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GROW Month, hosted by Organics Unlimited, begins Sept. 1

Starting Sept. 1, Organics Unlimited will host its ninth annual GROW Month, a celebration of its non-profit program GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers). In an effort to raise consumer awareness, Organics Unlimited encourages all retailers who carry the “GROW” label organic bananas to share the positive work stories they have helped make possible.

Since 2005, GROW has raised more than $ 1 million in support from those who have chosen to sell GROW bananas in their stores. This year alone, Organics Unlimited has raised almost $ 250,000 for the GROW Fund, which contributes to scholarships, educational programs, health clinics and safe water projects for workers and families in Mexico and Ecuador.

“This is a very exciting time of the year for everyone at Organics Unlimited,” Mayra Velazquez de Leon, Organics Unlimited president and GROW founder, said in a press release. “Each year our customers asking for the ‘GROW’ label exceed our expectations. They are benefitting from the program as much as the people they are helping in Mexico and Ecuador. They are changing lives.”

With each box of GROW bananas sold, a portion of the proceeds go into the GROW Fund. These donations are managed and distributed by the International Community Foundation. Project Amigo in Mexico and Children International in Ecuador are two places where GROW has helped build better communities.

Organics Unlimited continues to offer point-of-purchase materials to its customers. Complete with posters, header cards and recipe card, most items in the Organics Unlimited online store are available to download for self-printing. Banana bags are also available in the online store for free during GROW Month.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

GROW Month, hosted by Organics Unlimited, begins Sept. 1

Starting Sept. 1, Organics Unlimited will host its ninth annual GROW Month, a celebration of its non-profit program GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers). In an effort to raise consumer awareness, Organics Unlimited encourages all retailers who carry the “GROW” label organic bananas to share the positive work stories they have helped make possible.

Since 2005, GROW has raised more than $ 1 million in support from those who have chosen to sell GROW bananas in their stores. This year alone, Organics Unlimited has raised almost $ 250,000 for the GROW Fund, which contributes to scholarships, educational programs, health clinics and safe water projects for workers and families in Mexico and Ecuador.

“This is a very exciting time of the year for everyone at Organics Unlimited,” Mayra Velazquez de Leon, Organics Unlimited president and GROW founder, said in a press release. “Each year our customers asking for the ‘GROW’ label exceed our expectations. They are benefitting from the program as much as the people they are helping in Mexico and Ecuador. They are changing lives.”

With each box of GROW bananas sold, a portion of the proceeds go into the GROW Fund. These donations are managed and distributed by the International Community Foundation. Project Amigo in Mexico and Children International in Ecuador are two places where GROW has helped build better communities.

Organics Unlimited continues to offer point-of-purchase materials to its customers. Complete with posters, header cards and recipe card, most items in the Organics Unlimited online store are available to download for self-printing. Banana bags are also available in the online store for free during GROW Month.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

GROW Month, hosted by Organics Unlimited, begins Sept. 1

Starting Sept. 1, Organics Unlimited will host its ninth annual GROW Month, a celebration of its non-profit program GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers). In an effort to raise consumer awareness, Organics Unlimited encourages all retailers who carry the “GROW” label organic bananas to share the positive work stories they have helped make possible.

Since 2005, GROW has raised more than $ 1 million in support from those who have chosen to sell GROW bananas in their stores. This year alone, Organics Unlimited has raised almost $ 250,000 for the GROW Fund, which contributes to scholarships, educational programs, health clinics and safe water projects for workers and families in Mexico and Ecuador.

“This is a very exciting time of the year for everyone at Organics Unlimited,” Mayra Velazquez de Leon, Organics Unlimited president and GROW founder, said in a press release. “Each year our customers asking for the ‘GROW’ label exceed our expectations. They are benefitting from the program as much as the people they are helping in Mexico and Ecuador. They are changing lives.”

