|Annual Report 1999|
The Division of Rural Resources is responsible for a variety of services and programs that maintain and enhance the viability of New Jersey agriculture and related agribusinesses.
In FY99 the division administered policies and programs to conserve and develop the state's soil, water and related natural resources and to establish close interdepartmental cooperation on issues including non-point source pollution control, land application of biosolids, recycling, waste management and water resources.
The division also offered a wide range of services to the agriculture industry to promote greater economic development, including regulatory mediation and mitigation, disaster relief coordination, agricultural tax assistance and other special production assistance grant programs.
In addition, the division continued its work with New Jersey's commercial fishing and aquaculture industries to help them gain a larger share of both national and international markets for their products.
As the home of New Jersey's State FFA Association, a national organization for students enrolled in agriculture education in public high schools, NJDA worked throughout the year to support the organization's many programs and the more than 1,800 FFA members statewide. NJDA is the only department of agriculture in the country which administers the FFA.
The New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service, a joint federal-state program, collected and distributed agricultural production data and conducted special surveys of the industry throughout the year.
The State Soil Conservation Committee (SSCC) is responsible for coordinating programs related to the conservation and development of soil, water and related natural resources in New Jersey through a partnership which includes the 16 soil conservation districts (SCDs), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service (RCES). The SSCC establishes statewide policy and provides technical assistance and training, creates technical and administrative standards, administers non-point pollution control and agricultural cost-sharing programs, and establishes measures to assure program accountability at the state and district levels. The SSCC also establishes standards for soil and water management practices on construction, mining and other land disturbance activities associated with development to protect water quality and avoid damage from storm water runoff. These standards are implemented at the local level by the SCDs.
State Conservation Cost Share Program
One of the year's major accomplishments was the establishment of the Conservation Cost Share Program (CCSP), a $2 million cost-sharing grant program that was fully integrated with the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to streamline the delivery of funding and technical assistance. From the 1,200 applications received, 191 projects were selected based on their anticipated environmental benefits. The projects reflected the tremendous agricultural diversity in the Garden State with almost $1 million allocated to projects related to livestock production.
Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act
The SSCC promulgated revisions and additions to the Standards for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control in New Jersey for use by the SCDs in certifying soil erosion, sediment and storm water controls on land development projects. These start-of-the-art technical standards include vegetative, engineering and storm water runoff treatment standards as well as scientific innovations and expanded design options which address the diverse topographic and soil conditions in New Jersey. They were developed by a subcommittee comprised of state, federal and municipal officials, engineering groups, construction industry groups and other stake holders. Training programs were conducted for conservation program personnel and engineering groups on the proposed changes to the standards.
The SCDs processed 3,827 applications for soil erosion and sediment control certification involving more than 23,000 acres of construction and mining related land disturbance activities in compliance with SSCC technical standards. More than 64,500 site inspections were performed to assure compliance with approved plans. In addition, the soil conservation districts and the SSCC issued storm water discharge authorizations for 680 construction and mining projects which are regulated and require New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits.
The SSCC provided engineering assistance and training to the SCDs on more than 300 complex development projects. In accord with SSCC rules, SCDs reviewed sediment control ordinances implemented independently by 28 municipalities to assure compliance with program standards.
Conservation Assistance to Agriculture
Pursuant to the state Watershed Planning and Management Act, the SSCC established a non-point pollution control demonstration project for Watershed Planning areas 17 and 18 in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties. Funded by the DEP, the million-dollar effort offered landowners cost-sharing assistance for planning and installing non-point pollution control practices in areas of the watersheds where water quality impairment had been documented by DEP. Sixteen projects were approved for implementation, including 12 related to livestock production. The program is being implemented cooperatively with the SCDs, the NRCS and DEP.
Through continuing programs carried out in cooperation with the NRCS, conservation plans were developed for 32,176 acres of farmland. Land treatment practices installed on 6,405 farmland acres prevented the loss of nearly 20,000 tons of productive soil. In addition, conservation tillage techniques were used on almost 12,000 acres of farmland to reduce soil loss from wind and water erosion. Nearly 24,000 acres of conservation buffers and grazing land management practices and 32 animal waste management systems were also installed.
At the request of delegates to the 1999 State Agricultural Convention, the division oversaw the establishment of an Agricultural Water Quality Steering Committee comprised of members of agricultural commodity and support groups. The Committee reviews programs and issues related to agricultural water quality and non-point source pollution control requirements.
