Monday, January 26, 2009

Loving Wal-Mart and other top news for Jan. 26

I was in Wal-Mart today with my wife, picking up an order of photos and I struck up a conversation with a sales floor clerk. (I kept my high profile blogging status on the down low) She had much good to say about Wal-Mart ("It's the best kept secret," she told me. "It pays better than any other retail.") She told how well heeled suburbanites who formerly turned up their nose at Wal-Mart are now shopping at the store ("Where have they been for the past ten years?"). And she noted that Wal-Mart will match any advertised special, even in the produce department."Aldi has lower prices for avocados," she allowed, but she noted no other grocery retailer she visits honors the ad prices of competitors. She was such a great PR rep for Wal-Mart ("We get a bonus based on how the store does," she confided.) that I almost wanted to sign on right there on the spot. There is no more important customer to please than your own employee, and Wal-Mart has apparently accomplished that and more with Sue in Olathe.

Other top news for today:

Vilsack withdraws proposed $3 million cut to fruit and vegetable program
From the USDA:
Vilsack also announced that the Department does not plan to implement a proposal developed by the previous Administration that would have cut more than $3 million from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, a popular program that promotes the growth of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Tough times for tators
Coverage from Washington state and KEPRTV.com
Suddenly, growers and processors scrambled to scale back. Dozens of orders had to be re-arranged. And too few acres of potatoes were now too many.

"There's a lot of uncertainty because people don't know what commodity prices going to bring," Clay Allen said, a sales representative for Double L.

Then last week, processors quietly announced they were immediately cutting the amount of potato contracts. French fry demand was way down. They blamed increased costs, a weak economy and changes in fast-food menus.

The big three processors, Lamb Weston (the potato- processing division of Con-Agra Foods), J.R. Simplot and McCain Foods could cut back as much as 20 percent.

Local food plea to supermarkets (UK) From The Press in York

That is the plea from the Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber (RFG) It argues that while the recession is affecting people’s shopping habits, buying local food “can bring significant benefits to regions’ economies”.

Jonathan Knight, chief executive of the RFG, listing the benefits, said: “First and foremost local food production creates jobs in the local community, which in turn will have a positive impact on future investment and opportunities in the area.

Future food items may be a challenge to copywriters From Ad Age
We want our food to come with compelling stories, says the Guru of New, aka Sarah Browne. A perfect example, she says, is Dole organic bananas, each one branded with a number you can enter on the company's website and be transported, via Google Earth, to where it was picked -- and discover by whom. The cooler your story (ancient herbs! Long-lost tribes! Rare harvest!), the better.

A seed in time Brief history and appreciation of the apple

Organic options From the story, on "why organic"?

"Basically I see it as premium fuel," Krieger said. "It's better for you. It's better for the Earth, and it's better for the animals that are involved." Studies on the impact of organic foods in the diet have been small and are not yet long-term enough to be a good gage, but the impact on the environment seems to be more immediate.

EU's false insecticide fears post threat to Africa

You might assume that the EU could demonstrate some threat to humans or the environment, that it had found viable alternatives to the banned pesticides and that it had assessed the consequences of this ban to farming, to food prices and to the poor whose only defence against disease is pesticides. But you would be wrong on all counts.

Farmer's market to fight obesity, diabetes From the UPI in Brownsville, Texas:
A voucher system, funded by a grant by the Texas Department of State Health Services, allows low-income families to receive $10 in vouchers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.The vouchers can go a long way at the market.

Citrus workers imperiled by carbon monoxide
forklift apparently left running was the cause.

Obama promises to lead the world on climate change yet some say some damage from climate change is irreversible. Will that fact make more or less eager to sacrifice our lifestyles for lower CO2 emissions?

New Rio Queen citrus packing shed to open soon in south Texas


Two grocery stores label with nutritional information

Markets solve the immigration problem
Sort of.

Vilsack promises to tackle food safety


More cheery news here: California controller discusses budget deficit.


Chile retail sales tumble 9% in December

Roubini: the worst is not over

Retail sales figures just published, Roubini reckons, demonstrate that the debt-burdened U.S. consumer is now panicking as job losses, income losses, declines in home wealth, and a severe credit crunch take a severe toll on their ability to spend.

"The reduction in spending and deleveraging of the U.S. consumer will take years to rebuild," said Roubini.

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