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Former legislator gives update on global trade at FPAA convention

TUBAC, AZ — Jim Kolbe, a national leader supporting global trade, spoke Oct. 30 on that topic during an educational session at the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas 45th annual convention.

From 1985 until 2003, Kolbe was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Arizona’s 5th congressional district. He introduced unsuccessful legislation for a U.S.-Mexican Free Trade Agreement two years before the North American Free Trade Agreement, which also involved Canada, passed by an easy margin in 1993.kolbeFormer U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) chats with Andy Tobin, president of the Arizona Senate. Kolbe had just given a presentation on global trade at the 45th annual Convention & Golf Tournament of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Since his first term, Kolbe has served in many related capacities, always favoring free trade. He is currently the Senior Transatlantic Fellow for the German Marshall Fund and is the co-chairman of the Arizona Transportation & Trade Corridor Alliance.

Kolbe opened his remarks by noting that in an ideal world, all countries would have one standard trade agreement. But, he said, the World Trade Organization involves 160 countries and having all members agree on anything is “almost impossible.”

He added that countries that do have free trade agreements are 16 times more likely to buy and sell with one another. Some of the strength of that statistic is attributable to close geographic proximity, such as what exists with Mexico, the United States and Canada within NAFTA. But he said there are other success stories for non-contiguous trade partners.

Kolbe noted that of the globe’s top 20 or 25 trading counties, Americans have the most negative attitude toward free trade. He said that only 20 percent of Americans believe that global trade creates jobs, while 60 percent believe global trade will cost American jobs and 20 percent are unsure.

“Produce growers know it creates jobs,” he added. But because of public perception, “it is an uphill battle” to promote free trade within the United States.

The two presidents Bush and Bill Clinton all “understood the value of free trade,” he said, explaining this partly relates to George W. Bush and Clinton having both served as governors, which is a position that causes political leaders to especially appreciate the value of trade to building an economy.

Kolbe said that President Obama, coming from a role of “community organizer and law professor,” who is “beholden to labor unions … doesn’t see trade in the same light.”

Still, the president was warm toward the passage of the Transpacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. In campaigning, Obama indicated he would ask for Trade Promotion Authority (once called “Fast Track” trade authority.) But Kolbe said that the day after Obama’s inauguration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that the Senate would never grant Trade Promotion Authority. The topic was dropped by the Obama administration.

With the Transatlantic treaty, “the United States, which is with largest market in the world, would, with the Europeans, dictate standards for the rest of the world. If we don’t do this, China will take the lead. We would rather take the lead.”

Speaking in Tubac a few days before Election Day, Kolbe stressed the importance of these matters. Interestingly, a CNN report on Nov. 5 indicated that these treaties and supportive work may be revisited, with the shift toward Republican leadership.

In the question-and-answer session following Kolbe’s formal remarks, Kolbe was asked how he saw the future of the world.

Kolbe said he is basically an optimist, but he is concerned about the future in both the economic and political realms. Economically, he said, Europe is facing a decline. Japan is looking at another recession and fast growth in India and Brazil has stalled. Kolbe said the Chinese economy is also slowing. He does believe the United States economy is growing, so he is hopeful that power will continue and can raise the economic strength of our trading partners.

Kolbe is also concerned politically. The aggressive terrorist ISIS activity in Syria and Iraq first brought a war-weary American reaction disfavoring U.S. boots on the ground.

But Kolbe believes that Americans are turning their attitude to recognize that the United States is simply bound to its role as protector of the world. He said it may be inevitable that the American military must again step in to try and make things right.

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

Acquisition gives Mack Farms additional acreage in Florida

Mack Farms Inc. is increasing its Florida potato and watermelon acreage and expanding into other fresh produce items with the purchase of a south Florida produce operation.

The Lake Wales, FL-based Mack Farms recently acquired Eagle Island Farms in Okeechobee, FL. Eagle Island grows and ships cabbage, potatoes, sweet corn and sweet onions from about 2,000 irrigated acres. The company is also experimenting with broccoli and plans to harvest new acreage of Napa and Bok Choy in February and March.Arnold-Mack-2014Arnold Mack

Mack grows and ships Florida potatoes from early February through June, and watermelon from April through early June. Watermelons are marketed through its subsidiary, McMelon Inc. Mack Farms.

“This move allows us to increase our irrigated acreage with good cropland, and will help with crop rotation,” Arnold Mack, president of Mack Farms, said in a press release. “We will continue to grow and ship fresh cabbage and sweet corn from the 40,000-square-foot Eagle Island packing facility, which has pre- cooling and refrigerated storage. It also gives us a second packinghouse for our spring watermelons.”

Arnold Mack entered the produce industry by growing watermelons in South Alabama in 1976. He was a pioneer of growing seedless watermelons, and during the 1980s started his Florida growing operations.

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

Sale to Hessing gives The Greenery room to invest

Processor to be again wholly owned by family Hessing
Sale to Hessing gives The Greenery room to invest

The Greenery BV and Hessing BV have reached an agreement for the repurchase of Hessing Supervers’ shares by family Hessing. This entails that all shares of the producer of cut vegetables, processed fruits, fresh juices and salads will be fully owned by the Hessing family after a period of 12 years. No statements were made about takeovers by either party. 

The transfer of 45 percent of the shares to the Hessing family reflects the determination of The Greenery BV for a better alignment between the company’s financial participations and its core business. The sale of Hessing Supervers’ shares leads to a strengthening of the capital and gives The Greenery room to invest in the further development of its core activities.

