Storms of 2011 tested Department of Agriculture

TRENTON – Garden State farmers and the Department of Agriculture were put to the test in the past year by a rainy 2011, culminating with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September, according to testimony from New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher, delivered today to the Assembly Budget Committee.

“Those storms, and the heavy rainfalls in the weeks leading up to them, tested our state’s agricultural operators as they dealt with flooded fields, damaged crops and challenges in getting adequate drinking water to parched livestock,” Fisher said.

Fisher said the storms tested the department’s capabilities to help domestic and farm animals, as well as all the people who were forced to evacuate and live in shelters.

“For the first time ever, NJDA had to mass-activate its plan for moving thousands of pounds of surplus good from our state’s two USDA warehouses to shelters, where volunteers from emergency feeding operations prepared it for evacuees,” Fisher said. “This cooperation among state, federal and non-profit organizations was successful in feeding displaced residents for nearly a week until they were able to return home.”

Fisher said the storms also tested the “soundness of the department’s plans to ensure that pets and other animals are not abandoned when disaster strikes.”

“Our network of County Animal Response Teams, our ‘CARTS,’ which are coordinated at the ROIC through the Department’s Division of Animal Health, was highly successful in moving larger animals to safer ground and in ensuring pet-friendly shelters for those who would otherwise not leave their homes for fear of what would happen to the pets left behind,” Fisher said.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, (D-3), Paulsboro, asked Fisher about the current economic climate of the farming industry in New Jersey.

Fisher said the dairy market is “really struggling,” partially because of federal milk market regulations.

Nursery farmers are “having a good year this year,” Fisher said, while orchard growers “had a good year last year” and are anticipating a good year this year.

Earlier story:

Ag secretary says federal dollars may be in shorter supply in FY13

Storms of 2011 tested Department of Agriculture