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Ask This Old House features special segment on Idaho potatoes

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Ask This Old House, a popular home-improvement show on PBS, recently aired a six-minute segment exploring how Idaho potatoes are grown and thoroughly explaining how potatoes from Idaho differ from potatoes grown in other states.

Landscape contractor Roger Cook, a veteran of the show for over 30 years, traveled to Idaho Falls to meet fourth-generation potato farmer and Idaho Potato Commissioner James Hoff. With Hoff’s help, Cook showed millions of his loyal viewers how Idaho potatoes are harvested and stored and offered a few tips on growing potatoes in home gardens. 

“We continually look for new and different venues to tell the Idaho potato story to our target audience, which includes both men and women,” Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the Idaho Potato Commission, said in a press release. “James’s deep knowledge of and passion for Idaho potatoes, paired with Roger’s enthusiasm and curiosity, created a very informative and entertaining segment.”

The segment was filmed in October of 2015 during the end of the harvest season and aired the following spring.

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

Hen House to Make Mozzarella In-Store [With Video]

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All Hen House Market stores will begin selling store-made fresh mozzarella on July 5, the retailer announced on its Facebook page.

Associates gathered today to learn to pull the cheese, which Hen House documented in a Facebook photo album and a Vine video.

The retailer’s Facebook fans reacted favorably to the news. “Delish,” said one fan.

There are 11 Hen House locations, operated by Ball’s Food Stores, in the Kansas City area.

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Produce industry praises Senate for immigration vote, urges House to act

WASHINGTON—The agricultural industry wasted no time hailing the Senate for passing, by a 68-32 vote, an immigration reform bill on June 27, but the focus quickly shifts to the House and a July 10 meeting where the House Republican leadership will carve out next steps for immigration reform.

The “Gang of Eight” Senators spearheaded this bill, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) worked behind the scenes to forge an agreement between the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the United Farm Workers on the agricultural provisions that producers and farm workers could live with.

For the produce industry, immigration reform has been a number one issue for years and the Senate vote was nothing short of historic.

“This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain and boost the economy,” said Tom Stenzel, chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association. “We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers.”

“The hardworking farmers, farm workers and workers from every affected industry deserve a new immigration system from its elected representatives,” said Western Growers CEO and President Tom Nassif, who thanked lawmakers for their leadership in approving S. 744.

United Farm Workers said the bill “fulfills the urgent need for an earned legalization program that enables undocumented farm workers who are the backbone of the nation’s agricultural industry to swiftly obtain legal immigration satus,” as well as stablize the farm labor workforce by providing incentives for workers to continue jobs in agriculture.

All eyes turn to the House, which is scheduled for a weeklong break in their districts before returning to Capitol Hill for a much-anticipated July 10 meeting with House Republican leadership on the best ways to tackle immigration reform legislation. Chances of considering the Senate-passed bill in the House are slim.

“The Senate’s passage was remarkable in a lot of ways, but it’s just the next step in a journey,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. The House needs 218 votes to pass a bill that can go into conference and work out differences on the agricultural provisions, he said.

“We need to get to conference or we won’t have any bill,” Stuart added.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Produce industry praises Senate for immigration vote, urges House to act

WASHINGTON—The agricultural industry wasted no time hailing the Senate for passing, by a 68-32 vote, an immigration reform bill on June 27, but the focus quickly shifts to the House and a July 10 meeting where the House Republican leadership will carve out next steps for immigration reform.

The “Gang of Eight” Senators spearheaded this bill, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) worked behind the scenes to forge an agreement between the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the United Farm Workers on the agricultural provisions that producers and farm workers could live with.

For the produce industry, immigration reform has been a number one issue for years and the Senate vote was nothing short of historic.

“This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain and boost the economy,” said Tom Stenzel, chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association. “We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers.”

“The hardworking farmers, farm workers and workers from every affected industry deserve a new immigration system from its elected representatives,” said Western Growers CEO and President Tom Nassif, who thanked lawmakers for their leadership in approving S. 744.

United Farm Workers said the bill “fulfills the urgent need for an earned legalization program that enables undocumented farm workers who are the backbone of the nation’s agricultural industry to swiftly obtain legal immigration satus,” as well as stablize the farm labor workforce by providing incentives for workers to continue jobs in agriculture.

All eyes turn to the House, which is scheduled for a weeklong break in their districts before returning to Capitol Hill for a much-anticipated July 10 meeting with House Republican leadership on the best ways to tackle immigration reform legislation. Chances of considering the Senate-passed bill in the House are slim.

“The Senate’s passage was remarkable in a lot of ways, but it’s just the next step in a journey,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. The House needs 218 votes to pass a bill that can go into conference and work out differences on the agricultural provisions, he said.

