Thursday, December 29, 2016

MyPlate, MyWins Helps Americans Turn Resolutions into Real Solutions for Healthy Eating in the New Year New video series, landing page, and resources guide Americans towards a healthier eating style WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 2016 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) launched a New Year’s campaign to help Americans turn their resolutions into real solutions for healthy eating in 2017. This campaign is supported by new and existing MyPlate, MyWins resources available on ChooseMyPlate.gov, which are designed such that Americans can decide where to start on the journey to healthy eating. “As Americans begin thinking about setting goals for the New Year, MyPlate, MyWins is the place to start,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “With the new resources available on the MyPlate, MyWins webpages, Americans can set small, attainable, healthy eating solutions to incorporate into their lifestyle now and into the future.” Turning Resolutions into Real Solutions Every January, Americans are overloaded with information about New Year’s resolutions. While starting with the best intentions, many people set unrealistic resolutions and incorporate goals that are difficult to maintain. Starting with small steps and celebrating milestones along the way are shown to be more beneficial strategies in keeping resolutions. This is where MyPlate, MyWins comes in; MyPlate, MyWins is a resource to help Americans turn resolutions into real solutions to achieve a healthy eating style in alignment with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Real solutions are small, practical changes that add up to a healthy lifestyle over time. These changes can be incorporated into Americans’ lives to maintain a healthy eating style based on the five food groups of MyPlate. MyPlate, MyWins encourages consumers to find and celebrate their wins and their real solutions. Since everyone has different eating habits, MyPlate, MyWins helps individuals create their own, personalized nutrition goals and solutions. New MyPlate, MyWins Animated Video Series Over the course of five weeks as part of the New Year campaign, CNPP will release five MyPlate, MyWins animated videos to the new Make Small Changes webpage. These short, animated videos demonstrate simple changes Americans can make to their typical meals to decrease sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Each video has a different theme including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages. “Making a small change, for example, switching from two slices of pepperoni pizza for lunch to one slice of veggie pizza, a salad, and an apple decreases sodium and saturated fat intake, while adding items from other food groups,” said Angie Tagtow, Executive Directors of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “The videos demonstrate to Americans that small, healthy changes, or switches, during meal and snack times can add up over time and improve your eating style.” To supplement these videos, there are new, meal-specific webpages with nutrition information, more examples of small ways to improve typical meals, and five new MyPlate, MyWins tip sheets. The tip sheets provide suggestions for making healthier choices in typical dining environments: potlucks and parties, coffee shops, buffets, Italian restaurants, and Asian cuisine takeout. All of these resources can help consumers utilize real solutions in their typical day to achieve nutrition goals and maintain a healthy eating style now and into the future. SuperTracker New Year’s Challenge and More Resources On January 2, 2017, SuperTracker will kick off a public New Year’s Challenge that encourages participants to start slowly and develop a healthy eating style over time. Over five weeks, participants will be challenged to incorporate the five MyPlate food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy – into each day. To officially join the challenge and receive encouraging messages along the way, individuals will need to create a free SuperTracker account. The MyPlate, MyWins landing page has many additional resources to assist Americans in modifying their meals in order to maintain healthier eating habits throughout their lives. The Stories from Families and Individuals page includes videos from relatable families about their healthy eating solutions and testimonials from the MyPlate staff. There also are ways to get involved for partners, professionals, and consumers. Additionally, CNPP encourages consumers to share their real solutions and wins via Twitter and Facebook using #MyPlateMyWins. Please visit MyPlate, MyWins to learn more about achieving real solutions and celebrating wins in the New Year.

x New video series, landing page, and resources guide Americans towards a healthier eating style WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 2016 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) launched a New Year’s campaign to help Americans turn their resolutions into real solutions for healthy eating in 2017. This campaign is supported by new and existing MyPlate, MyWins resources available on ChooseMyPlate.gov, which are designed such that Americans can decide where to start on the journey to healthy eating. “As Americans begin thinking about setting goals for the New Year, MyPlate, MyWins is the place to start,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “With the new resources available on the MyPlate, MyWins webpages, Americans can set small, attainable, healthy eating solutions to incorporate into their lifestyle now and into the future.” Turning Resolutions into Real Solutions Every January, Americans are overloaded with information about New Year’s resolutions. While starting with the best intentions, many people set unrealistic resolutions and incorporate goals that are difficult to maintain. Starting with small steps and celebrating milestones along the way are shown to be more beneficial strategies in keeping resolutions. This is where MyPlate, MyWins comes in; MyPlate, MyWins is a resource to help Americans turn resolutions into real solutions to achieve a healthy eating style in alignment with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Real solutions are small, practical changes that add up to a healthy lifestyle over time. These changes can be incorporated into Americans’ lives to maintain a healthy eating style based on the five food groups of MyPlate. MyPlate, MyWins encourages consumers to find and celebrate their wins and their real solutions. Since everyone has different eating habits, MyPlate, MyWins helps individuals create their own, personalized nutrition goals and solutions. New MyPlate, MyWins Animated Video Series Over the course of five weeks as part of the New Year campaign, CNPP will release five MyPlate, MyWins animated videos to the new Make Small Changes webpage. These short, animated videos demonstrate simple changes Americans can make to their typical meals to decrease sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Each video has a different theme including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages. “Making a small change, for example, switching from two slices of pepperoni pizza for lunch to one slice of veggie pizza, a salad, and an apple decreases sodium and saturated fat intake, while adding items from other food groups,” said Angie Tagtow, Executive Directors of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “The videos demonstrate to Americans that small, healthy changes, or switches, during meal and snack times can add up over time and improve your eating style.” To supplement these videos, there are new, meal-specific webpages with nutrition information, more examples of small ways to improve typical meals, and five new MyPlate, MyWins tip sheets. The tip sheets provide suggestions for making healthier choices in typical dining environments: potlucks and parties, coffee shops, buffets, Italian restaurants, and Asian cuisine takeout. All of these resources can help consumers utilize real solutions in their typical day to achieve nutrition goals and maintain a healthy eating style now and into the future. SuperTracker New Year’s Challenge and More Resources On January 2, 2017, SuperTracker will kick off a public New Year’s Challenge that encourages participants to start slowly and develop a healthy eating style over time. Over five weeks, participants will be challenged to incorporate the five MyPlate food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy – into each day. To officially join the challenge and receive encouraging messages along the way, individuals will need to create a free SuperTracker account. The MyPlate, MyWins landing page has many additional resources to assist Americans in modifying their meals in order to maintain healthier eating habits throughout their lives. The Stories from Families and Individuals page includes videos from relatable families about their healthy eating solutions and testimonials from the MyPlate staff. There also are ways to get involved for partners, professionals, and consumers. Additionally, CNPP encourages consumers to share their real solutions and wins via Twitter and Facebook using #MyPlateMyWins. Please visit MyPlate, MyWins to learn more about achieving real solutions and celebrating wins in the New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Statement of US Labor Secretary Perez on fatal occupational injuries in 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued a statement regarding today’s release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The census shows a slight increase in 2015 in the number of fatal work injuries, the highest annual total since 2008. The census also finds that 4,836 workers died from work-related injuries in 2015, an increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014. Based on the results, the rate of fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was 3.38 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, lower than the 2014 rate of 3.43. The secretary’s statement follows: “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires. We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow. The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is – and will always be – committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Chairman Conaway Announces New Staff Hire

Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) announced that Jennifer Tiller will join the committee as Professional Staff for nutrition and welfare issues. Tiller, a native of Syracuse, New York, has been working in Washington, D.C. since 2012 as the Director of America Works of Washington, D.C., where her attention was devoted to program operations, public policy, and contract and grant acquisition. Prior to that, Tiller worked in a similar capacity for America Works of Albany, Inc. (New York). Tiller holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in European History from the University at Albany, SUNY, a Master of Public Administration from Marist College, and a Master of Business Administration from Syracuse University. “The House Agriculture Committee devoted an immense amount of time and effort this past Congress to fully examine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well has how nutrition plays an integral role in the lives of all Americans. Jennifer’s knowledge and expertise in this area will be a tremendous asset to us as we move towards reauthorizing SNAP and making sure the program helps participants rise out of poverty and into a better future. I look forward to having her as part of our team,” said Chairman Conaway.

FARMWORKER JUSTICE’S STATEMENT ON EPA’S CERTIFICATION OF PESTICIDE APPLICATORS RULE

WASHINGTON,DC (December 15, 2016)-- Farmworker Justice is pleased that the EPA has published important changes to regulations that govern the certification, training and supervision of individuals who apply high-risk pesticides. The Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule (40 CFR 171), which has not been updated in nearly 40 years, provides national competency standards for those who may purchase and apply ‘restricted use pesticides’ (RUPs). A pesticide is classified as restricted if it poses heightened risk to people or the environment. The new rule imposes stricter standards to protect human health and the environment and reduce risk to those applying pesticides. Currently there is wide variance among state certification and training programs for pesticide applicators, and requirements for supervision of non-certified applicators. We are hopeful that the new national standards will provide greater consistency in the knowledge and competency of applicators across the nation. In addition, those who apply pesticides aerially or by fumigation will have to demonstrate competency to use these application methods which pose high risk to applicators, farmworkers, surrounding communities and the environment. Many farmworkers applying RUPs are non-English speaking, non-certified applicators who are applying these chemicals “under the supervision” of certified applicators. These are the applicators whoare the most vulnerable to occupational injury from pesticide exposure. The vast majority are unable to read the application instructions and safety information printed on the pesticide labels, which are almost entirely in English. Although we are disappointed that the EPA does not require pesticide labels to have bilingual content, the revised rule requires supervisors to provide to non-certified applicators the label information about safety precautions and detailed use instructions in a manner and language that the non-certified applicator can understand. The revised rule also includes improved standards for supervision, establishes a minimum age of 18 for applicators, and requires non-certified applicators to receive pesticide handler and safety training in a language they understand. We hope that the improved regulation will result in greater awareness by pesticide applicators of the risks they face, stronger protections from exposure, and ultimately, fewer pesticide-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths among farmworkers and their family members. Farmworker Justice will work with farmworkers to help them understand these changes and their right to a safe workplace and environment. We will also work with EPA to ensure timely implementation and strong enforcement of the new rule, and continued engagement with farmworker communities.

