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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
October 28, 2009Disaster Declaration – United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack designated 15 New Jersey counties as natural disaster areas, following heavy rainfall, hail, a tornado and associated plant diseases that led to crop losses during the 2009 growing season. Examples of the damage incurred by farmers this year include: Some wheat fields were damaged, resulting in a 27 percent reduction from the previous year in the amount of wheat produced in the state. A hail storm in Hunterdon County destroyed one farmer’s apple crop and a July 29 tornado in Sussex County completely devastated one farm, damaged barns, silos and uprooted trees. The counties included in the designation are: Atlantic, Cape May, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, Somerset, Sussex and Warren Counties. Morris, Passaic and Union Counties are named as contiguous disaster counties. The disaster designation covers losses from April 15 to the present and continuing. The designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program.
Ag Summit – Rutgers University, New Jersey Farm Bureau, and Department of Agriculture officials met at Rutgers EcoComplex on Monday, October 26 to hear presentations on climate change and water issues and how the groups can work together on these issues. State Climatologist David Robinson talked about the impact of climate change on agriculture. He said we can expect more wet weather, more intense storms, more variable weather, and warmer temperatures in the future. Chris Obropta, a specialist in water resources management for Rutgers, talked about impervious cover, stormwater management, and projects going on across the state that address water quality and quantity. The groups plan to schedule future meetings to discuss different agriculture-related topics.
Gypsy Moth Suppression Program – Due to a successful 2009 aerial suppression program in conjunction with an extremely wet spring and increased parasitism levels, gypsy moth populations have dramatically decreased throughout the state. With about a quarter of the fall egg mass surveys completed, no acres have been recommended for gypsy moth treatment in 2010. Most of the surveys so far have been conducted in South Jersey. The remaining surveys will be completed by the end of the year.
Dairy Work Session – An informal work meeting was assembled at the Department of Agriculture offices on October 16 with farmer-producers, industry representatives, and processors to solicit information and suggestions on how to find solutions for New Jersey to assist our farmers in the dairy crisis. Another similar session is scheduled for November with these same groups.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis – The wet spring and summer produced a large number of mosquitoes, putting horses at risk for mosquito-borne diseases this season. To date in New Jersey, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infection has been confirmed in 6 horses and 1 alpaca. Three additional horses have been diagnosed as presumptive positive for EEE. The “presumptive” status was given because brain tissue was unavailable for confirmatory testing. The EEE+ cases were from the following counties: Atlantic (2); Burlington (2); Camden (1); Cumberland (1); Gloucester (3); Monmouth (1). Meanwhile, the state has only one case of West Nile Virus in a 20 year-old gelding in Salem County. The animal has since recovered.
Hunger Funding -- New Jersey’s six emergency feeding operations, which supply food to 793 food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters around the state to feed the hungry, received an influx of $945,116 on October 22 as part of Governor Jon S. Corzine’s Hunger Initiative. Reports from the local food distribution agencies continue to show that demand has increased about 40 percent from last year and shows no signs of letting up. Governor Corzine and the Legislature allocated $3.9 million this fiscal year for the State Food Purchase Program, administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The funding is disseminated in four quarterly payments to the six food banks in the state. The October 22nd payment was the second of the fiscal year. The first installment of $945,116 was distributed in July. The State Food Purchase Program requires the food banks to use their funding to purchase fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods for distribution to their networks of food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
Specialty Crop Block Grant – New Jersey will receive more than $656,000 in Specialty Crop Grant money from the United States Department of Agriculture to promote the Jersey Fresh branding program; advertise and promote the sale and use of New Jersey nursery products and related services; promote Jersey wines and wineries; develop a new peach marketing theme; provide business planning and training of new farmers in the production and marketing of organic fruit and vegetable crops; develop a Jersey Tomato Gravy; identify and select grape growing sites and grape varieties and develop a list of research priorities; and assist the Tri-County Auction in Hightstown in its community supported agriculture operation.
Salem County Farmland Preservation -- Secretary Fisher attended the announcement of the preservation of the 200th farm in Salem County on Wednesday, October 7 – the 51-acre Kern farm in Upper Pittsgrove. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the development rights to the farm for $509,990. That purchase was made possible by 50 percent cost-sharing grants from the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.
Fall For New Jersey Tourism Store in NYC – The Department of Agriculture is partnering with the state Division of Travel and Tourism to promote on-farm visits this fall through a New Jersey tourism store located on Columbus Avenue in New York City. Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells said the bulk of people coming into the store have been interested in visiting farms for fall activities. Farmers with agritourism businesses were invited to provide the store with informational brochures. Brochures for apple picking, farmers markets, choose and cut Christmas trees and several farms are now available at the store. The store is slated to close in mid-November.
Barn Quilt – New Jersey has joined seven other states in the Barn Quilt Project, celebrating New Jersey’s agricultural heritage while highlighting farms across the state with colorful quilt blocks. An 8 foot by 8 foot plywood quilt square, painted in the Harvest Star pattern in green and gold, was mounted on the side of the Health and Agriculture Building in downtown Trenton on October 15, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to show support for the project. The first barn quilt in New Jersey was installed on the Museum of Agriculture Building in New Brunswick in June 2009. Since then, 18 to 20 plaques have gone up on barns and other agricultural buildings throughout the state. The project is spearheaded by the Museum, through the Barn Quilt Association of New Jersey, with the hopes of creating a map of the quilts and a trail to follow for people who are interested in visiting farms to see the quilts.
Special FFA Farm Bureau Membership – The New Jersey FFA Association and New Jersey Farm Bureau have begun a partnership designed to give FFA members a broader understanding of statewide agricultural policies and issues. Farm Bureau is now offering senior FFA members free membership and a reduced rate membership to other student members in an effort to keep these students engaged in Farm Bureau into their adult lives.