With each box of GROW bananas sold, a portion of the proceeds go into the GROW Fund. These donations are managed and distributed by the International Community Foundation. Project Amigo in Mexico and Children International in Ecuador are two places where GROW has helped build better communities.

Organics Unlimited continues to offer point-of-purchase materials to its customers. Complete with posters, header cards and recipe card, most items in the Organics Unlimited online store are available to download for self-printing. Banana bags are also available in the online store for free during GROW Month.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Stemilt begins sixth season of all-organic peaches and nectarines

Harvest is under way for Stemilt’s all-organic peach and nectarine crop in Washington state, and natural farming methods are proving yet again to deliver summer fruits with true dessert flavors.

“This is the sixth season that our entire peach and nectarine crop is grown and certified as organic,” Roger Pepperl, Stemilt’s marketing director, said in a press release.OrganicPeaches MetricPanta “Consumer demand for organic fruit is very high, and we look forward to supplying organic peaches and nectarines that burst with flavor during the final stretch of summer.”

Stemilt’s peaches and nectarines are packed under its “Artisan Organics” label and available from late July to mid-September. The majority of these summer fruits are grown by the Douglas family of Douglas Fruit in Pasco, WA. The family has been farming fruit in Washington state since the early 1900s and has grown peaches since 1980.

Back in 2007, the Douglas family and Stemilt transitioned their entire crop of peaches and nectarines to organic production. They took their first all-organic peach and nectarine crop to market in 2009 and haven’t looked back since.

“The move to organics brought our trees into balance from a horticultural standpoint, and balanced trees deliver fruit with higher sugars and acids, resulting in a better eating experience for consumers,” Jill Douglas, general manager of Douglas Fruit, said in the press release. “We also benefit from growing peaches and nectarines in the best locale. The Columbia Basin and Tri Cities area of Washington state has a volcanic-rich soil and is known for having long, warm summer days that build the fruit’s flavor and cool nights to reenergize trees. The perfect combination that is only enhanced by farming the fruit with natural methods.”

The 2014 season is trending a week ahead of normal with growing conditions from spring bloom through summer described by growers as “absolutely ideal” for peaches and nectarines, Pepperl said.

“The fruit looks and tastes incredible,” Pepperl said in the release. “Vibrant colors, juicy and sweet flavors with a good amount of acid. Our focus on tree-ripened fruit ensures a consistent level of maturity to further enhance the consumer eating experience. Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines offer retailers with a true differentiation point to their late summer fruit program. We look forward to delivering a premium, high-flavored crop in the coming months.”

Stemilt has a variety of merchandising materials to assist with promotions around Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines, including pop-up display bins and signage that features the Douglas family and conveys their commitment to organic farming practices.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Stemilt begins sixth season of all-organic peaches and nectarines

Harvest is under way for Stemilt’s all-organic peach and nectarine crop in Washington state, and natural farming methods are proving yet again to deliver summer fruits with true dessert flavors.

“This is the sixth season that our entire peach and nectarine crop is grown and certified as organic,” Roger Pepperl, Stemilt’s marketing director, said in a press release.OrganicPeaches MetricPanta “Consumer demand for organic fruit is very high, and we look forward to supplying organic peaches and nectarines that burst with flavor during the final stretch of summer.”

Stemilt’s peaches and nectarines are packed under its “Artisan Organics” label and available from late July to mid-September. The majority of these summer fruits are grown by the Douglas family of Douglas Fruit in Pasco, WA. The family has been farming fruit in Washington state since the early 1900s and has grown peaches since 1980.

Back in 2007, the Douglas family and Stemilt transitioned their entire crop of peaches and nectarines to organic production. They took their first all-organic peach and nectarine crop to market in 2009 and haven’t looked back since.

“The move to organics brought our trees into balance from a horticultural standpoint, and balanced trees deliver fruit with higher sugars and acids, resulting in a better eating experience for consumers,” Jill Douglas, general manager of Douglas Fruit, said in the press release. “We also benefit from growing peaches and nectarines in the best locale. The Columbia Basin and Tri Cities area of Washington state has a volcanic-rich soil and is known for having long, warm summer days that build the fruit’s flavor and cool nights to reenergize trees. The perfect combination that is only enhanced by farming the fruit with natural methods.”