Friday, December 2, 2016

DLA Troop Support, USDA provide Native American tribes fresh fruits, vegetables

To many, America’s Great Northwest may come to mind as one of abundance — of salmon, software and the Space Needle. Yet there are Americans in this region and other areas of the United States who struggle to get a variety of nutritious food for themselves and their families — or enough food at all. This is particularly true for fresh fruits and vegetables. One option for American Indians, Alaska natives and their neighbors is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, serving more than 92,000 participants, most of whom live in rural areas. To help FDPIR participants get access to fresh produce, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Subsistence supply chain plays a crucial role. Since 1994, DLA Troop Support has worked with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to handle several logistical tasks for FDPIR — tasks DLA also performs thorough the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. This program USDA Foods is open to income-eligible households living on Indian reservations, and to American Indian households residing in approved areas near reservations or in Oklahoma. Participants must meet income requirements and not participate in FDPIR and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the same month. A pleasant surprise The Shoalwater Bay Reservation, on the central coast of Washington, is about 30 minutes from the hamlet of Raymond and about the same to Aberdeen. To the south is the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, home of one of North America’s last four subspecies of elk. Indian tribes are still very much a part of this region. Native Americans live on and near several reservations in the area — including the Shoalwater Bay Tribe Reservation, where Titiana Burks loads boxes into her vehicle at the tribal food center. Burks has Alaska Native heritage but has lived in Washington state almost all her life. She participates in the FDPIR to help feed her children. “This helps my family out tremendously, versus any other programs,” she said. “Each box is a surprise, because I don’t know what I’ll get ... but I’m very thankful for what I get.” She’s a particular fan of the fresh fruits and vegetables she gets through FDPIR. “I love it," Burks said. "It’s kind of like harvesting them out of the garden without having a garden. My three kids love the food.” Without the program, “I would probably go down to the local food bank and wait,” Burks said. “But I know this food is healthy and low-sodium.” The fruit network The seeds of DLA’s involvement in FDPIR were planted in 1994, when USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service began to work with DLA to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to schools. FNS had realized DLA Troop Support’s contracts with small regional wholesalers/distributors of fresh fruits and vegetables were the perfect way to help tribes get those foods, said Patricia Scott, chief of DLA Troop Support’s Customer Operations Garrison Feeding Division. That year, a USDA/DLA pilot project began, with $3.6 million of funding and serving eight states. The DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, commonly known as “DoD Fresh,” was made official in 1996 and now serves schools in 48 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. In FDPIR, FNS acts as the program manager, Scott explained. For FDPIR and its other USDA Foods programs, FNS buys a variety of healthy foods in many food categories in full truckload quantities from farmers across the nation, via USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. But for smaller amounts of fruits and vegetables, USDA did not have contracts set up with the regional distributors. “The DLA Subsistence produce contracts were the right fit for supplying smaller amounts of a wider range of fruits and vegetables to these remote areas,” Scott said. “DLA’s buying power enables all customers in each contract zone to get the same delivered price and highest quality produce from our contracted vendors.” Serving their communities Many Native Americans give back to their communities by working for organizations that receive and distribute food received through FDPIR. David Gibson, a Navajo, is the assistant director and warehouse manager of the commodity food program at the Small Tribes of Western Washington, in Lakewood. STOWW serves 14 tribes in this part of the state, as well as six in Southeast Alaska and two on the Aleutian Islands. “This program provides a stable food base for our clients,” he said. “Many of them are Native, and a lot of them are non-Natives." Gibson noted that many of the tribes served by STOWW don’t have any grocery store nearby. “So we’re bringing food to them that they would otherwise have to drive a great distance to get,” he said. He recalled his childhood visits to see his grandparents, who lived on a reservation in New Mexico and relied on FPPIR. “We would drive 60 miles to the nearest town to get their commodities,” Gibson said. But back then, there were no fresh fruits and vegetables — only dry goods. The current FPDIR “is a lot of better of a program." In the area STOWW serves, deliveries usually become a community event, he said. In one location, residents welcome the STOWW delivery staff with lunch they prepared using food from the program. “That really means a lot to us,” he said. Produce for the future For now, the program’s participants say they appreciate the fresh produce DLA helps provide. Angelina Phansisay, who is Chinook, picks up produce for her children as well as elders in her community at the STOWW center. “It’s more than awesome to be able to have fresh fruit. It means a lot,” she said. “I couldn’t be more blessed.” For more about FDPIR, check out the video on DLA's YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcTI5HbmZBM As a Department of Defense combat support agency, DLA provides the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, other federal agencies, and joint and allied forces with a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services. The agency sources and provides nearly 100 percent of the consumable items America’s military forces need to operate, from food, fuel and energy, to uniforms, medical supplies, and construction and barrier equipment. DLA also supplies 86 percent of the military’s repair parts. Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, DLA has more than 25,000 employees worldwide and supports more than 2,300 weapon systems. For more information about DLA, go to www.dla.mil, www.facebook.com/dla.mil or http://twitter.com/dlamil Article written by John Bell, DLA Public Affairs Office

Senior Policy Staff Member to Take Helm as Policy Director for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Washington, DC, December 2, 2016 – The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) today announced the appointment of Greg Fogel as the Coalition’s next Policy Director, effective January 3, 2017. Together with Jeremy Emmi, NSAC’s Managing Director since 2013, Fogel will help lead the organization into the future. Founded in 1988, NSAC is a leader in both agricultural policy and grassroots advocacy. NSAC’s 117-member coalition advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. Fogel, who currently serves as Senior Policy Specialist and Federal Budget and Appropriations Coordinator, was chosen from a field of over 50 candidates following a year long search process. He has led NSAC’s work on farm conservation, energy, and environmental policy since 2010, and on budget and appropriations issues since 2012. Previously, Fogel has worked for the Northeast-Midwest Institute, the Community Food Security Coalition, the Shanghai Organic Agriculture Company, and the Coalition for a Healthy California. He has a Master of Science degree and a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in International Development from the University of California-Berkeley. Current NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner, who has served as NSAC’s senior Washington representative since the organization began in 1988 and has worked to reform federal food and agricultural policy since 1977 – will take on a new, full-time role with NSAC as Senior Strategic Advisor. “I am excited that Greg will be taking over the policy reins for NSAC,” said Hoefner. “He has a strong knowledge base, ample advocacy experience, and far-reaching understanding of NSAC members. I congratulate Greg and applaud the NSAC transition team for its focused and dedicated work throughout the selection and hiring process. After nearly 30 years with NSAC and 40 years in the federal food and agriculture policy business, I decided to initiate this transition a year and a half ago. I very much look forward to moving into the new Senior Strategic Advisor role here at NSAC starting next year.” Teresa Opheim, who currently works with the NSAC member groups Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and Renewing the Countryside and was a former PFI Executive Director and NSAC Executive Director, chaired the transition team. Representatives of NSAC member organizations from California, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin joined her in conducting the search and overseeing the transition process. “This transition is a positive step forward for the sustainable agriculture policy movement as we work to broaden our senior leadership. Kudos to Ferd for working with us to ensure this leadership transition takes place in a thoughtful way. Now, as we approach our thirtieth anniversary year, is a good time to progress through this planned transition. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has never been stronger -- NSAC’s membership now stands at 117 groups, and the entire staff and finances are very strong.” NSAC’s member groups advance common positions to support small and mid-size family farms, protect natural resources, promote healthy rural communities, and ensure access to healthy, nutritious foods by everyone. The Policy Director leads the Coalition’s efforts to gather farmer input, develop consensus policies, and provide direct advocacy to further those objectives. The Policy Director also works closely with the NSAC grassroots team to strengthen the capacity of NSAC member groups, strengthen the broader sustainable agriculture movement, and promote citizen engagement in the policy process. “I am deeply honored to serve as NSAC’s next Policy Director,” said Fogel. “There is no organization that I would rather work for. The mission and values that drive NSAC’s work are the same ones that motivated me to enter the policy world in the first place. Our staff is second-to-none in D.C., and I greatly look forward to taking on this new role with them and moving NSAC forward. I look forward to working with Ferd in his new capacity as Senior Strategic Advisor, and to leading the policy team as we forge relationships with the new Administration and prepare for the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

