Friday, January 29, 2016

Farm Bureau Approves Strategic Action Plan for 2016



WASHINGTON, D.C., January 29, 2016 – The American Farm Bureau Federation today released highlights of its 2016 strategic action plan, which addresses public policy issues in the coming year. The plan is a result of deliberations of delegates to the AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention in Orlando.
The board-approved plan focuses the organization’s attention on a number of key issues including:
Creating a more-positive dialogue with consumers about modern agricultural practices;
Protecting farmers’ ability to use biotech plant varieties and other innovative technologies;
Opposing unlawful expansion of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act; and
Moving forward with congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

“We will continue to work hard to protect the business of American agriculture on all fronts. This plan is an important roadmap to key issue areas that AFBF and our grassroots members will address in 2016,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Waters of the U.S. rule remains among the most pressing issues in agriculture. Although presented as a water issue, the measure in fact would unlawfully regulate land in violation of the Clean Water Act itself. The rule takes over local and state authority while threatening private property rights and normal farming activity nationwide.
“EPA’s blatant overreach is nothing short of a federal land grab,” Duvall said. “The administration has refused to listen to business owners, local governments and lawmakers. The courts have ordered this rule temporarily stopped. The Government Accountability Office found EPA’s actions illegal, and Congress—which originally gave EPA its authority under the Clean Water Act—called for an end to this rule. We won’t give up until it’s gone and farmers are free to care for their own land.”
AFBF’s action plan also supports agricultural biotechnology that promises great benefits for agriculture, consumers and the environment.
“Farmers and ranchers need better tools to be more productive and efficient. We will continue to defend farmers’ and ranchers’ access to biotechnology and protect their right to use other promising new technologies, from data services to drones,” Duvall said.
The AFBF board reaffirmed its commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
“TPP promises to open up markets around the Pacific Rim. These are some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and America’s farmers and ranchers are ready to expand business there,” Duvall said. “We’re ready to work with Congress to move this agreement forward for the overall good of U.S. agriculture.”
The action plan also places a special focus on food safety and security issues.
“Consumers should have the confidence that their food is safe and wholesome. As farmers, we want the best for our families and yours. We’ve made great strides in opening up the dialogue to help consumers understand more about modern agriculture, but there’s a long way to go,” Duvall said. “All consumers deserve access to safe, affordable food, and we will continue to protect agriculture’s ability to meet that need.”
The AFBF board approved an additional list of issues that will require close monitoring as they develop over the course of 2016. Those issue areas include advancing legislation that addresses agriculture’s long- and short-term labor needs, implementing business tax reform, monitoring the overall farm economy, and energy availability and affordability.

Donald and Cheri De Jong Win 2016 Top Producer of the Year Award


Philadelphia, Pa. (Jan. 29, 2016) – Dairy producers Donald and Cheri De Jong of Hartley, Texas, have been named the 2016 winners of the Top Producer of the Year award. The husband-and-wife team has grown their dairy from 1,000 cows to 17,000, producing milk for organic and conventional markets.

The De Jongs grow about 85% of their feed needs, both organic and conventional, on 50,000 acres in Texas and Colorado. “They have detailed standard operating procedures, software to track every expense and audited financial statements,” noted Sara Schafer, Editor of Top Producer magazine. “Core competencies are outlined for every position, and employees are able to develop career paths.”

A centralized management business called AgriVision Farm Management controls accounting, human
resources, purchasing and inventory for all of their main operations, which include Natural Prairie Dairy,
Northside Farms and Jersey Gold Dairy. The De Jongs have 300 employees.

Sponsored by Bayer CropScience and Case IH, the Top Producer of the Year contest is in its 17th year and represents the best in the business of farming. Three finalists are chosen from a slew of applications by a panel of judges based on entrepreneurial originality, financial and business progress, and industry and community leadership.

Also honored as finalists during the annual Top Producer of the Year banquet, held Wednesday night, were father-daughter team Ron and Zoey Brooks of Brooks Farms in Waupaca, Wis., and Annie Dee of Dee River Ranch in Aliceville, Ala. Approximately 1,000 attendees participated in Farm Journal Media’s Top Producer event, including more than 600 of the nation’s largest producers, representing about 4 million acres. Producers came to Chicago from 28 states and Canada.

“There is no other event in agriculture that attracts such a concentration of the nation’s top farmers,” said Ron Wall, Division President, Publishing, Farm Journal Media. “Top Producer Seminar attendees not only hear from the industry’s best experts but have the opportunity to network with likeminded producers, as well as sponsors.” This year’s seminar theme “Cultivate Every Opportunity” featured more than 30 different educational sessions for producers to hone their money, marketing and management skills and deal with today’s volatile farm economy.

In addition to Top Producer Seminar, the eighth annual Tomorrow’s Top Producer event will be held June 16-17 in Nashville, Tenn., and will host the nation’s brightest young producers. The program is designed to introduce young and beginning farmers under the age of 35 to the business of farming. Top Producer also recognizes a top operator 35 and under with its Horizon Award. This year’s winner is Chris Noble of Noblehurst Farms in Pavilion, N.Y.

Premier Sponsors of the 2015 Top Producer Seminar are Advance Trading, Inc., Agrium, BASF, Bayer
CropScience, Cargill, Case IH, Channel, CropZilla, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, Farmers Business
Network, Farmers Edge, Firestone, Granular, John Deere, K·Coe Isom, MAVRX, New Holland, O&B
Barnstorm, SoybeanPremiums.org, Top Third Ag Marketing and Verdesian. Co-sponsors are Agro-Liquid,
CliftonLarsonAllen, Conservis, Gavilon and Gulke Group. Supporting sponsors are T-L Irrigation and Transition Point Business Advisors. For more information on the Top Producer Seminar or Tomorrow’s Top Producer event, visit www.TopProducerSeminar.com.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

DeLauro Statement on the President's Proposal to Expand Access to Summer Meals



WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) released the following statement today regarding the President's FY 2017 budget proposal to permanently expand the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program.

“The President's announcement today is a clear sign that the Administration is making funding childhood nutrition programs a top priority, and I am encouraged by the President’s commitment to ensuring that more of our children can eat during the summer months. Unlike the current Senate child nutrition reauthorization bill, the President's budget will do more to expand access to food benefits during the summer months and make it easier for more children to participate in the program. We must do everything we can for our children to have access to healthy and nutritious meals when school is out of session and I thank the Administration for its leadership in expanding these programs.