The repurchase of The Greenery’s shares by the Hessing family is a sign of the confidence that the family business has in its own company, says owner Frank Hessing. “We are proud and happy to be able to buy back the shares, and we, at The Greenery, are very grateful for the excellent cooperation developed in recent years and for the knowledge that they have brought into our company.”

The Greenery and Hessing have confirmed they will continue working closely together after the transfer has been completed in terms of marketing and product development.



About The Greenery

As a marketing and distribution company under Cooperative Cofota, The Greenery UA supplies a wide range of fresh fruit, vegetables and mushrooms all year-round to international supermarket chains, wholesalers, caterers and the food processing industry. To ensure the freshness of its products, The Greenery works with a limited number of qualified locations where direct loading of fresh products to the DC’s of its customers is possible. This short chain ensures that fresh fruit and vegetables will be available to consumers every day.

About Hessing Supervers

The family business Hessing Supervers, with an annual turnover of 200 million Euro and sales of about 250 million packages per year, is one of the largest processors of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Netherlands. It employs approximately 1,250 people in five production sites. The company has its own transport division. The fresh products are delivered to various supermarket chains in the Netherlands and Belgium and the European foodservice industry. For Hessing, only one promise counts: that each Hessing product will be tasty, healthy and fresh. No, superfresh!

Publication date: 10/29/2014


FreshPlaza.com

In an apparent about-face, EWG’s new rating system gives top scores to fresh produce

The Environmental Working Group, best known for lambasting fresh produce with its annual “Dirty Dozen” list, has released a new food database and smart phone app that recommends eating the same produce it has been railing against for years.

The “Food Scores” app rates about 80,000 foods on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst. Only 18 percent of the foods, including most fresh fruits and vegetables, received the highest rating (1-3.5), while 57 percent scored in the middle range (4-7) and 25 percent were ranked in the worst category of 8-10.

EWG calls the new tool “the most comprehensive food-rating database available to consumers.” The scoring system factors in nutritional information as well as food additives, such as sugar, and contaminants, such as pesticides. It also estimates the degree to which foods have been processed.

“When you think about healthy food, you have to think beyond the Nutrition Facts panel,” Renee Sharp, EWG’s director of research, said in a press release. “It doesn’t always tell the whole story. EWG’s Food Scores shows that certain foods that we think are good for us may actually be much less so because they contain questionable food additives or toxic contaminants.”  

According to the press release, the new app is designed to “guide people to greener, healthier and cleaner food choices” by providing “highly detailed information” on how each food stacks up in terms of nutritional content and whether they contain questionable additives, such as nitrites or potassium bromate, or harmful contaminants, such as arsenic and mercury, and which foods have the lowest and highest processing concerns. The app also identifies meat and dairy products that are likely produced with antibiotics and hormones and highlights the fruits and vegetables that are likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.

In perusing the scoring, it appears that the system is especially harsh on added sugars while giving much better scores to items that are not processed. And while the system notes the fresh produce items that regularly make the group’s “Dirty Dozen” list for excessive pesticides, those fruits and vegetables don’t appear to be harshly judged for their appearance on that list.

For example, cherry tomatoes made the “Dirty Dozen” list this year coming in 10th place with the note that a single sample tested positive for 13 different pesticides. Yet a 10.5 ounce package of cherry tomatoes scored a 1.5 in the EWG Food Scores system, which places it high in the “Best” category.

The notes about this particular pack of cherry tomatoes do state that the produce is on “EWG’s Dirty Dozen list for pesticide residues” but also gives the product good marks for no processing, no additives and being “one of the most nutritious vegetables for the lowest cost.”

The cherry tomato listing also contains this information that is included in all the fresh produce listings: “Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is an essential part of a healthy diet.”

While the Food Score listings do differentiate between organic and conventional items, the scores are typically very similar.

For example an eight-ounce container of both organic and conventional mushrooms from different companies receive the highest 1.0 rating. The same is true for many different packaged salad products, which all received very high marks (typically between 1.0 and 1.5), though both organic and conventional packs are included and as are many different blends.

The Alliance for Food & Farming, a produce industry trade group that has waged a concerted battle for several years against the publicity the “Dirty Dozen” list has received, weighed in on EWG’s new effort.

“In light of this new ‘best’ ranking for organic and conventional produce and EWG’s new and very strong statement regarding the need for increased consumption, we are hopeful this means they will discontinue their annual release of the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ list,” Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance, said in a press release. “This ‘best’ ranking is a very positive step by EWG and we look forward to them continuing this trend by dropping their list, which only confuses consumers about produce safety.”

Dolan also praised EWG’s new statement promoting increased consumption of organic and conventional produce.

EWG now states, “Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables–especially dark green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas–is an essential part of a healthy diet. Fruit and vegetable intake is associated with reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and some types of cancers (USDA and DHHS 2010). Fruits and vegetables are also key sources of potassium and dietary fiber — nutrients that many Americans do not get enough of. Perhaps that’s because on average, Americans eat only 42 percent and 59 percent of the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables, respectively (USDA and DHHS 2010), making them one of the few foods we should all eat more of.”

Dolan said it is an important step that EWG is adopting the same health message put forth by the Alliance and many other health experts.

No spokesperson for EWG was available to comment on the new app.

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

Russia’s ban gives Latin America opportunities

Russia’s ban gives Latin America opportunities

Russia’s 1-year ban on food products from the EU, US, Canada, and Norway will force Russia to increase food imports from Latin America, specifically Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.

