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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
August 22, 2007Food Safety Grant – The Department has been awarded a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement (FSMIP) grant of $85,000 to assist growers to prepare for voluntary third party food safety audits. It is the single largest FSMIP grant awarded by the USDA this year. The funds will be used to train growers to conduct mock audits in preparation for receiving food safety certifications. The training is in cooperation with Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
Farmers Markets – In response to questions surrounding which prepared foods are legal to sell at community farmers markets, the Department has prepared an interim document to guide vendors and market managers for the rest of this year’s market season and will be working on a more detailed document to be ready in time for the 2008 season. The interim document is under review by the Department of Health & Senior Services, with a target date of September 1 to be distributed to the markets. The document was generated after a meeting on August 1 with officials from the Department of Health & Senior Services, the Hunterdon County Health Department, representatives of the 23rd District legislators and farmers market association leaders to discuss the issue of what can and cannot be sold at farmers markets. An inspection earlier this summer by the Hunterdon County Health Department of the Sergeantsville Farmers Market resulted in vendors being told they could not sell pies or other value-added items made in unlicensed, un-inspected home kitchens because such an arrangement violates Chapter 24 of the state health code. In addition to the two guidance documents, the Department is continuing its ongoing work to develop community kitchens, where farmers or those buying ingredients from New Jersey farms will be able to make such items and legally sell them at farmers markets.
Governor’s Hunger Initiative – The Department of Agriculture mailed out checks totaling $1,155,000 on August 17 to the six emergency feeding operations (EFO) throughout the state as their first quarterly payments in the State Food Purchase Program. For the second year, Governor Jon S. Corzine’s state budget included funding for the program to help more hungry citizens. This year, funding for the program was increased to $4 million, which will be used by the feeding operations to buy health foods, with a first priority on buying locally, for distribution to their network of food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. In Fiscal Year 2007, $3 million was distributed to the EFO’s, which resulted in the state’s food banks purchasing an average of 262,695 pounds of food monthly that fed 69,110 recipients each month. Another million dollars was used to buy needed equipment, such as refrigerators and freezers for the local distribution agencies.
Live Seafood Directories – To aid consumers in finding markets and restaurants from Maine to Virginia that sell their seafood live, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has compiled a directory, “Live Seafood: The Best Test of Quality.” The multi-lingual consumer directory is designed to facilitate sales by helping people find places where they can make live seafood purchases. The directory is the result of a two-year-long survey of consumers, producers, wholesalers and buyers in the Northeast about consumption of live fish, shellfish and other seafood products. The study was conducted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with Rutgers University and the University of Delaware, and paid for with a $56,500 matching grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). The grant’s purpose was to help promote the production and consumption of locally grown live seafood products. The consumer directory is available online at: www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov/Ethnic%20Live%20Seafood%20Directory%20web.htm. In addition, worked with the Sea Grant and College of Marine Science at the University of Delaware to compile and publish a list of producers of live seafood products, both commercial fishermen and aquaculturists, which was produced to make buyers aware of the diversity of domestic production in the Northeast. The Business Network Directory of Live Seafood focuses on, but is not limited to, the Northeast. This guide is available online at: www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov/BusinessNetworkDirectory.htmor by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bees – Tim Schuler, a 21-year veteran of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, has begun his new job as State Apiarist, taking over for Paul Raybold who retired several months ago. With so many of New Jersey’s fruit and vegetable crops dependent on honeybees for pollination, ensuring a robust honeybee industry in New Jersey is a key to successful agriculture. Tim, most recently has worked as a Senior Animal Health Technician for the Department’s Division of Animal Health. Schuler plans to work with the researchers in trying various approaches to finding the cause of, and the solution to, the problem of colony collapse disorder and will continue working closely with Rutgers University and the New Jersey Beekeepers Association to expand the highly successful “Bee-ginners Beekeeping” course offered since last year.
Gypsy Moth – The next phase of the Gypsy Moth Suppression Program – egg mass surveys -- will begin shortly. To date, 115 municipalities have requested that the Department conduct egg mass surveys in their towns. The surveys will be conducted this fall with completion by the end of the year. At that time, the Department will make its recommendations for the 2008 Gypsy Moth Aerial Suppression spray program. In 2007, the state experienced a three-fold increase in defoliation over the previous year, with a total of 320,610 acres of forestland defoliated in 125 municipalities in 19 counties of the state.
