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(TRENTON, NJ) - New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today welcomed federal, state, and county officials to the State House to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Department of Agriculture. The bill creating the Department was signed into law March 29, 1916 “to form a single agency to promote, protect and serve the Garden State’s agricultural interests.”
Governor Chris Christie signed a proclamation declaring March 29 New Jersey Department of Agriculture Recognition Day, urging state citizens to recognize the contributions the Department has made to the state over the last century:
“We honor and thank all past and present Secretaries of Agriculture, State Boards of Agriculture and dedicated employees for their commitment to the health, well-being and growth of the state’s agriculture industry. Today New Jersey is an innovative agricultural leader thanks to their dedication and hard work.”
(Photo left to right: NJ State Board of Agriculture members Angelo Trapani, Mitchell Jones, Shirley Kline, Vice President Marilyn Russo, Secretary Fisher, Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak who presented the NJDA with a Joint Legislative Resolution honoring the 100th anniversary, and State Board of Agriculture member Santo Maccherone.)
The Department of Agriculture has only had seven Secretaries of Agriculture, a cabinet level position: Alva Agee, William B. Duryee, Willard H. Allen, Phillip Alampi, Arthur Brown, Charles M. Kuperus and Douglas H. Fisher. Secretary Fisher began his tenure in 2009.
“In the past 100 years, the Department has grown so that every day, we impact the lives of all state citizens in some way, from feeding children, the elderly and those in need to protecting animal, plant, soil and water health and promoting farmers who grow our food,” said Secretary Fisher. “Food and agriculture are a major mainstay of our state, contributing billions to the economy.”
Agriculture has changed quite a bit since 1916. During that time period, 53.5 percent of New Jersey’s land was dedicated to farming. There were 33,487 farms on 2,573,857 acres. The major agriculture sector was the dairy industry, with 3,500 dairy farms. Much of New Jersey’s agriculture centered around grain and forage crops needed to supply the dairy herds. Fruits and vegetables were important, grown mainly near to the New York and Philadelphia markets. Significant crops at that time were apples, asparagus, peaches and white potatoes.
Now, there are 9,100 farms on 720,000 acres with annual sales of more than a billion dollars and ranking in the top 10 nationally in the production of clams, scallops, cranberries, bell peppers, spinach, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers, lobster, snap beans, squash, cabbage, and tomatoes. The largest agriculture sector is horticulture, followed by fruits and vegetables. Several of the top crops are blueberries, tomatoes, bell peppers and peaches.
The Department’s mission has expanded from support of farmers to now include animal and plant health protection, and feeding school children, pre-school children, the elderly and the hungry. Agricultural education, protection of soil and water resources and farmland preservation also are provided by the Department.
Some of the Department’s major accomplishments over the last century include: the Farmland Preservation Act, which has thus far allowed for the permanent preservation of more than 200,000 acres of farmland; the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading and Promotion program, the first state agricultural branding program in the nation; the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory, which raised insects to combat invasive species resulting in the need for less pesticides; the Jersey Seafood and Jersey Grown promotional programs; USDA accreditation to conduct organic certification; Made with Jersey Fresh program to allow processed foods made with NJ agriculture products to label their products as such; and Jersey Fresh Farm to School program, including New Jersey produce in school meals.
To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA1 and @JerseyFreshNJDA.