Thursday, October 29, 2015

NSAC COMMENT ON USDA'S NEW AND BEGINNING FARMER ANNOUNCEMENTS


October 29, 2105, Washington, DC - The following are comments from Juli Obudzinski, NSAC Senior Policy Specialist, on today's USDA beginning farmer and rancher announcements of a new resource website and improved evaluation measures:
"The new and improved USDA "New Farmer" website should win an award for accessible, user-friendly assistance from what has sometimes been a difficult to access bureaucratic minefield for those seeking help in getting started in agriculture.  As we as a nation try to promote increased economic opportunity in agriculture, this new tool is a most welcome addition and a great advance on anything USDA has offered heretofore."
"No less important, though, is the announcement today that the government is going to assess how well its programs are working to create new farming opportunity.  This is where the rubber really meets the road.  The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has long advocated for USDA to set performance standards to measure progress, or lack thereof, in helping new farmers get started and beginning farmers build toward long-term viability.  We couldn't be more pleased, therefore, that performance targets are now being set, and will regularly be reported on, for eight key agricultural programs, with the possibility that more will be added later."
"NSAC has carefully monitored these credit, crop insurance, conservation, marketing, and value-added programs for years, and we now intend to track USDA's progress in part through the new government performance and results targets they are setting for themselves.  Hopefully, through this new 'good government' initiative, and through the new, more user friendly website, we will see steady progress toward the important public policy goal of increasing farming opportunity and growing the next generation of America's food providers."

American Pizza Community APPLauds INTRODUCTION OF Bipartisan ‘Common Sense’ Menu Labeling Senate Bill



 Seeks Reduced Burden on Small Business, Clearer Information for Consumers



Washington, D.C., October 29, 2015 – Members of the American Pizza Community (APC), a coalition of pizza companies, franchisees, and suppliers who employ over 400,000 Americans, today announced their support for the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (S. 2217), introduced by Independent Senator Angus King of Maine and Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri.



“The American Pizza Community strongly supports the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, as it provides cost relief for small business job creators and meaningful education to consumers,” said Lynn Liddle, Chair of the American Pizza Community.  “Senators King and Blunt are demonstrating, through their leadership, that both bipartisanship and common sense solutions are alive and well in the U.S. Senate,” Liddle added.



S. 2217 seeks to improve the final menu labeling requirements (Section 4205) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that were issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last December.  Among other provisions, the bill would permit covered establishments that receive a majority of orders remotely to provide calorie information on a remote access menu, such as one available on the Internet or on a mobile app, instead of in-store menu boards customers never see.  It also protects businesses from being penalized for inadvertent human error and prohibits frivolous class-action lawsuits.



“The current menu labeling rule remains expensive, ineffective, and unworkable even after the FDA issued guidelines for the regulation in September.  FDA’s current approach would compel thousands of small-business owners to spend tens of millions of dollars maintaining in-store calorie-labeling information that 90 percent of customers, likely, will never use when placing an order.  This bill does not grant any exemptions, but instead empowers small business to deliver accurate calorie information to our customers in a way that is useful and fits the unique needs of small business pizza restaurants,” stated Liddle.



On April 28, 2015, U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the House version of The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015, H.R. 2017.

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Election of Paul Ryan to Speaker of the House



WASHINGTON, D.C., October 29, 2015 -- “We’re excited to learn that Paul Ryan has been chosen to be speaker of the House of Representatives. Speaker Ryan has been a faithful friend of farmers and ranchers in his time in Congress. He has supported sensible changes in enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, backed open and fair trade with the rest of the world, fought chronic overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and has been working to bring needed relief on the tax burden farmers and ranchers face.

“We have repeatedly called for pragmatism and bipartisan cooperation in Washington, and our new speaker has a record of delivering just those things. We look forward to working closely with the speaker and his leadership team to move the policy and fiscal reforms important to agriculture forward.”

Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho Expected to Open Early 2016 at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino


LAS VEGAS (October 29, 2015) – Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino is pleased to announce restaurateur, chef, author and Emmy Award winning television host Guy Fieri expects to open El Burro Borracho in early 2016. The restaurant will be Fieri’s second Las Vegas restaurant offering, the first being his popular Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at The LINQ Hotel & Casino.
El Burro Borracho, or the Drunken Donkey in its literal translation, will bring a vibrant, fun atmosphere with the Guy Fieri touch. Guests will enjoy authentically prepared Mexican dishes with upscale touches and the signature, flavorful flair you would expect from Fieri. Crispy Mahi Mahi Juan Tacos, Flaming Queso Fundido, Acapulco Gold Salad, Drunken Fish Tacos, Lava Rock Shrimp, signature tortas, enchiladas, burritos and an array of house made, signature salsas are just a few of the items available on the menu.
“Vegas is my home away from home, so bringin’ the Burro to Las Vegas is huge for me,” said Fieri. “I can’t wait to bring it to a location as iconic as the Rio.”
“At the Rio we are all about high-energy and fun, which makes it the perfect home for Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho,” said Dan Walsh, General Manager of Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. “We look forward to guests experiencing the incredible dishes and drinks paired with the party atmosphere Guy is known for.”
El Burro Borracho will be steps away from the lively VooDoo Beach pool, and will carry with it a relaxed yet entertaining atmosphere that will entice guests to eat, drink and fiesta. In addition to featuring an array of signature salsas, bocaditos, street tacos and more, El Burro Borracho will have a variety of imported beers, tequilas, signature margaritas and cocktail creations.
About Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, home of the World Series of Poker, offers guests a unique all-suite hotel experience. Complete with 2,522 all-suite hotel rooms – including 380 newly designed Samba suites – the property overlooks the famous Las Vegas Strip and sits one block west of the famed boulevard. The resort features a variety of entertainment options including headliners Penn & Teller and the world-famous Chippendales. Additionally, the resort is home to the VooDoo Zip Line, an adrenaline-rushing thrill ride that offers a 360-degree panorama of the famed Las Vegas Strip from 490 feet above the ground. Rio is home to a diverse array of dining and nightlife experiences including Hash House A Go Go, Voodoo Steak, KJ Dim Sum & Seafood, iBar, VooDoo Beach and, with panoramic views of The Strip, VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub. Rio also offers the Rio Secco Golf Club. Recognized by USA Today as one of the “Top 10 Golf Destinations in the World,” Rio Secco Golf Club is an 18-hole championship course designed by famed architect Rees Jones and home to the Butch Harmon School of Golf. For more information, please visit www.riolasvegas.com. Find Rio on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

National Restaurant Association’s Sweeney Named One of Washington’s Most Powerful Women



(Washington, D.C.) Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, has been named one of Washington’s most powerful women by Washingtonian magazine. The list includes more than 100 of the region’s most influential women in business, law, government, education, media, nonprofits and the arts.

“Dawn is a leader in the restaurant industry and it comes as no surprise that she has been recognized as one of the most powerful women in Washington,” said Jack Crawford, Chairman of the National Restaurant Association. “Dawn’s leadership has been vital in continuing to grow both the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation as we promote key initiatives that benefit America’s one million restaurants and the 14 million Americans that drive our industry. We are proud to have her included among such a prestigious list of influential women.”

The Most Powerful Women list recognizes those who define the agenda and determine the course of action in their enterprises.

As President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, Sweeney leads the primary business association for the restaurant industry. The National Restaurant Association represents over 500,000 restaurants over multiple foodservice concepts, including quick service, fast casual, managed foodservice, casual and fine dining, along with manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.

Sweeney also serves as the CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, a philanthropic foundation dedicated to enhancing the industry's service to the public and building the next generation of industry leaders. The Foundation's major goal is to prepare students for rewarding careers in restaurant management and the culinary arts.

Under Sweeney’s leadership, the NRA has realigned its priorities and structure to strengthen its core operations, and the association’s annual tradeshow – the largest restaurant and hospitality industry tradeshow in the U.S. – has seen growth in revenue and impact.

Sweeney also directs NRA’s key initiatives, including Kids LiveWell, its nationwide children’s nutrition program; its ServSafe food safety handling certification program; Conserve, the Association’s sustainability initiative; and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation ProStart program which runs in nearly 2,000 high schools across the country and provides culinary scholarships to thousands of future restaurant and foodservice leaders.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Food Day 2015 Puts Spotlight on Greener Diets



Improving Diets and Pushing Policy Changes are Food Day’s Objectives

WASHINGTON—More than 300 organizations will serve meals celebrating plant-strong diets packed with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and small amounts of lean, sustainably raised protein in celebration of Food Day on October 24.  Food Day’s Green Meal initiative is supported by The Humane Society of the United States, Health Care Without Harm, and Meatless Monday.  This year, Food Day’s goal is to raise awareness about the importance of eating less meat to support better health, animal welfare, and the environment.  

