Archive for the ‘Global Trade’ Category

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by Lee Mannering

PMA president to speak at USDA 2014 Ag Outlook Forum

Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced speakers for the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, to be held from February 20-21 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Titled “The Changing Face of Agriculture,” this year’s forum will examine global trends as well as young farmers and women in agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will moderate two general session panels on the Future of Agriculture. Speaking in the first panel will be Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Paul Schickler, President of DuPont Pioneer; Kellee James, Founder and CEO of Mercaris; and PMA President Cathy Burns. Topics to be discussed include import/export markets, market trends, food security, technology, and innovations in agriculture.

In addition to Secretary Vilsack’s participation, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will moderate the afternoon panel “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture,” USDA’s Chief Economist Joseph Glauber will deliver the 2014 Agricultural & Foreign Trade Outlooks, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will speak during the forum’s dinner. USDA will also release preliminary data from the new Census of Agriculture at the forum.

You can get more information on the 2014 Ag Outlook Forum via the USDA website, including registration details and specifics about the 29 breakout sessions that will feature experts in the fields of international trade, forestry, conservation, invasive pests and citrus disease, nanotechnology, social media, local food systems, and food safety.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 by Lee Mannering

USDA outlook report highlights imported fruit trends, consumption

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s most recent Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report, the average value of U.S. imports of fresh fruit has grown rapidly, rising from $1.68 billion per year in 1990-92 to $6.89 billion per year in 2010-12 in nominal dollars (or from $1.24 billion to $3.07 billion in real value, using prices indexed to 1982-84 levels).

The report examines the seasonal patterns of imported fresh fruits versus those of domestic crops, and the extent to which imports complement domestic products to supply the U.S. fresh fruit market year round. Some representative fresh fruit imports are included to show how, when, and where major foreign supplies enter the U.S. market, as well as an analysis of the aggregate (all fruits combined). The historical production levels of these fruits for fresh-market use are also examined for possible effect of imports on domestic products.

With the substantial increase in imports since the 1990s, the report notes that the structure of the import mix has changed noticeably, with new types of fruit accounting for growing shares of U.S. imports. In particular, although bananas still remained the top U.S. fresh fruit import in 2010-12, their 28 percent value share of total fresh fruit imports was less than half of their nearly 60-percent share in 1990-92.

The market share for other traditionally imported fruits, such as apples and pears, also declined (although less dramatically than for bananas). Meanwhile, the share for imports of berries, avocados, citrus, and other tropical fruits rose substantially.

ERS researchers also explored what would happen if imported fruit did not exist. The results indicated that if there were no imports, the average real retail price index for fresh fruit would increase from 153.4 percent to 225.4 percent (using prices indexed to 1982-84 levels), with price variation and volatility increasing from 3.86 percent to 12.02 percent.

It’s an interesting report, one you can access here via the ERS website. You can also share your thoughts on this report in the Global Trade Community on PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 by Lee Mannering

Upcoming USDA Webinar to explore fresh produce inspections

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service hosted a free Webinar focused on Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. Next week, AMS continues its industry outreach efforts with another learning opportunity based on the most common question received via the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) customer service line: “Interpreting USDA Fruit & Vegetable Inspections: Does the Shipment Make Good Delivery?”

On December 5 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern, Jacob Garcia, PACA Marketing Specialist, will discuss:

  •  The sections found on a USDA inspection certificate.
  • When you should call for an inspection.
  • What type of inspection you should request.
  • The difference between quality and condition defects.
  • The questions will PACA ask you, when calling the customer service line.
  • Your responsibilities after receiving an inspection certificate.
  • Examples on how to interpret an inspection.

The webinar will conclude with a question and answer session.

As with all of USDA’s Webinars, this session is free; however, registration is required and space is limited. You can register via the USDA website.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA comments on proposed produce safety rule

Prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcing the extension to this Friday for produce safety proposed rule comments, PMA submitted our comments to the agency on this important Food Safety Modernization Act proposal; these are available on our FSMA Resource Center.

To help our members quickly understand the key points of our comments to FDA (which clock in at 102 pages), we have developed a six-page executive summary. I’ve highlighted some of these below but I encourage you to read the full summary and the comments.

  • PMA is supportive of the FDA produce safety regulation exempting commodities destined to receive commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of pathogenic microorganisms (should they be present).
  • PMA opposes the exclusion of farms with less than $25,000 in annual food sales because there is no scientific basis to support the exclusion.
  • PMA opposes the “qualified exemption” and recommends that this exemption be eliminated. PMA understands that FDA is statutorily obliged to provide this “qualified exemption;” however, it should be noted that the “qualified exemption” is not science- or risk-based, as food safety risks are not limited to any particular business size, market channel or geographic radius.
  • PMA opposes the use of a list of exempted commodities based on consumer preparation for consumption and recommends that this exemption be eliminated. PMA does not support the approach of using a commodity-specific list of exempt products based on current likely means of consumer preparation and consumption for produce commodities.