The 2014 season is trending a week ahead of normal with growing conditions from spring bloom through summer described by growers as “absolutely ideal” for peaches and nectarines, Pepperl said.

“The fruit looks and tastes incredible,” Pepperl said in the release. “Vibrant colors, juicy and sweet flavors with a good amount of acid. Our focus on tree-ripened fruit ensures a consistent level of maturity to further enhance the consumer eating experience. Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines offer retailers with a true differentiation point to their late summer fruit program. We look forward to delivering a premium, high-flavored crop in the coming months.”

Stemilt has a variety of merchandising materials to assist with promotions around Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines, including pop-up display bins and signage that features the Douglas family and conveys their commitment to organic farming practices.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Southwest Michigan peach deal begins

Peach harvest in southwest Michigan is under way. “A few are in now,” said Barry Winkel, the partner and general manager of Benton Harbor, MI-based Greg Orchards & Produce Inc. The volume will grow in the last days of July.

Red Haven peach harvest will begin from this area in the first week of August, Winkel said. Southwest Michigan’s peach trees were hurt by bitterly cold weather last winter. Winkel expected about two-thirds to three-fourths of a full peach crop.

Over the winter, a couple of times temperatures in those orchards bounced as low as -17 degrees Fahrenheit. “Usually if you get to -10 it really gets iffy,” he said. “I’m surprised we got through with what we did.”

Growers around Benton Harbor have experienced a cool, wet summer. “Today the highs will be in the mid- to high 70s, and the low tonight will be in the 50s,” he said. The rain helps the size “but sometimes it affects the flavor. If it stays warm now, we will be fine.”

Winkel said local demand “will gobble up all the peaches we have.” Buyers in Michigan and surrounding states — certainly including Illinois and particularly Chicago — create very strong markets.

“We are within 500 miles of a lot of people,” he said. “We have more requests from buyers for pictures and the backgrounds of our growers, as they tout locally grown.’”

In southwest Michigan, the apple harvest will begin with Paula Reds in the third week of August.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Time is Short for PCA Pre-Trial Motion Since Jury Selection Begins Monday

Mary Wilkerson’s motion to have charges against her dismissed before the scheduled July 28 start of the trial of former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) executives has both the clock and the government running against it.

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands let Wednesday pass without taking any action on her motion. Only today and Friday remain available should Sands opt to conduct a hearing on it.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys tore into Wilkerson’s request, which suggests that government charges should either be dismissed or her trial separated from that of Stewart and Michael Parnell, the brothers who hail from a Virginia family that has long made peanuts their business.

Writing for the government, DOJ attorney Patrick H. Hearn pointed out that Wilkerson joined in an earlier motion to dismiss that Sands denied. As for the request to sever her trial from the two others, Hearn cited precedent.

“The Supreme Court has explained that ‘there is a preference in the federal system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted together,’” he wrote, from the 1993 case of Zafiro v. United States. Hearn said the rule of trying co-defendants together “is particularly true in conspiracy cases.” Conspiracy and fraud charges are the centerpiece of the government’s criminal litigation against the former PCA executives.

Wilkerson is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, a pair of felonies that carry the possibility of 10 years in jail. She began working for PCA as a receptionist at the company’s peanut processing facility in Blakely, GA, in April 2002, eventually being promoted to office manager. She became the quality assurance manager in March 2008, just in time for the Salmonella outbreak that would bring down the company less than a year later.

Her Albany, GA attorney, Thomas G. Ledford, renewed Wilkerson’s request for dismissal because he claims the government has violated his client’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

Ledford, who has consistently charged the government with leaving the defense “buried in millions of useless documents,” reiterated his concerns over the late arrivals from both the prosecution and DOJ’s independent “taint team” which is reviewing documents from business law firms that did work for PCA before the outbreak occurred.