The Green Meal initiative is only one of several thousand events taking place on or around October 24.

Several million people around the country will crunch into an apple as a unifying action to raise awareness about access and affordability of fresh fruit, and to support local farmers.  Apple crunches will take place throughout New York City, throughout the Great Lakes region, and in schools all over America.

Organizers of Food Day hope that the occasion will spur people to improve their own diets and spur city councilors, governors, and Members of Congress to create better food policies.  Officials in Massachusetts, for instance, will use Food Day to unveil a draft Food Systems Plan for the state.

In Savannah, GA, the fifth annual Food Day Festival is expecting between 10,000 and 15,000 participants at a free, outdoor festival featuring live music and more than 100 exhibitors and a farmers market.

Beginning October 22, Chicago will host a weeklong Food Day celebration and a harvest festival featuring good food, music, and local chefs.

New Orleans nonprofit Sankofa will open the first-ever Fresh Stop produce market in the Lower Ninth Ward on October 24.  The market will operate several days a week and be the first and only place to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Yale University will celebrate Food Day in the heart of campus, with master chefs, the director of the Yale Sustainable Food Program, and Food Network star Candice Kumai.

Minneapolis will hold an entire week of events from October 18 to 24.  Events will include a harvest BBQ and potluck, an event featuring the voices of immigrant farmers and chefs, and a public Food Day proclamation made by City Councilmember William Finney.

People can participate in Food Day by making a small change, like cutting out meat from their diet one day a week.

“Meatless Monday is a great way to green your diet because it’s simple–one day a week, cut out meat,” says Sid Lerner, chairman and founder of the Meatless Monday campaign.  “Make the commitment to go Meatless Monday this year on Food Day and keep it up all year long!  It’s good for your health and the health of the planet.”

While Food Day emphasizes hands-on events, the Internet will be hopping with Food Day activities:

In collaboration with Friends of the Earth, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Food Democracy Now, and others, Food Day is urging activists to ask Darden Restaurants—the parent company of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse—to adopt greener menus with more plant-based options and less and better meat.
A Real Food Drive with Amp Your Good, an online platform that enables food drives to obtain perishable foods, including fresh produce.
A Barnraiser crowd-sourced fundraising project is seeking donations to spread Food Day’s message.  Jack Johnson, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, José Andrés, and others are backing the project with rewards and donations.
Filmmaker Susan Rockefeller is using Food Day as the online premiere of her new documentary Food for Thought, Food for Life.
“It’s an honor to partner with Food Day and to play a role in helping reach millions about the food issues that affect each one of us,” says Rockefeller.

Food Day was founded in 2011 by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and led by a diverse advisory board of physicians, nutritionists, educators, entertainers, chefs, and public health officials.

“Food Day seeks to inspire Americans to make meaningful changes for the better in their own diets, but also to spotlight local efforts to re-shape food policies in a healthier, more sustainable direction,” says CSPI president and Food Day founder Michael F. Jacobson.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On the Farm Experience for Children’s Book Authors Slated for January; Apply by Nov. 15



WASHINGTON, D.C., October 20, 2015 – The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture invites children’s book authors to attend an On the Farm Author Experience Jan. 7 – 10 in Orlando, Florida.

Ten applicants will be selected to receive a $1,500 stipend plus room, meals, tour transportation, event registration and all materials to attend the event. Additional space may be available on a paid-attendance basis. Visit http://www.agfoundation.org/projects/beef-author-training for more information and to submit your application. The application deadline is Nov. 15.

The focus of the training will be life on cattle ranches. Exploring ways to effectively reach children with valuable information about food and nutrition will be a highlight.

The event will provide an open dialogue, with the opportunity for exploration and enriching creative time. Authors will tour farms and ranches, engaging in conversation and discussion panels with real farmers and ranchers. The experience will also provide an excellent opportunity to connect with the men and women involved in food production from across the nation at the American Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention. Authors will learn how to enrich their storytelling with the history and heritage of food production.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend the Foundation’s live announcement of its 2016 Book of the Year on Sunday, Jan. 10. Participating authors will be recognized at this event, with expected attendance of more than 2,000 families, educators and state literacy coordinators from across the country.