“While the Senate bill included a Summer EBT program, it limits the potential impact of the program by operating it through WIC, capping the number of eligible children to a dramatically low number, and limiting the amount a child can spend to only $30 a month. The President's budget proposal would run the program through SNAP, would not cap the number of eligible children, and would increase the monthly benefit to $45. This is the path forward and a win for the millions of children and families who depend on these critical safety net programs. I strongly encourage my colleagues to support the President’s request.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

AQUAGRILL Celebrates a Twenty Year Marriage of Food & Wine



With anniversary dinners featuring wine & menu favorites since 1996
NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- AQUAGRILL is proud to announce the 20th year celebration of their iconic seafood restaurant in SoHo, New York City.  To commemorate this benchmark anniversary, there will be a $150 five course celebratory dinner available on Monday, February 22nd and Monday, February 29th.
Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160122/325204LOGO
The proprietors, husband and wife team Chef Jeremy Marshall and Sommelier Jennifer Marshall, are designing a compilation of menu favorites that have appeared over the past two decades, and will showcase wine selections that have been carefully aged since the restaurant opened. Some of the dishes highlighted during this celebration will be Snail Snaps - individually wrapped escargot poppers, Poached Aquagrill Oysters with Truffle Crab and Sevruga Caviar as well as Roasted Barramundi with Braised Short Ribs and Mascarpone Polenta.  To accompany the tasting menu, Mrs. Marshall will be making available a special selection of 1996 vintage wines from Burgundy, Rhone and California.
Aquagrill anchors the corner of 6th Avenue and Spring Street ever since the doors opened on February 22, 1996.  As the restaurant turns 20, it continues to draw passionate devotees by featuring 25 different oyster varieties daily and creative seafood cuisine paired with an award winning wine list.   The Marshalls are hands on owner-operators committed to maintaining the highest dining standards. In turn, Aquagrill ranks as one of the top restaurants in the New York City (ZAGAT Guide's 50 Best Restaurants) and in the country (OpenTable's Best 100 Restaurants in America).  Starting in 2011, Aquagrill expanded to an annex operation at Madison Square Garden serving Lobster Shrimp Rolls to the delight of sports and music fans.
"Eat Oysters – Love Longer" is Aquagrill's motto. Passion has fueled this husband and wife run restaurant making Aquagrill's two decades an endeavor of distinction both in marriage and in business.
For more information on the restaurant and the 20th Anniversary Celebrations, visit Aquagrill Restaurant.

DeLauro Statement on the World Health Organization's Final Report on Ending Childhood Obesity



WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today released the following statement regarding the final report from the World Health Organization's Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

“The World Health Organization has confirmed what many of us already know to be true: the childhood obesity epidemic has reached new levels in the U.S. and around the world, and there are reasonable reforms that we can enact to change our course.

“I was pleased to see the final report come out with strong, common-sense solutions to address the childhood obesity epidemic. ECHO’s core recommendation for countries to implement a tax on sugar sweetened beverages would go far to discourage excessive consumption of these sugary drinks. Science shows that there is a clear link between sugar-sweetened beverages and chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

“For this exact reason, I introduced the SWEET Act, legislation that would tax sugar-sweetened beverages and raise revenue to fund initiatives for chronic disease prevention and treatment. The legislation would also utilize the revenue from the tax to increase access to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods and nutrition education—another solution the ECHO report strongly recommends. For far too long, Congress has been fanning the flames of the obesity epidemic with ineffective policies. Now is the time for Congress to be part of the solution and enact the SWEET Act.

“The report also makes meaningful recommendations to restrict marketing of unhealthy foods to children, which I am also fighting for through the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act. We cannot successfully fight childhood obesity and diabetes if we are allowing food companies to continue to pour millions of dollars a year into marketing unhealthy, sugar-filled foods to our children at school, home, and the grocery store.

“Further, the report recommends easy-to-understand front of package labeling to help parents make better choices for their children’s meals and snacks. I have supported the Food Labeling Modernization Act and will continue to fight to make labels work for 21st Century families. We must give parents the tools they need to make healthy choices and this legislation is one of the easiest ways for us to do so.

“I applaud the World Health Organization for undertaking this challenge and standing up to the powerful special interests, including soft drink and snack companies. Now it is time for Congress to do the same and pass commonsense legislation to end this epidemic. Twenty years from now, when today's children are well into adulthood, we will look back and realize that we could have done more to stop this epidemic earlier. Our children deserve better.”


Friday, January 22, 2016

Mack Parks Recognized as a TCA Highway Angel



Melton Truck Lines driver saves a couple and their truck after their camper catches fire

ALEXANDRIA, Va. –  Mack Parks of Wichita Falls, Texas, a professional truck driver for Melton Truck Lines, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). He is being recognized for helping an elderly couple while their camper was on fire.  ¬¬
On May 2, 2015, Parks was driving on I-65, near Franklin, Indiana when he noticed that a camper being hauled by a truck was on fire.  Parks drove along side the truck and noticed an elderly couple driving unaware of the camper fire. After several attempts to get the couple’s attention Parks was finally able to alert them of the fire and they moved to the side of the road.  Parks knew from his experience as a volunteer firefighter that the camper was too engulfed in flames to save it and focused his attention on removing the burning camper from the truck. “I knew the camper had to be lifted off the hitch and the truck moved away fast to avoid the fire from spreading to the vehicle and causing even more damage,” Parks said.  Frustrated but determined to move the truck by himself Parks was glad to finally see another motorist stop to help lift the camper off the truck. Sadly the couple had all their belongings in the camper and it was a total loss but thankfully the quick action of Parks saved the couples truck and possibly their lives.
Parks unfortunately knew what they were going through all to well since he had lost his house in a fire in 2012. “When you lose all your belongings you learn what is most important in life.  As a driver, everyone preaches safety and I am glad I was able to do my part and keep everyone safe.”
Parks is not only a volunteer firefighter, but he has also served in the Army National Guard.
For his willingness to help, TCA has presented Parks with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decal. Melton Truck Lines also received a certificate acknowledging its newest Highway Angel.
TCA’s Highway Angel program is sponsored by EpicVue. Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job.
To nominate a driver or learn more about the program and its honorees, visit the Highway Angel Web page at http://www.truckload.org/Highway-Angel or Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/tcanews. For additional information, contact TCA at (703) 838-1950 or angel@truckload.org.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Pasquinelli Produce pairs with Yuma Lettuce Days for Salúd to the Field Workers Backbone of Ag to be recognized at annual "feastival"


 
YUMA, ARIZONA – New to Yuma Lettuce Days in 2016, Salúd to the Field Workers presented by Pasquinelli Produce will feature a series of presentations and exhibits recognizing the tireless labor of those in the fields through first-hand storytelling.

"We are extremely proud to be partnering with Pasquinelli Produce," said Linda Morgan, Executive Director of Yuma Visitors Bureau. "Having their support in ensuring Salúd is a meaningful and successful part of Yuma Lettuce Days demonstrates the company's commitment to its workers and others in the industry."

Scheduled to take place on Yuma Lettuce Days' second day of festivities (Feb. 28), Salúd to the Field Workers presented by Pasquinelli Produce highlights the importance of field workers in driving Yuma County's multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.

Live presenters will share stories and answer questions about their work, while an art display offers intimate portrayals of the unseen world of those who labor to bring food to the tables of millions across the continent.

"We greatly understand the importance of field workers and their contributions to the success of agriculture in Yuma," said Gary Pasquinelli, owner of Pasquinelli Produce. "Supporting an activity which shares our company's beliefs makes all the sense in the world and we encourage residents and visitors to join us at Yuma Lettuce Days to recognize this community of dedicated, hardworking people."

The partnership between Yuma Visitors Bureau and Pasquinelli Produce comes on the heels of an announcement that Executive Chef Michael Cairns of Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia will headline live cooking demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday of this year's annual event.

Yuma Lettuce Days kicks off on Feb. 27 at the University of Arizona’s Yuma Agricultural Center  and concludes on Feb. 28 with Salúd to the Field Workers presented by Pasquinelli Produce. Ticketing information coming soon.

