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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
October 24, 2007Cash Receipts -- New Jersey’s agricultural operators saw their cash receipts rise for the third straight year in 2006, a 6 percent increase over 2005, from $873,507,000 to $923,933,000, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Combined with an increase in net farm income over the same period, the data show an improving trend for the Garden State’s farmers. In the period from 2003-06, New Jersey’s overall farm cash receipts increased by 9 percent, signaling a growth in the prices being paid to farmers. Ornamental horticulture remained the state’s leading agricultural sector during that time, followed by vegetables and fruits, equine operations and field crops. While the improving financial picture was welcome news, some sectors of the state’s agricultural industry are faring better than others. The Department will continue to work to ensure that all of New Jersey’s farmers share in the upward trends.
Disaster Letter – Governor Jon S. Corzine sent a letter to Acting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner on October 10 requesting that he issue a natural disaster designation for crop and property damages incurred during the 2007 growing season. During the season, New Jersey farmers were faced with periods of drought and high temperatures that had a devastating impact on their crops. In addition, our farmers experienced crop and property damage from hail and wind. The letter asked that Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Ocean and Salem Counties be included in the designation. Such a designation will enable farmers to apply for emergency loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and for other relief that might be available from the federal government.
Recycling Award – Johnson Farms, a 2,000-acre nursery and sod farm in Deerfield, Cumberland County, was honored by the state Department of Environmental Protection on October 17 for its aggressive steps to recycle plastic, starting with plastic film. Johnson Farms was one of two businesses in the state to receive an Annual Recycling Leadership award this year. Last year, Johnson Farms initiated a program to recycle plastic nursery pots and plastic netting.
Giant Hogweed Brochure Award – For the second year in a row, the Documents Association of New Jersey is recognizing a product of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The Department will receive the best official New Jersey publication or document award for its Giant Hogweed brochure. This award recognizes the department or agency publication that documents librarians feel is especially useful or informative. The award will be presented at the organization’s annual conference in Princeton on November 2.
Horse Illnesses – The first cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus were reported in horses in the state in October. A 21 year old mare in Ocean County that contracted West Nile Virus was euthanized on September 27. A 6-year-old gelding from Atlantic County was euthanized on October 5 after registering a presumptive positive on a test for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The Department reminded horse owners that vaccinating their animals for the two mosquito-borne illnesses provides protection.
Outstanding Young Farmer Nominations – The Department is accepting nominations for the 2009 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer Award. To be eligible for nomination a farmer must meet the following requirements: be a farm operator, deriving a minimum of two-thirds of his or her income from farming and be between the ages of 21-39, not turning 41 prior to January 1, 2009. The submission deadline is January 15, 2008. For more information visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html.
Agricultural Education Award – For the first time, a college in New Jersey has been selected to as one of the best post-secondary agriculture programs in the country by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Secretary Kuperus went to the County College of Morris on October 17 to commend Jan-Marie Traynor for her Landscape and Horticultural Technology program.
The County College of Morris was judged against all schools in NAAE’s Region VI, which includes all of New England and the Mid-Atlantic – a total of 13 states – with 2-year postsecondary institutions and full-time young farmer and adult programs. In previous years, most award recipients were programs which focused on production agriculture or agricultural mechanics – more traditional Agricultural Education areas. The NAAE award will be presented at the organization’s convention in December.
Jersey Seafood Challenge – The Department of Agriculture is looking for seafood chefs in the state to share their expertise in preparing seafood and help promote the Jersey Seafood brand. The 2008 Jersey Seafood Challenge will be held January 15, 2008 at Atlantic-Cape Community College in Mays Landing. The chefs will be required to prepare their signature dishes focusing on Jersey Seafood and a “Down the Shore New Jersey” family platter that showcases simple seafood recipes that can be prepared by home cooks. The “Down the Shore” portion of the competition is an important new focus and helps to meet the growing consumer interest in purchasing local products and providing healthy family meals. The winner of the Jersey Seafood Challenge will go to New Orleans to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook-off in August of 2008. The event is limited to 12 chefs with the champion being named King or Queen of American Seafood. Organizations helping to coordinate the seafood cooking competition include: Garden State Seafood Association; Slow Food-New Jersey; Eat-Drink New Jersey; New Jersey Restaurant Association; New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium and New Jersey Sea Grant; Rutgers Cooperative Extension; and New Jersey Chapters of the American Culinary Federation.
Hunger Initiative – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture distributed $758,673 to five Emergency Feeding Operations (EFO) on October 15, the second quarterly payment of the 2008 State Food Purchase Program. This year, $4 million has been allocated for the purchase of nutritious food for the hungry. The final two fiscal year payments are scheduled for January and April of 2008. In addition, the EFOs participated in a pilot program beginning in July to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other products purchased from state farmers’ co-op markets. The pilot runs through November 30.
Audubon Grant – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture awarded a $50,000 grant to the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) in October for its mini-loan program that provides farmers in the state with funding to assist them in initiating implementation of conservation practices. The Revolving Resource Fund – Mini-Loan Program aids farmers interested in enrolling in existing government-sponsored conservation programs that fund projects that promote agricultural sustainability. Those programs include: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). The Audubon Society’s loan program provides start-up money to farmers until they are reimbursed by the federal government for carrying out their approved soil and water conservation projects on their farms. Farmers must repay the loan with 1 percent interest when they receive their reimbursement. Those monies are then put back into the loan fund for use by other farmers. Since NJ Audubon has started working more closely with the farming community, NJAS has helped secured approximately $570,000 of Federal and/or State conservation incentive program payments for farmers. This mini-loan program will help to expedite additional conservation funding payments and conservation opportunities for the farmer.