Agricultural experience is not a requirement to participate in the training.

The Beef Checkoff Program funded development of this training and supporting resources. The Beef Checkoff Program (www.MyBeefCheckoff.com) was established as part of the 1985 farm bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. In states with qualified beef councils, states retain up to 50 cents of the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ launches in Australia

To launch the ‘Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ campaign last week The Wiggles lost their ‘Brightness illustrating how dull and lethargic you can feel when you DON’T eat enough fruit and vegetables. The  Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ campaign sees the Australian fresh produce industry joining forces with Nutrition Australia and The Wiggles over National Nutrition Week (11 – 17 October).
“Only 5% of Australians are eating enough fruit and vegetables,” said Lucinda Hancock, CEO of Nutrition Australia VIC Division.  “Fruits and vegetables help keep our minds and bodies healthy day-to-day, and reduce our risk of chronic disease in the future.”  
Encouraging Australians to eat more healthy fresh produce is something The Wiggles feel strongly about and, by draining their trademark bright colours, showcased their endorsement for ‘Pick Right. Feel Bright!’
“We want Australians to feel bright, like us, every day and they can do that by adding more healthy fresh fruit and vegetables to their diet,” said Blue Wiggle Anthony Field.
‘Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ is here to inspire Australians to pick the right fresh foods so as to enjoy a brighter future.  The Wiggles are delighted to be working with the Australian fresh produce industry which has come together behind the Produce Marketing Association A-NZ (PMA A-NZ) and Nutrition Australia to promote the ‘Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ campaign. 
“We need a powerful platform to ensure Australians understand the importance of eating more fresh produce,” said Renee Harrison, Marketing Manager of PMA A-NZ.  “Most Australians are not eating the recommended 2 and 5 serves of fruit and vegetables every day which is leading to an epidemic in obesity and serious health conditions.  Something has to be done and we were thrilled to have The Wiggles involved to help us amplify the ‘Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ message,” said Ms Harrison
The Wiggles endorsement will not only help 'Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ connect directly with children, parents, grandparents and carers but, as an iconic Australian brand, The Wiggles will help the campaign’s message connect with all Australians by bringing strength and weight to what the fresh produce industry is trying to achieve. 
“We want everyone to start increasing their fruit and vegetable intake over National Nutrition Week,” said Ms Harrison.  The ‘Pick Right. Feel Bright!’ website is a great hub of information, tools and resources to help Australians get more fresh produce into their daily routine.  You can also follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily ‘nutri-tips’ and fresh ideas to get you going.

On International Skeptics Day GMO Answers Celebrates Over 1,000 Questions Answered


Milestone achieved as GMO Answers hosts 2nd Annual "Get to Know GMOs" Month

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On International Skeptics Day, GMO Answers recognizes the 1.3 million consumers who have engaged in the online dialogue at GMOAnswers.com, and thanks the community of volunteer experts who have answered over 1,000 questions about GMOs and agriculture.  This milestone comes as part of the second annual "Get to Know GMOs" month, inviting the public to ask their toughest questions about GMOs and join the conversation about how our food is produced.

"On a day focused on critical thinking, open dialogue and scientific discussion, it's only fitting we acknowledge that consumers have a lot of questions and are interested in learning more about where their food comes from and how it's produced.  We're excited that so many people are thinking critically about their food choices and looking to find answers to their questions at GMOAnswers.com," said Kate Hall, managing director of the Council for Biotechnology Information and GMO Answers spokesperson.  "When we embarked on GMO Answers more than two years ago, embracing skepticism was – and continues to be – at the heart of our mission."

Visitors can review the cache of questions answered by farmers, scientists, academicians, doctors, nutritionists and biotech industry experts, who volunteer their time to answer questions submitted online. Some of the most viewed questions are:

Do GMOs Cause Cancer?
Is it true that GMOs require massive amounts of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides?
How much of our food in the U.S. is genetically modified?
In honor of International Skeptics Day and to celebrate the milestone of 1,000 questions answered, GMO Answers is launching 100 days of GMOs.  Starting today, GMO Answers will share one question per business day of the top 100 questions posted to the website across its social platforms, using the hashtag #100daysofGMOs.  The goal of this social media campaign is to engage the public in a dialogue and raise further awareness of the most commonly asked questions.

