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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
December 12, 2006Food Safety – The Department is forming a Produce Safety Task Force in the wake of the recent E. coli incidents regarding spinach and Taco Bell. The State Board of Agriculture is expected to formally create the Task Force, which will examine issues of increased food safety standards. The focus will be to make sure our farmers can and do comply with new regulations coming from the industry itself or through federal or state action.
NY Jets Nutrition Program – Governor Corzine helped kick off the New York Jets and New Jersey Department of Agriculture Eat Right, Move More campaign, an effort to encourage students to eat the nutritious foods offered in their school cafeterias, at Columbus Elementary School on Tuesday, November 21. Five schools have been selected to receive a visit from a Jets player next spring: Springfield Township School, Brielle Elementary School in Brielle, Coles Elementary School in Scotch Plains, Heywood Avenue School in Orange, and Sandman Consolidated School in Cape May. Springfield was randomly selected to be honored at the December 10 Jets/Buffalo Bills game. A teacher, the food service director and four sixth-grade students were treated to a VIP reception at the stadium, then brought down onto the field to watch pre-game warm-ups and were then brought onto the field between the third and fourth quarters to be honored. Schools have until September 2007 to fully implement the state’s model nutrition policy, which limits fat and sugar content in foods offered in a la carte lines, snack bars and vending machines, school stores and as part of on-campus fund-raisers.
Farmland Assessment Testimony – On December 7, Secretary Kuperus testified before the Joint Legislative Committee on Constitutional Reform and Citizens Property Tax Constitutional Convention in regard to bills proposing a constitutional amendment to increase the rollback period for Farmland Assessment to seven years. During his testimony, the Secretary proposed three amendments to the bills: the new rollback provisions should apply only to those who acquire such land after the effective date of the amendment; land inherited or transferred from a family member, which due to financial circumstances must then be sold, should not be subjected to the seven-year rollback provision if acquired from a relative who held the land for seven years of more; and, farmers expanding their operation by acquiring additional land, who then must sell the additional land due to circumstances beyond their control (such as a change or loss of market, depressed prices, death or major illness in the family or weather-related disasters) should not be held to the new seven-year rollback provision. As a result of this testimony, the Joint Committee indicated that an additional hearing would be scheduled to consider these concerns.
Streamlining Preservation Process – The SADC has formally proposed rules to streamline and improve farmland preservation processes. The proposed rules were published in the December 4th issue of the New Jersey Register. They result from recommendations of a process improvement committee appointed by the SADC to examine ways to make the Farmland Preservation Program more predictable, efficient and effective. Key provisions include the establishment of a new countywide planning incentive grant program as an alternative to the traditional county grants program. This is expected to eliminate administrative duplication at the state and county levels, shorten the timeframe from application to preservation, encourage a more comprehensive planning approach to preservation and provide financial incentives to counties to expend funding as expeditiously as possible. Under the SADC’s direct easement purchase and fee simple programs, the SADC is strategically targeting and soliciting farmland preservation applications to ensure the most important farmland is preserved in each county, and is conducting appraisals prior to entering into contracts with landowners to ensure a fair negotiation process. The proposed rules are subject to a 60-day public comment period before returning to the SADC for consideration for adoption.
Gypsy Moth – The Department is preparing for the 2007 aerial suppression program and plans to hold regional meetings with municipal officials in January to outline the proposed treatment options and gather public comment. To date, 44,000 acres of forested lands have been proposed for treatment in 52 municipalities and properties operated by two agencies in eight counties of the state. About 65 percent of the egg mass survey work has been completed with 32 towns remaining to be surveyed by the end of December. So far, 12 municipalities/agencies have agreed to participate in the 2007 Gypsy Moth Aerial Suppression Program.
Animal Disaster Response Trailers – The Department announced on December 5 the presentation of five easily transportable trailers, filled with everything needed to quickly set up temporary animal shelters and veterinary clinics during disasters to the Offices of Emergency Management in Burlington, Camden, Hudson, Ocean, and Sussex Counties. The trailers enable each county’s County Animal Response Team (CART) to respond and provide care for animals in disasters or emergencies. If the need arises, these animal disaster response trailers can be moved throughout the state to provide assistance. To receive a trailer, the counties had to meet specific qualifications of having an active CART, having an updated animal emergency response plan, and be willing to provide mutual aid to other counties.
CART/SART Summit – On December 1, the Department held its first New Jersey State/County Animal Response Team Summit in Freehold. The daylong summit was attended by 77 veterinarians, veterinary technicians, animal control officers, emergency management personnel and other people interested in developing their county’s emergency animal response plans. Presentations included the psychological impact of disasters, CART planning, avian influenza, and a hands-on demonstration of setting up a special tent for emergency medical care at a disaster site.
Carl Schulze Award -- The New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association (NJNLA) honored Carl Schulze, Jr., Director of the Division of Plant Industry – NJ Department of Agriculture, with a Distinguished Service Award on December 5 at the NJNLA’s Annual Dinner in Princeton. The award recognized Schulze’s dedication and outstanding contributions to the New Jersey nursery-landscape-garden center industry.
Christmas Tree Event – Secretary Kuperus kicked off the choose and cut Christmas tree season on November 30 at McLaughlin Tree Farm in Robbinsville by cutting down a tree that was donated to the Washington Township Senior Citizen Center. Farm owner, Greg McLaughlin was the grand champion of the 2006 New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association contest for his Norway spruce.
Hunger Initiative – A second installment of $750,000 was issued to emergency feeding operations on December 8 as part of the state’s Initiative to Fight Hunger. The money will be used to purchase nutritious foods, with a first priority of buying locally, to help feed an additional 500,000 people this year. Governor Corzine’s initiative includes spending an additional $4 million this year to fight hunger -- $3 million for food purchases and $1 million to make infrastructure improvements to the feeding operations throughout the state. In addition, the Department of Agriculture will work to improve the efficiency of the food delivery system. Additional payments will be distributed in March and June of 2007.