“We need to get to conference or we won’t have any bill,” Stuart added.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Produce industry praises Senate for immigration vote, urges House to act

WASHINGTON—The agricultural industry wasted no time hailing the Senate for passing, by a 68-32 vote, an immigration reform bill on June 27, but the focus quickly shifts to the House and a July 10 meeting where the House Republican leadership will carve out next steps for immigration reform.

The “Gang of Eight” Senators spearheaded this bill, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) worked behind the scenes to forge an agreement between the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the United Farm Workers on the agricultural provisions that producers and farm workers could live with.

For the produce industry, immigration reform has been a number one issue for years and the Senate vote was nothing short of historic.

“This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain and boost the economy,” said Tom Stenzel, chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association. “We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers.”

“The hardworking farmers, farm workers and workers from every affected industry deserve a new immigration system from its elected representatives,” said Western Growers CEO and President Tom Nassif, who thanked lawmakers for their leadership in approving S. 744.

United Farm Workers said the bill “fulfills the urgent need for an earned legalization program that enables undocumented farm workers who are the backbone of the nation’s agricultural industry to swiftly obtain legal immigration satus,” as well as stablize the farm labor workforce by providing incentives for workers to continue jobs in agriculture.

All eyes turn to the House, which is scheduled for a weeklong break in their districts before returning to Capitol Hill for a much-anticipated July 10 meeting with House Republican leadership on the best ways to tackle immigration reform legislation. Chances of considering the Senate-passed bill in the House are slim.

“The Senate’s passage was remarkable in a lot of ways, but it’s just the next step in a journey,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. The House needs 218 votes to pass a bill that can go into conference and work out differences on the agricultural provisions, he said.

“We need to get to conference or we won’t have any bill,” Stuart added.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

White House announces departure of Sam Kass

Sam Kass, executive director of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, is stepping down from his position at the White House as of the end of December. In addition to his role with Let’s Move!, Kass was the first-ever White House senior policy advisor on nutrition and personal chef to the First Family.

Kass will remain engaged with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative and the continuing effort to advance childhood nutrition. His successor will be named in the new year.

“Sam has been an integral part of Let’s Move! from its very beginning — from discussions about children’s health around my kitchen table in Chicago, to setting the strategic vision of a national campaign in the White House, to spearheading efforts with the private sector across the country,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a press release. “Sam leaves an extraordinary legacy of progress, including healthier food options in grocery store aisles, more nutritious school lunches and new efforts that have improved how healthy food is marketed to our kids. I wish Sam success in all his future endeavors, and I know he will continue to be a leader in the vitally important work to build a healthier country.” 

“From constructing our Kitchen Garden to brewing our own Honey Brown Ale, Sam has left an indelible mark on the White House,” President Obama said in the release. “And with the work he has done to inspire families and children across this country to lead healthier lives, Sam has made a real difference for our next generation. Over the years, Sam has grown from a close friend to a critical member of my team, and I am grateful for his outstanding work and look forward to seeing all that he will continue to achieve in the years ahead.”

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

Slaughter Wins House Race Against Assini

After widening her lead in the final round of ballot counting Wednesday, Rep. Louise Slaughter now has the votes she needs to retain her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for New York’s 25th congressional district for a 15th term.

After an additional 2,800 ballots were tallied Wednesday, Slaughter’s lead over Republican challenger Mark Assini grew to 869, and Assini called her on Wednesday afternoon to concede the race and congratulate her.

Slaughter, a microbiologist who gives great weight to food safety issues and is an avid defender of medically important antibiotics, has served in the House of Representatives since 1987.

Assini has been the Town Supervisor for Gates, NY, since 2010.

“It’s gratifying to be re-elected for another term so that I can continue fighting for the community I love and am honored to represent,” Slaughter said in a statement declaring victory on Nov. 5 after the majority of absentee ballots had been counted. “Like I said during this campaign, Washington might not be working, but I sure am, and I’m glad to continue that work.”

Since her first election in 1986 when she won by 5 percent of the vote, Slaughter has enjoyed double-digit leads. This year, her win by just under half a percent of the vote was unexpectedly close.

Food Safety News

White House Threatens to Veto House Ag Appropriations Bill

The Obama administration said on Tuesday it would likely veto the House agriculture appropriations bill, just as versions of the funding provisions are moving through both the House and Senate.

