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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
January 27, 2010Agriculture Transition Report – Governor Chris Christie took office on January 19 and released a series of reports on departments. The report for the Department of Agriculture, which was presented to the State Board of Agriculture on January 22, strongly supported agriculture as a major component of the state’s economy. It suggested that farmland preservation continue, more promotion of Jersey Fresh is needed and that certain state services dealing with food and nutrition, animals, seafood, aquaculture and forestry should be transferred to the Department. The Christie administration is reviewing the recommendations.
State Food Purchase Program Funding -- Governor Corzine and the State Legislature provided an additional $3 million to supplement the State’s Food Purchase Program. Half of the funds were distributed in December, with the remainder expected to be distributed to carry the food banks through to end of the budget year on June 30. This infusion of funds will help maintain the availability of food for the needy at last year’s level. The Department’s projection indicated a shortfall of $3 million from the previous year, which did not take into account the possibility of USDA bonus foods being cancelled. Even though the food levels throughout the system are low there are no current reports of agencies closing their doors. The next few months with the bitter cold temperatures will likely put additional stress on those in need.
Dairy – The hearing looking into the crisis facing New Jersey’s dairy farmers, begun in November, will continue at the Chesterfield Municipal Building on January 28 and 29. The hearing centers on the extremely low prices dairy farmers in New Jersey have been receiving for their raw milk and how best to return more of the “dairy dollar” to the farmer without creating too great of an impact to the other links in the dairy marketing chain. The farmer’s percentage of the retail price of a gallon of milk was roughly 50 percent just a few decades ago. Today, it reaches around 25 percent at best. Farmers have been selling milk at as much as $6 per hundredweight below what it costs them to produce those 100 pounds of milk. New Jersey has 93 remaining dairy farms, compared to approximately 3,500 at the industry’s peak in the 1950s and 1960s. The lack of a reasonable price paid to the farmer by processors has also begun to impact the state’s four major Class 1 processing plants, as they must seek milk from further away, increasing their input costs and threatening their viability. The four main processing plants employ about 3,500 people in New Jersey.
Gypsy Moth – After surveying 147 municipalities throughout the state from mid-August to mid-January, the Department found one small area that qualifies for the state’s Aerial Gypsy Moth Suppression Program for 2010, a 99-acre block in Mullica Township, Atlantic County. The municipality is declining treatment. To qualify for the spray program, a residential or recreational forest must have an average of more than 500 egg masses per acre and be at least 50 acres in size. Municipal participation in the aerial spray program is voluntary. The combination of effective treatments in spring of 2009, the impacts of predatory parasites and increased natural fungus that kills gypsy moth caterpillars has caused a dramatic decline in the gypsy moth population. However, the gypsy moth has not been eradicated from the state. Some isolated scattered pockets were found as a result of the surveys, therefore, continued monitoring is necessary to suppress the tree-killing insect in the future.
Equine Infectious Anemia -- A pony, obtained by an equine rescue group from a sale barn in Pennsylvania was brought to a stable on a New Jersey premise and later confirmed positive for equine infectious anemia (EIA) and euthanized. Officials in Pennsylvania are investigating the traceback. Equine infectious anemia (EIA), also known as swamp fever, is an infectious, viral disease that infects all equidae. It is not infectious to humans. There is no effective treatment or approved vaccine available for equine infectious anemia. The disease is spread via blood-to-blood transmission, not close proximity or casual contact.
Aquatic Farmer Licenses -- With the renewal of the Aquaculture Rule effective at the end of December, renewals for the Aquatic Farmer Licenses originally issued in 2004 are now being processed. Out of the 112 Aquatic Farmer Licenses due for renewal, 53 renewals were processed. Renewals that are not processed before the updated Aquaculture Rules go into effect later in 2010 will need to file new applications under the newly amended rules.
Food Processors -- On January 21, Secretary Fisher gave the keynote address at the annual meeting of the New Jersey Food Processors Association. Focusing on the connection between the processors and the 10,000-plus New Jersey farmers who provide raw agricultural products for such businesses, Secretary Fisher spoke of the vital link that products “Made With Jersey Fresh” could provide in boosting the state’s economy from both the farmers’ and processors’ standpoints. The Secretary underscored the various programs administered by the Department, as well as joint efforts with research facilities like the Food Innovation Center, in boosting exports of New Jersey-manufactured processed foods and linking farmers with processors, such as the connection made by Department representatives at a trade show between an Atlantic County eggplant farmer and the Comarco Company of Camden. That led to “Made With Jersey Fresh” frozen eggplant entrees being made at the Camden facility. The Secretary also highlighted the food-safety initiatives the Department has undertaken on farms, exemplifying that locally produced raw products that are known to be grown under safer practices help the processing industry avoid issues related to foodborne illnesses that have impacted other parts of the country in recent years.
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 green energy and Right to Farm. On Wednesday, sessions will be held on water allocation and farmland preservation. Ralph Izzo, Chairman and CEO of PSE&G, Kelly Johnston, Vice President of Governmental Relations for Campbell’s Soup Company and USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture Ed Avalos will be speakers during the convention.
Honey Show -- The State Honey Show will be held in the State House Annex in Trenton with the judging taking place Friday, February 5 and the display being open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Thursday, February 11. Last year there were 120 entries representing beekeepers all over the state of New Jersey.
AEWG Symposium – The New Jersey Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG) will hold its 13th Annual Symposium on Monday, March 1 in Westampton to prepare state and county animal response teams to aid animals during emergencies. The daylong seminar will seek to ensure all counties have animal emergency response plans in place and know the resources available to them. Hands-on training and demonstrations will involve equine, bovine, swine, goats, sheep, dogs, cats and wildlife. For more information or the registration form, visit: www.state.nj.us/agriculture/news/events/2010AEWGregistrationform.doc.
New Jersey State FFA on Facebook -- The New Jersey FFA Association officially has a fan page on the popular social media site, Facebook. The page has 116 fans and is continuing to grow. The page is used to promote upcoming FFA events, to receive feedback from the members and supporters, and to provide photos of events. The Facebook page is also connected to a Twitter account so followers can get up-to-date information from that social media site as well.