Archive for the ‘Growing and Production’ Category

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: Proposed reportable food registry amendments, high-risk foods comment period extended

In today’s Federal Register, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was opening an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to solicit comments, data, and information to help implement changes to the Reportable Food Registry. Per the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA may require a responsible party to also submit to the agency “consumer-oriented” information regarding certain reportable foods, including information necessary to enable a consumer to accurately identify whether the consumer is in possession of a reportable food. In addition, FDA must prepare and publish on its website a one-page summary of the consumer-oriented information that can be easily printed by a grocery store for the purposes of consumer notification.

FDA is seeking input on topics including consumer-oriented information submissions, consumer notifications, posting consumer notifications in grocery stores, and grocery stores subject to the new requirements. These comments are due June 9.

Also in the Federal Register, FDA announced it was extending the comment period for designation of high-risk foods for tracing. As discussed previously here on Field to Fork, Per the FSMA, high-risk foods must be based on a number of factors; some of these include:

  • the known safety risks of a particular food, including the history and severity of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to such food, taking into consideration foodborne illness data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • the likelihood that a particular food has a high potential risk for microbiological or chemical contamination or would support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the nature of the food or the processes used to produce such food; and
  • the likelihood that consuming a particular food will result in a foodborne illness due to contamination of the food among others.

Comments are on the designation of high-risk foods notice are now due May 22.

For more details, visit our FSMA Resource Center to learn more about the various provisions of the FSMA and PMA’s interaction with FDA on these proposals.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by Kathy Means

Conservation: Is it worth it? And how do you know?

At the recent USDA Ag Outlook Forum, speakers at a breakout session on the cost-benefit of sustainability or conservation practices. Speakers made the following points:

  • Get past mental blocks. If you hear “can’t do that,” strive even harder to do it.
  • Everything isn’t going to be a home run; sometimes good enough is good enough.
  • Conservation is always an evolving plan.
  • It can be hard to measure: Leaving leftover organic matter in the fields is cost-effective – nutrients returned to the ground – but the grower can’t measure the mineralization of that organic matter in terms of dollars.
  • Conservation objectives may be simple: conserve moisture, increase organic matter, prevent erosion, prevent nutrient loss, improve pest management. Or they may be complex: Emulate Mother Nature to work on sustainability.
  • Evaluating your practices: Does it meet an objective? Cost of implementation (money, time, equipment)? ROI estimate? How to measure results? Decision to implement? Evaluation (you don’t always get a cost-benefit analysis)?
  • Outcomes (public good, assistance to farmers). Are the benefits to society worth the costs of conservation?

As you know, PMA supports the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, which is developing a suite of measuring tools for a variety of sustainability program components (e.g. water, energy, nutrients, soil health). Having a way to measure these efforts allows companies to manage them with a goal of continuous improvement.

How do you evaluate whether your sustainability or conservation efforts are worth it? Let us know in the Sustainability community on PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by Kathy Means

Marketing outside the U.S.: Connections and emotions drive sales, decisions

At the recent USDA Ag Outlook Forum, a breakout session on food marketing outside the United States offered insights into a high-volume channel in China based on connecting with consumers and emotional decision-making in Latin America.

One speaker addressed e-commerce in China, noting that in a few years, online shopping in China will surpass the U.S. Whereas U.S. e-commerce evolved from brick and mortar, in China, consumer habits are formed directly by ecommerce. Consumers in China want high-quality, brand name products. Shopping is a leisure activity, it’s entertainment (not just a way to save time). To succeed, marketers must engage consumers. He gave examples of success through TMall:

  • U.S. Northwest Cherry promotion: 84,000 people bought 9 years’ worth of cherries (based on sales at a medium-sized supermarket). Marketers showed government and company executives to build credibility with online consumers. And they showed production and people at the farm. By presenting the cherries’ path from the farm to Chinese kitchens, marketers connected with consumers for high-volume sales results.
  • Alaska Seafood: In 11 days they sold 50 metric tons to almost 34,000 shoppers, the equivalent of 5 months of sales at a warehouse store. The marketing behind the sales included: Showing the clean, natural Alaska environment, thanking the Chinese consumers, showing fishermen with heavy metal music (a takeoff on Deadliest Catch), showing consumers every step of logistics, and closing with ways to prepare and use seafood.

