Monday, February 29, 2016

Corn Growers Disappointed in Supreme Court Declining to Review Chesapeake Decision



ST. LOUIS (Feb. 29, 2016) – The National Corn Growers Association today expressed disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to review a lower court ruling allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to micromanage local land use and development decisions under the guise of the Clean Water Act.

While this action relates to the EPA’s so-called “blueprint” for restoring the Chesapeake Bay, it has national implications related to the power and reach of the federal government. The TMDL, or total maximum daily load, is an unlawful overreach of federal regulatory power, NCGA notes.

“The EPA has consistently pushed the legal limits of the Clean Water Act, with the Chesapeake Bay blueprint and the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule being two of the most recent examples,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, who farms on the Chesapeake Bay watershed in southern Maryland.

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act, their intention was to create balanced, practical policies to protect America’s water resources with a clear division of power between states and the federal government. In both of these cases, the EPA’s actions represent an unlawful expansion of their authority. That’s why we joined this petition on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and we are party to a lawsuit challenging the WOTUS rule,” said Bowling.

“We support the goals of the Clean Water Act, and we remain committed to working with the EPA and other stakeholders to protect our water resources.”

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Conservation Option for Organic Farms Unveiled


U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist in establishing up to 20,000 acres of new conservation buffers
Washington, DC, February 26, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a new conservation option for organic farmers–cost-share and land rental payments for field border buffers. Conservation buffers are an important conservation practice for all farms, but especially for organic farmers. The introduction of a payment option for organic buffers will help farmers meet USDA organic certification requirements that they maintain or improve the natural resources (including soil and water quality), support biodiversity and native species, and develop habitat for beneficial insects.
The announcement of USDA’s new conservation option was made today at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) annual conference in La Crosse, WI by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, Brad Pfaff. The initiative aims to assist organic farmers in establishing up to 20,000 acres of new conservation buffers through the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP). Starting next month, organic farmers will be eligible to enroll windbreaks, filter strips, pollinator strips, and field borders planted to native grasses, shrubs, and trees in the program.
Over 25 years ago the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) helped to develop the legal underpinnings for CCRP as part of the 1990 Farm Bill and has championed the program ever since that time. This year NSAC worked closely with FSA to develop the new organic initiative.
“We congratulate FSA on the launch of the new organic field border initiative and applaud their commitment to do more outreach to organic farmers. FSA leadership has made the right decision in seeking to tailor these types of programs to the specific needs organic farmers,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. “We encourage organic farmers to give this new option careful consideration. This new initiative has the potential to pay real dividends for farm balance sheets and for the environment.”
Organic farming already provides multiple environmental benefits, including improving soil health, protecting water quality, and increasing biodiversity. Field borders and buffers on organic farms can further enhance positive environmental outcomes by trapping sediment, creating habitat for pollinators, and reducing pesticide and genetic drift from neighboring farms.
“I like to try to get as many different benefits out of required organic field borders as possible,”said Ron Rosmann, a Harlan, IA-based farmer and member of Practical Farmers of Iowa. “I’ve been working about 10 years to improve those on our own farm.”
“Our field borders are now becoming multi-species trees and shrubs, which serve as windbreak protection and include pollinator species and rare and declining native species. Many organic farmers have viewed field borders as a necessary, but not a financially productive, resource. The new FSA initiative should definitely help in that regard,” Rosmann said.
Organic farmers can enroll any eligible CCRP buffer practice in the new 20,000-acre initiative. Conservation practices eligible for CCRP include riparian, wetland, and wildlife habitat buffers, filter strips, wetland restoration, grass waterways, shelterbelts, windbreaks, living snow fences, and contour grass strips.
“We encourage farmers to look in particular at the CCRP practices for pollinator strips, upland buffers, and where ecologically appropriate, windbreaks,” said Hoefner. “In cases where a farm field is bordered by a stream, the CCRP filter strip or riparian buffer practices will also be quite useful. Each of these five practices come with special enrollment payment incentives, which also make them particularly attractive financially.”
CCRP is a voluntary program that helps protect millions of acres of America’s most environmentally sensitive farmland. The program specifically targets the blocks of land that are most vulnerable to erosion, which is key for preventing polluted runoff and preserving prime acres for wildlife habitat. In exchange for removing environmentally sensitive land from production, CCRP contracts include an annual rental payment, certain incentive payments, and cost-share payments to install the practice.
As the name implies, enrollment in the CCRP happens on a continuous basis, with eligible acres automatically accepted into the program. This differs from CCRP’s parent program, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which features a competitive enrollment process during a defined sign-up period.
Currently, over 242,000 farms totaling over 6.6 million acres are enrolled in CCRP, representing over 28 percent of all acres enrolled in its parent program, CRP.
In addition to the conservation buffer initiative, FSA today also announced additional services to which organic farmers have access. Included among these is the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), which provides financial assistance for crop losses due to natural disasters. FSA is currently in the process of streamlining NAP procedures so that organic farmers can be paid at the higher organic, rather than the lower conventional price, for their lost crops. FSA is also offering organic farmers the free service of mapping farm and field boundaries and reporting organic acreage, information that farmers can then use when working with organic certifiers or crop insurance agents.
“FSA local offices have not always been the friendliest of places for organic farmers,” noted Hoefner. “By offering new, tailored services like the conservation buffer initiative, FSA is taking important steps to change this image. FSA should be commended for building new bridges to farmers, including female, minority, beginning, and organic farmers, who have been often excluded in the past. It will take time to build trust, but positive, concrete program offerings like the one announced today will go a long way toward forging new relationships,” Hoefner said.
A chart with additional information on special incentive payments available for particular field border buffer options is available via the NSAC website.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rep. Conaway Awarded Farm Bureau ‘Golden Plow’



WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2016 – American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall presented Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, with AFBF’s “Golden Plow” award Wednesday evening during the Farm Bureau Advocacy Conference. The Golden Plow is the highest recognition the organization grants members of Congress.