“The bill severely undermines key investments in financial oversight in a manner that would cripple Wall Street reform, and impedes implementation of statutorily-mandated financial regulations,” the statement of administration policy stated. “It also imposes harmful cuts in rural economic development, renewable energy development, nutrition programs, food safety, agricultural research, and international food aid. Investing in these areas is critical to the Nation’s economic growth, security, and global competitiveness. If the President were presented with H.R. 2410, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

The administration issued a few pages of reasons, including a handful related to food safety:

- The Administration urges the Congress to fund school meal equipment competitive grants, which would help school districts purchase the equipment needed to serve healthier meals, improve food safety, expand access to meals, and improve energy efficiency.
-The Administration opposes the funding level for FSIS. In addition to a nearly $ 10 million reduction from the President’s Budget request, the Committee bill forces FSIS to absorb $ 9 million in rental costs by not providing the necessary funding. These cuts will significantly impact USDA’s ability to adequately inspect food processing plants and prevent foodborne diseases from contaminating America’s meat, poultry, and egg product supply. Over 80 percent of FSIS’s employees are frontline inspectors and the Committee’s recommendation may require the agency to furlough. Decreased FSIS inspections will disrupt industry production.
-The Administration urges the House to include the requested $ 155 million to fully fund a high priority poultry biosafety and laboratory facility. State-of-the-art research facilities to replace USDA’s aging laboratory infrastructure are key to the Department’s ability to meet research challenges of the 21st Century.
-The Administration appreciates reinstatement of the Federal ban on horse slaughter and looks forward to working with the Congress to complete work on this important legislation.
-The Administration strongly supports robust funding for FDA to continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act and to modernize regulatory science to support medical product innovation. The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill provides $ 4.3 billion in total resources for FDA, which is $ 342 million below the President’s request, and does not include new proposed user fees. The Administration urges the Congress to enact new user fees proposed in the FY 2014 Budget, which would provide significant additional resources to enhance FDA regulatory capacity, as well as provide benefits to industry, advance the Nation’s food safety system, and continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. While the Administration appreciates the funding to continue the development of the FDA Life Sciences/Biodefense laboratory in White Oak, Maryland, the overall reductions in budget authority will limit FDA’s ability to oversee the safety and quality of Nation’s food and medical products and threaten the agency’s ability to improve and maintain FDA’s other critical facilities.

Public health groups have not expressed concerns about the House proposal. As Food Safety News reported, some interests even praised the committee for giving FDA a $ 27 million increase.

Food Safety News

Marco pack house system increases productivity for Windset Farms in California

Marco pack house system increases productivity for Windset Farms in California

Marco’s YCM yield control equipment is bringing important productivity improvements for Windset Farms at their expansive fresh produce operation in Santa Maria, California.

Installed in 2013, the multi-line system, designed to simplify and deskill the manual packing process, is helping Windset increase throughput of their extensive range of pre-packed tomatoes. The installation features Marco’s ingenious ‘one light–one fruit’ operator display, designed to significantly increase line speeds and reduce overpack/giveaway.

Each light segment on the visual light display represents a single fruit. The YCM terminals can be pre-programmed to store different types and weights of tomato, making pack line changes very simple and rapid. As pre-packed tomatoes travel down the packing line, they are placed on the scale and then Windset operators are visually prompted to ‘add’ or ‘take out’ individual tomatoes to ensure pack weight compliance.

Windset’s Chief Operating Officer John Newell has been very impressed with the Marco solution: “Marco’s original improvement predictions at first seemed very optimistic, but we have certainly not been disappointed. The improvements in productivity and reductions in giveaway since the installation last September are dramatic. We also have gained additional benefits in terms of increased pack house visibility and we can now measure individual operator performance so that targeted training can be given where necessary.”

Marco are exhibiting at the upcoming Fruit Attraction exhibition in Madrid (October 15th-17th), stand 3E12C.

For more information:
Becky Hart 
Marco

Tel: +44 (0)1732 782 380
E-mail: [email protected]
www.marco.co.uk

Publication date: 9/19/2014


FreshPlaza.com

White House Calls for Action Plan to Address Antibiotic Resistance

The White House announced Thursday its plan to make the issue of antibiotic resistance a national priority.

In addition to the release of the much-anticipated President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on antibiotic resistance requested by President Obama last year, there are three related developments.

These include an Executive Order (EO) establishing an interagency task force for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the release of the administration’s National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, and a $ 20-million prize, co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, for developing rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for identifying highly resistant bacterial infections.

“Controlling the development and spread of antibiotic resistance is a top national security and public health priority for this administration,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and assistant to the president, during a call with reporters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year.  Estimates of annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the U.S. economy vary but have ranged as high as $ 20 billion in excess direct health care costs and even higher if you count lost productivity from sick days and hospitalizations.

The interagency task force will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services and must submit an action plan to the president by February 2015 that implements the national strategy and addresses PCAST’s recommendations.

The PCAST report recommends steps to improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increase the longevity of current and new antibiotics, and increase the developments of new antibiotics.

When it comes to antibiotics use on farms, the report states that, “The benefits of antibiotic use in animal agriculture, however, must be weighed carefully against the serious potential risks to human health posed by antibiotic resistance.”