Another speaker addressed sales of processed foods in Latin America and how emotion can trump science, creating challenges for the industry there. The speaker noted:

  • Science is no longer the basis for decisions in public policy in Latin America, he said. He added that NGOs push anti-packaged food and beverage as well as anti-multinational company agendas. Combative narratives where “big food” is linked to “big tobacco” also create challenges. (Aside: The United States is beginning to see efforts to use “big tobacco” strategies with foods that are linked to obesity.)
  • Anti-obesity efforts have resulted in policies defining healthy and unhealthy foods and initiatives to warn consumers away from unhealthy foods. If a food is in that “unhealthy” category, it is a target.

What opportunities and challenges have you seen in marketing through new channels and public policy mindsets? Let’s talk about it in the Global Trade community on PMA Xchange.

Monday, March 17, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Webinar to focus on selling to the USDA

For those U.S.-based PMA members interested in selling their products to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a Webinar slated for later this week will provide tips and tactics on how to interact with the agency.

On Thursday, March 20 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will present “How to Sell Domestic Foods to the USDA.” Each year, AMS buys nearly $2 billion and 2 billion pounds of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs to help feed millions of school children and to provide supplies to food banks, disaster areas, and others in need.

Sara Hernandez and Dianna Price of the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff will:

  • introduce you to USDA purchasing activities and “USDA Foods,”
  • discuss the types of products USDA buys,
  • explain the solicitation and award process,
  • outline the requirements for selling to USDA, and
  • give you the tools and resources you’ll need to explore doing business with the USDA.

Following the presentation, the Webinar will conclude with an interactive question and answer session. You can submit questions prior to the webinar to sara.hernandez@ams.usda.gov. This informative webinar is designed for growers, producers, processors and distributors of all sizes.

Since the webinar is free, registration is required and space is limited. Visit the USDA website to register today.

Thursday, March 13, 2014 by Kathy Means

Agriculture careers: Farming and more

If you have a passion and you want to get into farming, the opportunity is there; we need farmers. That’s how one speaker at the recent USDA Ag Outlook Conference put it when the topic turned to agriculture as an attractive career.

Speakers on a panel about young farmers and opportunities said the ag industry must be seen as an integrated, interconnected system, not just individual farms. And the ag industry requires a variety of skills – business, marketing, technology, science, etc. Discussions went far beyond U.S. immigration reform, though that was a key theme. Speakers, including young farmers, talked about getting more and younger people involved in farming.

USDA’s latest ag census shows that the average age of farm operators is 58, with many farmers in their 60s and 70s. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that U.S. ag must embrace diversity (operators, crops, markets, land use, workforce, etc.) and innovation (markets, technology, crop use, and more).

Other speakers talked about how to attract new farmers – from opening opportunities for returning service veterans to ideas about how to make entry less onerous. One speaker, a fairly new farmer herself, suggested getting prospective farmers into internships to see whether they like it or encouraging them to lease land initially rather than buy or pairing prospective farmers with those about to retire.

PMA president Cathy Burns noted that new farmers are not in this alone, and that this is an industry conversation, not just a family farm conversation. Mentioning the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent, she said the industry must attract, train, and develop the next generation.

How can we make the produce industry – from the farm to the store or restaurant – an attractive career? Let’s talk about it in the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent Human Resources community on PMA Xchange.

Monday, March 10, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: Public meeting to examine environmental impact of produce safety proposed rule

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it will hold an April 4 public meeting to discuss the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule to establish standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce for human consumption.

As it has with prior FSMA proposals, FDA is holding this meeting to seek public input on the issues and alternatives that it should consider when preparing the EIS and to inform the public of the provisions of the proposed rule that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment and anticipated alternatives FDA plans to consider.

In an update I received earlier today, FDA noted that it is “identifying a number of issues and a range of potential alternatives to be considered in the EIS. Alternatives have been identified in areas where potential environmental impacts are likely.… Alternatives have been identified for the following key provisions: (1) microbial standard for agricultural water used during growing activities for covered produce (other than sprouts) using a direct water application method, (2) minimum application intervals for biological soil amendments of animal origin, (3) measures related to animal grazing and animal intrusion, and (4) scope of proposed rule and implications to land use and land management.”

The agency also announced it is extending comments on the EIS to April 18.

The meeting will be from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Harvey W. Wiley Federal Building in College Park, Maryland. The meeting will also be Webcast at 2 p.m. For more details on how to participate in person or online, visit the FDA website.

