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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
March 28, 2012
March Freeze – The Department worked with the state Environmental Protection Commissioner to allow farmers to conduct controlled open burning or use specialized torches known as smudge pots to protect flowering crops from being damaged when freezing temperatures were forecasted on March 26 and 27. The freeze came following a period of higher than normal temperatures, causing peach and apple trees and blueberry bushes to bloom early. A frost at that point could have meant millions of dollars in crop losses.
Jersey Grown Annuals – The Department announced the expansion of the Jersey Grown horticultural promotion program on March 26 at Hionis Greenhouses in Whitehouse Station. Hionis is conducting a pilot project, labeling many of its annuals with the Jersey Grown logo. The Department is finalizing a rule that sets forth standards for annuals. The program identifies these locally grown items to consumers and ensures the plants are accustomed to the region’s climate and are disease and pest-free. Besides annuals, the program includes trees, shrubs, plants, cut flowers, Christmas trees, firewood, sunflower seed birdseed and wood.
Division of Animal Health Move -- The Department’s Division of Animal Health and Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL) moved from Trenton to the new NJ Public Health, Environmental, and Agricultural Laboratories (NJPHEAL) facility in Ewing on March 27. The move will enable the AHDL to expand its services. Some new capabilities include: a state-of-the-art necropsy lab; specialized laboratory space to handle select agents, dangerous pathogens, and highly toxic chemicals, increasing the lab’s capacity to respond to high consequential animal diseases like avian influenza, foot-and-mouth-disease and classical swine fever; and research space to discover next generation tests and reagents to fight emerging diseases.
School Breakfast Week – Secretary Fisher celebrated National School Breakfast week along with Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and Education Department Chief of Staff Dave Hespe on March 9 by visiting a breakfast in the classroom program at B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington Township. The Departments of Agriculture and Education have been working cooperatively to promote breakfast in the classroom as a way to increase participation in the federally-funded program and provide the important meal to more students entitled to a free or reduced price breakfast.
HealthierUS School Challenge Award – USDA and the Department awarded the first HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award of Distinction in the state on March 1 to Long Branch Middle School. Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande, Monmouth County Freeholder Director John Curley and state Department of Education officials were on hand to congratulate the school on its nutrition and physical fitness achievements. The school, only one of 20 schools in the state to achieve some level of the award, received a $2,000 prize.
Emerald Ash Borer Survey -- Site selection has begun for the 2012 Emerald Ash Borer Grid Survey. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a highly destructive invasive insect pest that has caused the destruction of millions of ash trees in the central United States. In recent years EAB has been detected closer to New Jersey with positive finds in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ulster County, New York, and most recently in Bucks County, PA. Although EAB has not been detected yet in New Jersey, our state is at a high risk of infestation.
Plastic Pesticide Container Collection – Last year, more than 80,000 plastic pesticide containers were recycled through the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling Program. That program will continue in 2012 starting Thursday, April 5 with 21 collection days April through November in Hammonton, Atlantic County, Deerfield, Cumberland County and Woodstown, Salem County. 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. To date, more than 287,000 pounds of HDPE plastic pesticide containers have been kept out of the landfills. Among the uses for the recycled plastic are plastic pesticide containers, industrial pallets, hazardous waste drums, speed bumps, parking stops, dock and sea wall pilings and agricultural drain pipe. All three collection site also will be accepting clean cardboard since the pesticide containers are distributed in cardboard boxes. To view the 2012 collection schedule, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/pesticidecontsched.html.
FFA Horticultural Exposition -- Students from 28 middle and high schools displayed their floral and horticultural talent in the New Jersey FFA Horticultural Exposition at Mercer County Community College March 16-18. More than 800 entries were pre-registered. Sixty-seven students participated in the on-site Floral Design Career Development event. Twenty-four industry representatives served as judges throughout the event.
Animal Emergency Working Group Symposium -- The New Jersey Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG) held its 14th Annual Symposium on March 12 at the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center in Westampton to prepare state and county animal response teams to aid animals during emergencies. Several teams were activated during Hurricane Irene and subsequent flooding last year. Issues faced during the incidents included evacuating livestock and pets, setting up emergency shelters, giving guidance to animal owners and responding to power outages. During the daylong seminar, each team’s activities in 2011 were reviewed and there was a discussion of the response to Hurricane Irene and the flooding. A hands-on exercise focused on setting up a mobile pet shelter.
Clam Processing Wastes Meeting – The Department organized and moderated a meeting on March 15 to discuss improving utilization of sea clam processing wastes in New Jersey. The meeting was held in Bridgeton and brought together sea clam processors, researchers, feed companies, protein separation technologists and industry support professionals. New Jersey is the nation’s leading harvester of sea clams, 38.5 million pounds worth $25.3 million. Early estimates are that processors of ocean quahogs and surf clams in the region incur aggregate costs of approximately $250,000 to send more than 3.5 million pounds of processing byproducts to landfills every year. Proteins and oils recovered from this waste stream could be worth more than $250,000 as animal feed ingredients or feed palatability enhancers. The amino acid profiles indicate that sea clam meal could be a very good feed enhancement where soy or other plant proteins are used in aquafeeds. Some figures indicate that products derived from wastes could be worth as much as $1 million and generate over $200,000 in net income.
State Honey Show -- The State Honey Show was held February 17-25 at the Rutgers EcoComplex. There were 89 entries from 41 members, Ann and Angelo Trapani once again won Best in Show and Best Exhibitor. Angelo also built display cases to replace the ones the Department owned which were destroyed last September in the flood.