Other activities planned for Yuma's homegrown celebration include live cooking demonstrations and contests, a ginormous salad bar and the Recipe Box tasting event on Saturday that showcases specialties from local restaurants, plus beer and wine. Throughout the weekend, there will be plenty of ag-related vendors on hand, live entertainment, and a special Kids Ag-tivities area, along with a petting zoo with baby farm animals. Also on the Lettuce Days menu are farm tours, demonstrations of high-tech farming equipment and methods, a “test planting” of numerous strawberry varieties and a giant flower garden that Yuma's Master Gardeners will utilize for demonstrations.

Put Arizona's freshest destination food event on your calendar now!  Sure as Yuma sunshine, there will be a plate full of fun!  Plans are still germinating, check for added ingredients at YumaLettuceDays.com.

Hi-tech wellness monitor allows children to keep watchful eye on elderly parents via smartphone


Our parents have cared for us all of their lives. Now, for those of us with parents of advancing age, it's our turn to care for them.

But what are the best options for providing 'round-the-clock supervision and support to an elderly parent?

"The average yearly cost of an assisted living facility is $43,200 per year, and the cost of a nursing home with private room is over $90,000 a year according to the 2015 Genworth Cost of Care Survey," said health care systems expert Jason Carroll, Senior Sales Manager of the fast growing health technology company, Vitall, Inc. "But even for families where such costs are not prohibitive, parents are often reluctant to be relocated from their own homes, which are filled with years of happy memories, and placed into an unfamiliar environment, living with strangers."

As an inexpensive alternative to relocating parents to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Carroll's company has developed HeyMomDad, (www.heymomdad.com), the world's first two-way communication and wellness monitoring system for seniors. The system allows children and loved ones to see and hear, in real time, that their elderly parents are safe and well simply by opening an app on their smartphone any time during the day or night.

"The system allows your mom or dad to press one button to talk to you or, if necessary, notify you if help is needed," said Carroll. "Once the notification appears on your phone, you just tap the HeyMomDad icon and you can instantly see, hear, and talk to your parent through the high quality HD video and two-way audio component that's part of HeyMomDad."

Carroll said the HeyMomDad monitoring solution isn't like other systems that simply call a monitoring service or dial 911.

"Most seniors are very reluctant to call 911 in an emergency because they're embarrassed or they don't want to cause a fuss or incur an expense - which can be as high as $1,200 even for false alarms where paramedics were dispatched," said Carroll. "But with the HeyMomDad solution, seniors have a choice: press the blue button on the Instant Alert Pager to alert only family and friends, or press the red button to alert family, friends and 911."

Carroll said the system's high definition camera can be controlled through the smart phone and directed to any location in the room, permitting a full 270 degree view. The camera even boasts night vision for clear viewing in dark rooms where lights have been turned off.

"What we're offering families with elderly members is a way to stay close; a way to know in a second if your parent or grandparent is doing well. One button push and they're connected to you." said Carroll.

"Just as importantly, HeyMomDad is a way for our parents to keep their independence and live life the way they want - with honor and dignity in their own homes. Not only does it address the needs of seniors and their caregiving family members, it's an excellent, low-cost alternative to engaging a nurse or moving to a senior living facility."

The HeyMomDad monitoring solution is easy to install with simple plug-and-play functionality. The only requirement is a reliable connection to the Internet via any existing Ethernet modem (not included).

For additional specifications, system options, and pricing information, please visit www.HeyMomDad.com.

What challenges does climate change pose for global production and procurement?



The 35th Fresh Produce Forum has the answers

Berlin, 18 January 2016 – The 35th Fresh Produce Forum will kick off the FRUIT LOGISTICA 2016 supporting programme on 2 February, the day before the opening of the leading trade fair for the international fresh produce industry. The main focus will be on “Climate change – The challenges for global production and procurement”.

Climate zones are shifting, resulting in changes in growth and production cycles across entire cultivation areas. For the produce industry, this means fundamental changes in global sourcing.

Climatologists Dr. Benjamin Leon Bodirsky and Dr. Susanne Rolinski (both from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) will explain how these changes impact the produce industry and retail trade. Stewart Collis, whose company aWhere provides weather and agronomic data, Thomas  Averhoff from UNIVEG Deutschland and Alfredo Miralles from the Spanish grape grower Uvasdoce will describe the specific effects these changes have on production, procurement and ultimately on the consumer.

The 35th Fresh Produce Forum takes place Tuesday, 2 February, from 15:00 to 18:30 in Hall 7.3a in Saal Berlin. All presentations will be translated simultaneously into English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

Participation fee is EUR 90 and includes a three-day pass for FRUIT LOGISTICA. Register here.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The ethics of eating: what the freegan is this?


Everyone is talking about food. Chefs and food critics are celebrities. "Locavore" and "freegan" have earned spots in the dictionary. Popular books and films about food production and consumption are exposing the unintended consequences of the standard American diet. Questions about the principles and values that ought to guide decisions about dinner have become urgent for moral, ecological, and health-related reasons. So, as we begin a New Year and perhaps the inevitable resolution of ‘new diet new me’, which ethical corner will you be in at the dinner table?
In Philosophy Comes to Dinner, twelve philosophers—some leading voices, some inspiring new ones—join the conversation, and consider issues from the sustainability of modern agriculture, to consumer complicity in animal exploitation, as well as the pros and cons of alternative diets.
The last few years have seen much written that should psychologically (and perhaps physically) unsettle those who eat the typical American diet, but this book ups the ante. Not only does it contain important new arguments, it is packed with provocative new questions.
Concerned consumers have been discussing food reform for decades. An entire social movement has even formed around the issue. But—somewhat astonishingly—we have yet to think systematically about the ethical implications of our proposals. Philosophy Comes to Dinner changes that.

In a culinary world marked by simplistic and polarized extremes—organic versus conventional, free trade versus fair trade, local versus global food, vegan versus "conscientious carnivore," and so on— it asks us to exchange ideology for reflection and thoroughly explore why we’re making the food choices we are making. Philosophy Comes to Dinner represents the fact that philosophy is, figuratively, just one guest around a very crowded table, alongside agriculture, business, government, nonprofit, and religion, who can play a pivotal role in transforming our food system.

Don't Give Up Now! The Daily Meal Reveals 25 Strategies to Help You Keep Those Resolutions



NEW YORK – January 12, 2015 – The Daily Meal, the world’s largest food and drink lifestyle site, just announced the publication of "Don't Give Up: 25 Strategies to Help You Keep Those Resolutions." January marks the start of New Year’s Resolution season, when we often make promises to ourselves tied to weight loss or adapting a healthier lifestyle. Instead of introducing a resolution that involves deprivation and is only around for the short term, The Daily Meal shows you ways to keep your resolutions every day, without it feeling like a chore.

“A healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight and in order to move forward, you need to keep a steady pace,” said Bridget Creel, Healthy Eating Editor at The Daily Meal. “This can be accomplished by setting reminders and planning ahead. It’s beneficial if you can cook your meals and schedule your workouts ahead of time, so staying healthy doesn’t interfere with your busy life.”

The Daily Meal also recommends not being too hard on yourself if you've already slipped up. The “all or nothing” approach only works for the short term. Instead, ease yourself into small lifestyle changes such as eating breakfast before you run out the door in the morning or packing a healthy lunch for work. In no time, these habits will become second nature.

