Thanksgiving Food Pantry Visits -- As we prepare for Thanksgiving, Secretary Kuperus will participate in two events organized to highlight the problem of hunger, especially during the holidays. On November 23, the Secretary will help prepare holiday meals for about 100 children at the Monmouth Boys and Girls Club in Asbury Park. The meals will be prepared at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties using USDA commodities and Jersey Fresh produce. The Secretary will then visit a food pantry at St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation in Paterson, where he will assemble bags of holiday groceries, help distribute the bags and hand out turkeys to those in need. USDA commodities are allocated through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which is administered through the state Department of Agriculture. The NJDA contracts with six emergency food organizations statewide to distribute the USDA commodities to needy individuals and families using a network of 650 local pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Last year, TEFAP served 1.4 million recipients and provided 3.9 million meals at soup kitchens and shelters.
Farmland Preservation Meetings -- The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) will hold three regional outreach meetings to explain the various farmland preservation options and application process. The meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on: November 29th, at the Rutgers EcoComplex, Mansfield Township, Burlington County; December 1st, at the Morris County Cultural Center in Morris Township; and December 9th, at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Center, Deerfield Township, Cumberland County. Topics of discussion will include: the advantages of farmland preservation; application deadlines for the direct easement purchase, nonprofit, planning incentive grant and Pinelands county easement purchase program; information on deed restrictions, the appraisal process, value trends, ranking criteria and exceptions, housing opportunities and other application details; additional funding available for Highlands farms under all program options. Landowners who are considering participating in the Farmland Preservation program are encouraged to attend these meetings.
Atlantic Blueberry Preserved -- Atlantic County entered into an agreement on November 17 to preserve 1,448 acres of Atlantic Blueberry Company in Hamilton Township under the state's Farmland Preservation Program. This will be the largest farm to enter the program to date. Atlantic Blueberry is being preserved through the SADC's Pinelands County Easement Purchase Program. Under this program, counties purchase the development rights to Pinelands farms, with the SADC providing the majority of funding through cost-sharing grants. Atlantic Blueberry Company is owned and operated by the Galletta family, who bills its operation as the world's largest in blueberry acreage, with 1,300 acres in blueberry production. It produces an average of one million flats - or 9 million pounds -- of blueberries annually and in season, employs more than 1,000 people.
Asian Longhorned Beetle -- Workers will begin cutting down trees infested with the Asian longhorned beetle in Middlesex and Union Counties on Monday, November 29. To prepare the public for what to expect during this process, the Secretary and USDA officials on November 23 will lead local leaders and the media on a tour of the first area to be cut. To date 410 trees have been identified as infested in Carteret, Woodbridge, Linden and Rahway. Eventually, as many as 4,000 trees will have to be cut down. The NJDA is working with the USDA and the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry on reforestation. Federal funding is being allocated to assist in the reforestation using non-host trees.
Soybean Rust -- The Department of Agriculture was informed on Wednesday, November 10, that two soybean plants in Louisiana had tested positive for Soybean Rust, the first such cases in the United States of the destructive fungus that can move quickly to devastate soybean crops. Since then, soybean rust also has been discovered in Florida and Mississippi. Farmers can help prevent the disease with proper fungicide applications. As of the 2002 USDA Agricultural Census, New Jersey had 611 farms growing soybeans, with a total acreage planted of 96,032. Spread of the disease is a concern because the spores that cause it are wind-borne and the location of the two diseased plants is such that hurricanes moving north from the Florida-Louisiana area could bring the spores with them.
Calf Sense Workshop -- The Secretary will address two groups of dairy farmers, one in the north and one in the south, December 1 and 2 at “Calf Sense” Workshops, one-day education programss designed for dairy managers. The Secretary will speak on biosecurity and will formally introduce “The Garden State Dairy Alliance,” a bundling of services for the dairy industry. The Alliance will include services, such as: biosecurity and security on farms; milk quality; nutrient management; herd health management; marketing and promotion; and New Jersey Cattle Health Assurance Program.
School Nutrition Rule -- The proposed Child Nutrition Program Rule was published in the New Jersey Register on November 15. A public hearing has been scheduled on the rule for December 1 at 9:30 a.m. at Cook College in New Brunswick.
Nursery and Greenhouse Film Collection Extended -- The Department of Agriculture has been advised that the Cumberland County Improvement Authority will extend their 2004 nursery and greenhouse film collection program until December 1, 2004. The Authority wants to collect any nursery and greenhouse film that may still be sitting in farmers’ fields and also film that greenhouse growers may be replacing before winter sets in. Both white and clear nursery film and clear multi-season (two-year, three-year, and four year) greenhouse covers can be recycled. Film MUST be free of lathing, staples and saran. Loads containing other agricultural plastics, such as bags, mulch film, shrink film, stretch film or ground cover film, will be rejected at the collection sites.
League of Municipalities Conference -– Secretary Kuperus spoke two times during the New Jersey League of Municipalities Annual Conference in Atlantic City. On Wednesday, November 17, the Secretary talked about agriculture planning efforts to preserve farms while at the same time strengthening the marketplace for agricultural products. On Thursday, November 18, Secretary Kuperus spoke about how communities can retain productive, tax-paying farmland and support thriving farming operations that contribute to our quality of life.
State Agricultural Convention -– Preparations are being made for the 2005 State Agricultural Convention. The event will be held January 24 to 26 at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.