The division's rural development program provides services, programs, and special projects that promote the economic growth and vitality of New Jersey agriculture and agribusiness, including technical assistance on issues such as the farm building code, appraisal methods used for taxing agricultural and greenhouse structures, agricultural recycling, farmland assessment procedures, farm sales tax requirements and other agricultural economic considerations, interstate trucking regulations for agriculture, and special court cases impacting agricultural operations.
Greenhouse & Nursery Film Recycling
For the third consecutive year, the division was instrumental in the implementation of a greenhouse and nursery film collection and recycling program. Three approved collection sites, a private recycling firm and two county solid waste utility authorities, were established in the southern half of the state where the bulk of the recyclable plastic is used. Using the internet, the division joined an on-line packaging discussion group to search out new markets for the recycled film, receiving responses from new markets as far away as China and Malaysia.
During FY99, the program passed the million-pound milestone in the collection of used film, making it one of the nation's most effective agricultural film recycling programs. The continuing success of New Jersey's greenhouse and nursery film recycling program generated interest in 13 states and brought inquiries from numerous out-of-state agricultural trade organizations and growers, and several plastic recycling firms.
Agricultural Leasing of State-owned Lands
As the agency authorized to oversee the lease of state-owned land to private sector farm operators, NJDA is also required to set the terms of such leases. To accomplish this goal, rules and regulations for the leasing of state-owned lands deemed suitable for agricultural production were proposed during the year followed by a public hearing on proposed rules. A number of interested individuals, including farmers who currently hold state leases, and representatives of agricultural and environmental organizations, offered comments on the proposal for consideration in preparing the final rule.
State Plan Review
NJDA was an active participant in the State Development and Redevelopment Plan's cross-acceptance process during FY99, placing particular emphasis on policies in the agricultural sections of the Plan to strengthen the wording and integrate concepts vital to the agricultural industry.
Following last year's comparison phase, during which county plans were prepared, this year's negotiation phase was a county-by-county review process during which disagreements or inconsistencies between the submitted county plans and the Preliminary State Plan were reconciled. As the county reports were received, the Office of State Planning framed the negotiation agenda into policy issues and mapping issues to be discussed with county representatives.
Negotiated policy changes and changes to the resource planning and management map were incorporated into the Interim Plan adopted by the State Planning Commission in March. The Interim Plan will undergo an independent impact assessment by Rutgers' Center for Urban Policy Research in early 2000, with the Final Plan tentatively slated for adoption by mid-year.
Although the Garden State is better known for its production agriculture, the commercial fishing industry remains an important part of the economic life of New Jersey, with almost 22,000 people working on boats, in processing plants and in the wholesale/retail sectors of the commercial fishing industry. Finite ocean resources can sustain only limited harvests while the global demand for quality fish and seafood continues to climb. Helping the New Jersey fish and seafood industry effectively address these challenges is the goal of the fish and seafood development program.
To help the fledgling aquaculture industry become a successful part of the farming community and take full advantage of the state's proximity to major markets, the division is working to create a cohesive management plan that considers regulatory issues, environmental quality, water quality and quantity, production capacity, good business practices and marketing options. The division continues to work with the state, federal and private sectors to create an aquaculture industry development plan that will provide a solid cornerstone for the industry's growth and attract new aquaculture ventures to the Garden State. Throughout the preparation of this plan, NJDA has worked closely with the Aquaculture Training and Information Center at Cumberland County College which offers specialized, targeted industry training programs.
Seafood Export and Domestic Marketing
As part of the division's plan to more aggressively market and promote New Jersey as a producer of high quality, locally harvested and farmed seafood products, two television advertisements were developed and aired during periods of traditionally high fish and seafood consumption - the Lenten season, winter holidays and summer shore season. To supplement these efforts, supermarkets and independent retailers promoted the local harvest by distributing point-of-purchase materials and the division participated in local festivals and consumer events where the popular New Jersey Maritime Heritage cookbooklet and the "Catch the Taste of Seafood" brochure were available.