USDA's Five Tips for a Food Safe Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2016 – This week millions of Americans will gather family and friends around the dinner table to give thanks. But for those preparing the meal, it can be a stressful time. Not to mention, for many it is the largest meal they have cooked all year, leaving plenty of room for mistakes that could cause foodborne illness. "Unsafe handling and undercooking of food can lead to serious foodborne illness," said Al Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Turkeys may contain Salmonella and Campylobacter, harmful pathogens that are only destroyed by properly preparing and cooking the turkey. Similarly, leaving leftovers out for too long, or not taking care to properly clean cooking and serving surfaces, can lead to other types of illness. We want to be sure that all consumers know the steps they can take and resources that are available to them to help prepare a safe and enjoyable holiday meal. " To avoid making everyone at the table sick, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers five tips for a food safe Thanksgiving: Tip 1: Don't Wash That Turkey. According to the most recent Food Safety Survey, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, 68 percent of the public washes whole turkey before cooking it. USDA does not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling) meat and poultry to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing meat and poultry is not necessary. Tip 2: Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey. There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave oven. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave's owner's manual. Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if your bird did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator. Tip 3: Use a meat thermometer. The only way to determine if a turkey (or any meat, poultry or seafood) is cooked is to check its internal temperature with a food thermometer. A whole turkey should be checked in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165°F in all three of these places. The juices rarely run clear at this temperature, and when they do the bird is often overcooked. Using the food thermometer is the best way to ensure your turkey is cooked, but not overdone. Tip 4: Don't store food outside, even if it's cold. Storing food outside is not food safe for two reasons. The first is that animals, both wild and domesticated, can get into food stored outside, consuming it or contaminating it. The second is temperature variation. Just like your car gets warm in the summer, a plastic food storage container in the sun can heat up and climb into the danger zone (above 40°F). The best way to keep that extra Thanksgiving food at a safe temperature (below 40°F) is in a cooler with ice. Tip 5: Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days. Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as you can, within 2 hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. Leftovers will last for four days in the refrigerator, so if you know you won't use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze. For best quality, use your leftover turkey within four months. After that, the leftovers will still be safe, but can dry out or lose flavor. Want additional food safety tips? If you have questions about your Thanksgiving dinner, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert. Last November they answered more than 3,000 calls about Thanksgiving dinner. You can also chat live with a food safety expert at AskKaren.gov, available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish. If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the Meat and Poultry Hotline is available from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET. Consumers with food safety questions can visit FoodSafety.gov to learn more about how to safely select, thaw and prepare a turkey. For more Thanksgiving food safety tips, follow FSIS on Twitter, @USDAFoodSafety, or on Facebook, at Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov.

Friday, November 18, 2016

New Aerial Survey Identifies More Than 100 Million Dead Trees in California

VALLEJO, Calif., Nov. 18, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the U.S. Forest Service has identified an additional 36 million dead trees across California since its last aerial survey in May 2016. This brings the total number of dead trees since 2010 to over 102 million on 7.7 million acres of California's drought stricken forests. In 2016 alone, 62 million trees have died, representing more than a 100 percent increase in dead trees across the state from 2015. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. With public safety as its most pressing concern, the U.S. Forest Service has committed significant resources to help impacted forests, including reprioritizing $43 million in California in fiscal year 2016 to conduct safety-focused restoration along roads, trails and recreation sites. However, limited resources and a changing climate hamper the Forest Service's ability to address tree mortality in California. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service officials are seriously hampered not only by short-term budgets passed by Congress, but also a broken budget for the Forest Service that sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health, said Vilsack. "These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur, and pose a host of threats to life and property across California," said Vilsack. "USDA has made restoration work and the removal of excess fuels a top priority, but until Congress passes a permanent fix to the fire budget, we can't break this cycle of diverting funds away from restoration work to fight the immediate threat of the large unpredictable fires caused by the fuel buildups themselves." The majority of the 102 million dead trees are located in ten counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region. The Forest Service also identified increasing mortality in the northern part of the state, including Siskiyou, Modoc, Plumas and Lassen counties. Five consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to these historic levels of tree die-off. As a result, in October 2015 California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on the unprecedented tree die-off and formed a Tree Mortality Task Force to help mobilize additional resources for the safe removal of dead and dying trees. This year, California had a record setting wildfire season, with the Blue Cut fire alone scorching over 30,000 acres and triggering the evacuation of 80,000 people. In the southeastern United States wildfires have burned more than 120,000 acres this fall. The southeast region of the Forest Service is operating at the highest preparedness level, PL 5, reflecting the high level of physical resources and funding devoted to the region. Extreme drought conditions persist, and many areas have not seen rain for as many as 95 days. Longer, hotter fire seasons where extreme fire behavior has become the new norm, as well as increased development in forested areas, is dramatically driving up the cost of fighting fires and squeezing funding for the very efforts that would protect watersheds and restore forests to make them more resilient to fire. Last year fire management alone consumed 56 percent of the Forest Service's budget and is anticipated to rise to 67 percent in by 2025. As the situation in the southeast demonstrates, the problem of shrinking budget capacity is felt across the U.S., not only in the western states. The health of our forests and landscapes are at risk across the nation, and the tree mortality crisis could be better addressed if not for the increasing percentage of the Forest Service budget going to fight wildfire. "We must fund wildfire suppression like other natural disasters in the country," says Vilsack. Forest Service scientists expect to see continued elevated levels of tree mortality during 2017 in dense forest stands, stands impacted by root diseases or other stress agents and in areas with higher levels of bark beetle activity. Photos and video of the surveys are available on the Forest Service multimedia webpage. Learn more about tree mortality and the work to restore our forests in California at the Forest Service's web page Our Changing Forests. # The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands managed by the Forest Service contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone and provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply.

#KeepThanksMoving campaign salutes behind-the-scenes individuals who deliver holiday happiness

GREENVILLE, S.C., Nov. 17, 2016 — Michelin North America, Inc. (“Michelin”) is entering a second consecutive holiday season to launch the transportation appreciation campaign, #KeepThanksMoving. The social and digital media initiative celebrates millions of transportation industry heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the holidays moving forward. As part of the campaign, Michelin encourages people everywhere to share their appreciation either by Twitter via the hashtag #KeepThanksMoving and or by posting on the MichelinUSA Facebook page, in order to recognize an outstanding individual’s service and dedication to delivering holiday happiness. “Michelin applauds the commitment of individuals in the transportation industry in the air, on our roads, and across the farms and fields of America who deliver when it matters most,” said Ralph Dimenna, chief operating officer of Michelin Americas Truck Tires, Inc. “These unsung heroes enable us to travel home, transport our food and gifts, and keep our economy moving, not to mention the millions of miles driven by shoppers and travelers during the holidays and throughout the year.” Not all heroes wear capes – heroes in the transportation industry include: - Airport workers, who will enable more than 27 million people to fly on U.S. airlines over a 12-day period around Thanksgiving 2016 alone. - Truck drivers, numbering more than 3.6 million, who will transport nearly 70 percent of all the freight tonnage in the U.S. this holiday season. - Farmers, each of whom supplies food for 144 people in the U.S. and abroad each year. - Miners who extract nearly 100 different kinds of minerals from the earth and provide the raw materials for heat, electricity, roads and bridges, and countless consumer products. - Parcel delivery workers, who will deliver nearly 20 billion of packages, letters and gifts during the 2016 holiday season. - Snow plow drivers who enable drivers to get to their destinations safely during inclement weather events. - Construction workers who provide our buildings, roads and infrastructure Each week, beginning Nov. 17 through Dec. 31, 2016, Michelin will recognize individuals in the transportation and travel industries, who demonstrate outstanding commitment to keep the holidays moving by the posts received on its social media channels mentioned above. Michelin will randomly select seven individuals, who are honored as holiday heroes via social media posts. Each person will receive a limited edition Michelin themed gourmet gift box from Try the World, an online gourmet store. The Michelin themed Try the World gift box features a selection of eight culinary delights from across the globe selected by Thomas Raquel, pastry chef at the world-famous Michelin three-star restaurant, Le Bernadin in New York. Participants can also download a “Thank-you” card from Michelinmedia.com to demonstrate gratitude toward community heroes, who keep the holidays moving forward. Official contest rules are posted on Michelinmedia.com.

Farm Journal Media Launches Farm Journal AgTech Expo

Lenexa, Kan. (Nov. 18, 2016)—Farm Journal Media announced today Farm Journal AgTech Expo, which will provide a 360-degree, customizable learning experience for farmers and retailers. It will debut Dec. 13-14, 2017, at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis. The market for agricultural technology products is robust and expected to grow to $240 billion by 2050, generating $800 billion in farm-level production value, according to a research report by Goldman Sachs*. At the same time, in a recent Farm Journal AgTech survey of farmers, nearly half of respondents expressed concern that it is difficult to keep up with technology—and many indicated they don’t know where to start. “The prolific pipeline of products and the intense need for information makes this the right time for Farm Journal to step up and invest in AgTech, a unique platform focused on all practical aspects of technology, not just data,” said Matt Morgan Vice President, Digital and Retail. “The Expo will also provide unparalleled access to technology products and company experts for farmers and retailers—and all for an affordable entrance fee for attendees.” In addition to hearing from industry-leading presenters, Farm Journal AgTech Expo attendees will choose from a two-track schedule of learning sessions covering topics such as the latest techniques in precision ag, innovative software to help maximize farm management and accounting, using benchmarking data to compare prices and performance in the field and the latest in driverless and other automated equipment. “The Farm Journal AgTech Expo will meet farmers where they are on the learning curve, whether a novice, an early adopter looking for the next big thing or somewhere in between,” said Susan Luke, Editorial Director. “AgTech Expo attendees will be able to customize their schedule to include back-to-basics and advanced learning sessions in a mix that’s right for them.” In addition to the Expo, the AgTech multimedia platform of products includes a weekly eNewsletter; special AgTech coverage across Farm Journal Media television, radio, magazine and online channels; and a new, farmer-focused website showcasing the products and services hitting the market.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Dinner Ticks Down to Less Than $5 Per Person