Late delivery of prosecution documents already delayed the start of the trial by two weeks. The government now says its June 30 document delivery involves 3,710 “unique documents,” not 100,000 documents as the defense figured.

In his response, Hearn provided guidance for searching DVDs for specific documents. However, Ledford pointed out that even after getting “taint team” evidence, it took several more days to obtain passwords.

If there is no action, or if the judge denies her motion, Wilkerson will join former PCA chief executive officer Stewart Parnell and his peanut broker brother, Michael Parnell, at the defendant’s table in the Albany, GA, federal courthouse on Monday.

Stewart Parnell is charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and introducing food into interstate commerce that was misbranded and adulterated. All together, he’s facing 69 federal felonies.

The 43 felony charges against Michael Parnell include multiple counts of conspiracy, interstate shipments fraud, wire fraud, and introduction of food that was misbranded and adulterated into interstate commerce.

If the trial gets underway Monday with jury selection, it will end 75 weeks of pre-trial sparring between the three teams of defense attorneys and government prosecutors.

The criminal charges were brought four years after a Salmonella outbreak associated with PCA products sickened more than 700 people and killed nine. The trial is expected to take eight weeks.

Food Safety News

Watermelon Night begins and ends with watermelon; helps home team snap losing streak

CHARLESTON, SC — In a game that began and ended with watermelon, the Charleston RiverDogs snapped an eight-game losing streak July 5 at Riley Park here by defeating the Rome, GA, Braves, 9-1 in South Atlantic League action. Watermelon Night, an annual event at “The Joe,” featured the South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture; a representative of the 2014 South Carolina Watermelon Queen; a watermelon-eating contest for youngsters; the ubiquitous RiverDogs mascots, Charlie T. RiverDog and Chelsea; a South Carolina Ghostbusters performance; and watermelon slices for fans. (See more photos here)

QUEEN--MASCOTEmily Dick, presiding as the South Carolina Watermelon Queen at Watermelon Night, had a pre-game baseball discussion with the team mascot, Chelsea.The watermelon-bookended game began with Hugh E. Weathers, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, throwing (rolling, actually) the first watermelon and ended with free watermelon slices for the crowd of about 4,600 as they left the park after the game. In between innings, a watermelon-eating contest was held with four youngsters competing and Emily Dick, the Watermelon Queen representative, kibitzed with fans.

The South Carolina Watermelon Association, which sponsored Watermelon Night, is promoting watermelon as an alternative to chemically influenced sports drinks, according to Matt Cornwell, marketing specialist for watermelon with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The association had stickers and placards touting the health benefits of watermelon on hand at the tables where fans picked up slices of watermelon as they headed home after the game.

The association will distribute watermelons at preseason football practices at the University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, Clemson University and The Citadel. Earlier this year, in a massive undertaking, the group provided a cup of watermelon to each of the 40,000 runners in the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston on April 5, Cornwell told The Produce News.

A team of five workers fell into an accustomed routine and started slicing 200 watermelons during the second inning of the game to have slices on hand for the 4,600 fans as they left the park.

The association noted that watermelon keeps hydration levels high for athletes and adds more lycopene and vitamins A and C antioxidants than provided by a leading sports drink. Other research has been conducted and reports will be issued within a year. In South Carolina, one of the nation’s top 10 watermelon growers, the harvest runs from mid-June to late August, said Ann Bryant, the association’s promotions coordinator.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

US (CA): Nectarine harvest begins early

Warm weather has made for an early start to this year’s nectarine harvest in California. Dry weather, while not likely to affect this year’s crop, could cause problems for growers next season if drought conditions continue.

“We started picking yellow, Zee Fire and Red Ryan nectarines last week,” said Jeff Simonian of Simonian Fruit Company. “Volumes have been okay, about where we expected.” Prices for a box of nectarines have fluctuated between $ 20 and $ 30, which Simonian noted were in an okay range. Fruit sizes have clustered around 60s and 70s. While sizing, production and prices have not been too far out of the norm, the start of the season has stood out.

