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Chile pepper grower seeks support for improved grades and standards for category

A Florida-based grower-shipper of chile peppers is lobbying the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Division to establish a USDA Grade and Delivery standard for the category, positing that it will benefit the industry at large.IMG 3585

Steve Veneziano, vice president of sales and operations for Oakes Farms, based in Immokalee, FL, said the company grades its own chile peppers as everyone else does Bell peppers, with grades of Fancy, No. 1 and No. 2 quality. He believes that if all shippers followed similar guidelines, the chile pepper category would benefit.

“With no grade contract established, the chile pepper category is fairly stagnant because they don’t have the proper sell-through, they have a lot of shrink, and produce managers don’t want to merchandise them because it’s a high-shrink category,” he said. “And especially during transitional times, some shippers mix No. 2s and poor-quality peppers in the box and they get away with it. Having a grade contract would eliminate that and help the entire industry. The chile pepper category has evolved tremendously over the past five years, and this is what it needs to continue moving forward.”

Veneziano said he recently contacted Jeffrey Davis, business development specialist with the USDA’s specialty crop program, who confirmed that grades and standards currently exist only for sweet peppers, and was told he would need to drum up support from the industry to move forward with his petition.

John Guerra, head of Eastern vegetable sales for S. Katzman Produce in the Bronx, NY, said he is in “100 percent in support of the petition.”

Guerra said the lack of quality standards for various hot peppers has really affected what the consumer thinks a hot pepper or varietal pepper should look like because there is very little restriction.

“Particularly from a terminal market point of view, on a tightly allocated market, everything goes into a box without any consideration on quality or grading, and you pass this along to a consumer who is expecting a certain quality, and it is frustrating,” said Guerra. “We went through a winter of some very unusual weather patterns in Florida, which created some limited availability. While many other grower-shippers were putting anything and everything into a box, Steve was separating them and giving us differentiated product. I feel very lucky that we had Oakes in our portfolio. It’s all about integrity, and Oakes is upholding something that isn’t being followed by all of the industry.”

Guerra said he would be interested in petitioning USDA in support of this movement.

Alan Goldberg, owner of A&B Tropical Produce in Miami, is another proponent of the concept, stating it is “long overdue” to have grading standards for the chile pepper industry.

“When issues come up, there needs to be something solid that people can rely on,” said Goldberg. “The chile pepper category is a growing category and the industry needs this. Really, every item should have a grade standard.”

Asked what benefit the grading standards would bring to the chile pepper industry, Goldberg said, “I think it will create confidence all across the board with both buyers and sellers, who will feel better that there is some protection down the line when it comes to settling disputes. It will limit the grey area. To me, anyone not in favor of implementing grade standards is unscrupulous. Why wouldn’t you want law and order?”

Goldberg said that he, too, is planning to contact USDA in support of this initiative. “I’ll do whatever I can to help promote this situation,” he said.

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Grocers Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

For too many years Congress failed to address the issue of comprehensive immigration reform and by doing so ignored the status of the now estimated 11 million undocumented immigrations currently living and working in the United States. Subsequently, businesses have been left to grapple with what has become a matrix of state and local immigration laws passed to fill the void left by Congress. 

As grocers we open ours doors each and every day to serve our local communities. More and more of our customers and our associates are impacted by the failure of our immigration system, either directly or indirectly. Some grocers have even been subjected to intrusive and costly actions by federal and state local law enforcement in search of potential undocumented workers or other violations. Inaction is no longer an option. The time is come for our nation to address the immigration issue head on.  

In February 2013 the National Grocers Association’s Board of Directors appointed a committee to study the immigration issue and ultimately make a policy recommendation for NGA to adopt.  In April a position recommendation was made and subsequently approved unanimously by the Board of Directors, leading NGA to take the bold step of endorsing comprehensive immigration reform. 

NGA’s position calls for comprehensive reform that preempts state and local laws and includes four major provisions:

  • Secure borders and respect for the rule of law.
  • Mandatory E-Verify at no cost to employers for new hires only with a strong safe harbor that protects employers acting in good faith.
  • Support for an expanded guest worker program that includes trades such as bakers, butchers, and cooks.
  • A path to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants so that they can come out of the shadows, while keeping families together.

Embracing comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the real challenges facing our nation today, while ensuring strong protections for employers acting in good faith, is a step in the right direction. Independent grocers are willing to be part of the solution as long as employers are provided with appropriate safe harbors to ensure their ability to comply without fear of criminal or civil reprisals. We know that we are asking our members subject themselves to new administrative burdens through E-Verify and we don’t take that mandate lightly; however immigration reform is coming and with it will be a mandatory employment verification component. By working with Congress and other stakeholders we can be part of the solution and enact comprehensive reform that works for grocers and the communities we serve.

It’s time for Congress to do the right thing and pass comprehensive immigration reform that supports the principles supported by NGA’s Board. The Senate recently took the important step in passing their bill and now the focus shifts to the House where the Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings and considering proposals. NGA will continue to be part of that process and support common sense efforts that strengthen employer protections.