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 17, 2016 - The American Farm Bureau Federation's 31st annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year's feast for 10 is $49.87, a 24-cent decrease from last year's average of $50.11. The big ticket item - a 16-pound turkey - came in at a total of $22.74 this year. That's roughly $1.42 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 30 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2015. "Consumers will pay less than $5 per person for a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year," AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. "We have seen farm prices for many foods - including turkeys - fall from the higher levels of recent years. This translates into lower retail prices for a number of items as we prepare for Thanksgiving and confirms that U.S. consumers benefit from an abundant, high-quality and affordable food supply." The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers. Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, milk and a veggie tray comprised of celery and carrots. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.13; a gallon of milk, $3.17; a one-pound veggie tray of celery and carrots, $0.73; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.81. "Due to a significant expansion in global milk production, prices fell to the lowest levels since 2009, leading to lower retail milk and dairy product prices. Additionally, this year's pumpkin prices are slightly lower following the production decline and higher prices seen in 2015," Newton said. Items that increased modestly in price were a dozen brown-and-serve rolls, $2.46; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.59; one pound of green peas, $1.58; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.39; a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.00; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; and a three-pound bag of fresh sweet potatoes, $3.60. The average price is down slightly from last year to $49.87. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner fell to $20.66 - the lowest level since 2010. Although the classic Thanksgiving meal priced by Farm Bureau is considered modest by some, "we're fortunate to live here in America, where many people are able to enhance their holiday meals with another type of meat or additional side dishes or desserts," Newton said. The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government's Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. The most recent CPI report for food at home showed just over a 2-percent decline over the past year (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm). A total of 148 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 40 states for this year's survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75. The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau's survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons. Year Average 1986 $28.74 1987 $24.51 1988 $26.61 1989 $24.70 1990 $28.85 1991 $25.95 1992 $26.39 1993 $27.49 1994 $28.40 1995 $29.64 1996 $31.66 1997 $31.75 1998 $33.09 1999 $33.83 2000 $32.37 2001 $35.04 2002 $34.56 2003 $36.28 2004 $35.68 2005 $36.78 2006 $38.10 2007 $42.26 2008 $44.61 2009 $42.91 2010 $43.47 2011 $49.20 2012 $49.48 2013 $49.04 2014 $49.41 2015 $50.11 2016 $49.87

Monday, November 14, 2016

Statement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2016—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement on Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, an annual report by USDA's Economic Research Service: "At the depths of the Great Recession, rural counties were shedding 200,000 jobs per year, rural unemployment stood at nearly 10 percent, and poverty rates reached heights unseen in decades. Many rural communities were ill-positioned to bounce back quickly. "Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has made targeted Federal investments in rural areas to create jobs, generate economic opportunity, and strengthen rural communities. This strategy, focused on production agriculture, the biobased economy, local and regional food systems, and conservation and natural resources, is helping the rural economy retool itself for the 21st century. "Today's report underscores the result of these efforts: rural America has begun a remarkable comeback. Key economic indicators continue to show that rural America is rebounding. Rural unemployment continued to decline in 2015, dropping below 6 percent for the first time since 2007, and rural poverty rates have fallen. Median household incomes in rural areas increased by 3.4 percent in 2015, and rural populations have stabilized and are beginning to grow. Child food insecurity nationwide is at an all-time low. "The future of rural America looks much brighter today than when President Obama took office. The incredible results highlighted in the new report demonstrate how long-term government investment and positive partnerships with public institutions are central to rural America's continued progress." The Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition report can be viewed on the ERS website. To read more about USDA's investments in rural America and its successful turnaround, visit USDA's entry on Medium.com, Rural America Is Back in Business.

Friday, November 11, 2016

DeLauro Applauds Obama Administration for Dropping Trans-Pacific Partnership Push

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today released the following statement regarding news that the Obama Administration would no longer pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the lame-duck session of Congress. “The White House is saying it, the Senate Majority Leader is saying it, and the Speaker of the House is saying it: there will not be a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the lame-duck session of Congress. “Together, a strong coalition of Members of Congress and labor, environmental, faith, and human rights organizations and activists worked diligently to stop this agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership meant more power for corporations and fewer good jobs and lower wages for American workers. Since it was signed in February 2016, it could not garner a majority of support in the U.S. House of Representatives. “We will move forward with pushing new rules of the road for future trade agreements, rules that respect organized labor and human rights, protect the environment, ensure food safety, fight currency manipulation, and create jobs and grow wages. The era of trade agreements that are drafted by and for corporate interests and give the American worker the short-end of the stick must end.” On Tuesday, DeLauro will join Members of Congress and other leaders to hold a press conference on Capitol Hill regarding this news.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trump Down but Not Out

At now 66 cents (down from 81 cents on Oct 27), traders are anticipating Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald Trump on November 8. According to the PredictIt Election Map, Clinton is ex-pected to receive 278 electoral votes. Trump is expected to receive 215, with 45 remaining as a toss-up. In North Carolina (15 electoral votes), Clinton has a slight advantage, at 54 cents. In Florida, odds slightly favor Trump to win the 29 electoral votes, at 53 cents. In addition to Flor-ida, one electoral vote from the 2nd Congressional District of Maine is likely to go to Trump, at 54 cents. Should Trump take all three states, he would still need to snag nine electoral votes from Clin-ton’s column. Clinton has the loosest grip on New Hampshire (65 cents), Nevada (66 cents), Colorado (68 cents) and Pennsylvania (71 cents). New Hampshire went red in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore but has remained a Democratic staple since. Nevada’s electoral votes went to Bush against both Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, but voted for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. The same can be said of Colorado. However, unlike Nevada, which went blue in both 1992 and 1996, the Centennial State went to Bill Clinton in 1992 but did not favor him for re-election in 1996. The last time Pennsylvania awarded its electors to a Republican was in 1988 when George H.W. Bush sought his first term.

USDA Seeks Applications for $25 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

Funding is available in six focus areas, including data analytics tools and precision conservation WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is seeking new proposals for cutting-edge projects that will provide new conservation opportunities through its competitive Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the department will invest up to $25 million for projects that spark the development and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches in areas like conservation finance, data analytics, and precision conservation to benefit producers on private agricultural and forest lands. "Conservation Innovation Grants have played a critical role in developing and implementing creative new methods to conserve the nation's private agricultural lands and strengthening rural communities," said Vilsack. "Today's announcement builds on our support of technologies and approaches that help producers increase resiliency to extreme weather such as drought and floods." CIG is authorized and funded under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and fosters innovative conservation projects that accelerate the transfer and adoption of promising technologies that benefit natural resources, agricultural production and forest management. The 2017 focus areas for project proposals include the following: • Innovative approaches that benefit historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers and those with limited resources; • Natural resources data analytics tools—such as software and mobile apps—that increase producer knowledge of conservation benefits and alternatives; • Precision conservation tools that uncover opportunities for better input management (for example, nutrient management addressing source, timing, rate and placement), or address in-field vulnerabilities; • Conservation finance approaches that demonstrate the potential for new investment strategies to accelerate and expand private lands conservation; • Demonstration, evaluation and quantification of the effects of water management and soil health practices to minimize off-site impacts of natural resource challenges, such as excess sediment and nutrient runoff; • Pay-for-success models that stimulate conservation adoption and achievement of measurable outcomes. Potential applicants should review the announcement for program funding that is available on www.grants.gov. Proposals are due by Jan. 9, 2017, and final CIG funding is subject to fiscal year 2017 funding actions. American Indian tribes, state and local units of government, non-governmental organizations and individuals are eligible to submit proposals. More information on the CIG program, including a link to application materials and submission procedures, can be found on the NRCS CIG website. Innovative CIG projects in the conservation finance arena are testing new approaches, leveraging environmental markets and improving the ability to measure the impact of conservation actions on the landscape. For example, The Climate Trust has launched a Working Lands Carbon Fund to serve as a revolving source of financing for conservation projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon on working lands. CIG projects have also helped address water management needs, such as the SmartIrrigation Cotton App which helps schedules irrigation on operations in Georgia and northern Florida. More than one hundred and forty users, including agricultural producers and county agents, now use the app. Since 2009, USDA has invested nearly $173 million to fund nearly 414 national CIG projects. USDA is continuing its commitment to increasing assistance to historically underserved and military veteran farmers and ranchers and the organizations that include and support them, with up to $2 million of this year's funding has been set aside for projects that target these stakeholders. CIG is part of the more than $29 billion USDA has invested since 2009 to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect more than 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit Caring for our Land, Air and Water: Preserving Precious Natural Resources for Tomorrow. # ///

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Report: Most top grocery chains fail on pollinator protection