Soil and Water Conservation Funding -- Approximately $1 million in soil and water conservation grant funding has been made available – $300,000 from an appropriation in the Governor’s FY2008 budget and $782,000 the SADC was able to direct to the program from interest earnings on 1992 and 1995 farmland preservation bond funds. The State budget funding became available with the start of the fiscal year on July 1, while the remaining funding will be available once the Governor signs the SADC’s appropriation bills approved by the Legislature in June. At its July meeting, the SADC approved 28 new soil and water conservation projects. Based on a cost share of up to 50 percent, those grants will total approximately $361,000. That leaves a remainder of $721,000 in available soil and water conservation funding. The program is open to owners of farmland that is permanently preserved or enrolled in an eight-year preservation program. Interested landowners should apply to their local Soil Conservation District.
Farmland Preservation Expenditures -- The SADC spent more than $105 million in Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) funds in FY07, far exceeding its expenditure goal of $76 million, according to a status report from the GSPT. A total of 174 transactions using GSPT funds were closed during the year, a 28 percent increase and nearly 1,000 acres over the previous year and a 40 percent increase over two years ago. The SADC is aggressively pursuing closings to meet its expenditure goals and ensure that transactions are completed in as timely and efficient manner as possible.
Animal Emergency Hurricane Preparedness Meeting – The Department and the Animal Emergency Working Group held its first annual hurricane preparedness meeting for County Animal Response Teams (CART) leadership. Fifty-five people attended the meeting that reviewed roles and responsibilities, establishing contacts for communicating and collaborating with other CARTs, hazards associated with hurricanes and the needed planning tasks.
Animal Disaster Response Trailer – A sixth CART trailer has been awarded to Hunterdon County Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The trailer is stocked with animal sheltering supplies and equipment. The trailer and supplies were purchased with funds provided by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant through the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. It is expected that Hunterdon should take possession of the trailer in early September. Trailers had previously been awarded to Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Hudson and Sussex counties’ OEMs.
Envirothon – The 2007 winners of the New Jersey Envirothon, High Tech High School in Hudson County, placed 5th in the national 2007 Canon Envirothon, held this summer at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Two hundred and sixty students from 45 U.S. teams and eight Canadian teams participated in North America’s largest environmental education competition.
Marketing Report: Website Brochures – Just in time for the fall agritourism season, the Department has produced a brochure highlighting the consumer websites: visitnjfarms.org; jerseyfresh.nj.gov; jerseygrown.nj.gov; jerseyseafood.nj.gov; and the main nj.gov/agriculture. The two-sided card briefly explains each website and is being distributed to travel and tourism welcome centers and Rutgers Cooperative Extension offices and will be handed out at events attended by Department staff.
2008 Jersey Fresh Ad Campaign – Plans are underway for next year’s farm marketing season’s advertising campaign. Additional commodities, including cut flowers, potatoes, eggs and nectarines, have been photographed for use in print ads. A print ad for strawberries has already been created for use next season.
Supermarket Visits – Foodtown supermarkets celebrated Jersey Fresh with events featuring large displays of local produce, tastings and special guests. Secretary Kuperus visited the Foodtown of Smithville on August 2 and the Toms River Super Foodtown on August 8.
Farmers Market Week – National and State Farmers Market Week was commemorated with visits to markets in Ocean City and Toms River on August 8. In Toms River, Secretary Kuperus joined USDA Deputy Under Secretary Kate Houston to present the organizers of the weekly farmers market with proclamations. The event featured the distribution of Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Coupons to local senior citizens.
Wednesday, August 29 --The first meeting of the newly re-established Pinelands Ag Advisory Committee will be held at 7pm at the Pinelands Commission office in New Lisbon. This Committee is expected to address ongoing issues in the Pinelands region, including amendments to the Comprehensive Management Plan, the evaluation of the Pinelands Development Credit Program, and land use actions that have the potential to impact the viability of the agricultural industry in the Pinelands.
Wednesday, September 5 – Secretary Kuperus and state Health Commissioner Dr. Jacobs will kick-off a fall childhood obesity/secondhand smoke speaking tour at the State Board of Education meeting. The cabinet members plan to visit high schools, PTA’s, teacher and senior citizen groups to put on programs to promote awareness and encourage action on these health issues. Secretary Kuperus’ participation will focus on the Department’s school nutrition policy and emergency feeding programs administered by the Division of Food and Nutrition and our WIC/Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.