Russia’s ban opens the door to Russia’s partners on the other side of the world. Russia will have to fill an 8 percent gap in its total agricultural imports that it sources from the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, and Norway. The Netherlands, Germany, and Poland are currently Russia’s biggest food suppliers in the EU.

On Wednesday the three countries confirmed they are ready to start supplying Russia with agricultural goods and Moscow will soon hold meetings with ambassadors from Brazil and Argentina.

Agricultural products dominate Argentina’s export. Russia imports Argentinian pears, grapes, apples, citrus fruits, and other food. In 2012 trade turnover exceeded $ 1 billion.

In 2013, Chile exported $ 567 million worth of agricultural products to Russia. Regionally, Chile exports an array of fruits, including grapes, avocadoes, berries, plums, and kiwis.

Even though Ecuador primarily sends exports to the US and EU, it still has the potential to cut into the Russian agriculture and raw materials market. At present, bananas, cut flower, and coffee and tea are sent eastward to Russia. 

Source: Rt.com

Publication date: 8/8/2014


FreshPlaza.com

United Fresh gives Retail Produce Manager awards

United Fresh Produce Association will celebrate the winners of the Retail Produce Manager award on June 11 during a gala at the group’s annual conference. The managers are recognized for their excellence in customer service, merchandising and promotion, community service and peer recognition. The winners receive free room and board to the conference, and five grand-prize winners will receive $ 1,000. The 35 managers come from retailers in 20 different states, according to United …

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Supermarket News

Judge Gives Prosecutors Last Word In Duel Over Stewart Parnell’s Expert Witness

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands said Tuesday that government attorneys may file an additional three pages of arguments to correct a possible misstatement of law by Stewart Parnell’s defense attorneys. Parnell is the former Peanut Corporation of America executive scheduled to go on trial later this summer with three of his former managers on 76 federal felony counts.

Sands signed an order giving government prosecutors an additional seven days to file a so-called “sur-reply” to claims by Parnell’s attorneys that “knowledge is not an essential element of the crimes charged against him.” In the order, Sands said sur-replies are not usually permitted, but he was allowing the request this time because Parnell’s attorney raised the argument for the first time in a reply brief to the government.

The dispute over whether knowledge is an essential element of the alleged crimes emerged during a lengthy pre-trial proceeding over whether Dr. Joseph C. Conley, Jr., the neuropsychologist who claims Parnell suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), should be allowed to testify as an expert at trial. The question of Conley’s expert witness status was taken to a March 13 “Daubert” hearing, which included nearly seven hours of oral testimony and resulted in a 197-page hearing transcript and 193 pages of exhibits.

The former executives of the now-defunct company that once processed peanuts at plants in Georgia and Texas were charged after a four-year FBI investigation sparked by the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter and peanut paste from the PCA plants. The outbreak resulted in 700 illnesses and nine deaths.

Charges include conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, introduction of misbranded food into instate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, instate shipments fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Stewart Parnell’s brother, Michael Parnell, PCAs former vice president and peanut broker; Samuel Lightsey, PCA’s Georgia plant manager, and Mary Wilkerson, the quality control manger, are the other three defendants charged in the case. They have largely been on the sidelines while Sands, the trial judge, held the extensive pre-trial “Daubert” hearings over Conley’s status. Such expert witness proceedings are named for “Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,” a precedent-setting case on expert witnesses.

All four defendants are free on bail and to assist in their own defense.

Other important dates leading up to the trial include:

April: Hearing for other pre-trial motions is April 30.

May: Deadline of May 20 for government and defense attorneys to file any start-of-trial motions known as “in limine.”

June: Responses to motions in limine will be due June 9, and replies must be turned in by June 19. A June 24 pre-trial hearing will be held for Sands to hear arguments on the start-of-trial motions. Sands wants the attorneys to meet regarding exhibits on June 25.

July: Attorneys must propose voir dire questions for the jury and jury instructions by July 7. If all of this stays on the tracks, the jury trial will begin July 14.

Food Safety News

Judge Gives Prosecutors Last Word In Duel Over Stewart Parnell’s Expert Witness

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands said Tuesday that government attorneys may file an additional three pages of arguments to correct a possible misstatement of law by Stewart Parnell’s defense attorneys. Parnell is the former Peanut Corporation of America executive scheduled to go on trial later this summer with three of his former managers on 76 federal felony counts.

Sands signed an order giving government prosecutors an additional seven days to file a so-called “sur-reply” to claims by Parnell’s attorneys that “knowledge is not an essential element of the crimes charged against him.” In the order, Sands said sur-replies are not usually permitted, but he was allowing the request this time because Parnell’s attorney raised the argument for the first time in a reply brief to the government.

The dispute over whether knowledge is an essential element of the alleged crimes emerged during a lengthy pre-trial proceeding over whether Dr. Joseph C. Conley, Jr., the neuropsychologist who claims Parnell suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), should be allowed to testify as an expert at trial. The question of Conley’s expert witness status was taken to a March 13 “Daubert” hearing, which included nearly seven hours of oral testimony and resulted in a 197-page hearing transcript and 193 pages of exhibits.

The former executives of the now-defunct company that once processed peanuts at plants in Georgia and Texas were charged after a four-year FBI investigation sparked by the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter and peanut paste from the PCA plants. The outbreak resulted in 700 illnesses and nine deaths.

Charges include conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, introduction of misbranded food into instate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, instate shipments fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Stewart Parnell’s brother, Michael Parnell, PCAs former vice president and peanut broker; Samuel Lightsey, PCA’s Georgia plant manager, and Mary Wilkerson, the quality control manger, are the other three defendants charged in the case. They have largely been on the sidelines while Sands, the trial judge, held the extensive pre-trial “Daubert” hearings over Conley’s status. Such expert witness proceedings are named for “Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,” a precedent-setting case on expert witnesses.