Its recommendation for limiting the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is to support FDA’s new Guidances 209 and 213:

  • FDA should proceed vigorously with the implementation of these guidances, including completing its rulemaking to update the language of the Veterinary Feed Directive.
  • USDA, through its Cooperative Extension Service, should establish and lead a national education and stewardship program to assist farmers, ranchers, and animal agriculture producers across the United States in complying with these FDA guidances.
  • FDA should assess progress by monitoring changes in total sales of antibiotics in animal agriculture and, where possible, in usage of such antibiotics; and by developing and undertaking studies to assess whether decreases are observed in antibiotic resistance among farm animals.

“If the FDA guidances are not effective in mitigating the risk of antibiotic resistance associated with antibiotic use in animal agriculture, FDA should take additional measures to protect human health,” the report added.

It also recommended that alternatives to antibiotics in agriculture be developed.

“The national strategy correctly recommends improved tracking of antibiotic use and resistance in human medicine and agriculture,” said Allan Coukell, senior director of drugs and medical devices at The Pew Charitable Trusts. ”The administration has already taken steps to phase out these drugs for growth promotion in livestock. It is essential now to ensure that antibiotic use in animals is really reduced and that these important drugs are administered only in medically appropriate ways under the supervision of a veterinarian.”

Some consumer advocate groups such as Keep Antibiotics Working were frustrated that the report didn’t include “more effective” actions.

“While the Council rightly acknowledges the seriousness of antibiotic resistance and its link to antibiotic overuse, their recommendations related to animal agriculture fall dangerously short,” read a statement from the coalition. “Instead of recommending that FDA move to address overuse of antibiotics for disease prevention and the farming practices that create the need for them, the report recommends a wait and see attitude on reducing antibiotic use in food animals.”

Food Safety News

Unique potato varieties showcased at Sunrain open house

Some 60 different “unique and proprietary” varieties of potatoes shared the limelight at an Aug. 13 open house at .Sunrain Varieties LLC in Idaho Falls, ID.

The company, which was formed about six years ago as a partnership of Potandon Produce LLC in Idaho Falls and Toronto-based Earth Fresh, specializes in development of potato varieties of all sorts and the production of potato seed.

02-SunRainPhoto 02 Mel Davenport, president of Sunrain and co-COO of Potandon, and Aaron Derbidge, Sunrain business manager, at the Aug. 13 Sunrain open house.Sunrain was initially “a holding company for varieties that Potandon and Earth Fresh in Canada were both using jointly across North America,” said Mel Davenport, president of Sunrain and co-chief executive officer of Potandon. “We formed the company to do our seed production and hold all our varieties and also do grower seed for our production farms. Then, as we got through that process, we decided to expand it some, and we have changed the company’s structure a little bit. The company now does the same function for anybody on the outside, too.”

Sunrain is “the holder of all the license rights” of potato varieties of all types “that we have brought from all over the world,” Davenport said. “The real core focus of the business is to own proprietary varieties from around the planet” that constitute “the best varieties of potatoes” there are.

“We are trying to set up a structure that allows us to bring new potato varieties to the market that are healthy and that add new taste and characteristics to the consuming public,” Davenport continued. “We are trying to bring something new to the market and make the potato category exciting.”

The 60 or so varieties of potatoes displayed at the open house included potatoes of a wide range of sizes, shapes, types and colors, with names as varied and colorful as the potatoes themselves — everything from Blue Belle, Jelly and Huckleberry Gold to Potandon 79, Sunrain 12 and PORO2PG76-5. Most are for the fresh market, but chippers are also included in the mix.

Besides selecting and developing existing potato varieties brought from all parts of the world, Sunrain is now also involved in breeding new varieties.

It is a long process. Just bringing an existing variety into commercial seed production takes five years. Breeding new varieties takes twice as long to go from lab to commercial seed production.

“It is not a short-term payback by any means,” Davenport said.

“We are very proud of what we have done here,” he said. “It is a good start, but we have a long way to go. We expect to do better and better at what we are doing. We are trying to get better at it every day.”

Sunrain has “a wonderful staff of people here managing the business,” he said.

The company purchased the farm on which its breeding and seed development facilities are located just over two years ago. The main building has been open a little over a year. In addition, “we’ve got six greenhouses,” a screen house and a storage facility, Davenport said. “It is all strictly dedicated to potato multiplication and to making the potato industry getter.”

Unlike university potato breeding programs, “we are going to be looking at everything from a market perspective,” being “more directly involved in the market than the people n the university system,” he said.

Also unlike most other potato breeding programs, “we are looking at potatoes from all over. We have brought potato varieties to North America from every continent except Africa and Antarctica, so it is a much bigger diversification” than other programs. “Hopefully over time it will allow us to open up new consumer avenues to the potato market.”