In our comments, we urge FDA to align the requirements of the produce and preventive controls rules because a more seamless integration of the two rules will strengthen enforcement and reduce confusion. This alignment will also reflect the realities of produce production and handling.

Also included in the executive summary is a synopsis of our position on microbial standards for agricultural water, FDA-mandated numerical preventive controls for agricultural water, and other key issues.

To learn more, visit the What’s New tab in our FSMA Resource Center to access the executive summary of our produce safety proposed rule comments, our proposal comments. Or if you’re pressed for time, you can watch the five-minute video below from PMA’s Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker as he summarizes our comments to FDA. (If the embedded video does not display, you can watch it here on Youtube.)

Monday, November 18, 2013 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: Clearing up comments’ deadline confusion

If you were following the Twitter conversations on the #FSMA hashtag last week, you probably noticed quite a few Tweets about frustrations around the technical difficulties stakeholders were experiencing when trying to submit comments to the regulations.gov website.

In response to these concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA made two separate announcements last Friday that caused PMA members to contact us for clarification on what was due and when it was due. Below are the new deadline dates and a recap of each:

  • November 22, 2013: This is the new due date for industry comments on the proposed rules on produce safety and preventive controls for human foods. Comments were originally due last Friday, November 15, but FDA pushed the deadline back by a week due to the aforementioned technical difficulties.
  • March 15, 2014: This is the new due date for industry comments on the environmental impact statement (EIS) that is related to the produce safety proposed rule. Comments were originally due last Friday as well. Again, this March 15 deadline is for feedback on the EIS only.

Some PMA members have asked about the environmental impact statement (EIS) and what it is about. Our Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny notes that “the FDA call for comments about the agency’s preparation of an environmental impact statement for the proposed produce safety rule is a separate and distinct issue from the proposed provisions put forth in the proposed the produce safety rule. The EIS is intended to evaluate the potential environmental effects of the proposed produce safety rule.”

In addition, a few weeks ago FDA announced it was extending the comment period on the foreign supplier verification and third-party audit accreditation proposed rules by 60 days. The new deadline is January 27, 2014.

PMA members are encouraged to visit to visit our FSMA Resource Center to access the latest FDA and PMA information resources, as well as our FSMA Community on PMA Xchange to ask questions and engage in conversations on this important food safety issue.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking a look at our comments on the produce safety proposed rule, with comments on the preventive controls rule coming Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit sessions, workshops now online

If you missed any of the educational programming from Fresh Summit 2013 a few weeks ago in New Orleans, you can get caught up on these sessions (including the annual State of the Industry presentation) by visiting the PMA website.

Our Education team has developed a series of videos, narrated PowerPoint presentations, audio files, and presentations that includes PMA and PMA Foundation offerings as well as highlights from the store tour, awards, and more:

  • General Session: State of the Industry 2013 - Connections to Drive Innovative Thinking
  • General Session: FL!P - Creative Strategies for Turning Challenge into Opportunity, and Change into Competitive Advantage
  • General Session: Seven Deadly Sins of Innovation
  • PMA Foundation Women’s Fresh Perspectives Leadership Breakfast
  • Engaging the Mobile Shopper
  • Global Market Brief: China
  • The Changing Landscape: Today’s Restaurant Consumer
  • Economic and Financial Markets Outlook for Q4 2013 and Beyond
  • Get Your Blog On
  • Creating Fruit and Veggie Passion
  • Crisis Communications is Really Social Communications
  • Produce Waste: Turn a Loss to Your Advantage - New solutions to combat produce waste
  • Buyers and Sellers: Moving to a Food Safety Culture?
  • Mining the Data
  • Exploring Emerging Technology With Industry Innovators
  • FSMAnia Hysteria
  • Netweaving: The Business Version of Paying it Forward
  • Retaining Key Employees: Creating a Self-Motivating Work Environment

As you look through these resources, please note that some items can be viewed by anyone visiting the website, while others are available to PMA members only (requiring you to log in first). To access these value-added resources, visit the PMA website.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013 by Kathy Means

The global marketplace: Another step forward in making it easy

You may have seen the recent announcement about organic equivalence between the United States and Japan. It means that, in just a few months: “all certified organic plant and plant-based processed products that are produced in the U.S. and Japan, or which have final processing, packaging, or labeling in the U.S. or Japan, may access either market.”

This is no small thing given that USDA says “the organics sector in the United States and Japan is valued at more than $36 billion combined, and rising every year.” Eliminating some of the fees, certifications, inspections, etc. will make it easier for marketers in both countries to do business. The United States also has equivalency agreements for organics with Canada and the European Union.

It’s great to see this next step in organics equivalence. It’s great to see the plans within the U.S. food safety legislation for safety equivalence with other countries. Of course, these equivalence agreements have to be meaningful to ensure credibility within the trade and with consumers.