The Texas Farm Bureau nominated Conaway for the award because of his dedicated work as a member of Congress on issues important to Farm Bureau members. As chairman of the House Ag Committee, he played a major role in the passage of the 2014 farm bill, and remains involved in defending its programs and overseeing its implementation by the Agriculture Department, Duvall said.

Conaway is also a champion for crop insurance. When a $3 billion cut was included in the bipartisan budget agreement, he led the fight to ensure funding would be restored in the final bill. More recently, his early involvement with the redrafting of federal dietary guidelines resulted in recommendations that were true to their intended purpose.

Further, without Chairman Conaway’s leadership, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act – GMO legislation – would not have passed the House.

“We are tremendously pleased to be able to recognize Chairman Conaway for all the great things he has done for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Duvall said. “Thank you for your dedicated service to agriculture and rural America.”

AFBF’s Golden Plow award recognizes members of Congress for distinguished agricultural leadership and support of Farm Bureau policies. Recipients are chosen based on having a philosophy or record that demonstrates a commitment to the private enterprise system, sound agricultural policies supported by Farm Bureau, fiscal conservatism, and reduced federal regulation of businesses and individuals.

DeLauro Fights for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program



WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) stood up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and its recipients at a hearing on the budget for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. During the hearing, DeLauro called on Republicans to stop attempting to enact harmful policies regarding SNAP, which include block-granting the program and requiring drug testing.

“SNAP is of one of the most powerful tools we have for ending childhood hunger in the United States and it helps millions of hardworking American families every year. SNAP continues to do more than any other government assistance program to lift Americans out of poverty and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2014 alone, the program lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty, including 2.1 million children,” said Rosa DeLauro. “However, Republicans on the other side of the aisle, including Speaker Ryan, say that we spend trillions of dollars on these programs and yet the poverty rate does not change. This is simply not true. Without these critical safety net programs, more Americans would struggle”.

“When Republicans continue their fight against SNAP, which includes a push to enact block-grants, drug testing policies, and prohibiting certain food purchases, we are focusing on the wrong issues. We cannot continue to wage a war against the poor,” continued DeLauro. “If we are going to drug test SNAP recipients, we should drug test every recipient of USDA funding, including crop insurance beneficiaries and agriculture subsidy recipients. I will continue to stand up against these unconscionable attacks on America’s working families and I urge my colleagues to stand with me in in ensuring that the federal budget would not harm low-income households, increase hunger, and dilute SNAP’s strengths.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Farm Bureau Donations Benefit Hungry Americans



WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2016 – The farm and ranch families of Farm Bureau raised more than $1.1 million and donated a record of more than 48 million pounds of food to assist hungry Americans as part of Farm Bureau’s “Harvest for All” program. Combined, the monetary and food donations also reached a record level of the equivalent of more than 49 million meals.

Now in its 14th year, Harvest for All is spearheaded by members of Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program, but Farm Bureau members of all ages from across the nation contribute to the effort. In all, 19 state Farm Bureaus and the American Farm Bureau Federation heeded the call to action, helping ensure Americans in need can enjoy the bounty of food farmers and ranchers produce.

In addition to raising food and funds for the initiative, farmers and ranchers tallied nearly 16,000 volunteer hours assisting local hunger groups in 2015.

“We’re pleased to continue Farm Bureau’s long tradition of helping nourish those who need help the most,” said Cole Coxbill, a rancher and crop farmer from Wyoming who chairs the AFBF YF&R committee.

“More than 50 percent of Americans that struggle with hunger live in rural areas and farming communities,” Coxbill said. “Through the coordinated efforts of America’s farmers and ranchers and Harvest for All, we’re helping to lower that statistic.”

Harvest for All is one of the most important community service efforts undertaken by Farm Bureau members. Although the U.S. economy is stronger overall compared to several years ago, many Americans still need help securing adequate food for their families.

The California Farm Bureau took top honors for donating the most food in 2015, 17.5 million pounds. Illinois Farm Bureau raised the most money, $998,000. Illinois Farm Bureau also tallied the most volunteer hours, 5,675. Thanks to the generosity of Chevrolet, each of those state organizations received a $1,250 grant to donate to a local food bank of their choice or for another Harvest for All project.

Second-place winners were the Florida Farm Bureau for food donated at 16 million pounds; Michigan Farm Bureau for donated funds at $32,600; and Florida Farm Bureau for volunteer time at 4,975. Each of the second-place winners received a $750 grant from Chevrolet to donate to the local food bank of their choice.

In addition, three state YF&R committees received $500 grants from Chevrolet for “most innovative” programs. Those winners were California, Illinois and North Carolina.

The awards were presented during AFBF’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this month. Since Harvest for All was launched, Farm Bureau families have gathered more than 195 million pounds of food, logged more than 112,900 volunteer hours and raised more than $5.9 million in donations. Combined, the food and money donations are the equivalent of more than 210 million meals.