Poll shows 80 percent of Americans support eliminating bee-killing pesticides from agriculture
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report and scorecard grades 20 of the largest food retailers in the U.S on their policies and practices regarding pollinator protection, organic offerings and pesticide reduction. Of the top food retailers, 17 received an “F” for failing to have a publicly available policy to reduce or eliminate pesticide use to protect pollinators. Only Aldi, Costco (COST) and Whole Foods (WFM) received passing grades in this category.
“U.S. food retailers must take responsibility for how the products they sell are contributing to the bee crisis,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The majority of the food sold at top U.S. food retailers is produced with pollinator-toxic pesticides. We urge all major retailers to work with their suppliers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and to expand domestic organic offerings that protect pollinators, people and the planet.”
Today’s report, Swarming the Aisles: Rating top retailers on bee-friendly and organic food, comes amid mounting consumer pressure on food retailers to adopt more environmentally-friendly sourcing policies. A coalition led by Friends of the Earth and more than 50 farmer, beekeeper, farmworker, environmental and public interest organizations sent a letter urging the food retailers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and increase USDA certified organic food and beverages to 15 percent of overall offerings by 2025, prioritizing domestic, regional and local producers. This effort follows a campaign by Friends of the Earth and allies that convinced more 65 garden retailers, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, to commit to eliminate bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides.
Bees and other pollinators are essential for one in three bites of food we eat and without them grocery stores would run short of strawberries, almonds, apples, broccoli and more. A growing body of science points to the world’s most widely-used insecticides, neonicotinoids, as a leading factor in pollinator declines, and glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide worldwide, as a key culprit in monarch butterfly declines.
New data from a YouGov Poll released today by Friends of the Earth and SumofUs found that 80 percent of Americans believe it is important to eliminate neonicotinoids from agriculture. Among Americans who grocery shop for their household, 65 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that has formally committed to eliminating neonicotinoids. The poll also revealed that 59 percent of American grocery shoppers believe it is important for grocery stores to sell organic food, and 43 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that sells more organic food than their current grocery store. The full poll results are available on request.
"Over 750,000 SumOfUs members have spoken out advocating that U.S. Hardware stores take action to protect our pollinators. And after years of pressure, Home Depot and Lowe's have finally enacted more bee-friendly policies," said Angus Wong, Lead Campaign Strategist at SumOfUs, a consumer watchdog with ten million members. "And the findings of this poll show that a vast majority of consumers want to eliminate neonicotinoids from their grocery stores too. This is why food retailers must commit policies that protect our bees immediately."
The report found that while consumer demand for organic and pesticide-free food continues to show double-digit growth, only four of the top food retailers, Albertsons, Costco, Target (TGT) and Whole Foods, have adopted a publicly available company commitment to increase offerings of certified organic food  or to disclose data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales. In addition to these retailers, Aldi, Food Lion, part of the Delhaize Group (DEG), and Kroger (KR) disclosed data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales. None of the retailers have made a publicly available commitment to source organic from American farmers.

“To protect pollinators, we must eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides from our farming systems and expand pollinator-friendly organic agriculture,” said Dr. Kendra Klein, staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “Organic farms support 50 percent more pollinator species than conventional farms. This is a huge opportunity for American farmers. Less than one percent of total U.S. farmland is in organic production — farmers need the support of food retailers to help them transition dramatically more acreage to organic.”

Sixteen of the top 20 food retailers were predominately unresponsive to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information via surveys, calls and letters. Primary sources of information for this scorecard include publicly available information, including company websites, company annual reports, SEC filings, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, press coverage and industry analyses.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

FREE Scary Face Pancakes FOR KIDS ON HALLOWEEN

Ghoulishly good times are back at IHOP® RESTAURANTS with The return of FREE Scary Face Pancakes FOR KIDS ON HALLOWEEN
On October 31st Kids 12 and Under Can Enjoy a Free Scary Face Pancake from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

WHAT:        
To celebrate Halloween, on October 31, kids 12 and under can dig into Scary Face Pancakes for FREE from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at participating restaurants. IHOP encourages children and families to create a monster masterpiece from a hot-off-the-griddle, world-famous Buttermilk Pancake topped with whipped cream, a strawberry nose and served with a side of OREO® cookies and candy corn.
 WHERE:
Participating IHOP Restaurants in the United States.
 WHY:            
For close to six decades, IHOP has been the leader in bringing guests a freshly made breakfast served any time of day, every day, as well as unique, made-to-order limited time menu items. Scary Face Pancakes offer families a fun and unique dining experience this Halloween season.
 WHEN:        
MONDAY, October 31, 2016 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Healthy Food Advocates Launch Petition Telling Safeway to Stop Creating Food Deserts


*** http://www.thepetitionsite.com/126/103/102/ ***
The Care2 Petition Takes Aim at Safeway’s Practice of Blocking Other Grocery Stores from Entering Properties it has Vacated
A Care2 petition is demanding Safeway stop its practice of blocking other grocery stores from entering properties it has vacated. The Care2 petition, started by Lauren Ornelas, founder and director of the Food Empowerment Project, has gathered over 7,000 signatures. The campaign comes on the heels of efforts in Washington, D.C. to block grocery chains from keeping out the competition with such deed restrictions.
VIEW THE CARE2 PETITION HERE: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/126/103/102/
“When Safeway/Albertsons decides to leave a neighborhood, they sometimes block other grocery stores from opening up in their former locations,” Ornelas writes on her Care2 petition. “This means that when they are the only grocery store around and leave an area such as a downtown location to move to the suburbs, they include a restriction on that property that states that no other grocery store can move in. Some of these restrictions have been for as long as 15 years!”
Safeway uses deed restrictions to block competitors from moving into its former locations. The practice came to light in Vallejo, CA,  in 2011, when Winco was blocked from building a store in a former Safeway location.
The issue has also been documented in Washington, D.C., leading two councilmembers, David Catania and Mary Cheh, to introduce a proposal that would ban the practice.
Ornelas’ Care2 petition targets Safeway/Albertsons' CEO Robert Miller. She says Safeway’s deed restrictions create food deserts.
“Communities of color, the differently-abled, and the elderly already experience barriers to accessing healthy food, and companies like Safeway should not be contributing to the problem,” Ornelas writes. “They could easily change their ways and HELP neighborhoods stay healthy!”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Report calls for investment and smart regulatory systems to stimulate innovation during a volatile business cycle, as agricultural productivity growth stalls


DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- For the third year in a row, the rate of global agricultural productivity growth has failed to meet its target, says a report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) released today.  GHI's 7th annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (2016 GAP Report®): Sustainability in an Uncertain Season warns that unless this trend is reversed, the world may not be able to sustainably provide the food, feed, fiber and biofuels needed for a booming global population.  

Improving agricultural productivity is not just about producing more or achieving higher yields; it allows more to be produced while maximizing the use of and impact on precious natural resources.  Agricultural productivity lowers the cost per unit of output, helping producers succeed in today's competitive business cycle, and supplies food and agriculture products for consumers at lower prices.
  It is part of a comprehensive strategy to sustainably meet global demand for food and agricultural products.  

According to GHI, global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75 percent annually in order to meet the demands of an estimated 9.7 billion people in 2050.  GHI's annual assessment of global productivity growth – the GAP Index™ – shows the current rate of growth is only 1.73 percent.  The rate of productivity growth for low-income countries is of special concern, as it is stagnating at only 1.3 percent annually, far below that required to meet food and agriculture needs in a sustainable manner.

Global demand for food and agriculture products is skyrocketing, driven by a growing population and middle class, yet in high-income countries, like the U.S., productivity growth rates have slowed and agricultural output has declined to levels not seen since the 1980s.  This downward trend in productivity raises questions about the health of U.S. agriculture, which is a key driver of the economy, providing $2 trillion in revenue annually and employing 19 million people.  
U.S. farmers are concerned about low crop prices, rising land values and higher prices for seeds, fertilizer, crop protection, machinery and storage and are looking for ways to cut costs and manage risk in order to remain competitive.  Uncertainty about regulations make it difficult for farmers and industry to plan for the future and many are worried about the negative reaction of some consumers to their products and production practices.

"We need to ensure that the agricultural value chain is competitive in every phase of the business cycle.  The food price crisis was just 6 years ago; to think that in half a decade we have created systems that will sustainably produce an abundance of food would be to disregard history," said Ben Pratt, Vice President of Corporate Public Affairs for The Mosaic Company and chair of the GHI
Board of Directors.

The GAP Report argues that the best way for farmers to improve their competitiveness is to adopt technologies and practices that make their operations more productive and sustainable.  With precision agriculture, advancements in seed, fertilizer, biotechnologies and animal welfare practices, farmers can manage costs while producing more and protecting their soils, water quality, and animal health.

GHI calls for renewed commitment to public agricultural research and development (R&D) and improvements to regulatory systems to stimulate innovations that will improve productivity and support the development of resilient food and agriculture systems that adapt to and help mitigate climate change.    

"Participants in every part of the value chain need to be able to manage their costs, by investing for innovation and growth," said Dr. Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of GHI.  "Public sector investments in agricultural R&D coupled with sensible, efficient regulatory systems provide the foundation for innovation and ensure it gets into the hands of the farmers and producers who need it. For farmers who need access to land and finance, new opportunities for partnership are emerging that can expand their options and reduce their risks."

GHI presented the 2016 GAP Report's findings before an audience of farmers and global leaders in science, research, policy and private agriculture industry attending the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.  The event included a discussion of the importance of agricultural productivity and policies and investments that can help farmers remain competitive while transforming agriculture into a force for mitigating climate change.

Dr. Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of GHI, was joined by special guest Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State and former Ambassador to Ethiopia (2013-2016); Mr. Luca Fabbri, Chief Financial Officer, Farmland Partners Inc.; Dr. Keith Fuglie, Economist, Resource and Rural Economics Division, USDA Economic Research Service; Ms. Bonnie McClafferty, Director of Agriculture for Nutrition Global Program, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); and Mr. Ben Pratt, Vice President, Corporate Public Affairs, The Mosaic Company & GHI Board Chair.

