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USDA: Food Prices to Climb This Year

WASHINGTON — Total food prices this calendar year will rise 2.5% to 3.5%, according to a forecast just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Much of the rise will result from the delayed effects of last year’s drought in the Midwest.

Even though the drought was severe, destroying a huge amount of field crops, food prices remained flat during 2012.


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That’s because, while prices rose for beef and veal, poultry, fruit and other foods, those hikes were offset by drops in the price of pork, eggs, vegetables and nonalcoholic beverages. Other food categories remained flat.

Read more: Fresh Food Prices Set to Rise in 2013

In addition, while the drought ravaged corn and soybean crops, which does affect food prices, it typically takes months for commodity price changes to show themselves at retail, according to the ERS.

“Most of the impact of the drought is expected to be realized in 2013,” the ERS report states.

Not surprisingly, beef prices are already up 1.7% in May over last year in May. Conversely, a decline in exports and an increase in hog production have kept pork prices almost flat. In fact, May pork prices were down 0.2% from May a year ago.

USDA’s ERS bases its forecast on current conditions and inflation.

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USDA Tips to Help Keep Your Holidays Illness-Free

As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous.

To help keep your holiday season healthy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness.

If you have specific food-safety questions this holiday season, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food-safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.

Steps to follow during holiday grocery shopping:

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods in your grocery cart.
  • Buy cold foods last.
  • Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate bag.

Steps to follow during food preparation:

  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items such as vegetables or bread.
  • Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure that they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to make sure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest time; fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F; ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 degrees F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

Fool-proof tips when cooking for groups:

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 degrees F, and cold items should remain below 40 degrees F.
  • Use several small plates when serving food.
  • Discard perishable foods left out for two hours or more.

Steps to follow when cooking a holiday roast:

  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw roasts and cooked roasts to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wash items such as cutting boards that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
  • To ensure the juiciest possible roast this holiday, use a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145 degrees F, the roast is safe to eat.
  • Remember that all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three-minute rest time before cutting or consuming.

Food Safety News

USDA Tips to Help Keep Your Holidays Illness-Free

As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous.

To help keep your holiday season healthy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness.

If you have specific food-safety questions this holiday season, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food-safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.

Steps to follow during holiday grocery shopping:

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods in your grocery cart.
  • Buy cold foods last.
  • Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate bag.

Steps to follow during food preparation:

  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items such as vegetables or bread.
  • Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure that they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to make sure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest time; fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F; ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 degrees F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

Fool-proof tips when cooking for groups:

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 degrees F, and cold items should remain below 40 degrees F.
  • Use several small plates when serving food.
  • Discard perishable foods left out for two hours or more.

Steps to follow when cooking a holiday roast:

  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw roasts and cooked roasts to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wash items such as cutting boards that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
  • To ensure the juiciest possible roast this holiday, use a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145 degrees F, the roast is safe to eat.
  • Remember that all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three-minute rest time before cutting or consuming.

Food Safety News

USDA Reports on FSIS Enforcement Actions for Final Quarter of Year

A federal sentencing in Arkansas, convictions in Florida and a guilty plea in Puerto Rico topped fourth quarter enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).   USDA’s final period of the year ended last Oct. 1 at the start of the current federal fiscal year. The three-month quarterly enforcement report includes FSIS administrative, civil and criminal actions.

Edward Martsolf, owner of the Petit Jean Farm in Morrilton, AR was sentenced for knowingly offering for sale, and selling and transporting meat as human food that was misbranded with counterfeit marks of federal inspection that he applied. He was sentenced to three years probation, fined $ 2,000 and required to pay $ 3,257 in restitution.

Martsolf earlier plead guilty to two counts of forging and applying counterfeit marks of federal inspection and selling and offering misbranded meat products for sale.  Also during the quarter, Jorge F. Ortega, owner of Jorge’s Farm near Citrus Park, FL was convicted of thee felony counts for selling adulterated and misbranded meat food products in commerce, selling un-inspected meat food products in commerce, and inhumane slaughter of swine.

He was sentenced to three years probation and 200 hours of community service entering an open plea for selling adulated and misbranded meat, selling uninspected meat, and violating humane slaughter standards.

The final criminal charges stemming from FSIS enforcement actions during the period came in Puerto Rico. Jose Suarez, owner of PR’s Joshua Enterprises, please guilty to one count of information for selling or offering for sale, 52,859 pounds of pork shoulders, that were at the time adulterated and unfit for human consumption.

His sentencing was scheduled for the new fiscal year.