Consumer coalition calls for In-N-Out Burger to reduce routine antibiotics use in beef


Over 50 groups call on restaurant chain to change beef sourcing policies
OAKLAND, CALIF. – Public interest, environmental, food safety and consumer groups representing millions of consumers today announced a campaign calling on In-N-Out Burger, California's iconic hamburger restaurant chain, to stop selling beef produced with the routine use of antibiotics. These groups, including CALPIRG Education Fund, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, along with author and activist Vani Hari, delivered a letter to the company’s corporate headquarters signed by more than 50 groups urging that the company commit to a strong antibiotics policy. CALPIRG Education Fund staff and volunteers also held public outreach efforts at In-N-Out restaurants and other locations to motivate the company to do its part to help protect the public from antibiotic resistance.
Most meat served by America's chain restaurants comes from animals raised in industrial-scale facilities where they are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent disease that is easily spread in crowded, unsanitary and stressful conditions. This overuse of antibiotics in livestock production contributes to the rise in antibiotic-resistant infections that claim at least 23,000 lives each year.  Major restaurant chains can influence their meat suppliers to adopt better practices by committing to purchase meat only from farms that don’t abuse life-saving medicines.
“As a hamburger restaurant known for its high-quality, fresh ingredients, In-N-Out should be a leader on this issue," said Jason Pfeifle, Public Health Advocate with CALPIRG Education Fund. "It's time for the company to set a strong antibiotics policy that will help push the meat industry to do the right thing for public health.”
Consumer advocates and volunteers passed out literature at In-N-Out locations around the state about the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and asked passersby to take a photo posing with signs that read: “I’m an In-N-Out lover, but I’m hungry for beef raised without routine antibiotics,” and other slogans. The photos were posted on Twitter and Instagram with #InNOutSaveABX #InNOutBurgers.
“It’s time for In-N-Out Burger to respond to consumers and fill the void left by the FDA’s failed policies by working with its meat suppliers to improve practices and end the misuse of antibiotics,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth.
Last year McDonald’s announced it would stop selling chicken raised with medically important antibiotics after consumers across the country demanded it. Shortly after the McDonald’s announcement, Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. poultry producer, committed to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in raising their birds. Subway also committed to transition away from all meats raised on antibiotics, starting with chicken. These commitments were major wins for public health and came on the heels of several public mobilization campaigns.
"In-N-Out is a highly regarded chain that many people believe serve better food than other fast food competitors. It's time to live up to their reputation and stop lagging behind companies like Elevation Burger and Shake Shack who have responsibly decided not to serve meet raised with routine antibiotics or growth hormones," said author and activist Vani Hari.
Other groups calling on In-N-Out to make this commitment made the following statements:
"Until strong federal regulations prohibit the routine use of antibiotics and other drugs in animals raised for food, commitments from In-N-Out and other popular restaurants to source more responsibly raised meat can help protect human health, animal welfare, and the environment," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director with Center for Food Safety.
“The public health crisis of antibiotic resistance warrants immediate action from all sectors," said Laura Rogers, deputy director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at the George Washington University’s Milken School of Public Health. "While the U.S. government has taken some action, it is not enough. We need companies, like In-N-Out Burger, to harness their purchasing power and demand that the meat they serve is raised with responsible antibiotic use."
Background on antibiotics overuse on industrial farms:
Antibiotic-resistant infections kill 23,000 Americans, and sicken 2 million every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most large industrial farms administer antibiotics on a routine basis to animals that often aren’t sick in an effort to promote growth and prevent disease brought on by unsanitary production practices. In the United States, 70 percent of medically important antibiotics are sold for use on food animals.. That overuse breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that rapidly multiply and spread off of farms via contaminated meat, direct human to animal contact, and through the air, water and soil.
California recently passed landmark legislation that prohibits the routine use of antibiotics on animals for growth promotion or disease prevention. This first-in-the-nation law must be implemented by January 2018. Strong antibiotics commitments from California-based restaurant chains will help move livestock producers to comply with the new law more quickly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

More than 75,000 People Urge EPA to Ban Seven Dangerous Neurotoxic Pesticides


Class of pesticides puts farmworkers at risk and causes neurodevelopmental harm to children near agricultural fields where spraying occurs, poisons surrounding communities
Washington, D.C. – Today, more than 75,000 people urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the use of an entire class of poisonous neurotoxic pesticides from use on crops. EPA is reviewing the registration of seven organophosphate pesticides that have been linked to brain damage, water contamination and other harms; today marks the end of the agency’s public comment period.
The comments, submitted on behalf of Earthjustice, United Farm Workers, Pesticide Action Network, Farmworker Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste this afternoon, call for an immediate ban on chlorpyrifos-methyl, dicrotophos, dimethoate, ethoprop, profenofos, terbufos and tribufos.
“The continued use of these pesticides is a travesty of justice and science,” said Earthjustice Attorney Matt Baca, on behalf of the groups. “It’s time to get these pesticides out of our bodies, our food, and our water. A total ban is what communities deserve, especially farmworker communities that have disproportionately borne this burden of poisonings and chronic harms for decades. These neurotoxic pesticides are terrible for children, poison workers, and are present in foods and drinking water at unconscionable levels. That’s why tens of thousands have joined together to ask EPA to make a change to protect lives.”
Earthjustice and a broad coalition of partners have been fighting for years to convince EPA officials to ban these pesticides. These drift-prone chemicals can cause serious health harms to those who come into contact with them in agricultural communities across the nation. For several of the pesticides currently under review, residues have been documented by government officials on a wide range of fruits, vegetables and grains.

