|2001 New Jersey Agriculture Annual Report|
Throughout FY01 the New Jersey Department of Agriculture developed and supported a variety of programs, some aimed at strengthening the Garden State's diverse agriculture industry and others designed to improve the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of the state's urban and suburban residents.
New Jersey's dynamic Farmland Preservation Program maintained its record pace on the way to preserving hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland for the future while the recently strengthened Right to Farm law withstood an important court challenge and new agricultural sales and use tax regulations were implemented.
NJDA offered agricultural producers the critical support they've come to rely on when selling their products through the nationally-known Jersey Fresh marketing and promotional program. This grower-oriented program was complemented by export programs as well as trade show support at home and abroad designed to showcase the state's food processors, food retailers, and commercial fishing and aquaculture industries.
Throughout the year, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture sustained and enhanced many other efforts in support of the Garden State's agriculture industry, such as quality assurance programs for a variety of commodities and livestock and plant health testing and certification services. NJDA also continued its vigilance for plant and animal pests and diseases and stepped up efforts to protect equine, livestock and stone fruit producers from exotic diseases as well. The emergence of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom and other European countries, combined with New Jersey's heightened risk of disease entry through air and seaports, forced the department to take action to prepare for a possible incursion of this devastating livestock disease for the first time in more than seven decades.
In addition, NJDA administered many other programs unrelated to production agriculture. Every day these programs touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, both young and old alike, in cities and towns across the state. Included among these are the school breakfast and lunch programs; special feeding and food distribution programs; soil and water conservation programs; the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program for participants in the federal WIC program; foreign trade development programs for small food companies; and many others described in the following pages.
The department also extended its outreach to non-farming citizens around the state through a number of educational and public information efforts, including the annual Farm Tour for Legislators and the Outstanding Young Farmer program.
In FY01, the state's 9,600 farms generated cash receipts totaling $812.2 million. The nursery/greenhouse/sod industry remained the leading commodity group with cash receipts of $297.4 million. Cash receipts for vegetables totaled nearly $193 million followed by equine at $116 million and fruit at $82.6 million. Field crops brought in $46.3 million while the dairy industry generated $33.4 million. Sales of poultry and eggs were valued at $27.2 million.
Thanks to the increased funding for farmland and open space preservation under the Garden State Preservation Trust Act, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) permanently preserved a record number of farms in FY01. The year's total of 126 farms on 14,006 acres exceed FY00's record pace, resulting in a grand total of 582 farms covering 80,381 acres permanently preserved since the program's inception in 1983.
With the establishment in Bergen County of the requisite county agriculture development board, the Farmland Preservation Program was successfully launched in the state's most urbanized northeastern region. From Mahwah to Vineland and East Brunswick to Manalapan, increased funding is helping to meet the unprecedented demand for farmland preservation from landowners and communities in some of the most populous areas of New Jersey.
The program's farmland preservation planning incentive grants continued to be popular with municipalities and counties that wanted to preserve large, contiguous blocks of farmland through one streamlined process. This year the SADC granted preliminary approval to 25 such preservation applications representing 463 farms and 24,359 acres.
During FY01 questions surfaced concerning the Farmland Preservation Program's (FPP) operational guidelines, particularly at the county level. However, an in-depth review of the FPP by the state Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that "the Farmland Preservation Program is well operated and contains substantial checks and controls." The report underscored the integrity of the state program and noted that it deserves the strong public support it has received to date.
RIGHT TO FARM
In April the State Superior Court, Appellate Division, issued a decision reaffirming that the amended Right to Farm Act pre-empts municipal land use jurisdiction over commercial farms. The decision came as a result of a case in which Franklin Township, Hunterdon County, took action against Garden State Growers claiming they had violated several municipal ordinances. At issue were site plans, impervious coverage limitations and other matters, including the charge that Garden State Growers was violating the SADC deed of easement and creating a nuisance that adversely affected the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the Township.
The Court concluded that primary jurisdiction to regulate agricultural management practices rests with the County Agriculture Development Boards (CADBs) or the SADC. The Court stated that both the CADBs and SADC must consider the impact of such practices on municipalities and, in so doing, consider the limitations imposed by local land use and zoning ordinances. Under the decision, the CADBs or SADC must determine if the activity in question falls within the purview of agricultural management practices. If the CADBs or SADC determines that the activity falls outside the scope of agricultural management practices, jurisdiction then resides with the municipality.
SALES AND USE TAX ACT
Thanks to close cooperation between NJDA and the state Department of Treasury, new rules concerning exemptions from state sales and use taxes took effect in FY01 that provided a significant economic benefit for farmers. Under the revised regulations, farmers will be able to claim exemptions when purchasing various pieces of farming equipment that will be permanently affixed to a building. Production services, such as tilling, spreading lime and applying pesticides, are tax-exempt, provided the services are used directly and primarily for an exempt use. In addition, containers used on the farm, including pallets, are not subject to sales tax, nor are materials purchased to construct greenhouses, grain bins, silos and manure-handling facilities. At Treasury's request, NJDA staff prepared a pamphlet explaining the changes and made it available to farmers and other interested parties in hard copy and on the internet.
In February and March 2001, the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
in the United Kingdom, Europe and South America galvanized American livestock
producers into nationwide action. FMD is considered one of the most highly
contagious viral diseases affecting cloven-hoofed livestock in the world
and affects roughly two-thirds of the countries around the globe. Outbreaks
in FMD-free countries have devastated livestock industries in the past,
and the 2001 epidemic seemed likely to mirror that experience.