All four defendants are free on bail and to assist in their own defense.

Other important dates leading up to the trial include:

April: Hearing for other pre-trial motions is April 30.

May: Deadline of May 20 for government and defense attorneys to file any start-of-trial motions known as “in limine.”

June: Responses to motions in limine will be due June 9, and replies must be turned in by June 19. A June 24 pre-trial hearing will be held for Sands to hear arguments on the start-of-trial motions. Sands wants the attorneys to meet regarding exhibits on June 25.

July: Attorneys must propose voir dire questions for the jury and jury instructions by July 7. If all of this stays on the tracks, the jury trial will begin July 14.

Food Safety News

Early start to California cherry season gives retailers more holidays for promotion

The early cherry deal in the southern and central San Joaquin Valley of California will have an earlier start than usual this year, by as much as two weeks, not only giving producers more time to market the crop but also giving retailers at least one extra holiday for promotions.

“It is an unprecedented early year for us,” Maurice Cameron, managing partner at Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC in Hanford, CA, said March 31. 09-CalCherries-Crop-Coral-cCalifornia Coral Champagne cherries. (Photo courtesy of GrowerDirect Marketing LLC)He expected to be harvesting by Easter, and to have good supplies at “somewhat reasonable prices” for Mother’s Day, a holiday “we have never really had for cherries before.”

The other side of the coin is that the earlier cherry varieties are expected to have a lighter crop than last year by anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent.

“We are doing our first estimate today,” said Chris Zanobini, president and chief executive officer of Ag Association Management Services Inc. in Sacramento, CA, which administers the California Cherry Board, April 8. “I think the southern districts are pretty light. What I am seeing is that definitely the varieties that are predominant in the southern growing areas are much lighter than last year.”

There is, however, “a lot of newer acreage that continues to come into production [which] may not have been factored in last year” but which will impact this year’s numbers, he said. “We will have a crop. We will have a good-quality crop. We will have bigger fruit” because the set is lighter. But there will be fewer packages.

With regard to the Bing crop in the later district at the northern end of the valley, growers told The Produce News in early April that it was too early to make a prediction on what the crop would look like, but from all indications so far, it appeared to be a normal-size crop. It was not expected to be a bumper crop.

“I’ve had lots of comments on the Bings” from growers who say that any assessment they might give of the Bing crop at this point “is a guess,” Zanobini said. “We had a very long, staggered bloom,” with some parts of the tree blooming earlier than other parts of the tree. “People are trying to wait and see before they say too much.”

Bings continue to be California’s predominant cherry variety, Zanobini said. Some initial estimates put the 2014 Bing crop in the range of 2.5 million to 3 million packages, “but there are still a lot of questions out there to be answered.”

Brooks, Tulare and Coral Champagne are the major early-season varieties grown in the state. Coral is a newer variety that has been growing rapidly in popularity and is being grown not only in the south but in the north as well. Among the other important varieties are Chelan, Rainier, Garnet and Sequoia. In all, California cherry producers grow some 50 different cherry varieties.

Jim Hansen, a salesman with Grower Direct Marketing LLC in Stockton, CA, said of the Coral variety that it is “quickly replacing the Brooks in the South Valley.”

“The whole cherry deal looks to be 10 days earlier than last year,” said Don Goforth, marketing director at Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC in Reedley, CA, April 1. He expected the company’s earliest variety, Prelude, to start as early as April 20, followed by Brooks and Tulare around May 1 and shortly after by Coral Champagne and Royal Lynn. Bings, which are new to the company’s program this year, he predicted to start in late May and continue to around mid-June.

“We are hearing a lot of stories about a very confused cherry tree,” Goforth said. “While we did have adequate chill hours, in terms of total chill hours and duration, most of those chill hours came very early in the season” and there was a lot of warm weather through the winter. “So we had an early bloom.” That combined with “the driest winter on record” as California’s severe drought conditions continue, have had mixed effect on the cherry trees with some blocks having moderate sets and some blocks having “hardly anything at all.”

Corals have a better set than Brooks or Tulares, according to Michael Jameson, export salesman for Morada Produce Co. LLC in Stockton. But overall, “you are looking at a below average crop” in the southern part of the valley, with peak production between May 5 and May 19.

Most people in the industry contribute this year’s lighter crop to a “lack of chill portions during the winter months as well as lack of water.”

As for “the Bing crop up north,” he said April 1, “we will probably need another week before we can get a good handle on it … but hopefully we will have a very good Bing crop.” The peak on Bings should be from around May 27 to mid-June.

“We always like to have an answer as to why things are the way they are, and this year, the easy answer is lack of chill. But we’ve had years when we had low chill and had great crops. So it has to be a combination of things,” said Grower Direct’s Jim Hansen. “What that combination is for the guys at the university to figure out,” but the reality this season is that “the crop is not full in the South Valley.” That said, “year in and year out … there are always more cherries packed in the South Valley” than pre-season estimates project.

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

Early start to California cherry season gives retailers more holidays for promotion

The early cherry deal in the southern and central San Joaquin Valley of California will have an earlier start than usual this year, by as much as two weeks, not only giving producers more time to market the crop but also giving retailers at least one extra holiday for promotions.