An extensive body of scientific evidence shows that even at minimal levels of exposure they can damage children’s developing brains, and lead to such alarming deficits as reduced IQ, autism and attention disorders.

MONSANTO SEARCHES FOR NEXT “FARM MOM OF THE YEAR”


Nominations Open February 23; Continue Through March 29, 2016

ST. LOUIS (Feb. 23, 2016) – They are warm and caring, yet tough as nails. They’re dedicated, nurturing, gritty, loving, hard-working and fun go-getters who go above and beyond to care for and protect their farms, families, communities and the agriculture industry they love. Monsanto Company once again wants to recognize these inspiring women, and today announced it has officially opened up nominations for its 2016 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest.
“This is the seventh year we’ve held the America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest, and each year we are introduced to the most phenomenal women,” says Tracy Mueller, Monsanto Corporate Brand Communications Manager. “We read every nomination and their stories are powerful, encouraging and hopeful. These women inspire us, and we’re proud, humbled and excited to share their stories with the rest of the country.”
Nominations are open from February 23, 2016, through March 29, 2016. Anyone can enter their favorite farm mom, whether it’s their mom, sister, aunt, daughter, friend or community member. Just visit AmericasFarmers.com during the nomination period and submit a brief essay online or by mail that explains how the nominated farm mom contributes to each of four areas -- her family, farm, community and the agriculture industry.
A panel of judges from American Agri-Women will once again review nominations and help Monsanto select five regional winners. They will specifically look for nominations that include all four areas addressed above (farm, family, community and agriculture).
 “So many women, particularly in agriculture, just focus on what needs to get done, and they do it – no matter what challenges or adversities they may be facing,” says Donnell Scott, Vice President of Education for American Agri-Women. “They don’t do it to get credit or attention. These women have a ‘get it done’ attitude and love what they do and who they do it for. We love reading about their efforts and are proud to help acknowledge their hard work and contributions.”
The five regional winners will be announced at the end of April, and each winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize. Profiles of the winners will then be posted to AmericasFarmers.com, where the public can vote for one national farm mom winner. Announced just prior to Mother’s Day, the national winner will receive an additional $5,000 cash prize above and beyond her regional prize, for a total of $10,000.
For more information on the program or for complete eligibility requirements and official contest rules visit AmericasFarmers.com. Interested parties may also send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to America's Farmers Mom of the Year, Attn: Sue Dillon, 349 Marshall Ave., Ste. 200, St. Louis, MO 63119.

Monday, February 22, 2016

CALIFORNIA STATE FAIR NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR 2016 CHAMPION OF TECHNOLOGY AWARDS


 
(Sacramento, CA) The California State Fair is accepting nominations for its 2016 Champion of Technology awards. Since 1854, the California State Fair has showcased the best of the best, including the progress and advancements of the state’s strongest industries. Public interest and knowledge has grown because of the extraordinary contributions of individuals and businesses that are committed to advancing innovation and creating a better way of living.
 
As California continues to lead the world as the birthplace of numerous technological achievements, the California State Fair is honored to present its Champion of Technology awards.
 
This year, the California State Fair will select two champions for remarkable contributions to California’s technology industry. Both an individual and a project or organization will be honored for demonstrating benefit to California through commendable technological achievement. In celebration of these accomplishments, the California State Fair will present the Champion of Technology awards at the annual State Fair Gala, Thursday, June 23, 2016.
 
In 2015, the California State Fair awarded their inaugural Champion of Technology Awards to the City of Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry for Individual; and Alameda County for Project/Organization.
 
AWARDS:    Champion of Technology (individual)
                     Champion of Technology (project or organization).
 
ELIGIBILITY: Open to California residents, or businesses headquartered in California.
 
NOMINATIONS: The Champion of Technology nomination forms can be downloaded by clicking here. Forms and supporting documents must be emailed by Friday, March 11, 2016, to both:
 
Ben Pearl
California Department of Technology
Benjamin.Pearl@state.ca.gov
(916) 228-6454
 
Adelina Zendejas
Deputy Director, Broadband & Digital Literacy Office
California Department of Technology
10860 Gold Center Drive, Mailstop Y-20 Rancho
Cordova, CA 95670
Adelina.Zendejas@state.ca.gov
 
 
About the California State Fair  
For more than 160 years, the California State Fair has showcased the best of the Golden State. During the 2015 State Fair at Cal Expo nearly 780,000 people experienced the best and made memories that will last a lifetime. Cal Expo was dedicated as a place to celebrate California’s achievements, industries, agriculture, diversity of its people, traditions and trends that shape the Golden State’s future. The 2016 California State Fair will take place July 8-24.
 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

USDA: Public-Private Partnership has Strengthened Crop Insurance and Reduced Waste



(INDIAN WELLS, Calif.)—The current crop insurance system, which depends on cooperation and coordination between private-sector insurers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is working well and serves as an example of how effective such partnerships can be.

That was the message delivered yesterday by Brandon Willis, administrator of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, at the crop insurance industry’s annual meeting.  Willis pointed to the partnership’s track record for eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse as proof of its success.

Occurrences of improper indemnity payments to farmers, which can result from data entry and reporting mistakes, fell to 2.2 percent in 2015, Willis told the group.  That’s compared to a 5.5 percent improper payment average for other USDA programs in 2014 and a 4 percent average for programs across all government agencies.