PMA members and industry are also encouraged to visit our FSMA Resource Center for additional information on the FSMA and its numerous proposed rules.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 by Lee Mannering

USDA report finds fruit, vegetable imports and exports to increase

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released USDA Agricultural Projections to 2023 report, fresh produce imports and exports are expected to rise in the next 10 years. The report notes that the value of farm production of fruit and tree nuts is projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.2 percent over the next decade, largely due to sales growth of tree nuts and non-citrus fruits. Fruit and tree nuts are projected to rank first among horticultural crops in terms of farm sales value with a share of 47 percent. Farm sales value of vegetables and pulses is projected to grow 0.2 percent per year, while farm sales of greenhouse and nursery crops are projected to increase at an annual rate of 0.5 percent.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The volume of U.S. farm production of horticultural crops is projected to rise by 0.4 percent annually. Vegetables lead this growth at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, reaching 132 billion pounds in 2023 as processing production averages 1.5-percent growth. Fruit and nut production expands by 0.2 percent per year to 71 billion pounds in 2023 as non-citrus production growth more than offsets citrus production declines.
  • Producer prices for vegetables initially decline from high 2013 levels and then are projected to rise less than the inflation rate, at only 0.7 percent per year, due to strong processing vegetable production. Producer prices for fresh fruits rise by 1.9 percent per year due to slower production growth than for vegetables and due to higher citrus prices as citrus production declines.
  • U.S. per capita use of fruits and tree nuts increases from 295 pounds in 2013 to 305 pounds by 2023, an annual average growth rate of 0.3 percent. Per capita use of vegetables initially drops in 2013 due to smaller potato and pulse crops, and then levels off to an average 386 pounds. The total supply of fruits, nuts, and vegetables over the next decade, both domestic and imported, is projected to grow at an average rate of 1.2 percent per year.

What do you think of USDA’s study? Let us know in the Global Trade Community on PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by Kathy Means

Orange Cam redefines “navel gazing”

Here at Field to Fork we often challenge members to tell their stories, connect with consumers, and get credit for the hard work they do.

I recently got an e-mail from Joel Nelsen at California Citrus Mutual with a link to a video about California citrus production. It’s a story of oranges: production, technology, food safety, stewardship, labor, packing, transportation.

Told by a narrator and citrus growers (and later by an orange), it’s well-paced and informative. I learned a lot. And it’s fun – don’t skip out early. You don’t want to miss the Orange Cam at the end.

Let us know how you’re telling your story and connecting with consumers at PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: FDA opens docket on designating high-risk foods

Yesterday I mentioned that today I would be sharing some details from PMA’s comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule on third-party audit accreditation. However, that information will be coming either tomorrow or Thursday because in today’s Federal Register, the FDA opened a docket to obtain comments and scientific data and information that will help it implement the section of the FSMA that requires FDA to designate high-risk foods. Per the FSMA, high-risk foods must be based on the:

  • known safety risks of a particular food, including the history and severity of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to such food, taking into consideration foodborne illness data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • likelihood that a particular food has a high potential risk for microbiological or chemical contamination or would support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the nature of the food or the processes used to produce such food;
  • point in the manufacturing process of the food where contamination is most likely to occur;
  • likelihood of contamination and steps taken during the manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of contamination;
  • likelihood that consuming a particular food will result in a foodborne illness due to contamination of the food; and
  • likely or known severity, including health and economic impacts, of a foodborne illness attributed to a particular food.

With the docket, FDA released a tentative draft approach document for the review and evaluation of data to designate high-risk foods. As you’ll see, fresh produce is cited as an example in the approach document; FDA says it is considering using a semi-quantitative risk ranking model similar to the produce risk ranking model.

To learn more about this docket and the draft approach document, visit the What’s New tab in our FSMA Resource Center for this and a variety of other resources on the various FSMA proposed rules.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 by Kathy Means

Free tool helps communicate about organics

Field to Fork readers know we are a fan of the Alliance for Food and Farming and its science-based, consumer-friendly information on pesticides in produce. And, in full disclosure, PMA supports the Alliance and its efforts to communicate this information.

The news today is that the Alliance has a new web resource on pesticide use rules for organics in the United States. The site rightly notes that “organic” is a production method, not an assessment of safety, nutrition, or other attributes. And, in a reader-friendly way, it explains the pesticides that are allowed in organic production and those that are not allowed. It stresses that organic and conventionally produced produce are safe and healthful.

More than ever before, we have to be transparent to consumers. They want information about how their produce is grown. They want to connect – to the farmer, to community, etc. So we have to be prepared and eager to communicate about our industry and practices so that we can make those connections. The Alliance has brought us a new tool to help us do this.

Check it out and let us know what you think about this on PMA Xchange.