“It is an unprecedented early year for us,” Maurice Cameron, managing partner at Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC in Hanford, CA, said March 31. 09-CalCherries-Crop-Coral-cCalifornia Coral Champagne cherries. (Photo courtesy of GrowerDirect Marketing LLC)He expected to be harvesting by Easter, and to have good supplies at “somewhat reasonable prices” for Mother’s Day, a holiday “we have never really had for cherries before.”

The other side of the coin is that the earlier cherry varieties are expected to have a lighter crop than last year by anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent.

“We are doing our first estimate today,” said Chris Zanobini, president and chief executive officer of Ag Association Management Services Inc. in Sacramento, CA, which administers the California Cherry Board, April 8. “I think the southern districts are pretty light. What I am seeing is that definitely the varieties that are predominant in the southern growing areas are much lighter than last year.”

There is, however, “a lot of newer acreage that continues to come into production [which] may not have been factored in last year” but which will impact this year’s numbers, he said. “We will have a crop. We will have a good-quality crop. We will have bigger fruit” because the set is lighter. But there will be fewer packages.

With regard to the Bing crop in the later district at the northern end of the valley, growers told The Produce News in early April that it was too early to make a prediction on what the crop would look like, but from all indications so far, it appeared to be a normal-size crop. It was not expected to be a bumper crop.

“I’ve had lots of comments on the Bings” from growers who say that any assessment they might give of the Bing crop at this point “is a guess,” Zanobini said. “We had a very long, staggered bloom,” with some parts of the tree blooming earlier than other parts of the tree. “People are trying to wait and see before they say too much.”

Bings continue to be California’s predominant cherry variety, Zanobini said. Some initial estimates put the 2014 Bing crop in the range of 2.5 million to 3 million packages, “but there are still a lot of questions out there to be answered.”

Brooks, Tulare and Coral Champagne are the major early-season varieties grown in the state. Coral is a newer variety that has been growing rapidly in popularity and is being grown not only in the south but in the north as well. Among the other important varieties are Chelan, Rainier, Garnet and Sequoia. In all, California cherry producers grow some 50 different cherry varieties.

Jim Hansen, a salesman with Grower Direct Marketing LLC in Stockton, CA, said of the Coral variety that it is “quickly replacing the Brooks in the South Valley.”

“The whole cherry deal looks to be 10 days earlier than last year,” said Don Goforth, marketing director at Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC in Reedley, CA, April 1. He expected the company’s earliest variety, Prelude, to start as early as April 20, followed by Brooks and Tulare around May 1 and shortly after by Coral Champagne and Royal Lynn. Bings, which are new to the company’s program this year, he predicted to start in late May and continue to around mid-June.

“We are hearing a lot of stories about a very confused cherry tree,” Goforth said. “While we did have adequate chill hours, in terms of total chill hours and duration, most of those chill hours came very early in the season” and there was a lot of warm weather through the winter. “So we had an early bloom.” That combined with “the driest winter on record” as California’s severe drought conditions continue, have had mixed effect on the cherry trees with some blocks having moderate sets and some blocks having “hardly anything at all.”

Corals have a better set than Brooks or Tulares, according to Michael Jameson, export salesman for Morada Produce Co. LLC in Stockton. But overall, “you are looking at a below average crop” in the southern part of the valley, with peak production between May 5 and May 19.

Most people in the industry contribute this year’s lighter crop to a “lack of chill portions during the winter months as well as lack of water.”

As for “the Bing crop up north,” he said April 1, “we will probably need another week before we can get a good handle on it … but hopefully we will have a very good Bing crop.” The peak on Bings should be from around May 27 to mid-June.

“We always like to have an answer as to why things are the way they are, and this year, the easy answer is lack of chill. But we’ve had years when we had low chill and had great crops. So it has to be a combination of things,” said Grower Direct’s Jim Hansen. “What that combination is for the guys at the university to figure out,” but the reality this season is that “the crop is not full in the South Valley.” That said, “year in and year out … there are always more cherries packed in the South Valley” than pre-season estimates project.

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

Early start to California cherry season gives retailers more holidays for promotion

The early cherry deal in the southern and central San Joaquin Valley of California will have an earlier start than usual this year, by as much as two weeks, not only giving producers more time to market the crop but also giving retailers at least one extra holiday for promotions.

“It is an unprecedented early year for us,” Maurice Cameron, managing partner at Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC in Hanford, CA, said March 31. 09-CalCherries-Crop-Coral-cCalifornia Coral Champagne cherries. (Photo courtesy of GrowerDirect Marketing LLC)He expected to be harvesting by Easter, and to have good supplies at “somewhat reasonable prices” for Mother’s Day, a holiday “we have never really had for cherries before.”

The other side of the coin is that the earlier cherry varieties are expected to have a lighter crop than last year by anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent.

“We are doing our first estimate today,” said Chris Zanobini, president and chief executive officer of Ag Association Management Services Inc. in Sacramento, CA, which administers the California Cherry Board, April 8. “I think the southern districts are pretty light. What I am seeing is that definitely the varieties that are predominant in the southern growing areas are much lighter than last year.”

There is, however, “a lot of newer acreage that continues to come into production [which] may not have been factored in last year” but which will impact this year’s numbers, he said. “We will have a crop. We will have a good-quality crop. We will have bigger fruit” because the set is lighter. But there will be fewer packages.

With regard to the Bing crop in the later district at the northern end of the valley, growers told The Produce News in early April that it was too early to make a prediction on what the crop would look like, but from all indications so far, it appeared to be a normal-size crop. It was not expected to be a bumper crop.

“I’ve had lots of comments on the Bings” from growers who say that any assessment they might give of the Bing crop at this point “is a guess,” Zanobini said. “We had a very long, staggered bloom,” with some parts of the tree blooming earlier than other parts of the tree. “People are trying to wait and see before they say too much.”