“We started harvesting about 10 days earlier than we did last season,” said Simonian. “The winter wasn’t as cold, and when it gets really hot, things speed up.” Sustained warm weather could further speed up the season, and while this year’s drought hasn’t hindered production of stonefruit, a continued lack of water could do so in the future.

“We’ve been okay so far, but if we have another dry winter we could have trouble,” said Simonian. “So far, this has been a good season, and we’re hoping for a good year.” Harvesting of peaches is expected to commence this weekend with harvesting of plums expected to begin next week.

For more information:

Jeff Simonian

Simonian Fruit Company

+1 559 834 5307

FreshPlaza.com

Return of the ‘cherry Ferrari’ as the glamour fruit season begins

Return of the ‘cherry Ferrari’ as the glamour fruit season begins

Glamour Cherries, the only cherries available worldwide during March and April, which are famed for their superior quality and expensive price, will be available again over the next four weeks. The brand which has been nicknamed ‘Red Gold’ for its high price tag, will return to supermarket shelves this month, following a further improvement in flavour that has led owner SAT Edoa to claim it now has the globe’s best-tasting cherries.

Harvested from high-tech glasshouses in Lleida, Spain, Glamour Cherries are unique in being the only cherries available anywhere in the world during the months of March and April, a full month before the first early-season imports from California. As they are only produced in small quantities using cutting-edge production methods, the cherries are famously expensive, their price having led some to dub them the ‘Red Ferrari’.

In fact, a 500 gram bamboo punnet of large-size Glamour Cherries, (size 34 Glamour Cherries transported by road) can cost between €85 and €125 during the eight-week season, leading the brand to be featured in upmarket department stores such as Harrods of London1.

According to SAT Edoa’s sales manager, Oscar Ortiz, this reputation for superior taste and quality has been gained by the company’s determination to continuously improve the already high standard of the product, leading to an important breakthrough last year. “Our agricultural research team has as its principal aim to improve quality year after year and last year, we achieved a major improvement in terms of fruit sugars and robustness,” explained Ortiz. “This year, we are certain we will continue to improve these areas, working so that Glamour Cherries, as well as being the only cherries available worldwide between March and April, are also the best in terms of taste.”

Seasonal outlook
Harvesting for the 2014 Glamour Cherries season began on 10 March at SAT Edoa’s glasshouse facility in north-eastern Spain and is due for completion by 27 April, with some 72,000 kilos of fruit expected to be available for the 2014 season.

The company’s total production area for Glamour Cherries currently covers 50,000m2, with an additional 10,000m2 of young plantations that are not due to enter into production for another two years.

“We are proud of the consolidation we have achieved over recent years for the project, business and brand of Glamour Cherries, as it has become established in each and every country in which we have clients,” said Ortiz. “We continue to work to consolidate the name of Glamour Cherries as the best in the world for their excellent taste and quality. Now is the time to remind consumers that Glamour Cherries’ moment has arrived.” he added.

For more information:
Steven Maxwell
Fresh Position
Tel: +44 7796 948491
Email: [email protected]
www.freshposition.com
 

Publication date: 3/11/2014


FreshPlaza.com

State Legislative Season Begins Anew With Some Familiar Proposals

After going 0 for 11 in the states last year and losing again on a state initiative ballot last fall, animal agriculture and GMO labeling campaigners are back with their same old bills because it’s the start of a new legislative season in most states. Who says America isn’t the land of second chances?

In the New Hampshire House, one of the largest legislative bodies in the land, an attempt will be made to get a divided Environment and Agriculture Committee to move a bill to the floor requiring the labeling of genetically engineered food. Democrats control the New Hampshire House 220-179. Starting Wednesday, it will begin where it left off in 2013: trying to decide if it should require additional labeling on food items which committee members last year seemed to agree were safe.

