComplex in Burlington County that represented $1 million in federal funding secured earlier this year for development of an ethanol production facility in New Jersey. The funding was made possible by the hard work of Senator Jon Corzine and the New Jersey Congressional Delegation. With a proposed ban on the gasoline additive MTBE moving forward in the New Jersey Senate, ethanol becomes more important as the only viable alternative for oxygenating gasoline. The Senate has directed the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection to seek a waiver from oxygenating gasoline in New Jersey, but similar waivers sought by California, New York and Connecticut all were recently turned down by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Vine-Ripened Tomato Rule -- A new rule has been proposed that would require tomatoes sold as “vine-ripened” to actually have ripened on the vine and not through treatment with ethylene gas to begin the ripening process. Currently, tomatoes that are harvested while still green and ripened with ethylene can be called “vine-ripened,” which some in the trade and consumers may pay more a premium price for. The goal is to not only allow producers to compete effectively in the New Jersey market, but also to ensure that New Jersey consumers are getting a product that does not bear a misleading label. The proposed new rule sets forth the standards for labeling tomatoes as vine-ripened. Tomatoes must obtain some discernable degree of pink or red color before being removed from the vine and may not be treated with ethylene gas in order to be labeled as vine ripened. The proposed new rule also sets forth penalties for the improper labeling of vine-ripened tomatoes, which begin at $50.00 per carton for a first offense and the procedures to obtain a hearing in the event of a violation.
Premium Peach Rule -- The Jersey Fresh Premium Peach standard proposed was derived from a recommendation of the New Jersey Peach Industry Task Force. The task force was created in 2003 and appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to help sustain the New Jersey peach market. The proposed voluntary standards will help distinguish New Jersey peaches, add value, and provide a competitive advantage in the market place. To bear the premium peach label, peaches will be packed and shipped within seven days, and meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Fancy Grade and will be inspected by a New Jersey Department of Agriculture inspector to ensure they meet the requirements of the U.S. Fancy Grade.
Promoting Jersey -- The Division of Marketing and Development has been working to promote its Jersey Fresh and Jersey Seafood brands. To highlight Jersey Seafood, the Department partnered with the Jersey Shore Partnership for their Summer Celebration, highlighting the bounty of the Jersey Shore, including oysters, clams, tilapia and scallops. A round of visits was made to supermarket retailers to encourage the purchases of Jersey Fresh products. Two Rutgers students were hired as summer interns to assist with the Jersey Fresh program. They will concentrate their efforts on visiting grocery stores throughout the state to distribute the point of purchase material. The "Jersey Fresh Availability & Forecast Report" continues 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.
Asian Longhorned Beetle -- As adult Asian longhorned beetles begin to emerge, the Department has renewed its public information efforts urging residents to be on the lookout for the bug. And to alert the Department if there is any sign of the beetle in their area. ALB eradication efforts are continuing in the Middlesex/Union counties quarantine area, with almost 7,000 trees removed, 515 of those being infested host trees. Tree removal has yielded 3,567 tons of wood chips. In the Jersey City-Hoboken quarantine area, ALB survey efforts continue. In other ALB news, Secretary Kuperus has written to the members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, seeking their support for increased federal funding of the Asian longhorned beetle cooperative eradication program. The President has recommended an FY 2006 budget of $15 million nationally for ALB eradication. That is a significant reduction from the $30 million allocated in FY 2005.