Among the major civil enforcement actions by FSIS during the quarter include:

-Zhong Chen, Asian Chen, and Kimen Chen, owners of the Chicago’s Feida Bakery, were permanently enjoined from misbranding, selling or transporting meat and meat products.

-Richard Galligan, owner of Galligan Wholesale Meat Co. in Denver, signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. attorney for Colorado and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. For release from civil and administrative action, Galligan agreed to pay $ 80,000. At issue was possible breach of contract by mistake, unjust enrichment, and fraud.

–San Leandro, CA-based Galant Food Co. received an administrative complaint and consent decision, suspending federal meat inspection services for multiple regulatory violations and failures.

-John Stubblefield, owner of Hot Springs Packing Co. Inc. entered into a consent decision and order with FSIS allowing federal inspection services to resume when Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) controls are implemented.

-Paul and Kelly Rosberg, owners of Nebraska’s Finest Meats in Randolph, remain suspended from federal meat inspection services because of acts of intimidation and interference.

-Brasher Falls, NY-based Tri – Town Packing Corporation was subject to an FSIS complaint to withdraw federal meat inspectors for multiple violations.

Back in the meat and poultry plants were FSIS enforcement actions typically begin, meat inspectors issued 263 NRs ( non-compliance records). It raised the total number of NRs for the year to 1,087. Upon appeal, 302 were dismissed and 158 resulted in modified NRs. Appeals were upheld for 539 NRs for the year, which typically means what the decision of the FSIS meat inspector stands.

With those high retail beef prices continuing, the quarterly report shows beef production at just over 34 million for a second straight quarter. That’s down from 38.5 million and 35 million during the first two quarters of the year Poultry production, topping 2.3 billion carcasses for the final quarter, marked a high for the year.

Food Safety News

USDA predicts larger Florida orange crop for 2014-15

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its initial forecast for 2014-15, pegging the orange crop at 108 million boxes, up from last season’s total of 104.4 million.

Early-mid varieties accounted for 52 million boxes, while Valencias came in at 56 million boxes.

“This is a positive number as the Florida citrus grower continues to battle citrus greening disease,” Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. “It’s been a tight few years for production and 2014-15 is no different.”

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July. The full estimate can be found at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate.

The USDA’s estimate of the 2014-15 Florida grapefruit crop came in at 15 million boxes. Specialty fruit is estimated at 3.7 million boxes. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice is anticipated to be 1.60 gallons per 90-pound box.

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

USDA predicts larger Florida orange crop for 2014-15

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its initial forecast for 2014-15, pegging the orange crop at 108 million boxes, up from last season’s total of 104.4 million.

Early-mid varieties accounted for 52 million boxes, while Valencias came in at 56 million boxes.

“This is a positive number as the Florida citrus grower continues to battle citrus greening disease,” Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. “It’s been a tight few years for production and 2014-15 is no different.”

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July. The full estimate can be found at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate.

The USDA’s estimate of the 2014-15 Florida grapefruit crop came in at 15 million boxes. Specialty fruit is estimated at 3.7 million boxes. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice is anticipated to be 1.60 gallons per 90-pound box.

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a “dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system,” as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA’s reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA’s dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada’s inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country’s fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

“The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue — one it committed to resolving — is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it.”

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. “Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant — until you don’t get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer.”

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn’t address the trust protection issues.

“According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $ 10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency,” said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. “This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships.”

On both sides of the border, the USDA’s action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

“Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim,” stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “For example, a small producer owed $ 50,000 would have to post $ 100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $ 150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them.”

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue,” added Fowlie, “yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution.”

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

USDA unveils $31.5 million grant to boost fruit, vegetable sales to SNAP recipients

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced up to $ 31.5 million in grants are available to test new ways to make fruits and vegetables more affordable to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants.

News of the program launch drew immediate praise by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and the United Fresh Produce Association.

“Helping families purchase more fresh produce is clearly good for families’ health, helps contribute to lower health costs for the country, and increases local food sales for family farmers,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Sept. 29 in Richmond, VA, where he announced the launch of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, a new farm bill program.

Under FINI, applicants may propose small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, or larger-scale multi-year projects that test strategies to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants through incentives at the point of purchase. Based on the type of project, USDA plans to award grants of $ 100,000 to $ 500,000, and applications are due on Dec. 15.

“We encourage our retail grocery members who operate stores in underserved communities to partner with their state SNAP agency and apply for a FINI grant,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh, who added that the projects are likely to inform USDA programs in the future.

With 85 percent of all SNAP benefits redeemed at grocery stores, “we believe that scaling up produce incentives at grocery stores in underserved communities around the country will have the greatest public health reach by increasing access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables year round,” she said, adding that incentives can help SNAP families purchase more fresh produce and increase produce sales.

