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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
April 25, 2007Food Safety Public Hearing – The Department submitted testimony to the Food and Drug Administration at a produce safety hearing held in College Park, Maryland on April 13. Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Al Murray testified at the hearing that the cornerstone of improving produce safety is third-party audits for growers. Murray urged that in designing audit standards, FDA and USDA need to devise a system that recognizes the differences in farm operation sizes, the unique methods for growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables, and differences in irrigation techniques in New Jersey and our region.
Gypsy Moth Suppression – Aerial spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (B.t.k.) is expected to begin in early May on 62,500 acres in 11 counties. Of this number a total of 61,062 acres involve residential properties in 34 municipalities and 1,438 acres of lands operated by the Department of Defense. The New Jersey Forest Service also plans to treat 3,750 acres of state properties in Burlington and Sussex counties during the program.
Food and Nutrition Division Director – At the March 28th State Board of Agriculture meeting, Emma Davis-Kovacs was appointed Director of the Division of Food and Nutrition after serving as Acting Director for eight months. Davis-Kovacs has been with the State for 27 years, serving in the Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs, first in the New Jersey Department of Education, then in the Department of Agriculture since 1999. Davis-Kovacs has served as Director of the Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program, Coordinator of the Day Care Food Program, and most recently, Coordinator of School Nutrition Programs.
Third Party Audit Trainings – Since February, the Department, in cooperation with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, conducted six Food Safety training sessions at several locations throughout the state. More than 230 people attended the sessions, “How to Prepare for a Third Party Audit.” Participants were provided with materials on how to compile a Food Safety Quality Manual and the documentation required to successfully pass a third party audit. The USDA Good Agricultural Practices & Good Handling Practices Audit Verification Checklist, which is the actual matrix used by auditors, was discussed.
Seafood Marketing -- As a kick-off to the summer promotional program, the Department is hosting a one day educational program for chain store retailers in cooperation with the New Jersey seafood industry. The program will focus on sustainable seafood harvest, aquaculture, quality assurance, health benefits of increased seafood consumption, and merchandising New Jersey seafood. Each participant in the educational program will receive a Jersey Seafood Merchandising kit consisting of posters, point of sale materials, and educational materials for kids.
School Nutrition – Division of Food and Nutrition staff have begun a second round of wellness/nutrition policy workshops that were extremely popular in 2006. These workshops offer resources and updated information for assisting school personnel implement their local wellness/nutrition policies. Through funds from a USDA State Agency Local Wellness Grant, “Wellness Rules in New Jersey Schools” resource booklets and compact disks containing the “New Jersey Quick Steps to Fruits and Vegetables Toolkit” were produced. Workshop attendees will receive both the booklet and CD.
JetsSchoolNutrition Program -- The New York Jets informed the Department that they plan to continue the partnership in the Eat Right, Move More program in the 2007-2008 school year. Jets’ offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson visited the first of the winning schools in the current school year, Heywood Avenue Elementary School in Orange, on April 19. The four other winning schools will receive visits from Jets players in May.
Hunger Grants -- Hunger Prevention and Assistance Grants totaling $125,000 were distributed on April 18 to New Jersey’s seven emergency feeding operations. The funding is the third installment of a $500,000 four-year grant for the Department of Agriculture’s emergency feeding organizations (EFO). The money comes from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, a federal cash assistance program for welfare clients, administered in the state by the Department of Human Services.
Marketing Report – Retailer Visits: Secretary Kuperus, Assistant Secretary Murray and Division of Marketing and Development staff members began their annual series of visits with chain food retailers April 19 to discuss the upcoming season’s Jersey Fresh and Jersey Seafood advertising campaign, update them on the upcoming season’s forecast and to discuss working together to promote the Jersey Fresh and Jersey Seafood brands. They visited Whole Foods, Wegmans, RLB, Kings and A & P stores. More visits are planned.
2007 Jersey Fresh Campaign Begins: The marketing and advertising program for the Jersey Fresh, Jersey Seafood and Jersey Grown brands will begin airing two 15-second, back-to-back television commercials for asparagus and azalea beginning the week of May 7 on cable stations throughout the state. The commercials are expected to reach 5.3 million households. Trade newspapers ads were placed in Produce Business magazine and Produce News. Consumer print ads were placed in Garden Plate magazine and will appear in their June/July issue, which will reach newsstands in mid-May.
Jersey Fresh Availability Report: The weekly e-mailed “Jersey Fresh Availability and Forecast Report” began the week of April 16. The report is sent to Rutgers Cooperative Extension staff, restaurateurs, Jersey Fresh licensed growers and food editors.
Restaurant Signs: The 2007 Jersey Seafood and Jersey Fresh restaurant plaque is being prepared for distribution shortly to New Jersey restaurants supporting the brands.
Upcoming Events – Annual FFA Convention: The 78th Annual State FFA Convention will take place at Rutgers University May 22-24.
Jersey Fresh Three Day: The Jersey Fresh Three Day Event is scheduled for May 30 - June 3 at the Horse Park of New Jersey. Riders from all over the world have already entered.
Farmland Preservation Milestone: Secretary Kuperus will join Senator Leonard Lance and the Hunterdon County Freeholders on April 27 in announcing that Hunterdon County has reached the 20,000-acre milestone for preserved farmland. The event will be held at 2 p.m. at the Kanach/Ribbans farm in East Amwell. Hunterdon is the third county to hit the 20,000-acre mark for preserved farmland.
Equine Rules: The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) at its April 26th meeting will consider proposing three rules that would extend right-to-farm protection to equine service activities, such as boarding, keeping, rehabilitation and training of horses; establish an agricultural management practice for equine activities that sets the standards with which equine farms would need to comply to be eligible for right-to-farm protection; and specify the equine activities permitted on preserved farms and the conditions under which those activities will be permissible. Once approved by the SADC, the proposals will be submitted to the New Jersey Register for publication and public comment.