As part of "Get to Know GMOs" month, GMO Answers is featuring blog posts about GMOs and the environment on the site every Thursday in October and debunking "spooky" GMO myths for Halloween.

"GMO Answers welcomes tough questions about how our food is grown, and Get to Know GMOs month is a great opportunity to highlight that conversation," continued Hall. "We are committed to serving as a resource to consumers who are searching for factual information to help them make up their own minds about GMOs."

About GMO Answers
GMO Answers is committed to responding to your questions about how our food is grown. Our goal is to make information about agricultural biotechnology easier to access and evaluate. The members of GMO Answers commit to five core principles —welcoming and answering questions on all GMO topics; making GMO information, research and data easy to access and evaluate, and supporting safety testing of GM products, including allowing independent safety testing of our products through validated science-based methods; supporting farmers as they work to grow crops using precious resources more efficiently,  with less impact on the environment and producing safe, nutritious food and feed products; respecting farmers' rights to choose the seeds that are best for their farms, businesses and communities and providing seed choices that include non-GM seeds based on market demands; and respecting people around the world and their right to choose healthy food products that are best for themselves and their families. GMO Answers is produced by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta. Our members are dedicated to the responsible development and application of plant biotechnology. Visit www.GMOAnswers.com.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Nationwide Stay of Waters of the U.S. Rule



WASHINGTON, D.C., October 9, 2015 – “A federal court today ordered the EPA to stop enforcement nationwide of the Waters of the United States rule. The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased the Sixth Circuit recognizes that this rule has serious flaws and cannot go forward until the courts have had an opportunity to understand its effect on farmers, ranchers and landowners of all kinds.

“The judges expressed deep concerns over the basic legality of this rule. We’re not in the least surprised: This is the worst EPA order we have seen since the agency was established more than 40 years ago. The court clearly understood our arguments.

“We are confident that the courts will strike down this rule. Unfortunately, we also know stays don’t last forever, and cases like this almost always take years to win. So we again ask the Senate to pass legislation to nullify this rule just as the House has already done. Farmers and ranchers cannot afford to wait.”

A copy of the court order can be found here.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pilot Light Founders Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, Jason Hammel And Justin Large Aim To Empower CPS Children To Develop Healthy Relationships With Food


CHICAGO (October 2015) – On Thursday, October 15th, in honor of Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week, Pilot Light, a not-­‐for-­‐profit started by award-­‐winning Chicago chefs, will partner  with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and Aramark to provide  over 390,000 CPS students with a chef-­‐designed, Chicago-­‐themed lunch. The founding chefs, Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Big Star), Matthias Merges (Yusho Chicago, A10), Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe) and Justin Large (One Off Hospitality) worked with Aramark to build a meal that adheres to USDA’s healthier  school lunch nutrition standards, connects to Pilot Light classroom lessons, and includes locally-­‐sourced food.

In addition to a delicious lunch featuring a Chicken Taco Al Pastor, “Reset the Table” will highlight all that CPS has already accomplished in improving school meals and will include Common Core-­‐compatible classroom lessons for grades K-­‐12 and an educational video, developed with the guidance of seven-­‐time Emmy Award-­‐winning “Sesame Street” producer Ian Ellis Black, for CPS teachers to utilize in their classrooms to educate students about the food on their plates. The lessons will feature engaging activities for students, along with materials in English and Spanish that include a recipe and comic for students to share with their families.

In Chicago, childhood overweight and obesity rates are nearly twice the national estimate, especially in low-­‐income areas. As schools focus on meeting academic performance standards, nutrition education often takes a backseat.  Pilot Light’s goal is to empower children to develop a healthy relationship with food through a standards-­‐aligned classroom curriculum that weaves food education into school subjects, such as math, science, social studies, and English. For more information about Pilot Light, please visit www.pilotlightchefs.org.

Restaurant Owner to Congress: “A One-Size-Fits-All Overtime Policy won’t Work for Small Businesses”

Restaurant Owner to Congress: “A One-Size-Fits-All Overtime Policy won’t Work for Small Businesses”
National Restaurant Association Board Member Testifies before House Subcommittee on DOL’s Proposed Overtime Regulation

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Kevin Settles, National Restaurant Association board member and President and CEO of Bardenay Restaurants based in Idaho, testified before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations regarding the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the current overtime regulations.