“This demonstrates that the crop insurance program can withstand the scrutiny [from its critics],” Willis explained.  “It’s a good story.  It tells the story that crop insurance is a well-run program with an error rate far below the government average.”

He added that the USDA and private insurers will continue to identify and address the causes of errors and constantly make improvements to the system.

In addition to efficient and accurate program management, Willis said that the partnership excelled in implementing a complicated farm bill in 2014.  In particular, he noted how hard work by both the public and private sectors made it possible to expand coverage options to beginning farmers and ranchers, organic production, and specialty crops.

This expanded coverage has helped crop insurance find new supporters, noted Willis, which will be essential to defending farm policy in the future.

“It’s important that we have a safety net that works for everybody,” he concluded.  “Crop insurance has worked…and it is my hope that we can work together…to have a program that we are proud of and that farmers are proud of.”


Friday, February 12, 2016

DeLauro Statement on Menu Labeling and the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015



WASHINGTON, DC —Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) released the following statement regarding menu labeling and the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015.

“When Congress passed standardized menu labeling in 2010, the goal was to arm Americans with the information they need to make informed nutritional decisions for themselves and their families. The language was built on consensus and compromise and worked out between a wide variety of interests, including many industry partners. Scott DeFife, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, praised the law, stating that ‘it sets a clear national standard across the country.’ However, now certain sectors of industry want to tear down the progress we have made.

“The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 would weaken this crucial step to combat the obesity epidemic in the United States. The bill increases consumer confusion, denies consumers the right to nutritional information, and weakens enforcement and consumer protection. In a time when Americans are eating nearly half of their meals and snacks outside the home, this bill does a major disservice to the American people who want to make health conscious decisions.

“Today, more than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. And children eat almost twice as many calories at a restaurant than they do at home.  The impact on our children alone should be reason enough to oppose any measure that undermines a consumer’s ability to make informed, nutritious choices at meal time.”

Bread-and-butter issue: Kansas State University study finds food availability a problem in smaller urban cities, despite dense populations


MANHATTAN — Average neighborhood income may play a role in creating food deserts in cities of all sizes, according to a Kansas State University study.

Michael Miller, doctoral student in sociology, Topeka, found food stores are largely unavailable in the most densely populated inner-city, low-income neighborhoods of smaller urban cities. The study, "Food Availability in the Heartland: Exploring the Effects of Neighborhood Racial and Income Composition," is published in Rural Sociology. Article co-authors include Kansas State University sociology faculty members Gerad Middendorf and Spencer Wood

"The problems and dynamics happening in large metropolitan areas also are happening in smaller cities like Topeka, Kansas," Miller said. "Inner-city neighborhoods are severely lacking in food stores, and race and income seem to be important factors of that."

Miller used U.S. Census tract data to map neighborhoods in Topeka according to racial composition and income. Each tract contained around 3,000 people. Miller found that the geographic size of each tract was smaller in the inner-city areas and larger toward the city limits, suggesting a greater population density in the center of the city. Then he looked at racial composition of the primary head of household and average household income of those tracts.

"The neighborhoods with more racial minorities in the inner-city tracts — inner-city neighborhoods — tended to have lower incomes," Miller said. "Then as you move away from the inner city, we see incomes go up to the middle and high categories, neighborhoods get much wider and as you get to the large tracts on the outskirts, there are high incomes and a very, very high distribution of white households."

After exploring the income and racial composition of Topeka's nearly 130,000 residents, Miller located the food stores, overlaid them on the map of income and racial composition and found the majority form a horseshoe around the inner-city neighborhoods.

"The very people who need the stores close because they have low income and not much transportation find themselves further away from the stores," Miller said.

According to Miller, many complicated social factors cause food deserts and food insecurity in the U.S. Among the social factors, Miller said, is neighborhood disinvestment or lack of a foreseeable profit in the area.

"Just being around Topeka, you can see pretty clearly where the investment is and where the growth is," Miller said. "Business and commerce are directed away from those inner-city areas."

According to Miller, the solution to this problem is not as simple as dropping a store in the middle of a low-income neighborhood and expecting customers to purchase food there. The store has to appeal to the customers.

"Part of food security is having culturally appropriate foods available," Miller said. "If you open an organic food store in the middle of a low-income neighborhood, people may not go in and buy the food because they are not used to it. Food patterns and buying practices are really engrained in a lot of families."

Miller said infrastructure and planning is another roadblock that can affect access to food stores in inner cities.

"Three miles is not that far to walk, but if you have to cross highways and dangerous neighborhoods where the crime rate is high, that's going to make it more difficult," Miller said.

Miller intended the study to be a preliminary look at how food is distributed and how it shapes our society, neighborhoods and health outcomes so solutions can be explored.

"It is a complicated problem so no one is to blame," Miller said. "I think the solution is dependent on what people think the roles of the city and the community are and what have been the successful interventions to make healthy food more accessible in other cities."

The sociology, anthropology and social work department is in Kansas State University's College of Arts & Sciences.

NGA Praises House Passage of Common Sense Menu Labeling Legislation


Arlington, VA – The National Grocers Association (NGA) today commended the U.S. House of Representatives for the passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 2017), a bipartisan bill that clarifies the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) final rule regarding menu labeling at restaurants and similar retail food establishments. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), passed the House floor with a bipartisan vote of 266 to 144.