Bings continue to be California’s predominant cherry variety, Zanobini said. Some initial estimates put the 2014 Bing crop in the range of 2.5 million to 3 million packages, “but there are still a lot of questions out there to be answered.”

Brooks, Tulare and Coral Champagne are the major early-season varieties grown in the state. Coral is a newer variety that has been growing rapidly in popularity and is being grown not only in the south but in the north as well. Among the other important varieties are Chelan, Rainier, Garnet and Sequoia. In all, California cherry producers grow some 50 different cherry varieties.

Jim Hansen, a salesman with Grower Direct Marketing LLC in Stockton, CA, said of the Coral variety that it is “quickly replacing the Brooks in the South Valley.”

“The whole cherry deal looks to be 10 days earlier than last year,” said Don Goforth, marketing director at Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC in Reedley, CA, April 1. He expected the company’s earliest variety, Prelude, to start as early as April 20, followed by Brooks and Tulare around May 1 and shortly after by Coral Champagne and Royal Lynn. Bings, which are new to the company’s program this year, he predicted to start in late May and continue to around mid-June.

“We are hearing a lot of stories about a very confused cherry tree,” Goforth said. “While we did have adequate chill hours, in terms of total chill hours and duration, most of those chill hours came very early in the season” and there was a lot of warm weather through the winter. “So we had an early bloom.” That combined with “the driest winter on record” as California’s severe drought conditions continue, have had mixed effect on the cherry trees with some blocks having moderate sets and some blocks having “hardly anything at all.”

Corals have a better set than Brooks or Tulares, according to Michael Jameson, export salesman for Morada Produce Co. LLC in Stockton. But overall, “you are looking at a below average crop” in the southern part of the valley, with peak production between May 5 and May 19.

Most people in the industry contribute this year’s lighter crop to a “lack of chill portions during the winter months as well as lack of water.”

As for “the Bing crop up north,” he said April 1, “we will probably need another week before we can get a good handle on it … but hopefully we will have a very good Bing crop.” The peak on Bings should be from around May 27 to mid-June.

“We always like to have an answer as to why things are the way they are, and this year, the easy answer is lack of chill. But we’ve had years when we had low chill and had great crops. So it has to be a combination of things,” said Grower Direct’s Jim Hansen. “What that combination is for the guys at the university to figure out,” but the reality this season is that “the crop is not full in the South Valley.” That said, “year in and year out … there are always more cherries packed in the South Valley” than pre-season estimates project.

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

Early start to California cherry season gives retailers more holidays for promotion

The early cherry deal in the southern and central San Joaquin Valley of California will have an earlier start than usual this year, by as much as two weeks, not only giving producers more time to market the crop but also giving retailers at least one extra holiday for promotions.

“It is an unprecedented early year for us,” Maurice Cameron, managing partner at Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC in Hanford, CA, said March 31. 09-CalCherries-Crop-Coral-cCalifornia Coral Champagne cherries. (Photo courtesy of GrowerDirect Marketing LLC)He expected to be harvesting by Easter, and to have good supplies at “somewhat reasonable prices” for Mother’s Day, a holiday “we have never really had for cherries before.”

The other side of the coin is that the earlier cherry varieties are expected to have a lighter crop than last year by anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent.

“We are doing our first estimate today,” said Chris Zanobini, president and chief executive officer of Ag Association Management Services Inc. in Sacramento, CA, which administers the California Cherry Board, April 8. “I think the southern districts are pretty light. What I am seeing is that definitely the varieties that are predominant in the southern growing areas are much lighter than last year.”

There is, however, “a lot of newer acreage that continues to come into production [which] may not have been factored in last year” but which will impact this year’s numbers, he said. “We will have a crop. We will have a good-quality crop. We will have bigger fruit” because the set is lighter. But there will be fewer packages.

With regard to the Bing crop in the later district at the northern end of the valley, growers told The Produce News in early April that it was too early to make a prediction on what the crop would look like, but from all indications so far, it appeared to be a normal-size crop. It was not expected to be a bumper crop.

“I’ve had lots of comments on the Bings” from growers who say that any assessment they might give of the Bing crop at this point “is a guess,” Zanobini said. “We had a very long, staggered bloom,” with some parts of the tree blooming earlier than other parts of the tree. “People are trying to wait and see before they say too much.”

Bings continue to be California’s predominant cherry variety, Zanobini said. Some initial estimates put the 2014 Bing crop in the range of 2.5 million to 3 million packages, “but there are still a lot of questions out there to be answered.”

Brooks, Tulare and Coral Champagne are the major early-season varieties grown in the state. Coral is a newer variety that has been growing rapidly in popularity and is being grown not only in the south but in the north as well. Among the other important varieties are Chelan, Rainier, Garnet and Sequoia. In all, California cherry producers grow some 50 different cherry varieties.

Jim Hansen, a salesman with Grower Direct Marketing LLC in Stockton, CA, said of the Coral variety that it is “quickly replacing the Brooks in the South Valley.”

“The whole cherry deal looks to be 10 days earlier than last year,” said Don Goforth, marketing director at Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC in Reedley, CA, April 1. He expected the company’s earliest variety, Prelude, to start as early as April 20, followed by Brooks and Tulare around May 1 and shortly after by Coral Champagne and Royal Lynn. Bings, which are new to the company’s program this year, he predicted to start in late May and continue to around mid-June.