As Pacific Rim markets rebound from the recent economic downturn, New Jersey fish and seafood firms are in an excellent position to regain and expand market share there. The New Jersey Seafood Supplier Directory has been made available to USDA and U.S. Department of Commerce trade offices around the world and the division has established a weekly fax and e-mail system to provide trade leads to New Jersey exporters. These efforts complement the industry's presence at trade shows around the globe.
Other efforts have focused on the economic assessment of niche markets in North America and abroad for by-products of local processing operations. For example, New Jersey's major squid processing sector produces a variety of by-products - dried squid beaks, innards and squid ink - that could be sold in Asian markets as snack foods and flavoring.
Shipment of high quality live fish represents another opportunity for
New Jersey harvesters and aquaculturists. These fish often command a sizable
price differential in select markets. With the development of appropriate
transportation technology and market accessibility, this sector can continue
to grow, returning greater profits to the community.
"Tradition of Excellence," this year's FFA theme, set the tone for another very successful year for the national youth organization's New Jersey chapters. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of its student members by developing their potential for leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
Agricultural Education/FFA has three important components that provide
a well rounded, practical approach to learning and helps schools meet
the state's core curriculum content standards. The first component is
the high school agricultural courses where topics such as plant and animal
science, horticulture, agri-marketing and natural resources are taught.
The second component allows students to apply knowledge and skills learned
in the classroom to a supervised agricultural experience at home or in
the workplace. The third component, the FFA organization, connecting the
classroom and workplace experience through incentive awards and scholarships
Twenty schools conducting all three components of a quality agricultural education program were each given $7,500 grants to upgrade computer technology in agricultural education classrooms through the purchase of hardware, software and internet service providers.
Reinventing Agricultural Education for 2020
In partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the New Jersey Department of Education, NJDA co-sponsored the Garden State's involvement in the national initiative, "Reinventing Agricultural Education for the Year 2020." The process was designed to empower state and local educators and agribusiness leaders to create a shared common vision of the preferred future for agricultural education programs, kindergarten through adult, around the state and to develop a strategic plan designed for long-term implementation.
Nearly 600 people participated in the initiative this year, creating agricultural education vision statements tailored to the unique needs of schools, students and agriculture-related industries in their own counties. In addition, the following statewide vision for New Jersey's agricultural education program was carefully articulated:
"Agriculture is a dynamic and vital aspect of New Jersey society with a foundation rooted in educational excellence and the practical application of knowledge and resources. Premier educational programs in food, agriculture and natural resources that provide career opportunities and a positive quality of life shall be recognized, supported and promoted as a foundation for agriculture's future."
Agricultural statistics are essential for the orderly development of production and marketing decisions by farmers and agribusinesses. Agricultural data series are also used to monitor the changes within the agriculture industry and to develop farm policy related to legislative initiatives, agricultural research, rural development and related activities.
The New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service (NJASS), a cooperative program between NJDA and USDA, is the primary source of statistical information on the agriculture sector in New Jersey. This year approximately 170 statistical surveys were conducted to provide estimates of crops, livestock including poultry and dairy, commodity prices, labor, chemical usage, and related economic farm characteristics. In addition, each year NJASS publishes estimates for 10 field crops, 17 vegetable crops, five fruit and berry crops, and nine livestock animals. As part of a joint federal-state cooperative agreement, these estimates are used in combination with other state estimates to provide official USDA agricultural statistics at the national level.
The sample survey capabilities of NJASS allow it to meet special requests for rural environmental data and economic studies such as the deer damage survey conducted this year in cooperation with the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Rutgers University and the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
In 1997, responsibility for conducting the census of agriculture was transferred from the U.S. Department of Commerce to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Through its cooperative agreement with USDA, NJASS undertook the census of agriculture in New Jersey, sampling 1,600 producers of floriculture crops, nursery crops and specialty crops such as turfgrass sod, mushrooms, Christmas trees, greenhouse crops, vegetable transplants, and vegetable and flower seeds. In addition, NJASS did three follow-up specialty surveys for horticulture, aquaculture, and farm and ranch irrigation.
This year, the state's 9,600 farms generated cash receipts totaling nearly $828.7 million. The nursery/greenhouse/sod industry remained the leading commodity group with cash receipts of $299.4 million. Cash receipts for vegetables totaled over $200.7 million, followed by fruit at $101.1 million and equine at $97 million. Field crops brought in $65.5 million while the dairy industry generated $44.9 million. Sales of poultry and eggs were valued at $25.2 million.
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