Resources
The 2016 GAP Report is presented at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa and the event is streamed live online October 12 from 11:00 AM to noon CDT at www.globalharvestinitiative.org.
The GAP Report® can be found on www.globalharvestinitiative.org.  

NIFA invests $1.4 million in Health and Safety Education for Rural Communities



Focus on Substance Misuse Prevention, Mental Health and Aging

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $1.4 million in grants to enhance the quality of life for citizens in rural areas through the Rural Health and Safety Education competitive (RHSE) grants program.

Through these awards, the program is supporting two projects to address the critical challenges of substance misuse in rural communities. Secretary Vilsack announced the eligibility of such projects for the grants in March in Atlanta at a national drug misuse summit. In January, President Obama tapped Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency effort focused on the rural opioid epidemic. The RHSE grants are only one way USDA is using its resources to address the crisis. On Aug. 31, Vilsack announced an initiative to provide transitional housing for rural Americans in recovery from substance use disorders, and USDA has also awarded Distance Learning and Telehealth Medicine grants to health facilities to help treat individuals in rural areas.

"Many individuals and families living in rural areas and communities experience disparities related to health, safety, and well-being. The opioid epidemic that is ravaging our rural communities has highlighted these challenges," said Secretary Vilsack. "Inadequate access to health and education resources is often the cause of these hardships. These projects will help promote and enhance rural health, prevent substance use disorders, strengthen economic vitality and, in the long term, mitigate the effects of rural poverty."

The Rural Health and Safety Education competitive grants program supports non-formal health education programs and services that provide timely health information suited to rural residents of all ages. Projects are tailored to life stages, cultural differences, health literacy, and occupational and environmental circumstances. These projects use behavioral and social science to increase motivation for healthy living, promote access to health and educational activities and training for volunteers and health service providers. Since 2009, NIFA has awarded $10.6 million to the RHSE program.

Fiscal year 2016 grantees include:
University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $359,487 – Through a partnership with Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, this project will engage rural Georgians and Texans and increase participation in recommended breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings, as well as nutrition and physical activity behaviors related to cancer prevention. To aid in these efforts, the projects will capitalize on the existing, successful University of Georgia Extension Program, Cooking for a Lifetime of Cancer Prevention Cooking School.

Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $356,257 – This project expands on the existing Keys to Embracing Aging program to reach communities statewide in Kansas and Kentucky. The program introduces and reinforces 12 healthy lifestyle behaviors, including nutrition, physical fitness, social, and mental wellness, personal safety, stress reduction, and financial management.

Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $362,378 – Montana residents face serious health challenges in the form of mental illness, substance misuse and a suicide rate that is nearly twice the national average. To address the challenges of access to resources, Montana State University will lead a state-wide project to train extension faculty to promote mental health literacy and youth suicide prevention among rural Montanans.

Penn State University, State College, Pa., $359,628 – PROSPER (Promoting School-university-community Partnerships to Enhance Resilience), established in 2001, promotes healthy development and to avoid long-term health and behavioral problems in rural youth through the use of universal, evidence-based interventions. This project will expand PROSPER into new, rural communities in Pennsylvania to address issues including substance misuse, problem behavior, family strengths and positive youth development.
Previously funded projects include a University of Tennessee train-the-trainer program to foster healthier childcare and home environments for infants and children, and a University of Hawaii project that provided community workshops and water testing kits for the 60,000 rural citizens who rely on rainwater catchment systems for drinking water and other uses.
NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.

To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

World Health Organization: Soda Taxes Are Important Policy Tools for Health


Statement of CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson
With critical votes on soda taxes coming on the November ballots in a number of U.S. cities, the World Health Organization has issued an important report reviewing the evidence for the need of such measures.
The WHO report found “reasonable and increasing evidence that appropriately designed taxes on sugar sweetened beverages would result in proportional reductions in consumption…” The review also found “strong evidence that subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables that reduce prices by 10 to 30 percent are effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.”
In addition to reducing consumption, the WHO review noted that soda taxes can also provide incentives to industry to produce healthier products, as well as providing funds for programs that address the chronic-disease burden caused by the excessive consumption of sugar drinks. “As such, the use of fiscal policies should be considered a key component of a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of healthy diet and the prevention and control of NCDs (non-communicable diseases),” said the report, continuing: “Oppositional arguments against taxes are usually either false or greatly overstated.”
Voters should especially keep that caution in mind as they see Big Soda’s tidal wave of misleading advertising, calling the proposed soda taxes “grocery taxes.”

Friday, September 30, 2016

UI-Led Research Team Investigates How Plants Respond to Drought MOSCOW, Idaho — Sept. 30, 2016 — A team of scientists led by Daniel Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Forestry, Rangeland and Fire Sciences in the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources, met in September at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to answer questions about how plants transport water. The National Science Foundation awarded over $1 million to the research team to determine how plants respond to stress, such as drought. A better understanding of this stress response will help researchers develop better practices for crop and forest management in drought conditions. Researchers from all over the world participated in the project, including scientists from Australia and Canada. The diversity of the group was one of the things that made the project successful, Johnson said. “This was a major breakthrough in the field of plant physiology as many of these scientists had very different opinions on methodology,” Johnson said. “So the idea was to get everyone together in the same room all doing measurements together to figure out what works and what doesn't.” The team studied American chestnut saplings that were grown at the UI Center for Forest Nursery and Research. The saplings had been separated into groups based upon the amount of water they received before the experiments. The saplings were then X-rayed using a three-dimensional technique at Berkley’s Advanced Light Source facility. When a plant doesn’t receive enough water, it can create gas bubbles that can block the plant’s vessels. In some cases, a plant will repair itself. Other times, the plant will die from the blockage. The scientists are interested in understanding why plants react differently. The X-ray results provided information about the plants’ water transport systems. Cross-sections of the sapling stems were examined under a microscope to see which vessels were transporting water. A third technology, called conductivity apparatus, measured the flow of water through the stem. And finally, the samples were placed in a centrifuge to simulate the stress of drought conditions. Measurements from all four processes were then combined to start to create a comprehensive picture of the plants’ internal systems. “Our understanding of water transport function in plants has always been hindered by a disagreement in the science community on the measurement protocols that produce accurate results,” Johnson said. “This has been a major roadblock for plant physiologists and ecologists who want accurate and accepted scientific models to use in predicting plant population range shifts under climate change. In this instance, this team of highly qualified scientists is all working together to develop unified findings and recommendations. Our intent is to create a methodology that is widely accepted and can be used to propel us forward in creating better measurement, and in turn, better management practices.” The research team is now analyzing the data gathered from the experiments. Their results will be published, and will be the basis of a workshop to be held in August 2017 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon. This workshop will be aimed primarily at graduate and post-doctoral students and will focus on teaching them how to incorporate these methods into their own research. With better methodology in place, the team hopes that more students will feel confident in entering this area of research. ________________________________________

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MOSCOW, Idaho — Sept. 30, 2016 — A team of scientists led by Daniel Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Forestry, Rangeland and Fire Sciences in the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources, met in September at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to answer questions about how plants transport water.
The National Science Foundation awarded over $1 million to the research team to determine how plants respond to stress, such as drought. A better understanding of this stress response will help researchers develop better practices for crop and forest management in drought conditions.
Researchers from all over the world participated in the project, including scientists from Australia and Canada. The diversity of the group was one of the things that made the project successful, Johnson said.
“This was a major breakthrough in the field of plant physiology as many of these scientists had very different opinions on methodology,” Johnson said. “So the idea was to get everyone together in the same room all doing measurements together to figure out what works and what doesn't.”
The team studied American chestnut saplings that were grown at the UI Center for Forest Nursery and Research. The saplings had been separated into groups based upon the amount of water they received before the experiments. The saplings were then X-rayed using a three-dimensional technique at Berkley’s Advanced Light Source facility.
When a plant doesn’t receive enough water, it can create gas bubbles that can block the plant’s vessels.  In some cases, a plant will repair itself. Other times, the plant will die from the blockage. The scientists are interested in understanding why plants react differently. The X-ray results provided information about the plants’ water transport systems. Cross-sections of the sapling stems were examined under a microscope to see which vessels were transporting water. A third technology, called conductivity apparatus, measured the flow of water through the stem. And finally, the samples were placed in a centrifuge to simulate the stress of drought conditions. Measurements from all four processes were then combined to start to create a comprehensive picture of the plants’ internal systems.
“Our understanding of water transport function in plants has always been hindered by a disagreement in the science community on the measurement protocols that produce accurate results,” Johnson said.  “This has been a major roadblock for plant physiologists and ecologists who want accurate and accepted scientific models to use in predicting plant population range shifts under climate change. In this instance, this team of highly qualified scientists is all working together to develop unified findings and recommendations. Our intent is to create a methodology that is widely accepted and can be used to propel us forward in creating better measurement, and in turn, better management practices.”
The research team is now analyzing the data gathered from the experiments. Their results will be published, and will be the basis of a workshop to be held in August 2017 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon. This workshop will be aimed primarily at graduate and post-doctoral students and will focus on teaching them how to incorporate these methods into their own research. With better methodology in place, the team hopes that more students will feel confident in entering this area of research.
________________________________________

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Overland Park Convention Center one of the first to offer fully interactive, computer-simulated convention center experience with virtual reality goggles.