As many as 26  state legislatures could consider similar bills for labeling genetically engineered foods during the 2014 legislative season. Two Northeastern states, Connecticut and Maine, have passed bills requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods, but both of those laws are contingent on other states in the region taking the same action.

Voters in California and Washington state in 2012 and 2013, respectively, narrowly defeated ballot initiatives for labeling genetically modified foods. Likewise, similar initiatives could be filed this year in Oregon and Colorado.

A majority of state legislatures will be in session by mid-January. Off-year elections in 2013 did little to change the partisan makeup in the state houses. Last November, the Virginia House turned a shade more red (Republican), while the New Jersey General Assembly ended up a little darker blue (Democratic).

Overall, however, the GOP dominates state legislatures, maintaining control in 26 states and sharing it in five others.

Like those who want genetically engineered food labeled, animal agriculture interests who favor so-called “ag-gag” laws are also going to be back when the 2014 legislative seasons get under way.

Already, the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee of the Indiana House is reportedly scheduled to hear a Hoosier version of an “ag-gag” bill as early as Tuesday. It was filed quickly enough to be numbered Senate Bill (SB) 101, and opponents say it is “more radical and overreaching” that SB 373, which failed to pass the 2013 session.

Typically, “ag-gag” bills put restrictions on taking pictures or making movies of agricultural operations without permission of the owner and prohibit other tactics used by undercover operatives investigating animal abuse.

Fifteen such bills were introduced in 11 states last year, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the one that got the farthest after one of Nashville’s best-known stars, Carrie Underwood, came out against it.

State legislatures will be gaveled into session by the end of January in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Most states hold elections during even years, and legislatures adjourn earlier to accommodate the coming campaign season.

Food Safety News

Latest Motion Asks for Help With Government Documents Before PCA Trial Begins

The former quality-control manager for the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America processing plant at Blakely, GA, says that her defense cannot make sense out 3 to 4 million documents that could be used at her trial.

In the latest motion, federal defense attorney Thomas G. Ledford says his client, Mary Wilkerson, needs access to the index numbering system the government is using to track and locate the documents.

Wilkerson is one of four former PCA executives scheduled for a federal criminal trial in February. She is charged with two obstruction of justice counts. In what’s been a continuing theme from her defense, Wilkerson wants the government to disclose its law enforcement, investigative, expert, and informant witnesses ahead of the trial.

Ledford’s motion asks the government to reveal the names, employer or agency names, job titles, mailing addresses and phone numbers for all potential witnesses so that he may prepare Wilkerson’s defense.

The motion specifically says the government needs to produce the “Bates Number Reference Guide” being used to organize the documents.

“While the government in said response dated Sept. 6, 2013, stated that it was beginning to create a Bates Number Reference Guide, the Defendant points out that she still has not received one,” Ledford writes in his latest motion.

“The Defendant hereby requests that the Government produce said Bates Number Reference Guide since it has been involved in this case about five years and the Trial is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2014, less than four months away,” the motion states.

The Wilkerson defense also says it requires not only the software and hardware for the system being used by the government to manage the documents, but also training on how to use it.

The government has until Nov. 15 to respond to defense motions, and many were filed in the pre-trial sparring that has marked the case so far.

Wilkerson is one of four PCA executives, charged with a total of 76 federal felony counts, who will be tried together in February before U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands in Albany, GA. The others are PCA’s top officers, Steward and Michael Parnell, and the former Blakely plant manager, Samuel Lightsey. The Parnell brothers have asked for separate trials.

The trial involving conspiracy and fraud is occurring about five years after contaminated peanut butter and paste from PCA plants in Georgia and Texas were linked to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium.

The outbreak sickened 700 and killed nine people, ending with one of the largest ingredient recalls in U.S. history, involving almost 4,000 products. PCA was headquartered in Lynchburg, VA.

Food Safety News

As California Begins Regulating Fracking, Agricultural Concerns Arise

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will enforce the nation’s toughest restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, a process through which oil and natural gas is extracted from rock deposits in the earth.

