|2001 New Jersey Agriculture Annual Report|
The Division of Dairy and Commodity Regulation serves many facets of the agriculture industry.
One of its primary goals is to help retain a healthy economic environment for a viable, competitive dairy industry where consumers are assured of adequate supplies of milk at reasonable prices.
In other activities, the division administers the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program and the commodity inspection and grading programs to help ensure a constant supply of high quality, properly labeled fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, red meat, fish and seafood products for consumers in New Jersey and elsewhere. Certificates issued through the inspection and grading programs make it possible for Garden State farmers and agribusinesses to sell the inspected commodities in national and international markets.
Under the commodity licensing and bonding programs, the division offers economic protection for New Jersey farmers who sell milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, live poultry, hay, grain and straw to dealers and brokers on a credit basis. In addition, the division provides services to New Jersey farmers, consumers and the food industry related to the production, storage, packing, marketing and sale of high quality agricultural products and works to protect against unfair, illegal and improper trade practices.
Through inspection, sampling and laboratory analysis of animal feed, fertilizers and liming material, the agricultural chemistry program protects crop yields and promotes animal growth.
THE DAIRY INDUSTRY
New Jersey's dairy industry includes dairy farmers, animal breeders, dairy cooperatives, milk handlers, processors, distributors and retail stores, all of which are served by the department. The state's 143 commercial and six institutional dairy farms produced just over 240 million pounds of milk valued at $36 million in FY01. New Jersey dairy farmers also produced heifers, cull cows, calves, grain, hay and other agricultural items, including breeding supplies such as embryos and semen.
Maintaining the Viability of Dairy Farms in the Garden State
The last decade has been an era of extreme economic distress for the dairy industry, nationwide and in New Jersey. The department continues to offer a variety of projects aimed at improving both the short- and long-term viability of this segment of the agriculture industry. Whole herd health and management programs, including control of Johne's disease and mastitis; financial management training; nutrient and crop management; and waste management improvements are all part of a comprehensive effort on behalf of the state's dairy farmers.
In FY01 the department provided a $150,000 grant and staff support for the New Jersey Dairy Self-Help Program. The effort is a continuation of the Garden State Milk Quality Initiative begun in 1996 as a joint effort with Rutgers Cooperative Extension to help dairy farmers improve milk production and quality. This program, recommended by the New Jersey Dairy Task Force in FY97, works with 65 (approximately 46 percent) of New Jersey's dairy producers around the state, as well as four regional dairy cooperatives, six milk processing plants, 13 milk haulers and 14 veterinarians.
A key component of the program is collection of bulk tank samples that indicate milk quality and herd productivity. On farms where results suggest a herd health problem, samples are taken from each cow. The quality of milk produced by herds in the program has continued to increase since the program's inception.
The financial management program, launched in the winter of 1998, has helped 20 producers complete in-depth analyses of net worth, cost of production, and cash flow. Several of the participants have used their data to obtain new financing for herd expansion and capital improvements such as new barns, milk parlors and machinery.
Dairy Licensing, Bonding and Enforcement
In keeping with the statutory mandate to maintain competition among New Jersey milk marketers, the department licensed 9,890 milk dealers, milk processing plants and retail stores. The department collected $75,330 in fees and $7,719 in penalties during FY01.
Among the services provided by the department, NJDA licenses and bonds milk dealers to assure payments to producers, disseminates information needed by the milk industry and mediates disputes within the milk processing and distribution industry. Field investigators conducted inspections of 1,700 retail outlets to ensure that they were licensed and adhering to the milk control laws and regulations, especially with regard to false or misleading advertisements.
Data Collection and Information Dissemination
In order to assess activities in the marketplace and to provide information for program and performance analysis, the department collects, processes and disseminates information on prices received by dairy farmers, milk production, milk sales, supermarket milk prices and other pertinent market data.
In administering the New Jersey School Milk Purchase Law, NJDA monitors transactions between the state's public schools and school milk dealers. Approximately 10,000 copies of the school milk price report are distributed to schools and milk dealers each year. The report contains milk price information that allows each school district to track changes in monthly milk prices and reconcile their milk purchase bills and payments. This process helps minimize milk price disputes between schools and milk dealers.
Through NJDA's inspection and grading programs, growers obtain the certificates they need to sell produce and plants to other states and nations. The Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program and the commodity inspection and grading programs are among those offered by the Division of Dairy and Commodity Regulation to help ensure a constant supply of high quality, properly labeled fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, red meat, fish and seafood products for consumers in New Jersey, throughout the nation and around the world.
Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program
The Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program is a voluntary program designed to increase the sales of more than 80 agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables, salad mixes, fresh herbs, shell eggs and cut flowers. After registering with the Quality Grading Program, growers are permitted to use the Jersey Fresh logo on their packages, indicating that the contents have been inspected and meet quality standards equal to or better than US No. 1. The use of the Jersey Fresh logo on wholesale and consumer packages requires a license from the Quality Grading Program. This fiscal year 228 growers enrolled in the Quality Grading Program and more than 157 million pounds of product were packed under its guidelines.
This inspection standard adds quality assurance to the overall Jersey Fresh marketing program that is welcomed by wholesale produce buyers and consumers who want high quality products, uniformly sized and packed. In addition, the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program helps Garden State growers with high quality products stand out in an increasingly competitive regional and national marketplace.
