(June 17) TEANECK, N.J. — Celebrating the 20th birthday of the Jersey Fresh promotional program, New Jersey produce industry leaders rolled out this season’s fresh produce outlook at a June 15 Eastern Produce Council meeting that saw record attendance.

Commodity association leaders, as well as New Jersey Department of Agriculture officials, thanked retailers for helping promote New Jersey-grown produce.

“It’s important that we keep the relationship we’ve developed with our buyers solid,” said Charles Kuperus, the state’s secretary of agriculture.

Council president Craig Carlson, vice president of produce for Pathmark Stores Inc., Carteret, said the program serves as a model for other states.

He characterized this season’s New Jersey deal as having a brighter outlook than last year, when heavy rains delayed production. This season, most items will start one to two weeks earlier.

Speaking for peach grower-shippers, Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations at Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, the sales agent for Jersey Fruit Cooperative Association Inc., Glassboro, said warm and dry weather will make for a full crop of New Jersey peaches.

“Everything’s a week early,” he said. While yellows will start July Fourth, whites will hit volume in late July, he said.

Warmer weather has pushed blueberry production a week early, said Francisco Allende, Sunny Valley vice president.

Representing the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey, Peg Ballister Howells said tomatoes and sweet corn are ahead of schedule and will be available and abundant by July 4.

The Jersey Fresh meeting is always one of the most popular of the organization of growers, retailers, wholesalers, buyers and brokers, said John McAleavey, the council’s executive director. A record 220 attended the event.

The 10 heads of state agriculture departments — stretching from Maine to Delaware — involved in the Northeastern Association of State Departments of Agriculture also were recognized at the meeting.

Several Washington apple shippers will sponsor the council’s next meeting, Sept. 28 in Teaneck.

Joe Procacci, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., Philadelphia, will receive the council’s Man of the Year award at the council’s Nov. 6 dinner and dance in West Patterson.