In order to compile this list, The Daily Meal team reached out to nutritionist Amanda Foti, celebrity fitness trainer Jorge Cruise, health expert Annie Lawless, and Lindsey Mcilvena, a medical doctor, for helpful tips and recipes for a New Year’s Resolution weight loss plan.

The team at The Daily Meal encourages readers to provide feedback on the following list. Do you think these strategies are helpful? You can let The Daily Meal know which strategy on the list is your favorite by tweeting @TheDailyMeal using the hashtag #dontgiveuponnyeresolutions

More details about the 25 Strategies to Help You Keep Those Resolutions is available at http://www.thedailymeal.com/healthy-eating/strategies-to-help-keep-resolutions.
   
Rank Strategy
1 Be Realistic With Weight-Loss
2 Build On Successes
3 Celebrate Your Accomplishments
4 Do A Little More Every Time
5 Don’t Let Willpower Get The Best Of You
6 Don’t Sit As Much
7 Get Enough Sleep to Stay Focused
8 Get Out Of The All Or Nothing Trap
9 Grab A Buddy
10 Inspire Someone Else to Join
11 Kick The Sugar
12 Make Self-Care A Priority in 2016
13 One Step At A Time
14 Reduce Stress Through Daily Tasks
15 Re-Organize Your Refrigerator
16 Reward Yourself
17 Set Reminders
18 Share Your Resolutions And Goals
19 Shop In The Right Mindset
20 Start Now
21 Track Your Food Intake
22 Visualize The End Result
23 Watch Your Inner Dialogue
24 Weigh Yourself Regularly
25 Write Down Specific Goals

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Foodies' Can Celebrate Cuisine at Key West's Master Chefs Classic

'
KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- Top local chefs are to vie for culinary honors while food lovers savor their edible entries at Key West's 22nd annual Master Chefs Classic. The culinary competition is scheduled 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, overlooking Key West Harbor at the Westin Key West Resort and Marina Pier, 245 Front St.

Chefs from leading Florida Keys restaurants are to compete for first-, second- and third-place honors awarded by judges in the appetizer, entree and dessert categories. Attendees at the waterfront event can enjoy tapas-sized offerings in all three categories and vote for their people's choice favorites.

The celebration of cuisine raises funds for the Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens, also called MARC, a nonprofit agency that provides life services for developmentally and intellectually disabled adults in the Florida Keys.

Only 450 tickets are available for the culinary tasting and competition. Ticket prices begin at $75 per person, and groups of attendees can reserve tables with unlimited premium wine and a wine server for the table. Tickets can be purchased at www.keystix.com.

Healthier Checkout Lanes Coming to Aldi Supermarkets


Statement of CSPI Senior Nutrition Policy Counsel Jessica Almy
The last thing harried consumers need after making a series of shopping decisions is to be confronted with a wall of candy and soda at checkout.  Giving customers choices they can feel good about supports their health and frees parents up to say “yes” to their kids.  We commend Aldi on the commitment it announced today to introduce healthier checkout lanes into its nearly 1,500 stores by the end of 2016.
Putting products at checkout can prompt purchases—and putting foods at kids’ eye level can induce requests for those products and family conflict.  By offering dried fruits, nuts, and other healthier products in its healthier checkout lanes, Aldi will make it easier for shoppers using those checkouts to make choices that are in line with their long-term goals for themselves and their families.
Aldi is the first U.S. supermarket chain to make a commitment in so many stores.  Offering a healthier checkout aisle in each store is a terrific step.  But in the UK, all checkout aisles in each Aldi store are candy-free.

Monday, January 11, 2016

DeLauro Joins Members of Congress and a Broad Coalition Against TPP Ahead of the State of the Union



WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today joined Members of Congress and a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and faith leaders to stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership ahead of the State of the Union. Members of Congress and the coalition highlighted the impact that a bad trade agreement will have on American jobs and wages, while calling on Congress to reject the agreement.

“Tomorrow night at the State of the Union, the President will promote this agreement before Congress and the American people. But we know TPP is too dangerous for us simply to stand aside and let it pass. While the Administration has called it the most progressive agreement in history, the details of the TPP tell a very different story – one that spells danger for our middle class,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3). “The greatest economic challenge facing our nation today is that too many Americans are in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. When the jobs and wages of working families are jeopardized by a bad trade agreement, we risk engaging in a global “race to the bottom” that our country cannot afford, and that our middle class does not deserve.”

“While President Obama is likely to set important goals for the country in his last State of the Union Address, we will remain vigilant in our opposition to his disastrous trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25). “I have never seen a trade agreement that has benefited the American manufacturer or the American worker, and the TPP is no different. This trade deal will ship more American jobs overseas, lower wages here at home, and force us to do business with notorious human rights violators such as Malaysia, a country with one of the most egregious records of human trafficking. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to stand up for the American worker and oppose the TPP.”

“We’ve heard over and over again how free trade deals are supposed to benefit Americans, but workers across the United States know first-hand the disastrous impact that decades of failed trade policies have had. The impact of these policies has been catastrophic on our nation’s family-wage jobs, yet President Obama is still trying to push through the Trans Pacific Partnership, a new, massive trade deal that will permanently cripple American manufacturing. We need a trade policy that works in favor of American families, not against them,” said Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-4).

“The American people know the true costs of bad trade deals: American jobs sent overseas, community divestment and lower wages.  As Members of Congress, we simply cannot allow another bad trade deal to ship more jobs overseas while driving communities deeper into poverty,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13).

“Because TPP is manifestly bad for the U.S. economy and American families, the President will try to sell this deal as a method of containing and combating China.  But China is a big beneficiary of this deal, because it enshrines the idea that currency manipulation is allowed and is part of 21st century trade agreements,” said Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-30).  Moreover, the “Rules of Origin” provisions state that goods that are 70% made in China can be labeled “Made in Vietnam” and then be fast-tracked, duty-free into the United States.”

“Drive through my hometown of Flint, Michigan, and you will see the devastating impact bad trade deals have had on our economy, our communities, and our people. The American people do not want another bad trade deal that forces our workers to compete on an uneven playing field. Congress should reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership – America cannot afford to lose thousands of good-paying jobs to foreign countries,” said Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-5).

“We have seen and experienced how previous trade agreements have destroyed entire domestic industries, causing massive job losses for Americans across the country, and increased our trade deficits.  The American people deserve stronger economic security and a better future, not a one-way ticket to their jobs being shipped to other countries,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2).

“Our trade agreements should advance an economy that creates good jobs in America. Unfortunately, the TPP doesn’t even come close to that goal,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “It’s a corporate giveaway, putting jobs at risk rather than growing opportunity for all. We will not stand by while another trade deal lines the pockets of CEOs at the expense of working people.”

"Americans from all walks of life—teachers, parents, nurses, public employees—believe that the primary measure of a successful trade deal must be to grow jobs and wages here at home. The TPP falls short of that metric and in doing so fails to help American workers get and stay ahead. That’s why the AFT is standing with this diverse coalition to reject this deal,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Despite all the promises we’ve heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, working people know that this trade deal would be a disaster. It would continue the offshoring of jobs and weakening of our communities that started under NAFTA and hasn’t stopped. It would mean labor and environmental standards that might look good on paper but fall flat when it comes to enforcement. It’s a corporate dream, but a nightmare for working people,” said CWA President Chris Shelton.