The technique – commonly known as “fracking” – had not been regulated in the state until the signing of the new law, called SB-4, which the oil industry opposed. A number of groups on the other side of the issue have come out in opposition to allowing any fracking at all, including members of California’s food and wine industry, who expressed concerns that fracking poses a threat to the state’s agriculture and wine industries.

Five days after Gov. Brown signed the new fracking regulation into law, a group of California-based chefs released a petition asking the food industry to join them in opposing fracking in the state. The group, led by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, has also asked the governor to place a moratorium on fracking.

The group said that California’s Monterey Shale is now being targeted for fracking. The shale is a 1,750-square-mile area that may contain as much as 15 billion barrels of crude oil. It also happens to rest below a sizable portion of California farmland.

Wastewater at center of disagreement

Little is known about the extent of fracking in California because no infrastructure exists to track it, according to Patrick Sullivan, media specialist for the Center for Biodiversity. The industry has voluntarily reported at least 1,173 oil and gas wells in 10 California counties, but the real figure could be much higher, Sullivan said.

Of concern for the chefs and environmental groups is the potential for fracking operations to pollute groundwater and use up agricultural water resources. While not the result of fracking, oil industry wastewater contaminated with chemicals such as chloride and boron was found in 1999 to have seeped into ground wells and destroyed one central California farmer’s crops of pistachios, almonds and alfalfa.

The process of fracking uses similar techniques, and it creates a significant amount of wastewater, Sullivan said.

“As the industry fracks more, there’s more wastewater, and it’s going to be contaminated with all kinds of dangerous chemicals like benzene,” Sullivan said. “Fracking also uses a tremendous amount of water. It can take millions of gallons to frack a well, and, when our state is in an ongoing water crisis, our farmers already don’t have enough water.”

After years of fracking practices occurring in the state, there have been no instances of water contamination directly from the practice, a representative of the California Department of Conservation told Food Safety News. 

In California, fracking is primarily used for oil and is collected hundreds of feet below the water table, where natural geologic barriers protect water supplies, according to Don Drysdale, spokesman for the department.

While legislation specific to the practice of fracking has not existed until SB-4, the state does have regulations on the books governing oil and gas wells more generally.

“The division’s well-construction standards are designed to protect public health and safety and the environment, under all well operation conditions,” Drysdale said. “That includes the use of hydraulic fracturing and other well-stimulation techniques.”

Drysdale said existing rules already require that injected fluids go into the intended hydrocarbon zone and prevent those fluids from contaminating water sources.

While the chefs have gained the support of environmental, public health and consumer organizations, a petroleum industry representative told Food Safety News that it was ironic for the food industry to oppose the oil technology it depends on to harvest and transport its products.

“For the last year, the California legislature, advocacy groups, and the governor’s office have been developing what are now the strictest regulations on fracking in the country,” said Tupper Hull, vice president of strategic communications for the Western States Petroleum Association. “The legislature and the governor have made it quite clear that, while they felt it necessary to increase regulation on fracking, they were not interested in banning a technology that has proven itself to be safe and effective.”

Full impact largely unknown

The effects of fracking contamination on farmland have not been extensively studied, according to Seth Shonkoff, Ph.D., executive director of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

A study published in 2012 by Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald documented the effects on farm animals of fracked fluid spills, finding a notable increase in stillbirths, disease and death, Shonkoff said.

Aside from the chemicals used in the fluids, Shonkoff cited concern over the geological compounds washed up in fracking wastewater, which could include heavy metals such as arsenic and naturally occurring radioactive materials. There’s also a lot of salt in underground formations.

“If there’s a [wastewater] spill and then rain or a storm and that water gets taken from the well pad out into an adjacent field, salt is more difficult to mediate than almost any other chemical around,” Shonkoff said. “From an agricultural perspective, that’s it for the soil.”

The developmental impact of trucking equipment in and out of drilling areas poses another concern for agricultural land.

