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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
December 17, 2008This being my last report to the Board, I just wanted to open by saying how proud I am of the people in this Department for the work I have seen them perform and the accomplishments we have achieved over the past seven years. As an agency, we have strived to help our agricultural producers – our farmers and fishermen – and the businesses related to their industry to adapt, change, grow and thrive in what can be, as we have seen lately, very uncertain times, while also protecting our plants and animals and ensuring the integrity of agricultural products in the marketplace.
It has been our belief that these producers are best helped by joining agriculture more solidly to the world around it. We worked to expand markets for farmers by clearing a path for more of their products into schools, community feeding programs, urban and suburban farmers markets, food retailers and restaurants. Greater brand identity was created by expanding the programs that started with Jersey Fresh. We sought a better connection between the growers and harvesters of our food and the processors and ultimate consumers who depend on them so much. With an emphasis on buying from our state’s producers and processors, we created more nutritious meals for our school children and fed more of the state’s hungry.
The links to policies and constituencies not traditionally targeted by the Department also led to greater conservation practices by our farmers and a re-energized farmland preservation effort in which we preserved the highest percentage of farmland in the nation, creating an agricultural working landscape that can sustain the industry and which future generations can enjoy. Another result was expansion into areas like alternative energy, agritourism and organics, all of which have opened, and will continue to open, new markets that will enhance farm viability, while encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
So, before I proceed with this report, I’d just like to say thank you to all the people who work so hard in this Department and to express just how proud I am to have been a part of creating greater opportunities for the agricultural producers of the Garden State. For more information on the Department’s accomplishments, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/pdf/NJDAinitiatives.pdf.
Agriculture Retreat – Top officials from Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station, New Jersey Farm Bureau, State Board of Agriculture, NJDA Division Directors and Secretary Kuperus met on December 5 and discussed ways to better coordinate efforts to support the agricultural industry now and in the future. Issues discussed were conservation, land management, preservation, communications, economic growth, innovations, trends, regulatory and policy challenges, research and education. The larger discussion is expected to spur smaller group discussion on the issues with the hopes of formulating an action plan to be followed in the coming year.
Hunger – Governor Jon S. Corzine signed a bill on December 12 that included $3 million to supplement the state’s Hunger Initiative and Food Assistance Program. That same day, checks totaling $1 million were distributed to food banks to purchase healthy foods for the hungry to provide immediate relief to struggling food assistance agencies. The remaining $2 million will be distributed with the third and fourth quarter State Food Purchase Program funds in February and May. The food banks have already received $2.1 million from the program since July. In October, Governor Corzine ordered an early and increased distribution to help ease shortages that were being reported throughout the state.
Jets School Nutrition – The New York Jets and the Department of Agriculture kicked off the Eat Right, Move More program on December 3 at Passaic County Technical Institute, the grand prize winner in this school year’s contest that focused on school breakfast. Secretary Kuperus was joined by Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson at the school. On December 14, two teachers and six students from the school were honored at Giants Stadium during the Jets vs. Buffalo Bills football game. In early 2009, the other four winning schools -- Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville; Somerset School in North Plainfield; Bartle Elementary School in Highland Park; and Berkeley Township Elementary School -- will receive a visit from a Jets player. The Eat Right, Move More campaign, urges Garden State students to eat the healthy foods in school that adhere to the state’s new school nutrition policy.
Gypsy Moth – Egg mass surveys are expected to be completed by the end of December or early January. From those survey results, the Department formulates its treatment proposal for the spring of 2009. Surveys are about 65 percent complete with 134 municipalities, parks and colleges requesting the service this year. So far, more than 41,000 acres in 58 towns, three county parks and one college have been proposed for treatment. Staff members from the Horticultural Inspection Program, the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory and the Plant Pest Survey Program are being cross-utilized in conducting the municipal egg mass surveys.
Bees – State Apiarist Tim Schuler helped to teach a two-day Rutgers University course on business tools and marketing strategies for beekeepers. This was the first year the course was offered and it closed out with 40 people. The course covered topics on business issues associated with beekeeping, such as insurance, business plans, approaching a vendor, and how to market their products. Rutgers Continuing Education also reported that 50 people have already registered for their beginning beekeeping class on April 23-25, 2009.
Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling – With sites in Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem Counties, 318 entities participated in the 2008 Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling Program, a more than 275 percent increase over the 2007 participation level. It is expected that the volume of containers collected will be more than double that collected in 2007.
2009 Jersey Fresh Ad Campaign – Plans are being made for the 2009 advertising campaign to move ahead with remaining fiscal year funding. A limited radio advertising campaign is being planned to begin in May. Trade advertising will be featured prior to the start of the growing season. Point of purchase materials are being ordered, including banners and price cards.
Tularemia Case – A farmer in Gloucester County was diagnosed with tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, a rare, serious illness that can be fatal if not treated within eight to 14 days of exposure. Tularemia is endemic to New Jersey and can occur in numerous species of domestic and wild mammals, but is most common in rabbits and rodents. Domestic livestock, pets and humans can become infected, usually through a tick bite or other biting insects.
New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer – The 2009 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer, H. William Sytsema of Wantage has been chosen as one of the top 10 National Outstanding Young Farmer finalists. He and his wife, Holly, will attend the 53rd National Outstanding Young Farmer Congress in Eugene, Oregon, February 11-15, 2009, where the four National Outstanding Young Farmer Awards will be announced.
Conservation Poster Contest – The Department is encouraging students in grades 2-12 to participate in the 2009 Conservation Poster Contest sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, State Soil Conservation Committee, the New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts and the local Soil Conservation Districts. Through illustrating this year’s theme, “DIG IT! The Secrets of Soil,” students will be able to learn about and convey an important conservation message. Local Soil Conservation Districts will judge the entries and submit their first place winners for the statewide contest. State winners will be awarded cash awards of $200, $100, and $50. The Grand Champion poster will be reproduced onto a pocket-folder and distributed throughout the state. Entry forms are available on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site at: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/pdf/PosterBroch.pdf.