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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
August 26, 2009Disaster Declaration Request – Governor Corzine this month sent a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack requesting a natural disaster designation for six counties impacted by severe weather this growing season and will likely add more counties to the request in the coming week. Senators Menendez and Lautenberg also wrote to Secretary Vilsack requesting the declaration to make federal relief programs available to farmers in those counties. A tornado in Sussex County, damaging hail in Hunterdon and extremely wet weather in Burlington County, were among the issues New Jersey farmers have faced this year, causing crop losses and property damage.
Dairy – The Department has made it a high priority to work on ways to assist the dairy industry due to the emergency status facing the state’s dairy farmers due to the collapse of milk prices. Secretary Fisher met with county extension agents and dairy farmers from both the north and south in August to discuss opportunities to help the industry.
H1N1 Influenza Preparedness – The Department has developed a web page with information about the Novel H1N1 Influenza and how it relates to livestock, including links to USDA’s H1N1 website and the state department of Health’s site, at www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/ah/diseases/novelh1n1.html. Department personnel are participating in planning exercises with other state agencies in the event of a pandemic this fall.
Hunger Funding – More than $900,000 was distributed to New Jersey’s six emergency feeding operations throughout the state in late July as part of Governor Corzine’s Hunger Initiative to feed more of the state’s neediest residents. Governor Corzine’s budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1st allocated $3 million for the State Food Purchase Program, administered by the Department. The funding is disseminated to the food banks for the purchase of nutritious foods in four quarterly installments throughout the year. The first quarter checks totaled $945,116. The food banks use the funding to purchase fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods and distribute the items to their networks of food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
Asian Longhorned Beetle Awareness – Secretary Fisher kicked off an awareness campaign in August to help stop the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) from invading forested areas. Governor Corzine has declared August “Asian Longhorned Beetle Awareness Month” in the state. ALB is a large, black invasive pest with no known predators in the United States, which kills hardwoods. Unchecked, the beetle can move a half mile each year and be taken even further in firewood and wood pallets, allowing it to spread rapidly. Citizens are being urged to be on the lookout for these creatures and also to take steps so they don’t move materials to other parts of this state or into other states that might harbor the bug.
West Nile Virus/Eastern Equine Encephalitis – The Department announced on August 24 that cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) for 2009 have occurred in horses in Gloucester and Salem counties. A 3-year-old mare from Gloucester County was humanely euthanized on August 18 after testing positive for both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Illness in a 20-year-old gelding in Salem County was attributed to infection with WNV. The horse is recovering. Horses contract the viruses when infected mosquitoes bite them. Horse owners were urged to vaccinate their animals against the two ailments.
Eat Local Challenge – Secretary Fisher challenged all New Jersey residents to eat an all-New Jersey meal. The Secretary shopped for an all-local ingredient meal at the Woodstown Farmers Market on Friday, August 7, and came away with Jersey tomatoes and cucumbers for a salad, semi-sweet Asian pear wine, sweet corn for home-made corn pudding and organic Monterey jack cheese. He pointed out that people can visit the Jersey Fresh website to find community farmers markets near them to access local produce and other agricultural products and that a variety of supermarkets and fish markets carry Jersey Seafood. In addition, Secretary Fisher and Assistant Secretary Murray joined with King’s Supermarkets for a Jersey Peach Challenge, where the supermarket challenged customers to come up with recipes using Jersey peaches.
Farm Bill Funding – The Department has received $80,000 in Farm Bill funding from USDA APHIS PPQ to develop an enhanced surveillance network of insect traps in high-risk areas of the state. A targeted pest list is being developed based on recent foreign pest interceptions by US Customs and Border Protection and USDA APHIS PPQ SITC at ports in New Jersey to determine if pests are becoming established. An objective of the project is to train NJ Master Gardeners to spot and report suspected invasive plant pests of national concern.
Organic Certification Cost Share – The Department is participating in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Each qualified operation is eligible for a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of its costs of certification not to exceed $750. Certification costs include fees and charges levied by the certifying agent for certification activities. Applications must be received by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture no later than Friday, November 13, 2009. Applications and more information about the program are available online at www.nj.gov/agriculture/grants/organiccostshare.html.
Scholarship -- New Jersey residents who are entering their senior year in high school this fall and are planning a career in agriculture or science may apply for the New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award, one $500 scholarship, sponsored by Amy Butewicz, a former NJ Equestrian of the Year. Contestants must be a current, active member of an organization either on the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board and/or represented at the Youth Reception portion of the annual New Jersey State Agricultural Convention. Each contestant must submit a resume and an essay on the topic, “How has your involvement within your respective nominating organization helped to shape your future career choice?” The deadline for the submission is December 15, 2009.
NJDA Personnel Take National Leadership Roles – Assistant Secretary Al Murray will serve as president of the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials (NAAMO) this year. The goal of the state marketing representatives is to improve and develop new marketing ideas, share information and improve state cooperation. Plant Industry Division Director Carl Schulze will serve as President of the National Plant Board for the next two years. The National Plant Board, formed in 1925, is an organization of all U.S. state plant regulatory agencies working together to help ensure a wholesome and abundant supply of agricultural products by guarding against the possible introduction of plant pests and invasive plant species.
Agricultural Recycling – New Jersey growers may participate in a new program to recycle mulch plastic (black, white, clear or color) and plastic drip irrigation tape. New Jersey growers generate thousands of tons of plastic each year at a cost of more than $50 per ton to dispose of the material at a landfill. Recycling these materials can reduce disposal costs and is better for the environment. To find out more about the new recycling opportunity and other agricultural recycling programs, call Karen Kritz at 609-984-2506 or visit the Department’s Agricultural Recycling webpage at: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/recycling.html