Archive for the ‘Growing and Production’ Category

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 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.

Monday, January 27, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Talking technology with PMA’s Dr. Bob Whitaker

One of the (many) interesting things I’ve found about my time in the fresh produce industry is watching the evolution of business practices. When I came on board, Price Look Up codes were just beginning to be adopted; now the focus is on the Databar. The same holds true with technology.

Recently PMA announced a new focus on technology and how we’re helping members understand and connect with future opportunities. So I asked Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA’s chief science and technology officer, to share his perspectives in this brief Q&A:

Why are we focusing on technology?
“We know that technology holds the key to helping us feed the world through innovation. It’s PMA’s job to help members glean inside knowledge about cutting-edge, emerging technologies, and how to apply that knowledge to improve their bottom line. We’re going to help members do that, not only by introducing the industry to the possibilities, but also educating them on what problems these technologies could really help alleviate, and how.”

What resources do we offer in technology?
“We’ve been working with members over the last several months to grow the value we’ll deliver in the Science and Technology area of our new strategic plan. Building on existing resources in the field of technology like UPC Link, Databar Online and the Food Safety Modernization Act Resource Center, we invested resources in developing resources that are geared toward building profitability and global demand for fresh produce. This year, we’ll have three new offerings – two unique events and a series of year-round technology content in the areas of food safety detection, production input management, and data science.

What tech-focused events are coming up on our calendar that members may be interested in?
“We’ve got two scheduled for this year. On March 26 in St. Petersburg, Florida, we will host PMA Tech Talks, where a handful of speakers will talk about technologies that are doing great things in other industries, and then bring them home to produce. Then on May 21-22 in San Diego, California, we’re holding Tech Knowledge, which will help companies looking for education and connections to technology that’s on the very near horizon. Additionally, entrepreneurs and solution providers will have the chance to connect with potential investors and other key decision makers.”

To get more details on the upcoming technology offerings, visit the PMA website, where we’ve also added a new Tech Center that highlights all available member resources.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by Kathy Means

Government market data: Understand how it can work for you

Here on Field to Fork, Lee and I often write about government reports and statistics, especially those from USDA. Many factors affect your business: consumer demands, weather, prices, trade policies, and more.

Government reports offer baseline information about market variables. These resources can help everyone in the supply chain make essential business decisions. Yet today, the nation’s data and statistical agencies face unprecedented pressure to assess and reduce their costs. As a result, there have been suspension, aggregation, and even, in some cases, an elimination of data and statistical assessments critical for alleviating market volatility and uncertainties.

However, in the midst of these changes, a consortium of organizations is offering a webinar on Friday, January 24 at 2 p.m. EST, on the role of federal data sources in fruit and vegetable markets.

If you’re interested in this information, you can register here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Center for Produce Safety announces call for 2014 research proposals

For those in the industry and academia who are interested in food safety research, today the Center for Produce Safety announced its 2014 request for proposals (RFP). This year, the Center and its public and industry research partners are making $3 million available to fund general and commodity-specific research aimed at addressing the fresh produce industry’s food safety research needs.

The 2014 RFP seeks to fund both general produce food safety questions and commodity-specific questions. Core (general produce) research priorities endeavor to better understand risk potential and to develop more effective food safety management tools. Factors affecting human pathogen persistence, routes of produce contamination, agricultural water, and harvest and postharvest water are among the core research areas listed.

Our own Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny notes that “this request for proposals builds on previously funded CPS research and provides a clear roadmap to generate the information needed to develop science and risk-based best practices and policies to enhance produce safety across the supply chain.”

To get more details on this year’s research priorities, visit the CPS website. Proposals are due March 14 and should be submitted through the CPS Grant System website.

Also, mark your calendars now for the 2014 CPS Research Symposium, which will be June 24-25 in Newport Beach, California. Every year, PMA’s Dr. Bob Whitaker and Dr. Jim Gorny help translate the implications of the Center’s work. You can access a key learnings document from the 2013 symposium along with a video recap highlighting those learnings via the PMA website.