“The TPP has been presented to American agriculture as a potential boon for exports and the economy, much the same as they were promised before many other trade deals signed in the last twenty-five years. Unfortunately for family farmers, ranchers and their rural communities, the TPP will be just like the other trade deals, undermining U.S. sovereignty, increasing competition from abroad, and failing to address currency manipulation and our enormous trade deficit,” said Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union.

“After thorough review, it is clear that the TPP will not improve the lives of people at the margins of society. Congress must answer Pope Francis’s call to say no to ‘an economy of exclusion’ by rejecting the TPP. Trade deals must uphold the common good rather than cater to the special interests,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS.

“If we can’t keep fossil fuels in the ground, our climate is toast. Under TPP, sore losers like TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, can launch tantrum lawsuits making future climate action more difficult. The climate movement won’t let this past us without a fight,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director of 350.org.

“For years, environmentalists, workers, and our allies have joined together to reveal the threats of this deal, urge Congress to put an end to it, and build a new model of trade that puts people before profits. With corporations like TransCanada exploiting trade rules to undo environmental protections, it's more important than ever before to stand together and urge Congress to reject the toxic Trans-Pacific Partnership. American jobs, the quality of our air and water, the stability of our climate, and the state of our union are at stake,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club’s Executive Director.

“The TPP contains many provisions of concern to small businesses, which made up just a fraction of the business interests serving as advisors during the draft process,” said Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of the Main Street Alliance. “The TPP allows large, international corporations to challenge US labor, environmental, and public health laws and threaten the way we do business in America. As well, the intellectual property provisions would delay the introduction of low-cost generic medication— jeopardizing access to affordable healthcare, a founding principle of the Main Street Alliance.”

Mark Lynas: Pro-Science Means Pro-GMO


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016 – World-renowned environmentalist Mark Lynas shared his experience of moving from anti-GMO activist to advocate for biotechnology at a featured workshop at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
Lynas told an audience of farmers and ranchers how he changed his mind on GMOs when he came face-to-face with the science supporting biotechnology.

“As a scientist, you must have data to back up what you’re saying,” Lynas said. “And I realized I wasn’t holding myself to the same scientific standards on GMOs as I applied to my research on climate change. You can’t pick and choose where you use science to back up your argument: You have to be consistent.”

He also asserted that we need more advances in technology, and that GMOs are critical to helping farmers around the world feed a booming population.

“Science and technology need to keep progressing to preserve the resources we have left,” he said. And Lynas is backing up his belief in GMOs with action: He is now working with Cornell University to help develop GM crops that will help farmers in developing countries grow better crops without pesticides.

Even with clear scientific support, Lynas acknowledged, it’s difficult to convince the general public on biotechnology because of the scare tactics employed by activists. But he believes transparency can go a long way in building trust with consumers: “Transparency on GMOs will help dispel fears because people assume something is risky if they think information is being withheld from them,” Lynas said.

But this is where farmers can help bridge the gap, he said.

“People need a believable source of information. As farmers, you have credibility because you understand what you’re doing and why. You can explain the real benefits GM crops have for both the land and consumers.”

Farm Bureau Urges House Support for Resolution Disapproving EPA’s WOTUS Rule



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016 – The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support S.J. Res. 22, a resolution to disapprove the Waters of the U.S. rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.

“The EPA rule poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and private landowners by permitting EPA to regulate well beyond limits authorized by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court,” AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to House members.

“Simply put,” Stallman continued, “EPA’s rule significantly expands the scope of ‘navigable water’ subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. With that expansion comes the threat of citizen lawsuits. As a practical matter, EPA’s proposal will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing agricultural operations and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists.”

Stallman also pointed out that EPA unlawfully manipulated the rulemaking process through an unprecedented marketing campaign designed to generate public support and discredit anyone who had serious concerns, as well as hoping to influence Congress.

“GAO’s recently issued opinion states unequivocally that EPA violated the law,” Stallman wrote. The GAO opinion came on the heels of a judgment by the Small Business Office of Advocacy that the agency had violated its obligations under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.

The letter can be found at: http://www.fb.org/issues/docs/clean-water-rule-response.pdf

Balance Sought for Landowners Dealing with Environmental Regulations


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016—The breadth, vagueness and punitive nature of many environmental laws provide challenges and uncertainty for farmers, ranchers and other property owners when it comes to navigating today’s environmental landscape in their farming and ranching activities.
“Environmental law can be harsh, especially for everyday people,” said Jonathan Wood, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation. “The statutes are very broad, vague, and punitive. Pacific Legal Foundation and Farm Bureau are advocating for more sensible policies to protect landowners.”
Wood echoed the chorus of voices from farmers and ranchers from around the country in advocating for a balanced approach to enforcement of environmental laws during a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show.
Having grown up on a small ranch in Texas, Wood learned the importance that water plays in agriculture. This has influenced his and the Pacific Legal Foundation’s work in cases dealing with the Clean Water Act and the ambiguities and uncertainties related to the selective interpretation of the act by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Despite assurances of exemptions for agriculture, farmers and ranchers have repeatedly been intimidated by the punitive nature of large fines and potential prison sentences for actions involving water – even when such projects have beneficial impacts for wildlife and the environment. Such is the current situation for Andy Johnson, a rancher from Wyoming who created a stock pond to provide water for his livestock.
“We are challenging an outrageous example of EPA overreach against a private citizen who has done nothing wrong,” Wood said.  “Andy Johnson constructed a pond for his livestock by damming a stream on his private property with no connection to any navigable water.  Under the plain terms of the Clean Water Act, he was entirely within his rights, and didn’t need federal bureaucrats’ permission.
“But EPA regulators have decided they know better than the law,” Wood continued.  “By trying to seize control of Andy Johnson’s land — and threatening him with financial ruin — they are imposing their will where they have no authority.  Ironically, EPA is attempting to destroy a scenic environmental asset that provides habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans water that passes through it, all in the name of enforcing the Clean Water Act.”
In addition to the threat posed by fines and the breadth of impacts environmental rules can have, the vagueness of these rules and their interpretations by agencies will continue to pose a challenge to agriculture until the courts or Congress provide further guidance. This is why recent decisions – such as the Sackett case in Idaho – have been beneficial to farmers and ranchers, because the court ruled that private landowners have a right to direct judicial review regarding EPA decisions on land use.
“Agencies like the EPA or Fish and Wildlife Service…are motivated by single-minded and very aggressive views of their role in the world, which is to stop things that change the environment – even if those changes might be positive,” said Ellen Steen, AFBF’s general counsel. “When you have people like that populating agencies, we’ll always have agencies pushing the boundaries…and this is where the courts come in.”
Recent court decisions have provided landowners with remedies against agency actions, but landowners have continued to be the ones pushing for relief. Wood is hopeful that current and future cases will continue to balance the scale with landowners and agency actions.