Sunrain is “trying to bring things to the consumer that aren’t available today” and to get consumers “excited about potatoes,” he said. “Consumption of potatoes is going down per capita, and we would like to see it turned the other way.”

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

White House Releases Spring 2014 Regulatory Plan

The White House has released its “Current Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions” for Spring 2014.

When Food Safety News reported on the Fall 2013 agenda, we told you about the food safety issues in development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. All of the key regulations we highlighted then have pushed passed the schedule set last fall.

The Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection final rule, which had been expected in April, is now scheduled for July.

The June date for the final rule for labeling mechanically tenderized beef products has been pushed to September, along with a proposed rule to require companies to report the distribution and sales information for antimicrobial active ingredients used in food-producing animals.

The proposed rule for updating the nutritional and ingredient information on pet food labels is now expected in October.

Final action on adding nutrition labeling to restaurant menus had been expected in February, but is now planned for June. So is regulation on calorie labeling for food in vending machines.

And a list of pathogens with the potential to pose a serious threat to public health (including Acinetobacter species, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter species, Clostridium difficile and Vibrio cholera) has inched past its expected date in June but is still required to be published by July 9.

Here’s a refresher of what’s planned for the Food Safety Modernization Act:

Rule RIN / Link Next Action Date Final Rule Deadline
Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls 0910-AG36 Re-proposed Language August 2014 Aug. 30, 2015
Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals 0910-AG10 Re-proposed Language August 2014 Aug. 30, 2015
Produce Safety Regulation 0910-AG35 Re-proposed Language August 2014 October 31, 2015
Foreign Supplier Verification Program 0910-AG64 Re-proposed Language August 2014 October 31, 2015
Accreditation of Third Parties To Conduct Food Safety Audits and For Other Related Purposes 0910-AG66 Final Rule October 31, 2015
Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food 0910-AG98 End of comment period May 31, 2014 March 31, 2016
Focused Mitigation Strategies To Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration 0910-AG63 Final Rule May 31, 2016
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Amendments to Reportable Food Registry (RFR Requirements) 0910-AG97 ANPRM Comment Period End June 9, 2014 N/A

 

The following is a list of other food safety issues addressed in the agenda:

Agency Agenda Stage of Rulemaking Title RIN Date of Action
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Food Labeling; Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels 0910-AF22 June 2, 2014
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed At One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain RACCs 0910-AF23 June 2, 2014
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented, Hydrolyzed, or Distilled Foods 0910-AH00 Sept. 2014
HHS/FDA Final Rule Stage Veterinary Feed Directive 0910-AG95 April 2015
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Registration of Food Facilities: Amendments to Food Facility Registration Requirements 0910-AG69 Sept. 2014
USDA/APHIS Final Rule Stage Importation of Poultry and Poultry Products From Regions Affected With Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza 0579-AC36 Sept. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Product Labeling: Use of the Voluntary Claim “Natural” on the Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products 0583-AD30 July 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Records to be Kept by Official Establishments and Retail Stores That Grind Raw Beef Products 0583-AD46 July 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Public Information; Communications With Federal Agencies, State and Foreign Government Officials, and International Organizations 0583-AD50 Dec. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Addition of Namibia to the List of Countries Eligible to Export Meat Products to the United States 0583-AD51 Dec. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Affirmation of Interim Final Rule With Amendments: Control of Listeria Monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products 0583-AD53 Aug. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Veal Calves 0583-AD54 Aug. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Change in Accredited Lab Fees 0583-AD55 Sept. 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Mandatory Inspection of Certain Fish, Including Catfish and Catfish Products 0583-AD36 Dec. 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Electronic Imported Product Inspection Application and Certification of Imported Product and Foreign Establishments; Amendments to Facilitate the Public Health Information System (PHIS) 0583-AD39 May 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Electronic Export Application and Certification as a Reimbursable Service and Flexibility in the Requirements for Official Export Inspection Marks, Devices, and Certificates 0583-AD41 Sept. 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Common or Usual Name for Raw Meat and Poultry Products Containing Added Solutions 0583-AD43 July 2014

 

Food Safety News

U.S. House votes against farm bill by a 195-234 vote

WASHINGTON — Specialty crop producers got bad news Thursday as the U.S. House of Representatives voted 195-234 to reject the 2013 farm bill, raising more uncertainty about whether Congress can agree on a five-year, $ 940 billion bill this year.

The House leadership failed to bridge the divide as many Democrats voted against the bill because of steep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program, and many Republicans voted against the measure because of its cost.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who voted for the bill, blamed Democrats for voting against it, while others like Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) blamed the House leadership for failing to control the “extreme right wing of their party.”

Specialty crop groups immediately reacted to the news.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance said it was “deeply disappointed” that the House failed to pass the bill, noting the House failed to pass the 2012 farm bill last year.