In his testimony, Settles addressed the lack of time given to employers during the initial comment period and DOL’s denial of an extension period.

“It would have been helpful to have had more time to review and comment on the proposed rules,” said Settles. “In denying requests from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy as well as thousands of employers for an extension, the Department referred to the ’listening sessions’ it held. The proposed changes are lengthy and complicated and an insufficient time was allowed for the data to be gathered…in addition, more time would have enabled our industry to better assist the Department in gathering substantive and more accurate information on the impact the proposed revisions would have on the nation’s employers.”

Settles’ testimony focused on the impact a proposed salary threshold would have on small businesses across the country and addressed the DOL’s proposal to automatically increase salary levels each year without notice and comment.

“The Department is charged with regular review and update of the minimum salary level
and they acknowledge that they have not done this,” Settles told the committee. “The reason they give is the ‘overall agency workload and the time-intensive nature of the notice and comment process have hindered the Department’s ability to achieve this goal.’ I take this to mean that they are willing to put a key task for the Department on auto-pilot at the expense of employers and employees.”

Settles argued that as the new salary level becomes effective, the number of workers paid on a non-hourly basis will decrease and more workers would be moved to hourly positions due to the loss of exemption status. He also stated that if the proposed “40th percentile test” is adopted and updated annually without review, in the years following the proposal, the salary level required for exempt status would effectively eradicate the availability of the exemptions in the restaurant industry.

In addition, Settles addressed the adjustments to the duties test which is of particular concern to the restaurant and hospitality industries.

“Our managers need to have a ‘hands-on’ approach to ensure that operations run smoothly,” he added. “Any attempt to artificially cap the amount of time exempt employees can spend on nonexempt work would place significant administrative burdens on restaurant owners, increase labor costs, cause customer service to suffer and result in an increase in wage-and-hour litigation.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

National Consumers League and Shape Up America! applaud new Crown Royal Serving Facts labels



Washington DC, October 7, 2015—The National Consumers League and Shape Up America! today applauded the appearance in the market of alcoholic beverage packaging with Serving Facts labels. Diageo, the maker of Crown Royal whiskey, has announced that their packaging now features a Serving Facts label like the ones the two organizations have advocated for more than 10 years.

“The National Consumers League and many allied organizations have waited a long time for this day,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “I applaud Diageo for its willingness to place in consumers’ hands the serving facts information they want and need—right on the package. Now is the time for all manufacturers of beer, wine, and spirits to follow this lead by providing consumers with easy access to the information they need to help them to drink responsibly.”

“Serving Facts labeling is an important tool for consumers looking to make informed decisions about drinking,” added Dr. Barbara Moore, President and CEO of Shape Up America! “Complete serving information is especially important today, when so many adults are either overweight or obese. As the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee highlighted earlier this year, 21% of calories from beverages in the average diet come from alcoholic beverages (DGAC Scientific Report, Part D, Chapter 1, p. 47).  For the sake of good health, for weight management and for the sake of safe driving, consumers need this information to make the responsible choice the easy choice.”

Alcoholic beverages are one of the very few consumer goods for which nutrition or serving facts are not required. The National Consumers League, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and more than 70 other organizations petitioned for such labeling on beer, wine, and distilled spirits products in 2003. The petition called for the Serving Facts labels to include alcohol per serving and servings per container, as well as calories, carbs, protein, and fat per serving. After a protracted regulatory process, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued a rule in 2013 that allowed (but did not require) Serving Facts labels for alcoholic beverages. The new Crown Royal Serving Facts label is a result of that lengthy campaign.

“Both of our organizations are engaged in helping educate the public about responsible decision-making about what they eat and drink,” said Greenberg and Moore. “This is an important step forward in providing vital information to consumers.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

New OSU crop specialist focuses on growing hazelnut industry


AURORA, Ore. – Oregon State University has hired a new orchard crops specialist to help the state's rapidly expanding $91 million hazelnut industry, which grows 99 percent of the U.S. crop.

Entomologist Nik Wiman, who spent the last three years at OSU researching the brown marmorated stink bug, fills a position held for 30 years by Jeff Olson, who died unexpectedly in January 2014. Wiman is based at OSU's North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora.

“There’s a lot of pent-up need by growers,” said Mike Bondi, the center's director and a regional administrator for OSU’s Extension Service. “Nik will be facing a lot of folks hungry for his help.”