NJDA worked with USDA to educate the public about the particular risk of FMD infection posed to New Jersey because of its position as a corridor state. As part of an interagency team of experts, NJDA's State Veterinarian visited several import and quarantine sites along the East Coast to provide recommendations for additional precautions that should be taken to keep FMD out of the United States.
In addition, NJDA established a special interagency FMD task force involving representatives from over two dozen federal, state and local organizations, all of which may have a part to play in the control and eradication of FMD should a case be diagnosed in New Jersey. Included among task force members were representatives from USDA, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the New Jersey State Police, the Attorney General's Office, the Governor's Office, New Jersey Farm Bureau, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the Animal Emergency Preparedness and Response Committee.
The group worked quickly to put in place as part of the State Emergency Operations Plan the many regulatory and operational mechanisms that will be necessary to cope with this virulent animal disease, as well as any others that might find their way into the United States in the months and years ahead. Additional work on the Plan, as well as further educational and outreach efforts, will take place through the foreseeable future to help keep New Jersey's livestock industry safe from foreign animal diseases.
Following last year's discovery in Pennsylvania of plum pox, a foreign disease of peaches, plum and nectarines, in FY01 NJDA's Division of Plant Industry began phase two of its multi-year surveys for the disease in orchards throughout New Jersey. With financial support from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Plant Protection and Quarantine Program, NJDA personnel collected thousands of leaf samples from stone fruit nurseries, orchards where budwood is collected, and high-risk stone fruit orchards, with all samples testing negative for plum pox.
NJDA continued its cooperative efforts with other plant regulatory agencies in the tri-state area to ensure a safe supply of stone fruit nursery stock for area growers. As a result, NJDA was able to survey and test for plum pox in Pennsylvania orchards which were potential budwood sources for growers. This plum pox-free budwood will also be used to help re-start the stone fruit nursery business of Pennsylvania's Adams County Nursery, which relocated its production fields outside the quarantine area. Adams County Nursery has long been a major supplier of peach, nectarine and plum trees to many New Jersey growers.
NEW JERSEY AGRICULTURAL INVASIVE SPECIES COUNCIL
NJDA spearheaded the establishment of the New Jersey Agricultural Invasive Species Council this year as part of a growing national trend to stem the loss of biodiversity and deal with the agricultural ramifications of invasive species. The 12-member Council includes representatives of the State Board of Agriculture; the New Jersey Farm Bureau; and the nursery, fruit, grain and forage, turfgrass, vegetable, aquaculture, livestock and organic farming industries. Advisory members appointed to the Council represent NJDA, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Plant Protection and Quarantine, and Rutgers University.
The group's immediate focus is identification of the invasive plant species that are already established in the state, especially those used as ornamental plants, followed by an assessment of the exotic species which are becoming established in the state. In addition, the Council began to develop an agricultural invasive species management plan for the Garden State.
WEST NILE VIRUS
The first full-blown season of the foreign equine disease West Nile virus (WNV) hit New Jersey at the end of the summer, ultimately claiming the lives of eight horses. Because not all horses that contract WNV become ill, NJDA's Division of Animal Health collected samples from stablemates of the 28 animals diagnosed with the disease to derive a better picture of the extent and biological impact of WNV infection in New Jersey horses. NJDA veterinarians also collected information from each affected stable in an effort to discern any patterns of risk that could be used to provide additional recommendations for protective measures horse owners can take to safeguard their animals.
Since horses can only become infected with WNV when infected mosquitoes bite them, and with a vaccine still in development, preventive measures become critical. In cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health and Senior Services and USDA, NJDA launched a proactive campaign to educate horse owners about the precautions they must take to decrease mosquito habitat, virtually the only way horse owners can minimize the chance of an animal being stricken with WNV. Information was also posted on websites maintained by state and federal agencies.
New Jersey received a Presidential emergency declaration because of WNV, marking the first time the Federal Emergency Management Agency has incorporated a medical emergency situation into the disaster/emergency declaration process. Most of the $5 million approved for New Jersey was channeled into efforts to control the mosquito population.
OUTSTANDING YOUNG FARMER
New Jersey's Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) Robert C. Von Thun, Jr., a fourth generation vegetable/small fruit/flower grower from Monmouth Junction, Middlesex County, was one of four winners at the 2001 National OYF Awards Congress in Omaha, Nebraska, this year. Twenty-five young farmers from across the nation competed for the honor. The three other 2001 national winners, all dairy farmers, represented Vermont, Wisconsin and Maryland. This is the third National OYF Award won by a New Jerseyan since the first award was presented in 1955.
FARM TOUR FOR LEGISLATORS
More than 30 legislators and legislative aides joined the annual Farm Tour for Legislators, this year in Sussex County, co-sponsored by the New Jersey Agricultural Society and Sussex County's Board of Freeholders and Board of Agriculture. The July tour included stops at an organic farm, a wholesale nursery, a dairy farm, a grain and livestock operation, a retail vegetable farm and an equestrian facility. Legislators got hands-on experience at the dairy farm through a milking contest and were able to discuss a wide range of topics, including farm conservation practices, water quality and marketing strategies, with agricultural producers and other industry representatives.