SADC Executive Director -- The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) has named Susan Craft of Moorestown as its new executive director. Craft, a professional planner, has served as coordinator of Burlington County’s farmland preservation and transfer of development rights programs since 1993. More than 19,000 acres of farmland have been preserved in Burlington County, more than any other county in New Jersey. Burlington County’s farmland preservation program is one of the top 10 county programs in the country. Under Craft’s direction, Burlington County established the first transfer of development rights (TDR) programs in the state in Lumberton and Chesterfield Townships. Under Lumberton’s TDR program, approximately 500 new residential units have been developed and more than 840 acres of farmland permanently preserved. Craft, who graduated from Cook College, Rutgers University, with a bachelor’s degree in environmental planning and design, formerly was director of Burlington County’s Land Use Planning office for eight years.
Asian Longhorned Beetle -– Officials from the Department of Agriculture, USDA APHIS, NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s State Forest Service, USDA Forest Service, Woodbridge and Carteret held a media briefing on November 23rd prior to the start of cutting down Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infested trees in the Middlesex/Union County infestation. Secretary Kuperus led a walking tour of two of the most heavily infested areas – a streambed and a mobile home park near the corner of Blair Road and Roosevelt Avenue on the Carteret-Woodbridge border. Work crews began removing trees infested with the Asian longhorned beetle on November 29th in Carteret and the Avenel section of Woodbridge. More than 200 trees have been removed. So far, more than 56,000 trees have been inspected. The number of infested trees remained at 410. On Sunday, December 5, NJDA Division of Plant Industry Director Carl Schulze and USDA’s New Jersey ALB Cooperative Eradication Program Director Barry Emens were call-in guests on Ralph Snodsmith’s syndicated radio program, “Garden Hotline.” They updated Snodsmith’s listeners on the eradication efforts.
Soybean Rust -- In November 2004, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed the presence of Asian soybean rust, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, in Louisiana. Infected plants have since been found in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina. This is the first instance of the species of soybean rust found in the United States. Soybean rust is a serious disease causing crop losses in other parts of the world. Recent introductions of Soybean rust in other parts of the world show a rapid spread causing severe damage in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Paraguay, and Brazil. Yield losses have been reported from 10-80%. Soybean rust is spread primarily by wind-borne spores capable of being transported over long distances. At the present time, scientists believe that this detection is related to this past year’s active hurricane season. Soybean rust also affects other legumes such as green beans, snap beans, and pinto beans. USDA does not expect an affect on our exports. The Department of Agriculture is working to secure Section 18 approvals from EPA for seven other compounds for use on soybeans for next year’s growing season to ensure that there are enough materials available to meet the needs of soybean producers should an Asian Soybean rust epidemic occur in the US in 2005.
Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids -– Comments continue to be received on the proposed Child Nutrition Rule and Model Nutrition Policy, including approximately 30 people who attended a public hearing at Cook College on December 1. At the hearing, several school nutritionists spoke in support of the proposal, saying they could not teach children about making healthy food choices and then offer unhealthy foods in their cafeterias, school stores and vending machines. Representatives of several soft drink companies voiced opposition to the Rule, which would extend the ban on selling sodas to students beyond the lunch period and through to the end of the school day.
Farms to School -- The Division of Food and Nutrition, through its Farms to School program, has distributed 110,825 pounds of peaches and 71,008 pounds of blueberries to schools so far this year. It also has distributed 220,000 pounds of romaine lettuce.
Pierce County Agricultural Summit -- Agriculture Secretary Kuperus on Thursday, December 9, addressed an agricultural summit in Puyallup, Washington that included the counties surrounding Seattle. Agriculture in populated areas of the state, especially around Seattle and some of the western cities, are experiencing similar issues to that of New Jersey. The Secretary was invited to speak to the group about the success of the “Jersey Fresh” branding program and the Department’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan. He also addressed the group on the value of states with similar agricultural landscapes working together as Congress prepares to debate renewal of the Farm Bill in its next session.
Animal Waste Rules -- The Department received approximately 100 written comments on the draft Animal Waste Rule during the informal comment period targeted to the livestock community and other pertinent organizations. The Animal Waste Rule Working Group will review all of the comments received and modify the draft rule as appropriate. Outreach meetings will be held in early 2005 to discuss the purpose of the rule, how the Department plans to implement it and the assistance that will be available to help farmers in preparing plans. The “On Farm Strategies to Protect Water Quality” manual is being updated and revised to include a plan template that farmer’s can use to develop and catalog their animal waste management practices.
Commodities Bonding -– The Department has taken a second look at the updated caps for commodities bonding created by legislation signed into law earlier this year and how brokers can satisfy those bonding requirements in accordance with the statute which contemplates “other security acceptable to the Department”. Several South Jersey brokers have complained that they cannot obtain bonds or letters of credit from financial institutions due to the new caps, which require a broker to post in an amount equal to the greatest month’s purchases. Therefore, the Department has agreed to allow those who cannot get bonds or letters of credit for the full amount to make up the difference by pledging assets, including accounts receivable.
Jersey Fresh Year in Review -– During the 21st year of the Jersey Fresh advertising and promotional program, a multimedia campaign, beginning with the advent of spring crops, and ending in mid-October, focused on consumers in the New Jersey/New York/ and Philadelphia markets. The campaign included television and radio commercials as well as print advertisements appearing in major newspapers and trade publications.
Colorful point-of-sale materials were distributed to 3,500 regional retail chains, roadside markets, and community farm markets. Staff members conducted a series of visits to buyers to encourage purchases of New Jersey farm products. Buyer visits were followed up with weekly e-mails that were sent to over 235 recipients, including retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, and the media. The e-mail advised readers about product availability, quality, and volume, as well as forecasted items next to be harvested.
Special attention was paid to the peach industry, which had difficulty moving peaches in 2003. A special peach task force developed strategies to help move peaches in the 2004 season and that plan was executed during the course of the season. New Jersey farmers supported the marketing effort by participating in the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program. Over 257 farmers signed up for licenses, and packed over 195,000,000 pounds of product under the Jersey Fresh quality seal.
In an effort to expand the scope of Jersey Fresh to include NJ agriculture’s largest sector -- nursery and horticulture -- a special Jersey Grown promotional program was introduced in the fall, along with a supporting website www.jerseygrown.nj.gov. Special promotional materials bearing the Jersey Grown logo were distributed to nurseries and garden centers who where licensed by the Department.
The Department developed a special Jersey Seafood website www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov, providing consumers with a wide array of information on seafood products from the Garden State. Recipes, handling and storage information, listings of seafood-related events and more are available to on-line consumers who want to know more about the bounty of New Jersey’s waters. The site is an offshoot of the Jersey Fresh web site and the latest expansion of that branding program. In addition, efforts are underway to create standards for farm-raised clams to utilize the Jersey Seafood brand.