“Independent supermarket operators are on the forefront of meeting consumer demands with a variety of innovative approaches, often tailoring their offerings to reflect the communities they serve. H.R. 2017 contains important regulatory fixes and provides flexibility for supermarkets to continue serving their consumers with local and unique food choices while ensuring consumers receive clear nutritional information,” said NGA President and CEO Peter J. Larkin. “NGA thanks Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) for their work on this bill and look forward to working with Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) and their colleagues in the Senate to advance this common sense legislation.”

The FDA finalized menu labeling regulations at the direction of the Affordable Care Act in November of 2014. The regulations require that chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations list caloric information on their menus and menu boards. NGA has actively engaged with Members of Congress and the FDA throughout the regulatory process to ensure a workable solution for supermarkets.

USDA Makes $1.85 Million Available to Improve Alfalfa and Forage Crop Research, Best Practices


WASHIGNTON, Feb. 12, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $1.85 million in funding for the Alfalfa Forage and Research Program (AFRP). This program, administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds research and extension programs that improve alfalfa forage and seed yield and trains producers to apply best practices.
“Research into critical agricultural science areas like this reach their full potential when coupled with extension activities. Applicants for these grants should keep in mind the importance of reaching out to producers and farmers to share information and apply research findings,” said NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy. “Integrating these two important functions is how agricultural solutions move from the lab to the farm and vice versa.”
Alfalfa and other forage crops are essential to sustainable agricultural systems and are economic engines for rural communities. These crops are valued for their soil conservation, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, crop rotation and wildlife habitat attributes.. However, to provide these societal benefits, the production of forage crops must be profitable to farmers so they will be willing to maintain or expand base acreage.
The Alfalfa and Forage Research Program (AFRP) supports integrated, collaborative research and technology transfer to improve the efficiency and sustainability of conventional and organic forage production systems. The program encourages projects that establish multi-disciplinary networks to address priority national or regional science needs of the alfalfa industry. By bringing together expertise from multiple organizations and states, these projects will have greater impact and enhance the effectiveness of limited state, federal and industry resources.
The goals of AFRP are to improve alfalfa forage yield and seed yield through better nutrient, water, and/or pest management; improve persistence of alfalfa stance by lessening biotic or abiotic stresses; improve alfalfa forage and seed harvesting and storage systems to optimize economic returns; improve estimate of alfalfa forage quality as an animal feed to increase forage usage in animal feeds; and use breeding to address biotic and abiotic stresses that impact alfalfa forage yield and persistence and the production of seed for propagation.
Applications are due April 13. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.
Past projects include University of California research into ensuring the sustainability of Western U.S. alfalfa production by characterizing deficient irrigation strategies, developing the capability for Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI), and evaluating current and developing future alfalfa varieties and germplasm which are compatible with drought and SDI. A recent project from Mississippi State University will build on recent successes in promoting alfalfa use on farms, as well as evaluating microbial technologies that can improve alfalfa-grass baleage that will benefit farmers producing this forage.
Since 2009, NIFA has invested in and advanced innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA’s integrated research, education, and extension programs, supporting 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.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

House Agriculture Committee questions EPA Administrator McCarthy on agency’s burdensome policies




Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to consider the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) actions on the rural economy. Members questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, on the agency’s overreaching, burdensome regulations and policies such as the “waters of the United States” rule, proposed changes to the ozone standard and pesticide uses, and many more.

“America’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters are the original conservationists who take great pride in their stewardship of the land. The EPA has chosen to disregard producer-driven, voluntary conservation efforts, and instead put in place several regulatory policies that ignore sound science and stakeholder concerns. These actions threaten our ability to produce food and fiber for the world in an economically feasible manner. Rural America deserves a government that will work to make sure it has a thriving future, but time and time again we have seen this Administration display the arrogant ‘government knows best’ attitude and now we are left with farmers and rancher who no longer trust in the regulatory system. The EPA needs to stop implementing bad policies that diminish the integrity and transparency of the rulemaking process.

"Producers derive their livelihood from the land creating a natural incentive to adopt practices that enhance long-term viability of its resources. We must continue to advocate for our voluntary conservation practices that farmers and ranchers are participating in, but continually go unnoticed.

“I appreciate Administrator McCarthy for coming before the committee today to answer our questions and I hope the committee and EPA can move forward with a more productive and cooperative relationship. But even more, I am glad we were able to shed light on the valuable and important efforts our farmers, ranchers, and foresters are putting forth to protect our environment and natural resources,” said Chairman K. Michael Conaway.

Written testimony provided by the witness from today’s hearing is linked below. Click here for more information, including Chairman Conaway's opening statement, and the archived webcast.

Witness List:

Panel I
The Honorable Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces $30 Million for Prospect MAX Bus Rapid Transit Project in Kansas City, Missouri



WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes $30 million for construction of the Prospect MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project in Kansas City, Missouri. The project is one of 31 transportation projects in 18 states recommended to receive a share of $3.5 billion in federal funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program.

“Since 2009, the Obama Administration has funded nearly 100 new and expanded mass transit projects across the country, including Kansas City,” said Secretary Foxx. “These projects transform communities, improving mobility and access to jobs, education and other important opportunities for millions of residents. Mass transit is an important ally in the effort to ensure that hard-working Americans are offered a chance to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

The 10-mile Prospect MAX BRT project will improve access to jobs and schools in a Kansas City community where a large number of residents rely on public transit and do not own a car. Prospect MAX would offer more frequent service than traditional buses and serve as a catalyst for new businesses and investment along a corridor that extends from downtown Kansas City to Prospect Avenue and 75th Street. The project includes a transit center, 25 stations, 12 branded vehicles and signal priority to speed buses through traffic.