The United Fresh Produce Association also expressed disappointment with the vote.

“We felt we had a very strong bill for specialty crops that was supported by members from both sides of the aisle,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh’s senior vice president of public policy. “We strongly encourage the House Leadership and the House Agriculture Committee to get back together and bring back to the House floor a bill that can pass before the current extension expires at the end of September.”

Farm groups weren’t the only ones disappointed after the vote.

“I’m obviously disappointed, but the reforms in H.R.1947 — $ 40 billion in deficit reduction, elimination of direct payments and the first reforms to SNAP since 1996 — are so important that we must continue to pursue them,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), chair of the House Agriculture Committee. “We are assessing all of our options, but I have no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers and rural constituents need.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who chairs of the Senate Agriculture Committee and helped guide the bill to a 66-27 vote in the Senate last month, suggested the House bring the bipartisan-supported Senate bill to the floor.

“Maintaining the status quo means no reform, no deficit reduction and further uncertainty that slows growth in our agriculture industry,” the Michigan Senator said. “This is totally unacceptable.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

House Fails to Pass Farm Bill

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives today voted 234-195 against the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, its version of a five-year Farm Bill.


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Industry groups had expected the bill to pass, and House Speaker John Boehner had announced support for the bill in recent days.

The House bill differed widely from the Senate version that passed earlier this month in areas such as cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known as food stamps, and certain agricultural program reforms.

Farm Bill negotiations broke down in 2012 after the House failed to pass a bill, resulting in an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill pushed through as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in January.

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House panel votes to allow waivers from new school lunch standards

WASHINGTON — New school lunch regulations implemented during the 2012-13 school year that doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables served every day may be in jeopardy as a House subcommittee voted May 20 to allow schools to apply for waivers from the new requirements.

Attached to the fiscal 2015 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a provision that would grant the Secretary of Agriculture authority to establish a waiver process and allow schools demonstrating an economic hardship to pass on complying with certain nutrition regulations during the 2014-15 school year.

The controversial provision cleared the first hurdle during subcommittee markup and is scheduled for a full committee vote next week. Similar language does not appear in the Senate version.

“I continually hear from my schools in Alabama about the challenges and costs they are facing and their desperation for flexibility and relief so they can operate a program serving healthy foods the kids will eat,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over USDA’s budget, who supports the waivers.

“If your schools are successfully implementing the nutrition standards and operating in the black, they would not qualify for or need a waiver,” Aderholt said at the session. “However, for schools suffering economic hardship and needing more time to implement and adjust to the new standards, this waiver gives them that flexibility schools are asking us to provide.”

The legislative fix was met with fierce opposition from Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) during the subcommittee markup.

Farr called the change in nutrition standards “hard to swallow,” and pointed out that schools could stop serving added fruits and vegetables and keep the federal money. More than 90 percent of schools are having no trouble meeting the new nutrition standards and USDA has pledged to work with the other schools, he said.

“Members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee who voted to roll back school meal nutrition standards that benefit the health of millions of American children should be embarrassed,” Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement issued after the vote.

USDA also wasted no time reacting to the latest vote on Capitol Hill. Soon after the subcommittee action, USDA announced it would give schools that demonstrate significant challenges in serving whole-grain rich pastas the option to continue serving traditional enriched pasta for up to two more years.

USDA also issued a fact sheet and cited a Harvard study that concluded kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch under the updated standards.

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House panel votes to allow waivers from new school lunch standards

WASHINGTON — New school lunch regulations implemented during the 2012-13 school year that doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables served every day may be in jeopardy as a House subcommittee voted May 20 to allow schools to apply for waivers from the new requirements.

Attached to the fiscal 2015 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a provision that would grant the Secretary of Agriculture authority to establish a waiver process and allow schools demonstrating an economic hardship to pass on complying with certain nutrition regulations during the 2014-15 school year.

The controversial provision cleared the first hurdle during subcommittee markup and is scheduled for a full committee vote next week. Similar language does not appear in the Senate version.

“I continually hear from my schools in Alabama about the challenges and costs they are facing and their desperation for flexibility and relief so they can operate a program serving healthy foods the kids will eat,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over USDA’s budget, who supports the waivers.

“If your schools are successfully implementing the nutrition standards and operating in the black, they would not qualify for or need a waiver,” Aderholt said at the session. “However, for schools suffering economic hardship and needing more time to implement and adjust to the new standards, this waiver gives them that flexibility schools are asking us to provide.”

The legislative fix was met with fierce opposition from Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) during the subcommittee markup.

Farr called the change in nutrition standards “hard to swallow,” and pointed out that schools could stop serving added fruits and vegetables and keep the federal money. More than 90 percent of schools are having no trouble meeting the new nutrition standards and USDA has pledged to work with the other schools, he said.