Town Hall Meeting With Tom Vilsack and Bob Stallman Focuses on Farm Policy


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman focused on farm policy and USDA’s priorities during a town hall-style conversation at the 97th AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
“It’s very important for AFBF and USDA to have a good working relationship, and we do.” Stallman said. “We’ve worked together on a lot of issues facing farmers and ranchers, to the benefit of American agriculture and consumers alike.”
In his opening remarks Vilsack thanked Farm Bureau members for their help in securing the 2014 farm bill and passing trade promotion authority. He also thanked Stallman for his friendship and leadership over the years.
“The close working relationship between USDA and Farm Bureau is critical to addressing the issues facing U.S. agriculture,” said Vilsack. “Without Farm Bureau’s grassroots advocacy we would not have had the 2014 farm bill and we certainly wouldn’t be as far along in the trade discussion as we are now.”
Vilsack discussed the challenges and benefits of the farm bill and the importance of opening up new markets through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“The Asian market is the fastest-growing market in the world,” Vilsack said. “And consumers there will be looking for the high-class products that American farmers and ranchers can provide.”
Vilsack took a variety of questions from a standing-room-only crowd of farmers and ranchers on the IDEAg Trade Show floor.
“This country is great because we have great farmers,” Vilsack emphasized. “The average American doesn’t worry about where their food will come from because of the hard work farmers and ranchers do every day.”

First-Ever Drone Flight Calculator Launched



Measure Releases Application to Assess Benefit of Drones in Precision Agriculture
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Measure, the nation's leading operator of drones, today released the first-ever Drone Flight Calculator to help farmers assess the value of using drones in their agriculture operations. The web-based application is the direct result of a study and flight operations conducted with the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2015. Available free of charge at www.measure.aero, the Drone Flight Calculator allows farmers to input data such as fertilizer use, farm size, and crop type to see how drones can improve operations and cut costs.
"The Drone Flight Calculator allows farmers to easily determine if drone technology can improve their operations," said Measure CEO Brandon Torres Declet. "While drones have been marketed to farmers, until today no tool existed to help growers quickly and easily calculate the benefits of drones."
The American Farm Bureau Federation recognized early that precision agriculture and drones in particular are important to the future of farming, but the relevant data has not been available until now. The Drone Flight Calculator quantifies the economic benefits of Drone as a Service® for any type of scouting including crops such as soy, corn, or grapes. Once farm-specific data is entered, the Calculator provides economic returns on a per acre and per growing season basis. Farmers can also learn how much they can expect to save on inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation.
In July 2015, Measure and the American Farm Bureau Federation released a study identifying the broader benefits of drone technology in precision agriculture. The study highlighted the best use cases for drones such as field scouting, 3D terrain mapping, and crop insurance. The study was sponsored by a number of industry leading companies such as PepsiCo, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Richardson International, and Lockheed Martin

Sunday, January 10, 2016

‘First Peas to the Table’ Named Foundation for Agriculture’s Book of the Year



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016 – The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture presented its ninth annual Book of the Year award to Susan Grigsby for “First Peas to the Table.” In this lighthearted story, a little girl, Maya, and her classmates learn about gardens and peas, as well as Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello.

Grigsby, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, is the author of three picture books, as well as poetry. She teaches creative writing in schools, museums and nature centers, often integrating the lessons with science, social studies and art.

“I am so happy that, thanks to this recognition from the American Farm Bureau Foundation For Agriculture, more children will have access to ‘First Peas to the Table,’” said Grigsby. “I sometimes help students set up their own school gardens and am always inspired by the sense of wonder that develops as the children discover the infinite number of variables involved in turning one tiny seed into a plant that can feed a family.”

“After reading the agricultural-related correspondence and journals of Thomas Jefferson, I was struck by the passion that he and others had in regards to experimenting to figure out which plants, previously grown on other continents, would grow best in each of the diverse environments spread across the country,” she continued. “I wrote the book to celebrate how every gardener, young and old, learns through experimentation, through failures and success and with a joy for the wonders of nature.”

The Book of the Year award springs from the Foundation’s effort to identify accurate ag books, a collection of nearly 500 books for children, teenagers and adults that accurately cover agricultural topics. Book of the Year selections are educational, help to create positive public perceptions about agriculture, inspire readers to learn more and touch their readers’ lives, as well as tell the farmer’s story. The accurate ag books database is available at: http://www.agfoundation.org/recommended-pubs.

To accompany the “First Peas to the Table” book, the Foundation has created an educator’s guide and a School Garden Ag Mag. Again this year, the Foundation is offering a Spanish text version of the Ag Mag.

In honor of  Grigsby’s recognition and the host city of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention, the book’s publisher, Albert Whitman, has generously donated 100 copies of “First Peas to the Table” to the Orange County library system. In addition, the Foundation is donating $1,000 to the library system.

Outgoing Farm Bureau President Tells Farmers and Ranchers to Stand Up and Be Counted



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016 – Farmers and ranchers need to adopt technology and they need to stand up for their rights. But most of all, they need to share their stories, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman told members at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.

Stallman’s address – his last after 16 years as the head of the nation’s largest farm organization – echoed the challenges farmers and ranchers face when government oversteps the limits of the law. He reminded attendees that the organization’s struggle to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest, flawed water policies was not yet over.

“You know, if we’re going to let the federal government dictate where we can and cannot farm—or cut trees, or build homes, or otherwise use the land for any productive, economic activity—then this is not the Land of Liberty,” Stallman told attendees. “It is not the country that our forefathers envisioned—nor is it a country that will be able to feed itself for very long.”

Struggles notwithstanding, technology is helping to make farmers’ lives easier than they were just a generation ago.

“We have tremendous potential through new technologies: unmanned aircraft, data mining, biotechnology, robotics and who knows what else is coming,” Stallman said. “These advances stand to make farming and ranching more productive, less costly, less labor-dependent and even better for the environment.”

Stallman urged members to share their stories with the world, on social media and elsewhere.
“You know, we farmers used to complain that no one paid any attention to what we did—that people thought their food just came from the grocery store—and that we in agriculture didn’t have enough ways to get our message heard.

“Well, people are sure paying attention to farming and food production now! And in this age of social media, we no longer have to depend on others to tell our story for us. We have unlimited opportunities to engage—one-on-one or with thousands of followers—and have real conversations about agriculture.”

Stallman reminded Farm Bureau members of the importance of fairness and the dangers of depending on government.

“When we ask for the aid of government, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves bound by the chains of government,” Stallman said. “When we seek sustenance from the government, we have no moral standing to fault others who seek the same.

“We cannot have the freedom to live, work, play and pray as we see fit if we are willing to take those same freedoms from others. Just as our nation has emerged from contentious political and ideological battles before, we will do so again. You and I – all of us – have the responsibility to keep America great.”

State Farm Bureaus Honored for Excellence



ORLANDO, January 10, 2016 – State Farm Bureaus were presented awards at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. The awards recognized their excellence in membership achievement and implementation of outstanding programs serving members in 2015.

The Pinnacle Award, the highest honor a state can be awarded for program and membership achievement, was given to Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Montana and North Carolina.

The Awards for Excellence were awarded to state Farm Bureaus that demonstrated outstanding achievements in six program areas: Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications.

The Awards for Excellence winners by state and category are:
Alabama (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Arizona (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
California (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Colorado (Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Connecticut (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Florida (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Georgia (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Idaho (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Illinois (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Indiana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Iowa (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Kansas (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Kentucky (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Louisiana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Maryland (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Massachusetts (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Michigan (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Minnesota (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Mississippi (Education and Outreach; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Missouri (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Montana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Nebraska (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; and Policy Development and Implementation);
Nevada (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
New Mexico (Education and Outreach; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
New York (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
North Carolina (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Ohio (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Oklahoma (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Oregon (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Pennsylvania (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Rhode Island (Education and Outreach);
South Carolina (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Tennessee (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Texas (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Utah (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Virginia (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Washington (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Wisconsin (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications); and
Wyoming (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; and Public Relations and Communications).