“FTA is proud to partner with communities in Kansas City and across the country to bring more transportation options to residents and help accommodate our nation’s growing population,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “This investment in Kansas City’s public transportation network will improve the mobility and quality of life for thousands of residents, provide an alternative to traffic congestion, and spur more economically vibrant communities.”

FTA’s highly competitive CIG Program is the federal government’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments that are locally planned, implemented and operated. It provides funding for investments such as new and expanded heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and streetcar projects. The program includes funding for three categories of eligible projects, as defined by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act: New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity.

Funding recommendations for Fiscal Year 2017 include:

$1.4 billion for 10 New Starts projects already under construction in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Orlando, Honolulu, Boston, Charlotte and Portland, with additional funds recommended to accelerate completion of these projects;
$950 million for seven New Starts projects not yet under construction in Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, National Capital Area in Maryland, Minneapolis, Fort Worth and Seattle;
$458 million for 10 Small Starts projects not yet under construction in Tempe, Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Kansas City (Missouri), Albuquerque, Everett and Seattle, Washington;
$599 million for four Core Capacity projects to improve capacity on existing, heavily used transit lines in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, New York City and Dallas; and
$75 million for the Expedited Project Delivery for Capital Investment Grants Pilot Program — a new pilot program outlined in FAST that allows FTA to select up to eight projects seeking 25 percent or less in Federal funding and using a public-private partnership approach.
FTA’s Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2017 CIG Program, including links to individual project profiles, is available on FTA’s website.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Genuine Coconut from Spain wins the FRUIT LOGISTICA Innovation Award



Berlin, 5 February 2016 – The trade visitors at FRUIT LOGISTICA in Berlin have spoken: World’s Coconut Trading, a company from Spain, has won the FRUIT LOGISITICA Innovation Award 2016 with its organic Genuine Coconut. Genuine Coconut comes in a can with a patented seal and straw, and is a simple, genuinely refreshing coconut water drink with minerals and a high nutritional value. Thai Nam Hom coconuts are organically cultivated in the heart of Thailand and are regarded as first choice due to their quality, taste and smell.

“We are happy and proud. Thank you FRUIT LOGISTICA! This is a great reward for three years of hard work, passion and excitement involved in bringing Genuine Coconut to market“, said Carlos Amoros of World’s Coconut Trading.

Visitors at FRUIT LOGISTICA chose the Northern Greens Kitchen Minis tomato from Denmark as the competition’s runner-up. This is a small, compact and visually attractive cherry tomato plant that produces up to 150 fruits in all seasons and grows to only 11 centimetres wide and 35 centimetres high. The tomatoes weigh only eight to ten grams. This cherry tomato is sweet tasting and aromatic and can encourage children and younger consumers to eat more vegetables.

Visitors chose Enjoya, a yellow/red striped pepper grown by the Dutch enterprise Terra Natura International as the third-best entry. Enjoya has an aromatic and tangy flavour and contains lots of vitamin C. It is available in various sizes, is a colourful addition to salads and with the right dip is also ideal as a snack.

For the first time the jury also presented a special award, which went to Stoffels from Belgium for its Automato tomato vending machine. This machine dispenses differently coloured cherry tomatoes from three boxes into a paper bag. Automato is hygienic and an interactive alternative for young consumers which encourages them to buy vegetables.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Animal Agriculture Alliance debuts Meat Matters campaign


February 1, 2016 – Today, the Animal Agriculture Alliance unveiled a new campaign focused on promoting the role of meat and poultry in a healthy, balanced diet. The Meat Matters initiative counters claims made by activist groups about the nutritional value of animal protein, as well as the sustainability of meat and poultry production.

“We’ve heard a lot of concern over the years from our members about activists pushing the “Meatless Mondays” movement in their local schools and communities,” said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. “This misleading movement is another tactic to eliminate consumer choice – the ability that we each have to determine the right food choices for ourselves and our families. Our new campaign will help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation to understand the true value of meat and protein in their diets.”

The Alliance has produced and maintained consumer-facing resources explaining the truth behind “Meatless Mondays” for nearly a decade, and the new Meat Matters materials take that content to a new level with eye-catching graphic design and easily digestible information.

Campaign materials include:
Print and web versions of a poster filled with facts and statistics about meat’s role in a healthy diet intended for distribution to consumers or decision-makers in communities being pressured by the “Meatless Mondays” movement
Content and resources posted on the Alliance website
The Meat Matters pledge, allowing proud omnivores to announce their understanding of the nutritional value of meat and poultry to their social media connections
Editorial pieces by third-party experts on nutrition and sustainability
Links to published, peer-reviewed research
“It’s easy to find celebrities and other public figures who are very public about their choice to follow vegetarian or vegan diets,” said Hannah Thompson, Alliance communications director. “Unfortunately, we don’t hear as much from meat-eaters, who make up the vast majority of the population. We want to help people feel confident about their choice to include meat and poultry in their diets, and hopefully the Meat Matters campaign will do just that.”

For more information and to take the “Meat Matters” pledge, visit www.animalagalliance.org/engage/#meatmatters.