“The hazelnut industry is in a state of extreme expansion,” said Polly Owen, the director of the Hazelnut Industry Office. “Farmers are replacing other crops with hazelnuts and people new to farming are planting hazelnuts. In both cases, the need for basic facts about hazelnut production without bias from vendors who sell products is very important. The position requires a high degree of passion for the entire industry and a 360-degree view of all that makes up the industry. Nik has that.”

The stink bug and eastern filbert blight are the two most serious problems for hazelnut growers, but other aspects of production need attention, too, said Wiman, who earned a doctorate in entomology from Washington State University.

“We have a very successful breeding program at OSU led by Shawn Mehlenbacher that has introduced blight-resistant cultivars,” he said. “But we also need to address issues like soils, irrigation and pruning. There is a huge boom of orchards going in on marginal soil with questionable practices. I want to address that. I want to help the growers get the most production out of their trees.”

Oregon hazelnut growers produced 75 million pounds of nuts and posted sales of $91 million in 2014, according to Owen. More than half of the 2,730 acres planted between 2009 and 2012 were Jefferson, a variety released by OSU in 2009. Unofficial estimates, however, say the number of new acres during that time was 11,000 to 12,000, with more than half being Jefferson.

Hazelnuts won’t be Wiman’s only responsibility. He will devote some of his time to issues affecting fruit tree crops such as apples and pears.

“Nik has an excellent research pedigree and experience with Extension and outreach education,” said Bondi. “He also has a very strong background in orchard crops and horticulture, so he can work across the range of fruit and nut tree questions and needs.”

“Right now I’m in the listening stage,” said Wiman, who will spend 80 percent of his job on Extension and 20 percent on research. “I’ve only been on the job for a short time and already I’ve had a lot of good interactions with industry people and a lot of support from the hazelnut commissions and organizations.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

NRA: “Chips and Dips” Takes on New Meaning in Food Retail Industry



October 1, 2015 – ARLINGTON, VA – With the payment card industry’s move to a “chip”- based payment card system beginning October 1, “Chips and Dips” takes on a new meaning at many retail food stores. Food Marketing Institute (FMI) President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin offered the following statement concerning migration to the “chip”-based payment card system:

“Food retailers have been looking for new ways to make retail data and shopper payment transactions safer and as efficient as possible. The industry has invested billions of dollars to purchase new payment terminals with a ‘chip’ reader and new software to process ‘dips’ of the card instead of the familiar swipe technology. Card-holders should ask their payment card companies for a PIN to make their transactions even more secure from fraudulent activity.

“While some food retailers will be ready to accept the new ‘chip’ cards through the holiday season, many more are preparing to transition after the first of the year.  Importantly, consumers can use either traditional mag-stripe ‘swipe,’ or new chip cards with the same liability protections.

“Since food retailers are customer-service-centric, they recognize it would be bad business sense to test such a customer-facing transition during a time of year when retail customers are counting on retailers for smooth in-store experiences. We remain committed to the strongest consumer protection tools available.”

NRA: 12 Million Jobs Haven’t Moved the Needle Much for Consumers



(Washington, D.C.) The national economy posted employment growth for the 60th consecutive month in September, with the total gain in excess of 12 million jobs, the National Restaurant Association noted today. Despite the growth, a new survey indicates that consumer sentiment about the economy and their finances has barely budged during the five-year period, says the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy in his latest Economist’s Notebook:

“The national economy continued to grow at a moderate pace in September, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The economy added a net 142,000 jobs in September on a seasonally-adjusted basis, which is slightly below the average employment gains posted during the first eight months of the year.

“September was the 60th consecutive month of employment growth in the national economy, representing a total increase of more than 12 million jobs.  However, despite the steady improvements that the economy has made since the depths of the Great Recession, consumers appear to have barely noticed.

“According to a national survey* conducted last weekend by ORC International for the National Restaurant Association, eight in 10 adults described the current state of the national economy as either “fair” (42 percent) or “poor” (39 percent).  Sixteen percent of consumers gave the economy a “good” rating, while only 2 percent said it is in “excellent” condition.

“Sentiment has gradually trended in a positive direction since the early stages of the recovery in 2010, when more than nine in 10 consumers described the economy as either “fair” (34 percent) or “poor” (58 percent).  However, it’s clear that from the perspective of consumers, the economy still has plenty of room for improvement.