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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
June 25, 2008Salmonella in Tomatoes – New Jersey field-grown tomatoes are still about a week away from harvest and the questions about the safety of tomatoes continue with several reports of New Jersey residents becoming sick with salmonellosis after eating tomatoes. The Food and Drug Administration ruled out New Jersey as a source of any tomatoes implicated in the outbreak, since both field and greenhouse tomatoes from New Jersey were not in the market as of the mid-April timeframe FDA has said saw the arrival of the suspect produce. The Department developed a sign for retailers to display near their Jersey Fresh tomatoes that states: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has listed New Jersey-grown tomatoes as safe for sale and consumption.” The sign was distributed to supermarket chains, through the New Jersey Food Council and to other interested parties to allay consumers’ fears over eating tomatoes. In addition, information about the salmonella outbreak has been posted on the NJDA food safety web page.
Farm Bill Impact on Food Programs – The recently passed Farm Bill provides New Jersey with almost $1 million more in Emergency Food Assistance Program commodity funds. It is unknown how much addition food will be received due to high food prices and limited availability. The Farm Bill also increases funds to be used to purchase fruits, vegetables and specialty crops and it is expected that TEFAP will receive some of the commodities purchased with these funds. In addition, the Farm Bill increases funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which currently provides $20 in coupons to be redeemed with farmer/vendors for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables at community farmers markets around the state. While the Farm Bill authorizes the funding, the money still must be appropriated under a separate process.
Gypsy Moth –Data from an aerial gypsy moth defoliation survey is currently being analyzed and initial results are largely favorable. The Department completed the 2008 cooperative aerial suppression program -- the largest undertaking in 25 years -- at the end of May. Spraying included 78 municipalities in 17 counties and 9 agencies with a total of 93,849 acres treated with a single application of Foray 76B (Bacillus thuringiens) by Downstown AeroCrop Service of Vineland, New Jersey under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. A variety of aircraft were utilized on the program including helicopters, Grumman AgCats, AgTractors and aerial observation planes. Cool, wet spring temperatures slowed insect development, permitting treatments of first and second instar larvae throughout the entire state.
Seafood Cook-off Practice -- Secretary Kuperus took part in a tasting on June 23 at the New Jersey Restaurant Association office of the recipe a chef from Toms River will be preparing as he represents New Jersey at the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans in August. Peter J. Fischbach, the executive chef and Food Service Director of Gourmet Dining Services at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, prepared his Pan-Seared Local Black Sea Bass for Secretary Kuperus and other judges. Fischbach was the winner of the 2008 Jersey Seafood Challenge in January, and is preparing to represent the Garden State in the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans in August.
Sire Stakes -- The three-year-old season at the Meadowlands concluded on Friday, June 20 with a “Night of Champions.” Four finals, each with a purse of $175,000 were contested. It was the largest one night purse distribution in the history of the Sire Stakes with a total of $700,000 given away that night. Among the legislators attending that night were: Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Assemblyman Fred Scalera, Senator Loretta Weinberg, Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, Assemblywoman Joan Voss and Senator Robert Gordon. Two-year-old races begin on June 18 and will wrap up with finals spread out over two nights on July 9 and 10. After a three week hiatus, racing will resume in early August at Freehold Raceway.
School Fruit and Vegetable Program – Twenty-five schools in the state have been chosen to participate in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program for the 2008-2009 school year. The program provides fresh and dried fruits and fresh vegetables throughout the school day to teach students the importance of good nutrition, including eating fresh fruit and vegetables. A total of 94 New Jersey schools, within 68 districts submitted applications. The participating schools come from 16 different counties in the state.
Marketing Report – Community Farmers Markets: Secretary Kuperus toured three north Jersey markets on June 17 on their season opening days to call attention to community farmer’s markets openings throughout the state. He was joined on the tour of the Millburn and Elizabeth farmers markets by Diana Linbacher, Director of Supplemental Food Programs, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Region, representing Regional Administrator Yvette Jackson. He also visited Hasbrouck Heights Farmers Market. There currently are 103 markets with nine new this year.
Jersey Fresh Exhibit: The Department is working cooperatively with the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture to create a Jersey Fresh exhibit that will include displays, historical photographs, slides and videos. The exhibit is scheduled to open August 8, 2008 and will remain on display into early 2009. The timing of the exhibit will work nicely as a prelude to the 25th anniversary of Jersey Fresh in 2009.
Advertising: Radio advertising will be the focus this season, with commercials currently running on Millennium Radio Network featuring Secretary Kuperus informing consumers about greens, seafood, blueberries and Jersey Grown stock. These commercials will air through the end of June. Additional commercials featuring corn, tomatoes, cut flowers, eggplant and generic Jersey Fresh, will be recorded for other commodities for airing during the summer season. It is expected that the season’s advertising will conclude the last week of September.
JerseyFresh Availability Report: The weekly Jersey Fresh Availability and Forecast Reports will continue to update food writers, industry and consumers throughout the summer and fall.
July 27th - August 1st -- South Jersey Hot Chefs will once again host “Farm to Fork Week” highlighting the hospitality industry’s usage of Jersey Fresh and Jersey Seafood products.