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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
March 24, 2010
Dairy – The Department is continuing the public hearing on the dairy industry that opened on November 19, 2009 solely to receive briefs on proposals and/or recommendations that have been put on the record. Receipt of testimony from witnesses closed on February 22, 2010. No further witness testimony or documentary evidence will be accepted. Interested parties are invited to submit such briefs to the Department to be received no later than the close of business on April 12, 2010. Responses to the briefs are due to the Department on April 26. For more information, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/news/hottopics/approved/topics091117.html. The Department joined with the nine other Northeastern state departments of agriculture on March 10 in urging USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to reinstate the federal support price for cheddar block and barrel cheese and non-fat dry milk to the levels established last August as an additional step to help struggling dairy farmers.
Specialty Crop Block Grant Applications -- The department will be soliciting applications from grower organizations for USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants. The grants may be used for projects designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture). Projects could include research, promotion, marketing, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, grower or consumer education, “buy local” programs, projects designed to increase consumption, improve efficiency and reduce the costs of distribution systems, address environmental concerns and conservation projects, develop products, and develop cooperatives. Based upon available funds, qualified projects may be eligible for a maximum grant of $40,000. Applications are due to the department no later than May 28, 2010.
Jersey Grown Firewood -- Firewood is now being recognized as an agricultural product in the Jersey Grown program. New Jersey firewood producers who harvest trees grown in New Jersey from private forestlands managed under an approved forest management plan may take part in this marketing program, using plastic Jersey Grown hang tags to readily identify the product. The benefits of the program include: promoting availability of locally produced, high quality wood products for consumers; supporting a sustainable, renewable energy source; reducing the risk of spreading injurious pests and diseases; and protecting the health and safety of our urban, suburban and rural forests. Visit www.jerseygrown.nj.gov/JerseyGrownFirewood.pdf.
E.coli Project – The Department’s bacteriology laboratory will be assisting Dr. Jane Huffman, East Stroudsburg University, in an E.coli 0157 study involving European Starlings. Escherichia coli causes stomach problems in humans and most illnesses have been associated with eating undercooked contaminated ground beef or contaminated vegetables or drinking contaminated water. However, it can be passed in the manure of many animals, including birds. The study will examine 212 European Starlings and 100 environmental samples for the presence of E.coli 0157.
Agricultural Plastics Recycling – The Department’s 2010 plastic pesticide container recycling program will have 21 separate collection days April through November at three South Jersey collection sites in Hammonton (Atlantic County), Deerfield (Cumberland County), and Woodstown (Salem County) this year. Last year’s collection exceeded the amount collected in 2008 by 111 percent. To date, more than 115,000 pounds of plastic pesticide containers have been kept out of the landfills. Launched in 2002, the program, a cooperative effort between the Department, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Helena Chemical, Cumberland County Improvement Authority, Salem County Improvement Authority, and the Salem County Board of Agriculture, collects plastic pesticide containers from all categories of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection licensed pesticide applicators and custom application businesses. For further information on processing guidelines, details on the collection sites and specific dates of collection, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture Agricultural Recycling webpage at: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/recycling.html.
Horticulture Exposition -- Students from 27 middle schools and high schools displayed their floral and horticultural talent in the New Jersey FFA Horticultural Exposition at the Burlington Center Mall March 12-14. Nearly 700 entries were judged. Fifty-four students participated in the on-site Floral Design Career Development event. Twenty-eight industry representatives served as judges for the event and twenty-four assistants helped make it possible.
2010 NJ Flower & Garden Show Exhibit – An educational exhibit entitled “Trees for the Glorious Garden” was displayed at the New Jersey Flower Show February 18-21, put together by the Department’s State Soil Conservation Committee, the NJ Association of Conservation Districts, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Soil Conservation Districts. The display of blooms, blossoms such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and shrubs in assorted shapes, scents and sizes received several awards - First place for “Most Ecologically & Environmentally Focused”; First place from The American Horticultural Society for “Best Demonstration of Skillful Design that Incorporates Environmental Stewardship in the Garden”; Second place for “Most Educational”; and Third place for “Low Maintenance and High Success.”
National Agriculture Week -- Secretary Fisher on March 17 urged New Jersey residents to buy locally-grown as they begin planting their gardens this spring or as gifts for the spring holidays. Fisher celebrated National Agriculture Week at La Rosa Greenhouses in Woodstown to call attention to the value of agriculture in our daily lives and recognize the abundance provided by agriculture. Fisher toured La Rosa’s fields and greenhouses as they geared up for spring. Hydrangeas and pansies were ready for distribution and bedding plant planting was underway.
School Breakfast Week -- Secretary Fisher and officials from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Region on March 11 celebrated National School Breakfast Week and the Jersey City School District’s commitment to good nutrition by visiting two elementary schools participating in a variety of federal/state programs.
National School Breakfast Week was launched in 1989 to raise awareness of the availability of the School Breakfast Program to all children. Fisher and Barbara Martin, Special Nutrition Programs Deputy Director, USDA, Food and Nutrition Service’s Mid Atlantic Region, visited Martin Luther King Jr. School #11, where about 183 students participate in the breakfast program on a daily basis, served in the cafeteria before school. About 4,000 breakfasts are served every day throughout the district. Statewide, more than 156,000 breakfasts are served daily. Fisher and Martin also observed the school’s participation in the Federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and visited Jotham W. Wakeman School #6, the recipient of a federal School Food Service Equipment Assistance Grant. With that grant, the school purchased a refrigerator and a cold food bar.
National FFA Week – Secretary Fisher highlighted a pilot agricultural education program at Allentown High School with a visit to the school during National FFA Week. Allentown FFA is in the top 2 percent of all FFA chapters throughout the nation in achievement. More than 100 strong, chapter members have excelled in both state and national competitions, with many members going on to be State FFA Executive Board members and then, agriculture community leaders. The school also was chosen as one of 14 animal science field test sites nationwide in the current school year for new Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) program. The CASE program is the first standardized comprehensive national animal and plant science curriculum. It provides students with a balance of science, mathematics and English situated in agriculture subject matter using the theory of inquiry-based activities, projects and problems.