Presidents Awards were presented to states for each membership-sized group that achieved quota and demonstrated superiority in the Awards for Excellence categories. The winning states and the number of President’s Awards earned are: Arizona (2); Georgia (1); Idaho (2); Iowa (5); Kansas (2); Kentucky (1); Massachusetts (6), Michigan (1); Minnesota (2); Missouri (2); Montana (3); Nevada (1); North Carolina (3); Pennsylvania (3); Texas (1); and Utah (1).

New Horizon Awards, honoring states with the most innovative new programs, were presented to: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Farm Efficiency Can Soar With Drones



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016 – Farmers and ranchers attending the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show learned about the advantages and practical considerations of using unmanned aerial vehicles during a workshop presented by the UnmannedFarmer Robert Blair, a fourth-generation farmer and vice president of agriculture for Measure Drone as a Service.

Farmers have long been adapting to new technology noted Blair, whose farm has seen five generations of the technology evolution since his family began farming in Idaho in 1903. Blair started using drones on his family farm in 2006.

“We need precision ag technology to increase profitability and reduce environmental impact,” Blair said. “UAVs give proactive data throughout the season. You can see what is happening and make adjustments on the spot.”

Thanks to the data drones provide, farmers can make up significant gaps in yields.

“But it’s not all about yields,” Blair added. “It’s about farming better, making better decisions.” Farmers can use drones to be more precise with water, fertilizer and pesticides, using less to grow more and protecting important resources.

Agriculture has yet to see the full potential of what drones can do to make farming more efficient, and it’s important for farmers to not only adopt new technologies but to engage with lawmakers on the way regulations impact their ability to use these tools on their farms.

Trade Agreements Bring Big Benefits to Nation’s Farmers and Ranchers



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016– U.S. agriculture has a lot to gain from trade, was the central message Ambassador Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, had for workshop attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. Vetter’s conversation with farmers and ranchers focused on the advantages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how its passage is essential to opening new markets for U.S. farmers.

“The TPP is an agreement that unites 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific in a comprehensive trade agreement, with 40 percent of global gross domestic production on the table,” Vetter said. “It is one of the largest, and the highest standard, trade deals in history.”

U.S. agriculture already has deep roots in the area involved in the TTP with 42 percent of U.S. agriculture products being shipped to the area. Vetter contended that this region will only continue to grow in importance. The key to gaining a competitive foothold is to reduce or eliminate tariffs.

“This Asian-Pacific region is one of the most dynamic regions in terms of population growth, but also income growth in that population,” Vetter explained. “By 2030, 66 percent of the world's middle class will be in Asia, and 59 percent of middle classes purchasing power will be from this region. What we want to do now is to cement that preferential trade access to those economies and become their partners of choice as they grow.”

Vetter encouraged attendees to visit ustr.gov/tpp/, where the entire TPP proposal has been posted. The website also has summaries of the proposal along with infographics on how TPP will affect individual commodities and states. Everyone is encouraged to share infographics with friends, member of congress and on social media to help get the word out on why this deal is important to U.S. farmers and ranchers

Transparency Key to Building Consumer Trust


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016– With research affirming that increased transparency boosts consumers’ trust in the food they eat and how it was produced, transparency is no longer an option for farmers and ranchers, the Center for Food Integrity’s Charlie Arnot told farmers and ranchers from across the country during a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.

As farms have grown bigger over the decades, people’s trust in agriculture has declined, Arnot said. Consolidation, integration and technological advances in agriculture have resulted in safer, more available and more affordable food— and more skepticism from the public.

“As we’ve changed in size and scale and in the kind of production techniques and technology we use, we now reflect a different type of agriculture than many people anticipated,” Arnot said. “We consistently hear from people that they trust farmers but they don’t trust farming.”

As a result, agriculture has lost its social license— the privilege of operating with minimal formalized restrictions, such as laws and regulations, based on maintaining public trust by doing what’s right. Key to trust is value similarity, and many consumers feel the current generation of farmers and ranchers don’t share their values.

“Shared values are three-to-five times more important to building trust than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills or expertise,” Arnot said.

In consumers’ eyes, farmers’ practices are an illustration of values in action. By being transparent and sharing their practices, farmers can demonstrate their values, which in turn builds trust.

But consumers don’t only want to hear from farmers, they want farmers to listen to them. They want a chance to ask their questions, get answers and to be heard and acknowledged on issues they consider important.

There are many ways farmers and ranchers can give consumers these critical opportunities to engage, but before they put themselves out there, they should consider a few things.

First, understand that who you are is as important as what you know.

Second, look at skepticism as the fuel for discovery. It’s not personal.

“Embrace skepticism as a chance to engage,” Arnot said.

Third, transparency is no longer optional for farmers and ranchers. It’s up to farmers and ranchers to find ways to illustrate their commitment to doing the right thing in producing food.

“Somebody’s going to be telling your story, it should be you,” he emphasized.

In closing, Arnot stressed that building consumer trust would not be a quick fix.

“One of the great things about farmers is your commitment to solving problems,” he said. “This is not a problem that is going to be solved in the next cycle of production. This is a generational problem. We need a long-term vision to build trust.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hapibelly aims to give mobile solution for going out

San Diego-based Hapibelly wants to bring restaurants into the mobile age.
Ben Karst, co-founder and vice president of product development at Hapibelly, said the idea for the app came from observing the disconnect between customers and restaurants in the social age. 

 “When you walk into a restaurant, it seems a lot of people are looking down at their phones and checking things while being handed paper menus,” he said.  “There is a kind of disconnect, and we felt that by putting a menu on the phone it would mesh with today’s culture.”

 Restaurants that have  online menus  can be automatically added to the network, and restaurants can also go to hapibelly.com and submit a request to sign up and help manage their menu and happy hour information.

 The iPhone Hapibelly app has been available for a couple of months and can help users:


  • Find happy hours and daily specials in your area
  • Search local restaurants and view their detailed menu
  • Post a “Hapibelly” to recommend a favorite menu item
  • “Follow’ favorite restaurants and be notified when they change their menu


Karst says the app separates itself from other restaurant apps in the sense it reflects the positive experiences of users. “We want people to feel happy while using their app, and having the whole experience of positivity,” he said.  Like Facebook, users of Hapibelly are sharing what menu items they like. With the app, users can take a picture, write a description of the food and post  their “Hapibelly” on social media. 

 While the one to five star review is typical for other restaurant review services like Yelp and Google,  Karst said Hapibelly is driven by the conviction that people want to know what to order, not what to avoid. 

 If users experience a problem at the restaurant, they can report a problem with the app, and that information will be directed to the restaurant by Hapibelly staff, Karst said. He said restaurants get value from that, much more than one-star Yelp review which can tank a business that is not established.

 “Hapibelly crowdsources those menu items that are popular, and that’s the core meaning of the Hapibelly,” he said.

 The app allows users to see all the restaurants near them, and the app allows searching by cuisine, by wifi availability, TV availability, search by daily specials and happy hours. The app provides directions to each list restaurant,  said. 