As part of NJDA's continuing effort to increase the commodities that are marketable under this program, this year Jersey Fresh maple syrup was being evaluated through a pilot program. Also being evaluated under a pilot program was the ability of packing facilities located outside of the state to properly segregate and pack New Jersey-grown potatoes and tomatoes.
Third-Party Food Safety Audits
NJDA's recently-developed third-party audit program is available to growers and shippers of fresh produce who are required to show buyers that they are growing, harvesting, packing and handling their products in a safe and sanitary manner. Division staff are also certified to perform inspections under national Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point guidelines for those producers who need these inspections to market their products.
Over the past year, division staff have been working with the USDA/Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Inspection and Standardization Agencies to develop a national third-party audit program. The national program is largely based on the New Jersey program and is expected to be in operation as early as October 2001.
New Jersey State Organic Program
In anticipation of implementation of the New Jersey State Organic Program, and in compliance with the National Organic Program rules, the division has been working with the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) to assure that the state's current organic farmers and others can participate in this program if they so choose.
The NOFA-NJ Certification Committee, which includes NJDA representatives, meets regularly to review organic farm and organic processor inspection reports. After review, eligible organic operations are certified as organic and may market under the NOFA-NJ seal.
At the beginning of this fiscal year, NJDA entered into a cooperative agreement with USDA/AMS for the allocation of organic certification cost-share funds. This federal program will make funds available for reimbursement to production operations inspected and certified and/or inspected and receiving renewal of certification through October 2002. Each production operation is eligible for a reimbursement of up to 70 percent of its certification costs, not to exceed $500.
Commodity Inspection and Grading
With food safety and quality uppermost in consumers' minds, the commodity inspection and grading service offered by the department is particularly important. Most inspection services provided by the department are paid for by those for whom the grading and inspections are done. In a time of shrinking state resources, this kind of self?sustaining program is particularly important. In FY01, the program collected over $1.2 million in fees for services rendered.
Inspections performed for the poultry industry certified 1,051,247 cases of shell eggs as Grade A while 36,562,115 pounds of poultry also met specified standards. Over 303 million pounds of liquid or frozen egg products and more than six million pounds of dried egg product were processed under departmental inspection supervision.
The division's inspection and grading unit also worked with growers, shippers, receivers and processors of fresh produce marketed through inter? or intrastate commerce. Inspections were made at shipping point on 41,807,100 pounds of produce, including most fruits and vegetables grown commercially in New Jersey, in order to ensure that they met specific standards. Terminal market inspections were also performed on 66,689,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables received from other growing areas.
Tomato processing facilities contracted with the department for grading of nearly 43,593,720 pounds of tomatoes to ensure that they met grower?processor contract specifications.
Even the youngest consumers in the state benefited from NJDA's inspection efforts as inspectors at several plants certified 451,440 pounds of poultry under USDA specifications for use in the federal school lunch program.
The fish and fisheries products inspection program, operated in cooperation with the United States Department of Commerce, enables the department to provide a broad range of inspection and grading services to New Jersey's commercial fishing industry. These include plant sanitation surveys, product quality grading and export certification. During FY01, 11,357,030 pounds of fresh, frozen and canned fish were certified and inspected at the wholesale level.
The Bureau of Commodity Inspection and Grading continued to maintain contact with the State Office of Consumer Protection and the Office of the Regional Director for the federal Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act in order to aid in providing timely and proper responses to misbranding complaints.
Commodity Licensing and Bonding
Under the commodity licensing and bonding program, the department offers economic protection for New Jersey farmers who sell live poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables, or hay, grain and straw to dealers and brokers on a credit basis. Commission merchants, dealers and brokers who purchase from New Jersey producers on a credit basis must be licensed and bonded under this program. The amount of security required is based on the value of their purchases and covers in part non-payment claims filed by New Jersey farmers. Licenses were issued to 107 produce dealers, 19 hay, grain and straw dealers, 14 shell egg dealers and three live poultry dealers. Bonds totaling $4,071,397 were received and posted by the division.
It is estimated that more than 67,100 tons of animal feed, over 280,500 tons of fertilizers and 340,000 tons of liming material were sold in New Jersey last year. Through inspection, sampling and laboratory analysis of these products, coupled with enforcement actions against producers of mislabeled or substandard products, the department protects crop yields and promotes animal growth.
This year, 915 feed, fertilizer and lime manufacturers and distributors registered with NJDA. Field inspections covered 10,247 lots of feeds, fertilizers and liming materials to determine compliance with labeled guarantees. Of the 346 feed samples and 558 fertilizer samples collected for laboratory analysis, just over two percent of the feed samples and 15 percent of the fertilizer samples failed to meet the minimum nutrient levels stated on their labels. Of the 11 liming materials sampled, three failed to meet the nutrient content for which they were labeled. Label or registration violations found during field inspections resulted in those items being removed from sale.
Through the agricultural chemistry program, a total of $84,856 in registration fees and $115,228 in tonnage inspection fees were collected. In addition, penalties totaling $17,139 were assessed for fertilizer, feed and lime content violations, of which $2,734 was refunded to farmers and $14,405 was transmitted to the State Treasury.