“If you’re going to frack in the middle of an agricultural area, you’re going to have to move a whole lot of soil aside,” Shonkoff said.

Oil and gas development from shale also emits so-called ozone precursors such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which react in the sunlight to form tropospheric ozone. In turn, tropospheric ozone is known to reduce agricultural yields, Shonkoff said.

Over at the Department of Conservation, Drysdale reiterated the importance of agriculture to the state and said that the state did not have a reason to believe oil drilling, including fracking, would adversely impact it.

“The agriculture industry is huge in California,” Drysdale said. “We’re very mindful of that.”

Relevant state departments are currently drafting up companion regulations to SB-4. Those drafts should be out before the end of the year and will be subject to a public comment period.

Food Safety News

Befresh Europe begins first export season

Befresh Europe begins first export season

Building on the success of Befresh Ltd., Befresh Europe is in their first export season shipping fruit to Europe. A few months in, they’re on the cusp of bringing red pomelos, the first Israeli citrus product of the season, to market.

Befresh Ltd. ships large quantities of Israeli produce to Russia. Their large network of warehouses, trucks and sellers in Russia has given them an edge over other traders in Russia, and they’ve enjoyed much success there. Leveraging those contacts and logistics expertise, Oron Ziv and a few partners founded Befresh Europe, focuses mainly on the European market.

“We’ve shipped some pomegranates, and we’ll have Galia melons around the middle of September,” said Ziv. “It’s a traditional Israeli product, and we’re working with the largest grower of Galia melons in Israel.” Since there are few growers in Israel who have the right climate and experience to grow the  melons, a partnership with the largest grower in the country is a nice coup for Befresh Europe. Ziv said they’re also on the verge of starting shipments of red pomelo, the first citrus fruit of the export season.

“Red pomelo is ready to be picked and shipped, and it will be available at the start of September,” said Ziv. “It will be available in sizes eight, nine, 10 and 12, and we’ll pack it in open, seven kilogram trays.” Though the market for Israeli red pomelo has been shrinking due to supplies from China, Ziv noted that it’s always nice to have the first citrus fruit of the season on the market. Red grapefruit will follow soon after, around the second week of September, but Ziv is less optimistic about the season for that commodity.

“There’s too much red grapefruit,” said Ziv. “We had a lot of good years for a while, so there were many new plantings, but over the last few years, the market for red grapefruit has gone down.” Overproduction has made for lower prices, so growers are struggling to make money off the fruit. Looking ahead, Ziv thinks more growers will switch from red grapefruit to other citrus varieties.

With an export season that stretches into January of next year, Ziv said they still have a lot of produce to get through this year. They’ll start shipments of Sweeties at the end of next month, and Minneolas and other easy peeling varieties will follow soon after.

For more information:

Oron Ziv
BeFresh Europe
Mobile  +972 52 3252464
Mobile  +31 6 22514987  
Office   +972 72 2555135    
Fax +972 153 547625599
Email: [email protected]
Web  www.BeFreshcorp.com

Publication date: 8/28/2013


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NZ: Growers cautioned over PSA risk as grafting season begins

NZ: Growers cautioned over PSA risk as grafting season begins

Kiwifruit grafting is about to commence this year and growers are being cautioned to be aware of the PSA risk.

They are being advised to ensure that any nurseries supplying them with stock are registered with Kiwifruit Vine Health.

KVH CEO Barry O’Neil says 85 samples from budwood suppliers have been tested so far, with only one positive result from an asymptomatic budwood (one which shows no symptoms of the disease).

KVH has received testing results from 14 nursery plant samples, of which five have returned a Psa-V positive result.

He says all the positive results were from asymptomatic samples, demonstrating the importance of testing.

All budwood suppliers must have a completed Psa-V Budwood Risk Management Plan as part of the KVH Budwood Movement Protocol which applies for all kiwifruit budwood supply.

Source: sunlive.co.nz

Publication date: 7/17/2013


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