  Coming categories may include a measure of what restaurants are busy at the moment and a utility that will help friends decide on where to meet when they go out, he said.

 While the app features other U.S. cities, Hapibelly is primarily building out from the California market, including San Diego and San Francisco. 

 Most people are using the app to find the nearest happy hour and then using it to crowdsource popular menu items.

 Over the next six to twelve months, Karst said he would love to see more restaurants engaged in helping to manage changes in their menus and pushing the download of the app. 

 Karst said that the app for Android phones will be developed after the model is fine-tuned for the iPhone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

CHS Foundation now accepting scholarship applications


MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The CHS Foundation, the major giving entity of CHS Inc. (NASDAQ: CHSCP), North America's leading farmer owned cooperative, invites new and existing college students with agriculture or energy-related interests to apply for scholarships.
The CHS Foundation will award more than 300 scholarships in 2016. One hundred $1,000 scholarships will be made to high school students who choose to pursue agricultural-related degrees or STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) fields of study with an interest in agriculture or energy industry careers.
"CHS and the CHS Foundation are dedicated to developing future leaders," says William Nelson, president, CHS Foundation and vice president, CHS Corporate Citizenship. "We are proud to invest in educating young people to ensure they gain experience and build the skills necessary for long-lasting careers in the agriculture and energy industries."
High school scholarship applications must be submitted by April 1, 2016. An independent, external committee will select scholarship recipients based on essays, transcripts and reference letters. For additional eligibility information and to apply, visit http://www.chsinc.com/stewardship/scholarships.
More than 200 additional scholarships will help fund expenses for existing agriculture college students currently pursuing agriculture-related degrees at two- and four-year colleges. These scholarships are directly administered by more than 30 partnering universities throughout the U.S. and application deadlines vary by by school. For more information and a list of partnering universities, visit http://www.chsinc.com/stewardship/scholarships.
The CHS Foundation is the major giving entity of CHS Inc., the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company. As a part of the CHS stewardship focus, the CHS Foundation supports education and leadership programs that invest in the future of agriculture, cooperative business and rural America.

Faith and Immigrants’ Rights Leaders Demand End to ICE Raids, Offer Support and Sanctuary to Those Hunted By ICE


Washington, DC - In response to the raids that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began implementing just days ago, faith leaders offered sanctuary to those targeted and immigrant rights’ organizers spread know-your-rights materials to prepare communities ahead of time.
On January 2nd, at least 47 people, primarily mothers and children, were taken in pre-dawn home raids by ICE agents in the Atlanta area as part of what the Department of Homeland Security announced to be a national operation netting 121 individuals.
Outraged by the expansion of raids conducted by ICE agents targeting families seeking asylum from violence and persecution in Central America, members of faith and immigrant’s rights communities call on President Obama and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to immediately put a halt to the raids.
On Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at 11AM ET, key leaders from the faith and immigrant’s rights communities will hold a national press call to discuss the raids’ impacts on communities, reiterate their offer of sanctuary, provide guidance about how to prepare for ICE arriving at one’s home, and call for an immediate end to the raids targeting families seeking asylum.

Tata Trusts and Mars, Incorporated Announce Commitment to Collaborate on Agriculture Development, Nutrition, and Food Safety in India



Mumbai, India – Tata Trusts and Mars, Incorporated today announced their joint entry into a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to advance agriculture development, address malnutrition, and improve food safety in India.

A leading coalition of philanthropic trusts headquartered in India, the Tata Trusts pursues a mission to improve the quality of life of the communities it serves in India. The Trusts include the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, and Navajbhai Ratan Tata Trust.

As one of the world’s leading food manufacturers, Mars, Incorporated plans to work with the Tata Trusts to develop methods and tools to increase crop productivity, farm income, and sustainability of select agriculture commodities, and to collaborate on the availability of safe, affordable, and sustainable raw materials from India. Mars Food, a segment of Mars, Incorporated, also intends to conduct joint research with the Tata Trusts on nutritional guidelines that can help address anemia and other forms of malnutrition.

“Given Mars’ global leadership in nutritive foods and sustainable agriculture, the Tata Trusts believes this collaboration will have lasting, meaningful benefits for Indian communities,” said Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Trusts. “We are particularly inspired by Mars Food’s commitment to addressing malnutrition in India – a challenge of growing concern in this country, particularly among children.

Mars and the Tata Trusts also plan to collaborate on reducing Aflatoxin contamination in India’s supply chain. Aflatoxin – a naturally occurring, poisonous chemical produced by certain molds – is a critical food safety issue in India. Mars has unique expertise in addressing Aflatoxin contamination and can draw on its Global Food Safety Center in China to conduct future research in this area.

“Today’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Tata Trusts is an important step in Mars’ journey to improve nutrition, food safety, and sustainability in India,” said Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Food. “Tata Trusts’ strong commitment to improving the quality of life in India, and the depth and breadth of their expertise, makes them a natural partner for Mars.”


Hearing Advisory: Next Week at the Ag Committee



The House Committee on Agriculture advises the following committee schedule.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 – 10:00 a.m.
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Subcommittee on Nutrition – Public Hearing
RE: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Addressing Special Populations

USDA to Honor American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman



WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2016 – TODAY, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will honor Bob Stallman’s tenure as President of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will proclaim Jan. 6, Bob Stallman Appreciation Day, presenting the honoree with an official proclamation in recognition of Stallman’s commitment to strengthening rural American families and communities.

Stallman, a recognized champion of agriculture, has served as President of the American Farm Bureau Federation for 16 years, tirelessly supporting U.S. farmers and ranchers as they help feed the world, protect and preserve the environment, provide jobs, and contribute to the nation’s economy.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Culver's Donates Over a Million Dollars in Support of Agriculture


PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. - January 4, 2016 - Culver's restaurants across the nation continue to build support of American agriculture as part of the chain's Thank You Farmers initiative. Since the program began in 2013 over a million dollars has been raised in support of the National FFA, local FFA chapters and a variety of local agricultural organizations.
Culver's has depended on family farms since opening its first restaurant in 1984. From the cattle ranches of the Great Plains to the dairy farms of Wisconsin, Culver's remains committed to sourcing the finest ingredients America's family growers have to offer. Culver's has turned its gratitude into full-fledged support of today's farm families, while helping ensure the future of the next generation of farmers, biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs
In 2015 alone, $360 thousand dollars was raised for local FFA Chapters, the National FFA Foundation and other agricultural organizations across the country. This included money from donation canisters, percentage of sales donations, sponsorships, as well as a "Scoops of Thanks" day (where $1 Scoops of custard were sold August 8) and other events and activities.
"We are excited to see the enthusiasm with which guests have welcomed Thank You Farmers," said David Stidham, vice president for marketing at Culver's and newly appointed member of the National FFA Foundation Sponsors' board of directors. "We're deeply grounded in the farms that produce the dairy and grow the food that has made Culver's what it is today."
"Culver's and FFA provide a great partnership that supports agriculture education in our local communities," expressed Todd Greenwood, Director of Corporate Giving at the National FFA Foundation. "We appreciate that Culver's recognizes the hard work and dedication of farm families. Programs like "Thank you Farmers" are helping to build awareness of the critical role agriculture plays. We are very thankful for Culver's support."