Specialty Crop Block Grants – The Christie Administration has received a $813,342 Specialty Crop Block Grant to fund 12 initiatives to benefit Garden State crops such as fruits, vegetables, as well as horticulture and nursery. The grants are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to promote specialty crops in the nation and stimulate food-and agriculturally-based community economic development. Specialty crops account for $907.7 million in sales annually in the Garden State. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will use $373,000 of the funding to support the popular Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown programs. A majority of the projects support agricultural marketing and cooperative development. Several research projects also are included. Grant funds will go to: Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station; NJ Farm Bureau; NJ Blueberry Growers Association; Cape May Beach Plum Association; Cumberland County Board of Agriculture; New Jersey Agricultural Society; NJ Beekeepers Association; NJ Nursery and Landscape Association; NJ Peach Promotion Council; NJ White Potato Association; and Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association. The NJ grant was announced on October 2 by the USDA, part of $118 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants funding 838 projects throughout the nation for 2015.
Secretary Award – Secretary Fisher was presented with the Thomas W. Kelly Government Service Award by the New Jersey Food Council Committee for Good Government at their annual breakfast in Monroe Township on October 1. Richard Saker of Saker Shop-Rites and Food Council Vice Chairman presented Secretary Fisher with the award for being an advocate of the food industry and advocate for agriculture policies that further New Jersey's food retail and distribution industry. Food Council also recognized Fisher’s active participation in meetings and events and advocacy for agriculture policies that further New Jersey’s food retail and distribution industry. The award is given in memory the late Tom Kelly, who served in state government as the Superintendent of Weights and Measures before joining the Food Council. The New Jersey Food Council is an alliance of food retailers and their supplier partners united to provide vision and leadership to advance the interest of its members.
School Breakfast – Secretary Fisher joined Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno at Herbert Hoover Middle School in Edison Township on September 29 to see the progress the district has made in increasing participation in the school breakfast program. Now more than 50 percent of the low-income students that attend the school eat breakfast every day in their classrooms at the beginning of the school day. In addition, Secretary Fisher joined school breakfast advocates on October 7 in honoring the Bound Brook school district for increasing participation in its school breakfast program by more than 500 percent last year. The Advocates for Children of New Jersey presented the district with an award for being a School Breakfast Challenge winner and released its annual report showing vast improvements in the number of eligible children receiving breakfast at school.
National School Lunch Week – Secretary Fisher, USDA officials and New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill marked National School Lunch Week on October 16 with a visit to New Brunswick Middle School to applaud the New Brunswick School District’s efforts to offer students meals that are nutritious and appealing. Secretary Fisher observed a school lunch period and spoke with students and food service officials about the healthy menu items being offered. Lunch at New Brunswick Middle School is served in a “food court” style, where students daily have a choice of pizza and other stuffed breads, assorted sandwiches and salads made to order and a traditional rotating menu item.
Outstanding Young Farmer – The Department announced the recipient of the 2015 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer Award on October 16 as Henry Richard Byma, a dairy and grain farmer from Wantage, Sussex County. Byma, 36, farms 680 acres with his father as By-Acre Holsteins LLC. Byma also is a semi-finalist in the National Outstanding Young Farmer Competition. He will receive his New Jersey award at the 2015 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in February. In addition, the Department is accepting applications for 2016 Outstanding Young Farmer. For more information on the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html or call Joe Atchison, OYF Program Manager at (609) 984-2223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Produce Safety Task Force – The Department’s Produce Safety Task Force reconvened for the first time in several years on October 7 with a renewed focus on preparing the state for dealing with the realities of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the first several rules of which will become effective late in 2015. The Task Force, which includes representation from NJDA, NJ Department of Health, Rutgers University and various sectors of the produce industry, will focus on ensuring that the state’s produce growers, wholesalers and retailers fully understand and can comply with the groundbreaking new components of ensuring food safety in the nation. The first meeting’s discussions centered on planning outreach to all sectors of the produce industry, how NJDA and NJDOH can cooperate on implementing the new rules, and how various state, regional and national groups working to facilitate FSMA can be coordinated to ensure a consistent message to those who will be impacted by FSMA’s increased inspections and requirements.
Emerald Ash Borer – The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) survey was concluded last month. On September 25th a suspected EAB was collected from a trap in Mercer County and confirmed positive by the US Department of Agriculture. So far, three counties Burlington, Mercer and Somerset were confirmed positive this year for this insect.
Forest Pest Display -- The Department of Agriculture unveiled a new exhibit at World of Wings in Teaneck on October 8 designed to educate the public about invasive pests threatening trees in New Jersey. The display, located at the entrance to the museum, has giant pictures of an emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, with cutouts for children to put their faces into the scene. Along with the fun activity, there are signs explaining the threat the insects pose to state trees and how to contact the New Jersey Department of Agriculture in case people spot the bugs. The exhibit at World of Wings is part of the Department’s outreach efforts to stop the spread of pests responsible for killing millions of trees in our region.
Food Export Seminar – Secretary Fisher welcomed more than 20 food companies to a New Jersey Department of Agriculture “The Best Ways to Get Started in Exporting” educational seminar in New Brunswick on October 16. The seminar was hosted in partnership with Food Export USA – Northeast, and focused exclusively on food export education for new to export companies and companies which might be considering exporting.
Agricultural Recycling Program – The Department has expanded its Pesticide Container Recycling Program with two new sites this fall. Pesticide applicators may now recycle their containers at Allied Recycling in Mount Holly in Burlington County and receive core credits. Allied also accepts nursery greenhouse film; plastic nursery pots, trays and flats; ag plastics; irrigation pipe; drip tape; non waxy cardboard and other ridged plastics. Farmers may also bring unwanted metal and will receive compensation. Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Fruit Research Center in Cream Ridge is also a pesticide container recycling site. For the convenience of the applicator, containers may be dropped-off at the facility Monday through Friday, 9 am to noon from April through the end of October.
Horticulture Therapy – Secretary Fisher visited Allies, Project Grow at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor on September 30 to learn more about horticultural therapy. People with various disabilities grow a garden at the college, with some of the produce being donated to the local food banks and other produce being sold. He then spoke to the American Horticultural Therapy Association annual meeting in Pennsylvania on October 11.
AHDL Bear Necropsy – The Department’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory worked with the Department of Environmental Protection in its investigation of a bear that allegedly attacked and killed a college student in September in West Milford.