Overland Park, Kan. (Sept. 29, 2016)—Overland Park Convention Center (OPCC) customers can now experience fully immersive, visual and sound environment of beautifully decorated event rooms, delivered through a special headset device utilizing the latest Samsung Galaxy 7 phone and Beats headphones to produce a stunning audio visual experience.

“This investment is one of the first immersive sales tools in the convention center industry, using the latest in dynamic VR software and the creative productions of one of Hollywood’s most respected visual entertainment producers, V Squared Labs,” Brett C. Mitchell, General Manager of OPCC, said. “The sound track deepens and expands the illusion of actually being in the decorated rooms. The experience of the high-definition images is dynamic in that one moves through the facility simply by looking in a specific direction.”

With a major investment recently completed in upgrading to one of the world’s fastest, free Wi-Fi systems for convention centers, this is one of the newest technologies just released by OPCC to enhance event sales. This innovative system is delivered through its technology partnership with Neil Reid and Associates, and visual entertainment producers, V Squared Labs.

To generate this experience, V Squared Labs spent three days on-site with an HD, 3D camera digitally filming fully decorated event areas at OPCC. The 3D images were then “stitched” together so while wearing the headset, customers can virtually move through the decorated spaces by moving their head or body and can enjoy every cubic foot of the event space in any direction. The digital headset layers with a custom digital soundtrack which deepens and expands the immersive experience.

To further expand availability of this experience, OPCC customers can also virtually see and hear the decorated facility from any tablet, phone or laptop computer through a browser interface. OPCC believes this investment is one of the first immersive sales tools in the convention center industry, using the latest in dynamic VR software.

“The effect is so compelling and immersive that the experience can be enjoyed while sitting in a chair—the illusion of being in the room is powerful enough that one forgets where they are actually located,” Neil Reid of Neil Reid and Associates, said. “OPCC is one of the finest convention centers in the world, and the latest technology investment by their team demonstrates clear leadership in harnessing one of the most powerful internet experiences available.”

OPCC has released this technology to their sales department. To experience this immersive technology and learn more about what OPCC can offer, please call (913) 339-3000. For a sneak peek of this technology, visit https://opconventioncenter.com/upcoming-news/virtualtour/.

National Restaurant Association Applauds Senate Introduction of Legislation to Delay and Update DOL Overtime Rule



(Washington, D.C.) Today the National Restaurant Association issued a statement of support for the Senate Introduction of the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act and the Overtime Reform and Review Act. These bills would offer a six month delay of the December 1 implementation deadline and make much-needed modifications to the Department of Labor’s new overtime regulation.

“As the December 1 deadline nears, we thank Chairman Alexander and Senators Lankford, Scott, Flake and Collins for their leadership in introducing this critical legislation. Delaying the implementation date, allowing for a more gradual phase-in period, eliminating automatic indexing and carefully studying the impact this rule will have is crucial for small businesses navigating yet another burdensome regulation.”

Currently, the Department of Labor’s overtime rule more than doubles the salary threshold for non-exempt employees with automatic increases every three years.  The Overtime Reform and Review Act would phase-in the threshold increase over a 5 year period with a “pause year” after the first year to provide an opportunity for agencies to assess the impact and allow exemption for certain entities from further increases based on the assessment, and prohibit automatic indexing.  The Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act would provide a six month delay in implementation.

The Department of Labor’s updated federal overtime regulation takes effect Dec. 1, 2016. The National Restaurant Association has been working closely with members of Congress to find solutions for our membership as they navigate this rule. With the passage of H.R. 6094 in the House and the introduction of legislation in the Senate, the Association is asking the Senate and the Administration to listen to the concerns of small businesses and act quickly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Western Growers’ Board of Directors Endorses Senator John McCain




IRVINE, Calif., (September 21, 2016) -- The Western Growers Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed Senator John McCain.
Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western Growers, issued the following statement: “In a recent column, I wrote, ‘We need fewer politicians and more statesmen.’ John McCain is among the statesmen we need now more than ever. Throughout his career, Senator McCain has sought to advance pragmatic conservative solutions to some of our most challenging problems. He is a leader among those who place problem-solving ahead of gridlock. We are proud to once again endorse Senator McCain for reelection to the U.S. Senate and we look forward to working closely with him next year and in the years to come.”
“I am honored to have the support of Western Growers,” said John McCain. “Western Growers represents some of the hardest working people in America who produce the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including half of its fresh organic produce. I am grateful for the support of an organization that is creating jobs, protecting crops and water resources, and supporting those who feed our country.”


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Big City Health Officials from Across America Speak Out about Zika’s Toll Cite Consequences of Lack of Congressional Action


WASHINGTON, D.C – Members of The Big Cities Health Coalition voiced their concerns about the lack of Congressional funding for the Zika virus response today, detailing the ways in which their communities have been affected, and how they have addressed the public health emergency in the absence of federal funds.
The Coalition consists of the 28 largest, most urban public health departments in the country, representing approximately 1 in 6 Americans. These local health departments are on the front lines of fighting the outbreak by educating the public and health care providers about Zika, screening travelers from countries where the outbreak is more advanced, and scaling up mosquito control programs.
Since January 2016, health officials at the federal, state, and local levels have been concerned about potential spread of the Zika virus in the United States. While most people have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all when infected with Zika, the virus has a severe and troubling impact on some infected adults and unborn babies. In the absence of Congressional action on Zika emergency funding, the federal government has shifted funds from other programs to pay for Zika. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved funds from state and local health departments’ emergency preparedness activities to pay for a response to the outbreak.
Below, health officials from across the nation describe the impact if Congress fails to approve funding to address the Zika threat and restore emergency preparedness funding.
South
Stephen Williams, M.Ed., MPA, Director, Houston Health Department - If funding for Zika is not provided, then we will allow Zika to get a foothold in the mosquito population. This will result in many babies being born with microcephaly...The City of Houston has taken a leadership role in combating Zika in our community but, like many other big cities, does not have the funds to respond to a local transmission event of Zika. Funding will allow us to conduct active surveillance to pinpoint if and where local transmission is occurring. Without increased funding we are blind.
Zachary Thompson, Director, Dallas County (TX) Health and Human Services Department - It is not if, but when Dallas County will see local transmission of the Zika virus outbreak similar to Florida. The local transmission of the Zika virus is a clear and present public health danger to the residents of Dallas County. I have first-hand experience responding to the first confirmed Ebola cases in the United States. Federal funding is needed now for local health departments to continue to provide public education, contact investigations, and ground/aerial spraying to protect residents, and especially pregnant women, from the Zika virus.  
Vinny Taneja, Director, Tarrant County (TX) Public Health; Vice-Chair, Big Cities Health Coalition - More than 20 imported cases of Zika have already been reported in Tarrant County. We are working every day to avoid local transmission in our communities. Our efforts require money for education, source reduction, larviciding and adulticiding. We need Congress to approve the Zika funding bill.
Vincent R. Nathan, PhD, MPH, Interim Health Director, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District - In Texas, and along the Gulf coast, essential (supplemental) funding is needed for local health departments.  We cannot spray ourselves out of this problem. Funding should be for: educational campaigns (media and printed materials); purchase of Zika traps for use in high risk areas, sentinel sites to identify mosquito populations, and increased local laboratory capacity.
Northeast
Mary Bassett, MD, MPH, Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - In New York City, 64 pregnant women have tested positive for the Zika virus, and one baby has been born with microcephaly. As an international travel hub, New York City has some of the highest numbers of travel-related Zika cases in the United States, and we do not anticipate these numbers will subside. In the absence of federal funding, New York City has invested millions of dollars in the fight against the Zika virus. But, we need Congress to act to immediately to approve an emergency funding package for a comprehensive public health response to the Zika virus and restore funds cut from the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program.
Midwest
Gretchen Musicant, Commissioner of Health, Minneapolis Health Department; Chair-Elect, Big Cities Health Coalition - The lack of designated Zika funding has meant that public health emergency preparedness efforts in Minnesota have been cut by 7%. This funding needs to be restored so that local and state public health agencies are able to respond to unexpected threats to health. Even though there are no locally infected cases of Zika in Minnesota, there have been 47 confirmed travel-associated cases of Zika in Minnesota, and we are expecting that the increase of travelers from Minnesota to Florida and other Southern states over the winter will lead to an escalation of cases.
Julie Morita, MD, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health – Chicago is a major travel hub and so far over 1,000 returned travelers have required Zika testing through our public health labs and hundreds more through commercial labs. We have increased mosquito surveillance and control activities, handled hundreds of telephone calls from health care providers and patients, created and launched a large public education campaign, and tracked outcomes of infected pregnant women and their infants. This has put a strain on our communicable disease, environmental health, maternal and child health, and public information divisions. Securing funding to fight Zika is crucial to protecting the health of Chicagoans. A coordinated, national public health response is necessary to limit transmission in the highest risk communities and prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.
West
Patty Hayes, RN, MN, Director, Public Health -- Seattle & King County - Public Health – Seattle & King County has had over 525 reports related to possible Zika infection and has tested over 365 people. We’ve also invested significant time reaching out to health care providers to ensure clear understanding of the ever-changing guidance and responding to questions from labs and providers. During the period of January 1 – June 30, 2016, Public Health staff have spent approximately $200,000, including about 1,900 hours of staff time—even in an area where mosquitoes do not currently carry the disease.
Public Health – Seattle and King County is 100% reliant upon federal grants to ensure that the health department is ready to respond to emerging health threats and disease outbreaks. Cuts to emergency preparedness funding would result in reductions in staffing for infectious disease monitoring, less capability in field operations, and diminished coordination with healthcare providers.
Sara Cody, MD, Health Officer and Public Health Director, Santa Clara County Public Health Department, CA - In Santa Clara County, the lack of dedicated Zika funding has both strained our capacity to respond to Zika, and diverted resources from our overall public health disaster planning and response. Although we have not yet identified the mosquito vector in our county, we are a large and diverse county with residents who travel internationally. We have diverted resources to support laboratory testing, provider education, public information and surveillance. The cut in Public Health Emergency Preparedness funds resulted in elimination of a position that was charged with conducting and coordinating county disaster planning efforts, as well as overseeing our training and exercise program.
 Joseph P. Iser, MD, DrPH, MSc, Chief Health Officer, Southern Nevada Health District - We live in a state and county that currently doesn’t have the Aedes mosquito, but without these resources we will not be able to keep the mosquito—and the infection—out of the county to keep our citizens and 42 million visitors safe from this disease.
Cynthia Harding, MPH, Interim Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health - Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been working diligently with local vector control agencies and other emergency response partners to respond to Zika and respond to the threat of local transmission. If Zika funding is not approved, our public health system’s ability to find cases through laboratory testing and to prevent additional cases through vector management will be diminished, restricting our efforts to prevent local Zika transmission in Los Angeles County. In addition, if public health emergency preparedness funding is not restored as part of the Zika funding, this will impede our ability to respond to other emerging infectious diseases, pandemic flu, acts of bioterrorism, or other such incidents, leaving our public health system less prepared and our communities more vulnerable to further threats that come our way.
The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact more than 54 million people, or one in six Americans. The Big Cities Health Coalition is an independent project of the National Association of City and County Health Officials. For more information, please visit www.bigcitieshealth.org.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Local Initiatives to Address the Rural Opioid Epidemic


WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2016, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new USDA initiatives to strengthen outreach and education resources at the local level to combat the rural opioid epidemic, including an expanded series of state-led opioid awareness events and increased access to information in USDA local offices. The effort begins on Monday, Sept. 19, coinciding with President Obama's designated Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week from Sept. 18 – 23.
Opioid addiction, including heroin and prescription drug misuse, is a fast-growing problem that played a role in more than 28,000 deaths in 2014. The opioid crisis disproportionately affects rural communities in part due to the lack of outreach and treatment resources available in remote areas. In January, President Obama tapped Vilsack to lead an interagency initiative focused on curbing rural opioid misuse. Over the past nine months, Vilsack has visited regions of the country that have been hit hard by opioid addiction to host a series of White House Rural Council Townhalls to hear from local leaders fighting the epidemic on the ground and discuss possible solutions.
"Over the past few months, I've seen firsthand the devastation that opioid addiction is causing in communities across the country. After hearing from mothers and fathers who've lost their children to opioid misuse, and listening to mayors and medical personnel appeal for greater treatment resources, it's clear that rural communities need our help." said Vilsack. "In order to better serve our communities, I've directed USDA's local teams to step up as leaders and expand our resources and programs to battle the opioid epidemic."
To continue the important conversations happening in rural communities devastated by the opioid crisis, leaders from USDA's Farm Service Agency and Rural Development offices in key affected states will host opioid awareness events to bring together government officials, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue, forge partnerships, identify possible solutions and highlight the need for more treatment resources in rural communities. The series will kick off with these four events in September with more to follow in the coming months:
September 19 : Tolland, Connecticut
September 20: Brighton, Colorado
September 26: Grants Pass, Oregon
September 29: Fayetteville, NC
Vilsack also announced that USDA will display information about addiction resources from the Centers for Disease Control in all of its local offices. USDA's Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Services offices serve millions of Americans across the country each year and for many people in rural communities this may be the only face-to-face interaction they have with the federal government. USDA's offices can play an important role in raising awareness about the issue and helping people connect with resources. 44 percent of Americans recently said they or someone they know has been addicted to prescription pain medicine.
USDA has taken a number of steps to use its resources to help battle the opioid epidemic. In March, Secretary Vilsack announced that the Rural Health and Safety Education grant program could be used for communities to conduct drug addiction awareness efforts. USDA's Distance Learning and Telehealth Medicine Grants have been used to help hospitals in rural communities use telemedicine to better treat individuals struggling with addiction and the Community Facilities Grants and Loans Program has allowed communities to build treatment and recovery facilities. In August, the Secretary announced that USDA was leveraging its rural housing programs to provide more housing for individuals in recovery. More information on the opioid epidemic and USDA's response can be found at www.usda.gov/opioids.
The President has proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to support states in expanding treatment options. Recently, Congress passed legislation aimed at addressing the crisis; however did not provide any funding that would expand resources.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Farm Bureau Urges Congress to Break Down Barriers with Cuba



WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2016 – American agriculture is poised for substantial growth in the Cuban market but financing restrictions are placing U.S. farmers and ranchers at a serious disadvantage in this nearby market, the American Farm Bureau Federation wrote in official comments to the House Agriculture Committee.
The committee held a hearing today exploring the benefits of American agricultural trade with Cuba. AFBF has long supported opening trade with this market, just 90 miles off our coast. “Real opportunities exist for increased sales of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba as growing demand is driven by 11 million Cubans and by increasing tourism,” AFBF wrote. Yet, the U.S. has fallen from being the number one supplier of agricultural products to number five due to restrictions imposed on financing those sales.
“U.S. agriculture is at a global disadvantage as we watch foreign competitors continue to take away our market share,” AFBF said. “There is no better time than now to provide American farmers and agribusinesses the tools they need to expand agricultural exports to Cuba and help our industry survive this difficult economic environment.”

Statement by Bob Young, Chief Economist, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Bayer-Monsanto Merger



WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2016 – “Market forces led to deals like the one announced today, but we know that major-company mergers have a profound impact on the tools available to farmers and ranchers, sometimes to their detriment.
“This deal between Monsanto and Bayer comes close on the heels of the proposed Dow-DuPont merger. Farm Bureau believes the Department of Justice should undertake a close review of the overall business climate that has encouraged these combinations, rather than evaluating them in isolation. Consumers must continue to have fair access to the best technologies and innovation.
“Farmers and ranchers, in particular, are interested in how these deals will impact research and development budgets for companies like Bayer and Monsanto. We depend on access to enhanced technology, and would hate to see agricultural innovation suffer at the cost of business decisions.”

EPA Violated Personal Privacy of Farmers, Ranchers



WASHINGTON, D.C., September 12, 2016 -- The Environmental Protection Agency has violated the personal privacy of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers, according to a unanimous ruling issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The ruling in American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council vs. EPA concerned the federal agency’s 2013 release to three environmental groups of a vast compilation of spreadsheets containing personal information about farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry in 29 states. The case also related to similar personal information from farmers and ranchers in seven additional states that had yet to be released. The information included the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses, GPS coordinates, telephone numbers and emails. EPA claimed that it was required to disclose the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“This was an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy by a federal agency in violation of law,” said AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen. “The court’s decision is a vindication of the right of farm families to control their own personal information. Farmers and ranchers have a strong privacy interest in their personal information, including their home address, even when they live and work on the farm.”
Farm families usually live on the farm and the court took note that EPA’s disclosures in this case could facilitate unwanted contact and harassment of farmers and ranchers by the FOIA requestors and others. According to Steen, “this case assures us that individuals still have a privacy interest in their personal information. The fact that government agencies may have that information and even store it on the Internet does not eliminate the individual’s privacy interest.” According to the court, “EPA’s release of the complete set of data on a silver platter, so to speak, basically hands to the requesters a comprehensive database of their own, whatever their motives might be.”
“EPA now has to ‘recall’ all of the personal information it unlawfully released, but unfortunately that information has now been in the hands of the FOIA requestors for three years, and many feel that the damage is done,” Steen said. “AFBF will continue to work to ensure that personal information about farmers and ranchers is not disclosed by EPA.”

DeLauro Calls on U.S. Department of Labor to Investigate Chipotle for Wage Theft Against Nearly 10,000 Workers

Workers allege that the corporation forced them to work “off the clock” hours without compensation

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor, urging the agency to open an investigation into Chipotle Mexican Grill for recent allegations that the corporation has engaged in wage theft against its employees.

Nearly 10,000 workers from restaurants across the country have joined a class action lawsuit against Chipotle, alleging that they were forced to work “off the clock” hours without receiving compensation for those hours, or overtime pay. The workers also allege that Chipotle uses timekeeping technology that automatically punches workers off the clock, even if they are required to continue to work.

“Wage and hour violations pose a serious and growing problem for working Americans across industries, and wage theft disproportionately affects low-wage, hourly workers. A 2008 survey conducted by the National Employment Law Center of 4,387 low-wage workers in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago found that 68 percent of them experienced some form of wage theft in the workweek immediately before the survey was conducted,” DeLauro wrote in the letter.

“These accusations are in direct contradiction to federal wage and hour law, as defined in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, depriving workers of the wages and earnings to which they are legally entitled.  I urge you to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into these claims.  We must hold employers who violate their employees’ rights accountable,” continued DeLauro.

Earlier this year, DeLauro introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act, which would crack down on employers who engage in wage theft. This bill would give workers the right to receive full compensation for all of the work they perform, as well as the right to receive regular paystubs and final paychecks in a timely manner. It would also provide workers with improved tools to recover their stolen wages in court and make assistance available to build community partnerships that enhance the enforcement of and improve compliance with wage and hour laws.