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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
December 16, 2009Dairy – The Department will reconvene its Dairy Hearing on Thursday, December 17, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Harris Building Auditorium, located on the grounds of the N.J. Department of Corrections, corner of Stuyvesant and Whittlesey Road, West Trenton. During the first day of the hearing in November, the hearing panel heard from dairy farmers, cooperative representatives and the president of one of the state’s four major Class 1 processing plants about the need to help bring stability to the economics of the industry. Farmers have seen longer and deeper periods of reduced prices received for their product as the peaks-and-valleys cycle has progressed. The second day of the hearing is expected to see further discussion of several proposals offered during the first day to help farmers realize more of the “dairy dollar” as their product moves through the marketing chain, without severely impacting the other segments of that chain. Further hearing days could be scheduled to receive all relevant testimony.
Water Agreement – The Delaware River Basin Commission has approved the authorization of the revised administrative agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Doing so eliminates the need for farmers withdrawing water within the basin to apply to the DRBC when applying to the DEP for agricultural water certifications. This new process goes into effect immediately. Agricultural withdrawals in New Jersey will not be subject to DRBC review unless review and docket action or technical assistance is requested by the DEP Commissioner.
Farmland Assessment – A proposed rule for farmland assessment could be released next year. At the December meeting of the New Jersey Director of Taxation’s Farmland Assessment Committee, revisions to the Division of Taxation’s rules were discussed. The Department of Agriculture along with Farm Bureau represent farming interests on the Committee. Proposed changes will clarify certain issue areas and lead to the Department of Agriculture developing an improved informational guide on farmland assessment for landowners and tax assessors.
Gypsy Moth – Populations of gypsy moth have dramatically declined throughout the state as a result of effective treatments in 2009 and increases of beneficial fungus and parasites. To date, egg mass surveys for next year’s suppression program are about three-quarters complete and only one block of 99 acres in Atlantic County has been proposed for treatment. Staffs from the Horticultural Inspection Program, the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory and the Plant Pest Survey Program are being cross-utilized to complete the egg mass surveys by the end of December or early January.
Bees – The rainy, cool growing season led to one of the worst years for New Jersey beekeepers. Twenty-four days of rain in June – one of the main honey months – made it very difficult for the bees to forage for nectar. The result was a poor honey crop. The beekeepers were looking forward to a good goldenrod flow because of all the rain through the growing season, however there was no nectar produced by the goldenrod this year. The State Apiarist found colonies starving to death by the second week of September and advised beekeepers to check their colonies for food stores and many started feeding. Those that did feed have strong colonies going into winter. In addition, beekeepers were alerted to high Varroa mite loads in September and October so they could treat the colony. In November, the State Apiarist and seasonal inspector visited Haiti to evaluate the country’s beekeepers and the needs of the industry. They found various problems, including Varroa mite infestations, high humidity causing honey to have a high moisture content, lack of uniform beekeeping equipment, and inability to reuse combs.
Soil Conservation Districts – The number of applications submitted to the state’s soil conservation districts dropped 1,200 from 2008 to 2009, with a corresponding drop in land disturbance of about 7,000 acres. Districts also issued about 2,000 fewer compliance reports for the year. Districts are funded almost exclusively by application permit fees and have responded to the loss in revenue by changing hours of operation, layoffs and foregoing the replacement of staff due to retirements. In spite of the overall decline, districts still oversaw erosion and sediment control operations on 13,000 acres of new land disturbance (which does not include those projects under construction from previous years), and conducted almost 74,000 individual site inspections. Districts and the State Soil Conservation Committee are investigating other areas of natural resources management where district skill sets would be a valuable asset.
2010 State Agricultural Convention – The convention will be held February 9 and 10 at the East Brunswick Hilton. This year will feature four listening sessions open to all members of the agricultural community. On Tuesday, these sessions will focus on water allocation and Right to Farm. On Wednesday, sessions will be held on green energy and farmland preservation.
Warren County Farmland Preservation – Secretary Fisher attended a press conference announcing the preservation of the Wattles farm in Mansfield. The land was divided among the county, the state Green Acres program and the New Jersey Audubon Society. The county purchased nearly 220 acres and will divide its portion into two farms that will be auctioned next year. The Audubon Society plans to grow grasses and produce Jersey Grown birdseed. The purchase avoided the development of the scenic property.
Food Pantry Visit – Secretary Fisher visited Family Service Food Pantry in Westampton on November 25 and found that the agency had enough food to supply more than 300 dinners to its clients and some members of the community this Thanksgiving. They expressed concern that there would be a severe drop off in donations after January 1 and asked that they receive more food from the state and federal feeding assistance programs.
Sunday, January 31, 2010 – The 53rd Annual Breeders Award Luncheon will be held at Charley’s Other Brother in Eastampton.
Monday, March 1, 2010 – The 13th Annual New Jersey Animal Emergency Working Group Symposium will be held at Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center in Westampton.