“We are hearing a lot of stories about a very confused cherry tree,” Goforth said. “While we did have adequate chill hours, in terms of total chill hours and duration, most of those chill hours came very early in the season” and there was a lot of warm weather through the winter. “So we had an early bloom.” That combined with “the driest winter on record” as California’s severe drought conditions continue, have had mixed effect on the cherry trees with some blocks having moderate sets and some blocks having “hardly anything at all.”

Corals have a better set than Brooks or Tulares, according to Michael Jameson, export salesman for Morada Produce Co. LLC in Stockton. But overall, “you are looking at a below average crop” in the southern part of the valley, with peak production between May 5 and May 19.

Most people in the industry contribute this year’s lighter crop to a “lack of chill portions during the winter months as well as lack of water.”

As for “the Bing crop up north,” he said April 1, “we will probably need another week before we can get a good handle on it … but hopefully we will have a very good Bing crop.” The peak on Bings should be from around May 27 to mid-June.

“We always like to have an answer as to why things are the way they are, and this year, the easy answer is lack of chill. But we’ve had years when we had low chill and had great crops. So it has to be a combination of things,” said Grower Direct’s Jim Hansen. “What that combination is for the guys at the university to figure out,” but the reality this season is that “the crop is not full in the South Valley.” That said, “year in and year out … there are always more cherries packed in the South Valley” than pre-season estimates project.

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

Sponsor of Maryland Raw-Milk Cow-Share Bill Gives Up

The individual cow-share (or herd-share) scheme Maryland legislative analysts said could double the number of the state’s raw milk-caused outbreaks is dead. Delegate James Hubbard (D-Bowie) withdrew House Bill 3 on Monday after failing to get it through the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

The veteran legislator could not dislodge HB 3 from the committee after the Department of Legislative Services reported that the bill could both double raw-milk outbreaks and increase the number of sporadic or isolated cases of illnesses from unpasteurized milk from almost none today to 100 to 165 a year. Legislative services provides Maryland lawmakers with independent fiscal and policy analyses of bills.

Dr. Katherine Feldman, of the Maryland Department of Health’s Infectious Disease Bureau, was also concerned about the dangers of unpasteurized milk. She said raw milk is conducive to the growth of various bacteria.

“Pasteurization is the cornerstone of milk safety and a triumph of public health,” Feldman said.

Hubbard got a little bipartisan help from Delegate Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), who argued that raw milk should be legal since alcohol, cigarettes, oysters and tanning also have health risks but are legal and available in the state.

HB 3 would have exempted the sale of raw milk and raw milk products from regulations governing production, processing, labeling and distribution if the final consumer had an ownership interest in the animal or herd that produced the raw milk. It would not have applied to restaurant, retail, commercial, wholesale or other sales of raw milk and raw milk products to subsequent buyers.

Making raw milk sales legal through cow-share or herd-share ownership agreements would have cost the state at least $ 66,100 in 2015, according to fiscal estimates.

Under current law, Maryland prohibits selling raw milk for human consumption unless it’s used for making farmstead cheese. Milk must be sold to processors, who pasteurize it before it can be distributed and sold to consumers.

Raw milk does reach consumers in Maryland from neighboring Pennsylvania, where the sale of unpasteurized milk is legal and where, from time to time, the state line fails to be a barrier to distribution.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 148 outbreaks of disease from 1998 to 2011, causing 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths. CDC found states that permit sales of raw milk have a higher incidence of milk product-related illnesses than those that don’t.

Currently, 20 states ban the sale of raw milk, 18 allow limited on-the-farm or farmer’s market sales or cow-share schemes, and 12 permit raw milk to be sold in retail stores.

Food Safety News

USDA Gives A Little More Background On Rancho Recall

In an attempt to help consumers understand the situation surrounding Rancho Feeding Corporation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has posted an update to the recall site.

The page informs consumers that inspection personnel were on-site during normal operations, but due to the ongoing investigation by the USDA Office of the Inspector General, FSIS can’t give any further comment on “the company’s intermittent circumvention of inspection requirements that may have occurred over an extended period of time.”

FSIS has received no reports of illness from consumption of these products.

A year’s worth of meat — approximately 8.7 million pounds – was recalled by Petaluma, CA, processor Rancho Feeding Corporation in February for lacking a full federal inspection. Many of the carcasses that were the subject of the recall were shipped to other establishments where they were processed into smaller cuts and sold. Some of this meat was included in processed products, such as frozen entrees.

FSIS has since followed the path of the recalled product as the cuts were sold for processed food. The agency’s March 8 list of retailers included more than 5,800 specific retailers in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico.

There are another 171 “Nationwide, State-Wide, or Area-Wide Distribution” locations listed that include 7-11, Albertsons, Family Dollar, Kroger, Piggly-Wiggly, Walgreens and various gas stations. Shell and Target are the two stores with locations listed as “nationwide.”

Consumers who have shopped at one of the establishments on the list should contact that stores manager to see if product they purchased is part of the recall.

As of March 20, 2014, FSIS has completed all checks and determined that the recall activities were effective. There will be no further additions to the distribution list, but, in an effort to make the information as accessible as possible, it will remain in the “active” section of the FSIS recalls website.

Food Safety News

FDA Gives Industry Another FSMA Comment Period

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration will allow the industry and public to comment on a second set of proposed Food Safety Modernization Art rules that deal with water quality, manure and compost standards and mixed-used facilities.

“We believe that this additional step to seek further input on revised sections of the proposed rules that need significant adjustment is critical to fulfilling our continuing commitment to getting these rules right,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor in a media statement on Thursday.