“Members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee who voted to roll back school meal nutrition standards that benefit the health of millions of American children should be embarrassed,” Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement issued after the vote.

USDA also wasted no time reacting to the latest vote on Capitol Hill. Soon after the subcommittee action, USDA announced it would give schools that demonstrate significant challenges in serving whole-grain rich pastas the option to continue serving traditional enriched pasta for up to two more years.

USDA also issued a fact sheet and cited a Harvard study that concluded kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch under the updated standards.

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

United Fresh responds to House school nutrition action

United Fresh issued a statement condemning the vote by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday to allow schools in states losing money on school lunch programs to opt out of mandated nutrition standards for the next school year. 

“Members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee who voted today to roll back school meal nutrition standards that benefit the health of millions of American children should be embarrassed,”  said United Fresh CEO and President Tom Stenzel in a media statement.

“We are disappointed in the vote to move the bill out of subcommittee, but are pleased that so many members raised strong objections to this provision, and will continue to fight any rollback that jeopardizes children’s health.” 

The nutrition standards passed in 2012 require school lunch programs to add more produce, whole grains and low-fat milk to meals, while also reducing levels of salt, saturated fat and transfats. 

USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also voiced disapproval over this aspect of the House appropriations bill when it was announced on May 19. 


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“The House bill would undermine the effort to provide kids with more nutritious food and would be a major step backwards for the health of American children, just at the time childhood obesity rates are finally starting to level off. School nutrition standards are developed by independent experts, over 90% of schools report that they are successfully implementing them, and studies show they are working to help kids be healthier,” said Vilsack in a media statement.

As of the 2014-2015 school year, the regulations required that all grains be made with 50% whole grains. 

USDA announced today that schools that are having difficulty producing whole wheat meals on a large scale could continue to serve traditional pasta for the next two years. Schools would need to get approval from their state in order to receive the two-year extension. 

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Vermont Senate Approves GMO Labeling Bill, Sends It Back to House for Final Vote

Members of the Vermont Senate voted 28-2 on Wednesday for a bill that, if the Vermont House of Representatives concurs with the Senate’s changes, would make it the first state in the country to require labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The bill, H. 112, passed the Vermont House last year but needs to go back there for final approval of changes made in the Senate. Then, if House members give their final approval and Gov. Peter Shumlin signs it, which he has said he is likely to do, H. 112 would become effective on July 1, 2016.

Vermont’s legislation has no trigger clause like Maine and Connecticut, which have passed GMO-labeling laws but made them contingent on neighboring states taking similar action.

“We are really excited that Vermont is going to be leading on this,” said Falko Schilling of the the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, one of the organizations supporting the legislation.

“Today’s victory in Vermont has been 20 years in the making,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “Ever since genetically modified crops and foods entered the U.S. food supply in the early 1990s, without adequate independent pre-market safety testing and without labels, U.S. consumers have fought to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs.”

H. 112 would require the labeling of processed foods sold at Vermont retail outlets and containing genetically modified corn, soybeans, or any other GMO ingredients. It would also forbid describing any food products with GMO ingredients as “natural” or “all natural.” Exempted are animal feeds and some food-processing aids such as enzymes for making yogurt.

GMO labeling of milk and milk products are not included in the version of H. 112 passed Wednesday; however, the bill requires a report by Jan. 15, 2015, from the state’s attorney general, in consultation with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, on whether they should be and the legal basis for the recommendation.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill in Congress last week which would bar any state from taking the action Vermont appears poised to do. His “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” would prohibit mandatory labeling of GMO foods and also prohibit voters from proposing initiatives to do so at the state level.

Industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have banded together into the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, which has been fighting similar GMO-labeling legislation and voter initiatives in several states in recent years. They reportedly spent about $ 60 million against labeling initiatives in California in 2012 and Washington state in 2013, and both proposals were narrowly defeated.

Pro-labeling groups in Vermont say they expect industry groups to go to court to stop mandatory labeling legislation enacted by the states. As preparation, the Senate version of H. 112 includes $ 1.5 million to help pay legal defense costs, and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition has already started a fund to cover such expenses, which some estimates put as high as $ 8 million should the state lose.

“It’s not just Vermont. This affects everyone who eats,” said Andrea Stander, a coalition spokeswoman. “Consumers all across the country have woken up to the fact that we’ve become an unregulated feeding experiment by the biotech industry. People want to know if their foods are made with these ingredients. This gives people the choice.”

Some scientists who have studied GMOs say there are no additional health or safety issues involved in consuming them than there are in consuming non-GMO foods.

“This debate isn’t about food safety,” said Karen Batra of the Biotechnoloy Industry Organization. “Our science experts … point to more than 1,700 credible peer-reviewed studies that find no legitimate concern.”

