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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
June 27, 2012
Jersey Seafood Challenge – Demetrios Haronis, executive chef at Fin in the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, was crowned the 2012 top New Jersey Seafood Chef by Secretary Fisher at this year’s Jersey Seafood Challenge at Drumthwacket in Princeton on June 21. Haronis cooked Jersey Beer-Battered Soft Shell Crab. Seven other chefs from around the state participated. Haronis and his sous chef Al Hughes will represent the Garden State in the Great American Seafood Cook Off in New Orleans on August 11.
Copepods – The Department participated in the release of thousands of tiny mosquito larvae-eating crustaceans in Cape May County on June 22. Macrocyclops albidus, commonly known as copepods, is being bred in large numbers at the Department of Agriculture’s Philip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory in West Trenton, and is one tool used by the DEP’s Mosquito Control Program to fight disease-spreading mosquitoes. This is the second year of the full-blown program and about 10 counties are expected to participate. Besides spreading human diseases, mosquitoes can infect horses with Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.
First EEE Horse -- A 3-year-old horse from Burlington County euthanized on May 27 tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. EEE is preventable by vaccination. Effective equine vaccines for EEE and another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile Virus (WNV) are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and West Nile virus. The Burlington County mare had been given the first in a series of two planned EEE vaccinations by a private veterinarian at the beginning of May. EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection. In 2011, New Jersey had one case of EEE and one case of equine WNV. One animal was euthanized, the other recovered. Both cases came in October after Hurricane Irene and subsequent rains caused flooding that resulted in much higher than normal mosquito populations.
Emergency Training -- On June 11, Secretary Fisher and the NJDA Division Directors met at the State Office of Emergency Management for Executive Level Incident Command System Emergency Training. The course consisted of understanding the language and terminology used during disaster response and the chain of command that will be utilized during a state wide disaster. In addition, the NJDA will hold a Hurricane Preparedness Exercise for County Animal Response Team (CART) leaders on July 17. The goals are to determine CART preparations at the start of hurricane season, each CART’s capacities and gaps and discuss how to fill those gaps during actual emergencies.
Month of the Horse – Secretary Fisher kicked off June, the Month of the Horse with a visit to Rutgers Equine Science Center in New Brunswick on June 1. During his visit, Fisher was treated to a demonstration of the Equine Science Center’s high-speed equine treadmill and a tour of the Environmental Best Management Practices Demonstration Horse Farm. The Center serves as a primary resource for equine research and education to advance the well-being and performance of horses and the equine industry. Fisher highlighted the many equine events happening during the month of June and throughout the summer. The NJDA equine calendar of events can be found at www.jerseyequine.nj.gov/equinecal.htm.
Farmers Markets -- Secretary Fisher celebrated the beginning of community farmers market season in New Jersey on June 13 with a visit to the Toms River Farmers Market. His visit was the first of a series of stops the Secretary plans to make in the coming weeks to highlight the nearly 150 farmers markets operating statewide and in every county. New Jersey’s farmers markets offer residents the opportunity to enjoy just-picked, Jersey Fresh produce directly from the state’s farmers, while supporting state agriculture and their local economies at the same time.
Eastern Produce Council June Meeting -- The promotion of Jersey Fresh to the Eastern Produce Council has been an annual dinner event for 25 years. The Department promoted its agricultural products to more than 200 EPC attending members representing the New York City regional retail, sales (brokers & buyers), and transportation and service companies related to the produce industry on June 12 at Demarest Farm in Hillsdale, Bergen County. The Department helps sponsor this event in conjunction with the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey, New Jersey Blueberry Growers Association, and Jersey Fruit/Sunny Valley International, which represented the New Jersey peach industry. Each of these groups had the opportunity to give brief crop updates to the crowd.
Radio Advertisements – The Department produced two radio advertisements that will run on New Jersey 101.5, WJLK, WCHR, WAYV, WFPG and WZXL/WMID promoting Jersey Fresh and Jersey Seafood. One spot promotes our farmers’ summer crops and a second urges consumers to ask for local produce and seafood when they go to their favorite restaurants.
Invasive Pest Public Service Announcement – The Division of Plant Industry has produce a public service message that has been distributed to radio stations throughout the state enlisting the help of residents in identifying tree-killing invasive forest pests. The PSA, which focuses on Asian longhorned beetle and Emerald Ash Borer, is airing at a time when these damaging pests could be active in New Jersey. On a related topic, USDA staff this month surveyed about 4,000 trees in the Middlesex/Union County area for Asian longhorned beetle and unless there is another find, eradication could come as early as April 2013.
Summer Food Service Program -- Programs are set to start the first week of July around the state, with 100 sponsors, 15 of which are new this year. A promotional video was produced and will be played at a kick-off event in Perth Amboy in the next few weeks. The video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br87AltZ7kk. In addition, the Department is partnering with the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-Education, wherein they will provide nutrition education for children participating in SFSP throughout New Jersey.
School Meals – The Division of Food and Nutrition has been working to prepare school districts for meal pattern changes that are coming in September. They are creating a menu planning tool for school foodservice managers to use in planning menus that meet the new regulations and they have been presenting webinars on various topics that will assist schools in meeting all of the many requirements involved with participation in the federal Child Nutrition Programs. The webinars have been recorded and posted in the School Nutrition Electronic Application and Reimbursement System (SNEARS). The webinars are a very cost effective way to train, and the sponsors are very appreciative.