The fresh produce industry relies heavily on global trade. To have a year-round abundance of fresh produce (organic or conventional) to drive consumption, most countries have to import. And to maintain strong farm economies, countries also need to export. The simpler it is to do that, the more produce businesses throughout the supply chain can thrive. Equivalency agreements like this do help simplify our global marketplace.

Let us know what you think about this in PMA’s global trade community at PMA Xchange.

Thursday, September 26, 2013 by Kathy Means

New tool demystifies U.S. ag trade rules

If you find the tariff information for the 20 U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) a bit confusing, check out USDA’s new Agricultural Tariff Tracker. The online resource has information on 10 of the 20 FTAs and the rest should be posted by the end of the year. New tariff codes will be uploaded as they become available, according to USDA.

The agency says the tool “allows agricultural exporters and importers to search for product tariffs, tariff-rate quotas and information on safeguards, which countries use to protect against import surges.” You can download and save search results, and you can use it to identify new trade opportunities.

It’s easy to use – just answer a series of questions about where you want to export to or import from and what commodity you are handling and you’ll get your tariff result. You can save it as a PDF or Excel file. This tool is open to anyone, so if you are exporting to the U.S. from a country with which it has an FTA, you can use it as well.

For additional information on U.S. FTAs, visit the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit workshop to focus on FSMA misconceptions

One of my favorite television shows is the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters,” where each week the hosts explore and deconstruct various urban legends and myths through scientific experiments and analysis.

During our Fresh Summit 2013 Convention & Expo next month in New Orleans, Louisiana, we’re using this kind of approach as it relates to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). If you’re following the FSMA conversations on social media, there are a number of divergent opinions on what FSMA is (and is not) and what it means (or could potentially mean, depending on one’s interpretation) when it comes to food production and safety.

In the “FSMAnia Hysteria – Debunking the Myths Swirling Around FSMA” workshop, PMA’s Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker and PMA Vice President of Science & Technology Dr. Jim Gorny will break FSMA down and address misconceptions about the Act as they focus on the realities about FSMA, what it means, and how likely it will affect companies throughout the entire global produce supply chain. They’ll be joined in this session by Food and Drug Association Deputy Commissioner for Foods Mike Taylor and FDA Director of Produce Safety Staff in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Dr. Samir Assar.

If you’re planning to come to Fresh Summit, the deadline to register in advance is October 4. Additional registration and travel details are available via our website.

Also, our Fresh Summit 2013 mobile app has a number of new and improved features including the ability to pinpoint exhibitors on the show floor map, take real-time education session surveys through the app, and take notes about sessions or exhibitors. To access the app, visit the Fresh Summit website from your device or search your app store for “PMA Fresh Summit.”

Monday, September 23, 2013 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA food safety experts share perspectives at FDA public meeting

Last Thursday and Friday, PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker and PMA Vice President of Food Safety & Technology Dr. Jim Gorny delivered statements to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during a public meeting to discuss the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act proposed rules on the foreign supplier verification program and third-party audit accreditation.

Remarking on the foreign supplier verification program proposed rule, Dr. Gorny shared that the industry has great expectations for this proposal. He noted that by providing a more preventive approach to import produce safety, the FSVP proposed rule would significantly reduce the frequency of produce testing at the border, which often causes severe and significant economic losses of perishable commodities.

“The Foreign Supplier Verification Program proposed rule is incredibly important to the fresh produce industry because it provides the opportunity for FDA to shift from relying heavily on import surveillance and product testing at the port of entry, to a preventive approach of assuring the safety of imported produce,” said Dr. Gorny.

In remarks on the third-party audit accreditation proposal, Dr. Whitaker asked for greater definition on the circumstances for determining specific products from a foreign country will require a third-party audit. He also requested how an open and transparent system for accreditation and third-party audits will be balanced with protecting proprietary business information.

“It is important that FDA recognize that our produce supply is global and as such, the practices and procedures we implement for auditing food safety is not only acceptable in the U.S., but also have firm grounding around the world. FDA’s utilization of recognized frameworks should not only help the industry leverage existing infrastructure, but also facilitate increased confidence that foreign auditing will be conducted in a rigorous and reliably consistent manner that reflects the food safety status of the growing, packing or processing operation,” Dr. Whitaker noted.

As I shared last week, FDA has scheduled two more public meetings on these proposed rules. The second meeting is October 10-11 in Miami, Florida, and the third is October 22-23 in Long Beach, California. You can get more details on these meetings (including how to register) via the FDA website.

You can read Dr. Whitaker’s and Dr. Gorny’s full remarks on these proposals, as well as access educational resources on each, in our FSMA resource center. We’re also offering a FSMA-focused workshop at Fresh Summit 2013 next month; more details on that session coming on Wednesday here on the blog.