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The produce industry was seeking another opportunity to comment on the next set of rules after submitting detailed comments requesting substantial changes to the initial proposed rules.

“There was a letter sent by members of Congress to say we want to make sure these laws are right. This is a huge change of food safety law in this country and there’s a number of members of Congress that are interested in seeing … the FDA submit another set of proposed rules that the industry can comment on,” PMA Washington representative Tom O’Brien told SN before the FDA made its announcement. 

Read more: PMA Sifts Through FSMA Myths

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The Wrong Obama Gives Tough Talk on Junk Food Marketing to Kids

This past week, Michelle Obama gathered 100 food industry representatives, academic experts and public-health advocates for a “summit” at the White House to discuss junk food marketing to children.

The event included public remarks by the first lady, followed by a closed-door discussion among attendees, ostensibly to come up with some solutions.

Her speech was better than I had anticipated. As someone who was skeptical about the first lady’s “Let’s Move” program from the beginning, with good reason as it turned out, I am happy to report she didn’t pull any punches.

Simply by shining a light on the critical role that marketing plays in influencing children’s eating habits, the first lady has taken away the food industry’s most common refrain: The solution is for parents to do a better job. Sadly, this sentiment is still extremely common among the American public and is the biggest obstacle advocates face in advancing the cause to protect children against corporate exploitation. But, as I’ve long argued, both ideas are true: parents have a responsibility to feed their kids right, and corporations should not take advantage of children’s vulnerabilities.

Here is how Mrs. Obama described children’s susceptibility to marketing:

“You all know that our kids are like little sponges – they absorb whatever is around them. But they don’t yet have the ability to question and analyze what they’re told. Instead, they believe just about everything they see and hear, especially if it’s on TV. And when the average child is now spending nearly eight hours a day in front of some kind of screen, many of their opinions and preferences are being shaped by the marketing campaigns you all create. And that’s where the problem comes in.”

Next, the first lady explained how ads get children to nag their parents, saying that, “Kids who see foods advertised on TV are significantly more likely to ask for them at the store – a phenomenon known as ‘pester power’ … And research shows that a child’s first request for a product happens as early as 24 months, and, 75 percent of the time, this request takes place in a grocery store.”

Mrs. Obama also explained how marketing works to influence what children ask for and how that makes parents’ jobs so hard, saying that 45 percent of kids’ food requests were for junk food such as burgers and fries and candy.

“So from the time our kids are still in diapers, we as parents are already fighting an uphill battle to get them interested in the foods that will actually nourish them.” Then she even dispensed with another of industry’s favorite talking points: that parents should just “turn off” the TV:

“Now, like many parents, Barack and I do our best to limit our daughters’ TV time. But, as you all know, these ads aren’t just on TV. They’re on the Internet, in video games, smart phones, billboards. They’re in schools and store displays. They’re everywhere, and parents just can’t keep up, no matter how hard we try. So whatever we all might believe about personal responsibility and self-determination, I think we can agree that it doesn’t necessarily apply to children.”

My favorite line came as she called on industry “to empower parents instead of undermining them as they try to make healthier choices for their families.” The first lady said that industry should stop undermining parents. That’s a pretty big deal.

Thank you, Mrs. Obama, for echoing the sentiments that so many parents, healthcare professionals and advocates have been saying for a long time. Only one problem: The first lady’s office is in the wrong wing of the White House. Imagine if these words were uttered by the president instead. What if our nation’s leader told the executives of food and media corporations to stop undermining parents? How much more powerful would those words sound coming from Mr. Obama?

Now imagine an alternative scenario to the secret “closed-door” meeting that came after the speech, where various “stakeholders” were brought together in an unrealistic attempt to forge voluntary solutions defined only by industry, given that the first lady has zero policy-making authority. What might that look like?

How about hearings in Congress during which medical and health experts testified about the terrible toll that diet-related diseases such as diabetes are taking on children and the correlations between predatory marketing and children’s eating habits, and parents explained how their best efforts were undermined by the ubiquity of junk food and targeted marketing?

Now imagine our political representatives holding a dramatic hearing that demanded answers from the CEOs of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Nickelodeon about why they continue to target children in the midst of this public-health crisis. All of this would be followed up by legislation or regulation to legally restrict industry’s predatory business practices – in the name of protecting children from exploitation.

Of course, this is all just fantasy: neither President Obama nor our very broken Congress has shown any willingness to take on the food industry. Indeed, when the Interagency Working Group (led by the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that regulates advertising) came together in President Obama’s first term to try and improve the food industry’s own voluntary guidelines by simply making them science-based, the entire effort went down in flames.

Now Mrs. Obama is trying to use her charm to accomplish what four federal agencies could not. Of course, food corporations may make minor tweaks to their marketing practices in hopes of gaining the first lady’s stamp of approval and scoring a press conference with her, as Disney and Walmart did. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking these will be meaningful or long-lasting improvements. This sort of voluntary self-regulation has a long track record (across numerous industries) of generating a lot of positive PR with few actual results.

In her speech, the first lady joked that some industry members may be waiting things out, figuring that “in a few years, this lady will be gone and this whole ‘Let’s Move’ thing will finally be over, so we can go back to business as usual.” That’s exactly what they are thinking. But she correctly reminded them that this issue isn’t going away when the Obamas leave office in a few years.

Even if today’s elected leaders lack the backbone to protect children’s health, the public climate is growing increasingly inhospitable to predatory marketing. For that we have the first lady, advocacy groups such as Corporate Accountability International, and a growing chorus of organizations and advocates to thank.

Food Safety News