Stabenow praised the farm bill program she said was modeled after Michigan’s successful “Double up Food Bucks” program, which provides SNAP participants with tokens to purchase to locally grown fruits and vegetables.

“These new programs will not only empower low-income Americans to provide their families with more healthy fruits and vegetables, they will also help strengthen local economies by investing in local food systems and organic agriculture,” Stabenow said.

USDA listed the following project aspects it sees as priorities for funding:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants.
  • Test strategies that improve understanding how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants, which would inform future efforts.
  • Develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that could be replicated or scaled.
  • Use direct-to-consumer sales marketing.
  • Demonstrate a track record of designing and implementing successful nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers and agricultural producers.
  • Provide locally or regionally produced fruits and vegetables, especially culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables for the target audience.
  • Are located in underserved communities.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will host a webinar for interested applicants on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

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

USDA estimates lowest citrus crop in six years; CAC thinks it’s even lower

California Navel Orange Objective Measurement Report, issued by the California Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, is a usually reliable estimate of California’s Navel crop.

The newest report, released Sept. 11, estimates the 2014-15 crop at 78 million 40-pound cartons, which would make it the smallest crop since the freeze year of 2008-09. But California Citrus Mutual thinks the crop is even smaller than the USDA’s NASS estimate because it does not take into account losses due to the current drought conditions.

“After canvassing a significant number of producers and shippers, CCM believe the crop estimate is high,” CCM President Joel Nelsen said in a statement issued Sept. 11. “We know acreage has been removed from production” due to the drought, “but getting figures for a range has been difficult. We know the lack of water has affected fruit size during the growths stages, but surveying 126,000 acres is almost impossible. We also agree there is more fruit on the tree as compared to last year” in terms of the number of pieces of fruit. “However fruit size is a concern. All of this affects the number of cartons ultimately packed.”

However, CCM anticipates a normal production and excellent quality and flavor during the first four months of the harvest season, according to Nelsen.

Unlike Navels, Mandarins should be up in volume this year because of more acreage in production.

The NASS estimate for Navels is “based on their statistical model that they have to follow,” said Bob Blakely, CCM director of industry relations. “We are just pointing out that this year there may be some deviation from that. It may not be as all-encompassing as it would be in a normal year, because of the effect of the drought and the lack of uniformity throughout the citrus belt, especially in some of those districts more affected by the drought.”

There is a lot of acreage “that hasn’t had the water it would normally get,” and that is affecting fruit sizing, Blakely told The Produce News Sept. 12.

The NASS report does “make note of the fact that the fruit is smaller this year, even if there are more pieces,” he added. But it assumes normal growth going forward, “and if we don’t get additional rainfall and favorable weather going into the winter, that fruit is not going to grow very much. That is going to equate to fewer boxes, which would cause the total crop to be smaller even than what they projected.”

In addition to the smaller fruit size, “we have seen an increase in the number of removals,” Blakely said. “Growers who had marginal blocks that they thought they were going to farm for another three or four years, faced with the lack of water and more productive blocks that they were trying to protect, went ahead and cut the water off of those marginal blocks or pushed them out” to divert available water to the other groves.

That acreage that has been taken out of production due to decisions related to the drought was not taken into account in the NASS report, he said. In fact, “some of that was taken out after they completed their survey.”

The release of the Navel orange crop estimate by USDA “is a necessary and mandated announcement that historically has provided an accurate assessment of California’s Navel orange crop,” Nelsen said in the statement. “Since California supplies 85 percent of the nation’s fresh citrus, this release is usually received with anticipation and fanfare. Generally speaking, it sends signals to the consumer and to the markets around the country and world that California citrus growers are back.”

The NASS number “is developed via a painstaking field assessment and formula that rely upon a bevy of statistics compiled over the years,” he continued. However, “this year, that database is being disrupted because of the drought, and therefore the accuracy of the total number is suspect, in our view.”

CCM believes that “a ‘normal’ crop will materialize in the first four months of the season,” Nelsen said in the statement. “The season will start early if we begin to have cooler nights and the fruit breaks into a bright orange color. It also appears that the hot temperatures during the summer have created a highly flavorful crop. Size structure through February will be positive for the consumer. Exterior quality is also excellent.”

Water costs “have been obscenely high,” and that will be “reflected in sales prices in order for growers to offset the increased expense,” Nelsen said. “The industry is mindful, however, of its obligation to move a quality product to the market at a reasonable price.

“CCM also believes that the amount of Mandarin varieties available to the consumer will be larger than the past seasons due to the increased number of trees now in production,” he added. “Again, prices will reflect higher water costs.”

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