The immigration debate is one that we all have a stake in and should support Congress working in a bi-partisan manner to pass a comprehensive bill that works for all. It’s the right thing to do for our country and the right thing to do for our industry.     

Supermarket News

Whole Foods, Big Y provide gluten-free support

Big Y, Whole Foods and Roche Bros. have partnered with the New England Celiac Organization to host gluten-free support groups in their stores.

Whole Foods holds the free one-hour meetings once a month in its Glastonbury, Conn., store, as well as a few of its Massachusetts and Rhode Island stores.

Big Y hosts the meetings the first Tuesday of each month at its Westfield, Mass., unit.

Carrie Taylor, Big Y’s chain’s corporate dietitian, leads the group as a NECO volunteer.


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“The partnership made perfect sense since they were looking to expand their reach outside of Boston and appreciated having a health-care provider lead a group,” Taylor told SN.

Taylor typically presents an agenda or topic to discuss. For example, for the holidays, she hosted a holiday recipe swap. In addition, attendees can ask any eating/condition-related questions they may have.

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U.S. Apple Association will support customers’ right to choose or not choose GMO

U.S. Apple Association will support customers’ right to choose or not choose GMO

The introduction of non-browning Arctic® Apples to consumers is at least a few years away, but if approved for commercial production by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Apple Association will then support the public’s right to decide whether or not to purchase a genetically modified apple. “If approved, the non-browning apple will be just one more possible option available to consumers,” explains Wendy Brannen, director of consumer health and public relations for the U.S. Apple Association. “We want to convey the vast choices of safe, healthy apples and apple products available to consumers, including dozens of non-GMO apples that will remain on the market.”

The U.S. Apple Association’s stance that consumers decide about Arctic is reliant on the non-browning apple’s safety. The apple passed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s safety standards, and since there were no concerns, the industry says the choice will be left to consumers. “FDA declared that Arctic apples are safe and that they would offer the same nutrition benefits as non-GMO apples,” explains Brannen, “We have assurance from the developer that these apples would be clearly sold and marketed under the Arctic® label, so their place in the market will simply be a matter of consumer choice.”

The non-browning apple is the first genetically modified apple which may become available to consumers.  Arctic Apples are non-transgenic, as no crossbreeding between species occurs. In order to achieve a non-browning apple, genes are targeted which cause the effect. The U.S. Apple Association says it’s important the industry remain transparent to help provide the public with unbiased information about all apple choices. “We want to help consumers understand and educate themselves on their product choices. Some people may appreciate an apple that doesn’t brown, whereas others may be uncomfortable with a genetically modified product.  Those purchasing decisions are up to them, but we are happy to help direct them toward factual educational resources out there to help them best decide what’s right for them.” 

The Arctic Apple is not yet available to the public as it has not passed deregulation, however with current information it appears the apple will be approved. All other apple purchases will continue to be non-GMO, and consumers will have a clear choice whether to purchase Arctic Apples. “The consumer has the opportunity to purchase applesauce with or without cinnamon. They can buy a sweet or a tart apple based on their preference,” reflects Brannen, “The non-browning apple simply offers another choice for them. Some people will understand that browning is a natural process, but others may not like the browning and may want to try them.”  

For more information:
Wendy Brannen
U.S. Apple Association
Tel: 703-442-8850
[email protected]

Publication date: 11/21/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot

€ 39 million EU support for the promotion of agricultural products

€ 39 million EU support for the promotion of agricultural products

The European Commission yesterday approved 27 programmes to promote agricultural products in the European Union and in third countries. The total budget of the programmes, the grand majority of which will run for a period of three years, is € 77.4 million of which the EU contributes € 39 million. The selected programmes cover a variety of product categories, such as fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, dairy products, quality products (PDOs, PGIs, TSGsand organic products), flowers, quality meat, as well as, for the first time, sheepmeat.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş stated today: “I am pleased to confirm our support for these new promotion programmes. I hope they will boost consumption and sales at this difficult time. In the course of the last 5 years, we have become a net exporter of agri food products, with the value of exports accelerating faster than the volume, as consumers in other parts of the world appreciate the traditions, quality standards and tastes of Europe. These new measures will further enhance that reputation.”

By 15 June 2014, within the information and promotion scheme, the Commission services received 43 proposals for programmes targeting the internal market and third countries as part of the second wave of programme selection for year 2014. After evaluation, 27 programmes were retained for co-financing out of which 21 target the internal market and 6 target third countries. Third countries and regions targeted are: North America, Latin America, Middle East, South-East Asia, Japan, North Africa and Turkey.

Moreover, two of the accepted programmes are so-called multi-programmes, programmes from organisations located in different member states that jointly carry out a promotion campaign. In the context of the recently agreed reform of the promotion policy, this type of promotion campaigns will be even more encouraged.

Publication date: 10/31/2014