Agricultural Smart Growth Plan – The Agricultural Smart Growth working group is in the process of revising the text and formatting of the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan in response to the comments received. More than 30 individuals and organizations offered comments and suggestions to improve the plan. Generally, the comments were supportive of the Department’s approach to the issue of Smart Growth and agricultural sustainability. The working group expects to have a revised, final draft ready for State Board review and comment at the November State Board meeting.
Professional Development Conference for Agricultural Education Teachers – In the Department’s continuing effort to strengthen agricultural education in New Jersey and better equip the next generation of New Jersey’s farmers, the Office of Agricultural Education hosted three professional development workshops for teachers of agricultural education. A full day conference was held at Cook College on September 25th. Cook College Interim Dean Keith Cooper addressed the participants, offering to help strengthen the secondary programs of instruction and discussing the restructuring of the agricultural education component of the teacher education program at Cook College.
Domestic Security – In response to growing concern over domestic security, the Governor formed the State’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, of which the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is a contributing member. On October 8th, the Department presented to the Task Force Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the following agricultural industry sectors:
- Livestock Industries (Cattle, Equine, Swine, Small Ruminants, Poultry)
- Pet Stores and Shelters
- Slaughterhouses & Livestock Auctions
- Veterinary Hospitals
- Zoo and Animal Feeds and Feed Ingredients
- Horticultural Industry
- Agricultural Aviation
- Wholesale Produce Industry
- Fish and Seafood Industries
The Best Management Practices are a public-private joint effort developed cooperatively with the assistance of NJDA, Rutgers, Farm Bureau, and others. The BMPs offer farmers, food and other agricultural industry practitioners guidelines for conducting their operations in the safest and most secure manner possible, and by that protect agricultural resources and the food supply at all levels. The Task Force endorsed the BMPs and has forwarded them to the Governor for his endorsement and signature.
Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids – The week of October 13th was National School Lunch Week, and to advance the Department’s Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids nutrition initiative, Secretary Kuperus participated in several activities promoting good nutrition. Beginning on Sunday, October 12, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Asbury Park Press, Princeton Packet, Daily Journal, New Jersey Farmer, and New Jersey Herald newspapers ran an op-ed piece drafted by the Secretary promoting Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids and the Department’s efforts to develop a school nutrition policy that sets standards for food items sold outside the school lunch. Other papers throughout the state continue to run op-ed. On October 14th, the Secretary ate lunch with school children at Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill. The Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders and Eagles star kicker David Akers also attended the event to help promote the connection between healthy eating and physical fitness.
New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival – The inaugural New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival was held on September 20th at Monmouth Park. The event, which focused on the first-ever full card of races exclusively for New Jersey-bred Thoroughbreds drew more than 9,000 to Monmouth Park. This provided the opportunity for New Jersey horses to exclusively compete for nearly $250,000 in purses in an event simulcast across the country. More than $800,000 was bet at the track – one of the best days of the park’s racing season. In addition to the racing, there was a tote bag giveaway, and other activities aimed at introducing the public to the animal athletes, including a parade of breeds. Encouraged by the success of this year’s event, the festival committee has begun work on planning the second annual New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival.
Apiary Inspection and Issues – The Division of Plant Industry recently hired Paul Raybold to serve as the State apiarist and a seasonal inspector to assist with the inspection of honeybee colonies belonging to migratory beekeepers who are preparing to move their colonies out-of-state for the winter season. A total of 750 colonies were inspected, and 336 certificates were issues to permit the movement of the hives out of New Jersey. Two new beekeepers were registered.
The Division is also preparing to respond to growing local concern over the future of beekeeping in several regions of New Jersey where municipalities have either enacted or are considering adopting regulations to prohibit hobby beekeeping. The borough of Alpine is the latest considering this action, which appears to be based on a misunderstanding of differences between honeybees and commonly mistaken look-alikes, such a yellow jackets. In an effort to educate the public on the nature and importance of honeybees, the Division is preparing outreach materials to be distributed to local governments and county boards of agriculture.
Rural Redevelopment – Agricultural labor housing and the health of New Jersey’s rural communities is a serious concern for the Department. Earlier this week, Secretary Kuperus attended an event to announce a USDA loan that addresses both issues simultaneously. The $3 million, 1% loan from USDA Rural Development was granted to Cumberland Empowerment Housing Ltd Partnership for agricultural labor housing as the 5th phase of a 6-part HOPE VI project in City of Bridgeton. The loan will provide for the construction of 40 duplex rental units exclusively for farm workers and their families meeting the very low income requirement of 50% or less median income. Units will be constructed of innovative, low-maintenance materials, and will be designed to reflect the character of Bridgeton’s historic district. This project meets a number of vital objectives consistent with the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan by revitalizing a severely depressed region of the state through the redevelopment of an existing community while at the same time providing quality agricultural labor housing.