She said that all mandatory GMO labeling does is make farming and food manufacturing more expensive and complicated. More than 60 countries, including the European Union, now require such labeling.

Food Safety News

Idaho House Committee Recommends Passage of ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill

The Idaho House is now ready for a floor vote that will likely send Senate Bill 1337 to Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for his signature. It would make trespassing and filming agricultural operations without permission of the owner illegal.

After three-and-a-half hours of testimony on Thursday, the House Agriculture Affairs Committee sent the Agriculture Protection Act containing some familiar “ag-gag” provisions to the House floor with a “do-pass” recommendation.

About 130 people signed into the hearing, which pitted state and national animal-welfare activists against a solid wall of Idaho agriculture representatives. The committee’s favorable action on the bill was never really in doubt.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sent in its top public policy manager, Matt Dominguez, to Boise in a last-minute attempt to prevent S. 1337 from reaching the House floor. But Dominguez, who grew up on a farm, and the HSUS Idaho director both ended up being grilled by committee members.

Dominguez was asked whether farm animal abuse investigations like the one undertaken in Idaho in 2010 are mere tactics of a larger strategy aimed at the total elimination of animal agriculture as we know it, and he was also pressed for an estimate of how much of its own money HSUS spends on animal rescue.

“The Humane Society is not out to end animal agriculture at all,” Dominguez assured the Idaho House committee. “We support farmers who treat their animals humanely,” he said.

Dominguez said he did not know what percentage of the group’s approximately $ 160-million annual operating budget supports animal rescue. He said the HSUS goal is to stop animal abuse, but it does help local rescue and shelter activities.

He did acknowledge that HSUS may have a board member or two who talked of eliminating animal agriculture when they were “in their twenties,” but he insisted that is not the group’s policy today.

Lisa Kauffman, the Idaho state director for HSUS, came under more direct fire for a letter she sent in January to the dairy that was the target of the 2012 undercover investigation that prompted the legislative action.

Hansen, ID-based Bettencourt Dairies took the letter as a threat because Kauffman wrote that the company’s reputation would be hurt if it did not persuade the state’s dairy industry to drop the bill. Kauffman said she did not mean it that way, but merely thought since Bettencourt acted responsibility after the animal abuse was disclosed, it might see her point.

In addition to the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, which has put the weight of the state’s $ 2.5-billion dairy industry behind the bill, other ag organizations testified in favor of the bill on Thursday.

Strong statements of support also came from Idaho’s $ 500-million seed industry. Representatives of that industry said they are concerned about damage to genetically engineered seed research like the incidents that occurred recently in Oregon.

The many opponents of S. 1337 were almost all in agreement that Section D, which forbids taking pictures or making films or video without permission, is the most damaging part of the proposed law. Lobbyists for Idaho’s construction industry and some state conservation groups also voiced their opposition.

Food Safety News

Idaho ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill Clears State Senate, Heads to House

The quick-moving “Agriculture Production Interference” act goes before the Idaho House Agriculture Affairs Committee today, which could be the bill’s last stop before getting the second affirmative floor vote it needs before landing on Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s desk.

The bill cleared the Idaho Senate only last Friday, and it’s moving fast enough to indicate there’s some legislative muscle behind it. In this case, it’s the powerful Idaho Dairymen’s Association and other Gem State agricultural organizations.

Those Idaho agricultural groups are taking on animal-rights groups, including the Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals. In 2012, Mercy first released video of animal cruelty at Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairies. In an attempt to slow the bill, Mercy earlier this week released video it did not make public two years ago showing dairy employees physically and sexually abusing cows.

However, that might not slow the legislative train in Boise.

State Rep. Gayle L. Batt (R-Wilder), co-owner of G&T Farms, and Boise attorney Dan Steenson will present Senate Bill 1337 to the House Agriculture Affairs Committee today at 1:30 p.m. State Rep. Ken Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs), a southeast Idaho rancher, chairs the 14-member committee, which includes Batt.

Last week, S. 1337 was introduced on Monday, approved by the Senate Ag committee on Tuesday, and passed by the full Senate on a 23-10 vote on Friday.

Animal right groups oppose the bill because they say it will prevent them from making undercover videos of animal cruelty occurring on Idaho farms and ranches. Anyone found guilty of trespassing in order to document animal cruelty could face jail time of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $ 5,000.

Six states have adopted “ag-gag” laws since 1990-91, and half the laws took effect only in the past two years. The fast-tracking occurring in Idaho is very similar to the way lawmakers in Utah and Iowa passed similar bills in those states once major state agricultural organizations got behind them.

Idaho’s $ 2.5-billion dairy industry has attracted nearly $ 1 billion in new investment in the past two years, representing about 5,000 jobs, including those at the largest yogurt plant opened recently in Twin Falls.

Food Safety News