Hunger Initiative – Governor Jon Corzine announced yesterday during his Budget Address additional funding to fight hunger in New Jersey. Approximately 1.6 million residents, including about 470,000 children, are affected by hunger. For the last 11 years, New Jersey has spent only $338,000 on hunger alleviation programs. To reverse this trend, the Governor’s budget includes $4 million to buy and store nearly 5 million pounds of food, expanding the availability of food for the more than 1.1 million individuals who already rely on the state Department of Agriculture’s emergency food distribution program.
Immigration – A letter was sent to the New Jersey Congressional delegation urging their support for federal measures that will enhance the agricultural community’s access to guest workers, a vital part of the farm workforce that unfortunately is in short supply. The Department is working very closely with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to influence legislation that will result in comprehensive reforms of immigration laws, allowing a clear and compassionate approach to guest workers in the U.S. The Department is taking steps to put forth the initiatives outlined in the Agricultural Convention Farm Labor resolution. The resolution sought to ensure an adequate, legal farm labor workforce to avoid problems of filling needed farm positions, such as was experienced during the last growing season. The resolution is available on the web at www.state.nj.us/agriculture/conventions/2006/farmlaborres.html.
Avian Influenza – The Department continues to work with USDA, other state agencies and its partners to prepare for the possibility of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza entering the United States. Federal authorities have warned that state and local agencies will have to take the lead should there be such and occurrence, so preparation and communication are our greatest tools in keeping Avian Influenza from spreading through our poultry flocks and possibly becoming a pandemic. Part of the effort included a letter being sent to the more than 1,500 bird producers in New Jersey to alert them to the possibility of high-path AI and our expectation that they need to report any dead birds immediately to the Department. Up-to-date information on Avian Influenza will continue to be posted on the Department’s web site at www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/ah/diseases/avian_influenza.html.
Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program – Members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation have responded to the Department’s request for support of including New Jersey in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. The program is currently available in a few states. Their letter asks committee leaders to include funding for New Jersey in the agriculture appropriations bill. The Department this year modeled its own pilot program from the USDA program. All school year, students at the pilot schools have been sampling a new fruit or vegetable monthly, with great success. Inclusion in the federal program would expand the program to provide healthy snacks to students throughout the state.
Farmland Preservation Summit - Two-hundred farmland preservation partners from across the state came together at New Jersey’s first Farmland Preservation Summit on March 3 in New Brunswick to hear about upcoming changes to the Farmland Preservation Program, strategies for planning for agriculture, innovative preservation efforts and other issues critical to retaining farmland and strengthening agriculture. The session on planning for agriculture spotlighted the steps towns can take to help retain their farms, including forming agricultural advisory committees; developing a farmland preservation element in their municipal master plans; establishing and supporting local right-to-farm ordinances; and establishing dedicated sources of funding for farmland preservation. The summit allowed representatives from government to engage in a dialogue with planners, faculty and farmers to look forward and think about future strategies to protect our farmland base and maintain a vibrant agricultural industry in this state.
Beginning Beekeepers Program - For the first time in the 28 years that Rutgers has been offering its beginning beekeepers course, the session has been filled, due to the large interest in the Department’s Bee-ginner Beekeeping Program. The first 50 interested first-time beekeepers who successfully complete the Rutgers beekeeping short course in April will be eligible for the $300 worth of beekeeping equipment. A second beekeeping short course has been scheduled for May 5 –7, 2006 at Cook College because of the overwhelming interest generated by the program.
Giant Hogweed Brochures – Nearly 19,500 informational brochures about Giant Hogweed, were distributed to three county colleges, two environmental education centers and state fish and wildlife offices located in Burlington, Mercer and Monmouth Counties. The brochures were produced to warn state residents about the federal noxious weed that has the potential to invade and dominate both managed and natural areas and cause severe skin damage to people who come in contact with it.
Jersey Fresh Ad Campaign – Department staff and the Department’s advertising agency, CMD and Partners, will meet on March 30 at the Cumberland County Extension Office with licensed Jersey Fresh growers registered with the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program to present this year’s plans for the Jersey Fresh advertising campaign. The meeting will give growers an opportunity to learn about the plans first-hand.
NJ Junior Breeders - The Junior Breeder program hosted its 6th annual Livestock Symposium March 11 at Cook College, Rutgers University. It was well attended with over 200 students and adults participating. The Junior Breeder Program will hold its second annual Spring Classic Small Livestock Consignment Sale on April 2. Animals being auctioned include beef, poultry, rabbits, sheep, swine, and dairy and meat goats. It is a unique opportunity for livestock breeders to sell and buy quality production and market animals in the Garden State.
Agricultural Recycling Programs - The Department announced the 2006 collection schedule for the recycling of rinsed, plastic pesticide containers. View the collection schedule at the Cumberland County Solid Waste Complex. Staff is working to expand the pesticide container collection program to other counties. The Department also announced the nursery and greenhouse film collection program. This is the 10th consecutive year for this nationally recognized program. For additional information visit www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/recycling.html.
FFA Advocacy and Legislative Leadership Day – More than 150 FFA members, advisors and guests met with more than 30 agriculture and education leaders at a breakfast at the College of New Jersey in Ewing February 23 to celebrate FFA week to learn more about the career paths taken by the industry representatives and how to work within government to achieve their goals. Secretary Kuperus presented an FFA Week proclamation. Assemblyman Douglas Fisher presented Dale Cruzan III with a resolution honoring the State FFA President. Senator Leonard Lance and Assemblyman Nelson Albano also attended