Women’s Choice Award® Announces the 2016 America’s Best Hospitals for Heart Care


Best hospitals for heart care in honor of American Heart Health Month
Ft. Lauderdale, FL. - February 1,  2016 – The Women’s Choice Award®, America’s trusted referral source for the best in healthcare, has just announced its 2016 America’s Best Hospitals for Heart Care. This evidence-based designation is the only heart care award that identifies the country’s best healthcare institutions based on robust criteria that consider female patient satisfaction and clinical excellence.  February is American Heart Month and it’s more important than ever to raise awareness, especially since one in every three women dies from heart disease and stroke in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
The list of 353 award recipients represents hospitals that not only performed well clinically with regard to heart care measures, but also had a high recommendation rate, which women have identified as a very important indicator when selecting a hospital.
The 2016 America’s Best Hospitals for Heart Care list is determined by first identifying hospitals across the nation, that offer a minimum number of cardiac and/or vascular services. Only hospitals that perform well clinically with regard to heart care measures reported to Medicare, and also have a high Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) recommendation score, are selected. All data used to determine the award recipients is completely objective and evidence-based.
 “Considering that heart disease is the number one killer of women across the country, helping her find the best in cardiac care is how we empower women to make the best healthcare choices for themselves and for their family,” says Delia Passi, CEO and Founder of the Women’s Choice Award.
The following hospitals have partnered with the Women’s Choice Award in empowering women to make the best healthcare choices for themselves and their family:
Baptist Heart Hospital at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL
Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL
Baptist Medical Center South, Jacksonville, FL
Bethesda Hospital East & Bethesda Hospital West, Boynton Beach, FL
CarolinaEast Medical Center, New Bern, NC
Citizens Medical Center, Victoria, TX
Comanche County Memorial Hospital, Lawton, OK
Fairview Southdale Hospital, Edina, MN
Firelands Regional Medical Center, Sandusky, OH
Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute at Hoag, Newport Beach, CA
INTEGRIS Heart Hospital at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, Oklahoma City, OK
Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas, Rogers, AR
Norman Regional Health System, Norman, OK
North Shore University Hospital, member of Northwell Health, Manhasset, NY
Orlando Health Heart Institute, Orlando, FL
Parkview Medical Center, Pueblo, CO
Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, CT
San Antonio Regional Hospital, Upland, CA
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Santa Rosa, CA
St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Edgewood, KY
St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, Syracuse, NY
St. Luke’s Hospital, Chesterfield, MO
St. Peter’s Hospital, Albany, NY
St. Tammany Parish Hospital, Covington, LA
Stamford Hospital, Stamford, CT
The Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, NJ
UC Davis Cardiovascular Services, Sacramento, CA
Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, NY

"We have known for almost twenty years that the experience of heart disease is significantly different for men and women. Ignorance of the signs, symptoms and optimal treatment of women with heart disease leads to missed diagnoses and even unnecessary deaths,” says Marianne J. Legato, M.D., F.A.C.P. Emerita Professor of Clinical Medicine, Columbia University and Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins.
To view a full list of the 2016 America’s Best Hospitals for Heart Care visit http://www.womenschoiceaward.com/awarded/best-hospitals/heart-care/

Division Winners Announced in Truckload Carriers Association’s 2015 National Fleet Safety Awards



Seventeen fleets with outstanding safety records will now compete for two grand prizes in March

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – From many entries across the U.S. and Canada, the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has selected the division winners for its prestigious National Fleet Safety Awards. Sponsored by Great West Casualty Company, the awards honor trucking companies that demonstrate a superior commitment to safety and accident reduction.
“Truckload carriers are constantly striving to improve overall safety while out on the roads,” said Holly Caskey, TCA’s Safety & Security Division chair and the vice president of driver training for Dart Transit Company of Eagen, Minnesota. “It takes a lot of work, and it’s a tremendous achievement when you can boast a very safe record, so we want to showcase that via this contest.”
Below are the names of the 2015 top divisional winners based on low accident frequency ratios per million miles. Companies are listed according to the order that they placed within each category.
Division I Winners (under 5 million miles)
1. Stageline Express, Coopersville, Michigan
2. FTC Transportation, Inc., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
3. Rocha Transportation, Modesto, California
Division II Winners (514.99 million miles)
1. MacKinnon Transport Inc, Guelph, Ontario
2. HiTech Express, Inc., Roseville, Minnesota
3. Landstar Express America, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida
Division III Winners (1524.99 million miles)
1. Smokey Point Distributing, Arlington, Washington
2. High Country Transportation, Midlothian, Texas
Division IV Winners (2549.99 million miles)
1. Halvor Lines, Inc., Superior, Wisconsin
2. TransWest, Lachine, Québec
3. Erb International, Inc., New Hamburg, Ontario
Division V Winners (5099.99 million miles)
1. Groupe Robert Inc., Rougemont, Québec
2. May Trucking Co., Salem, Oregon
3. Cargo Transporters, Inc., Claremont, North Carolina
 Division VI Winners (100+ million miles)
1. Bison Transport Inc, Winnipeg, Manitoba
2. Interstate Distributor, Tacoma, Washington
3. Landstar Ranger, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida
The division winners were selected based on their accident frequency per million miles driven for each of the six mileagebased divisions listed above. The numbers were verified by an audit conducted by an independent expert. The division winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony to be held during TCA’s Annual Convention, March 69, 2016, at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. They will be recognized again during TCA’s Safety & Security Division Annual Meeting, to be held May 2224, 2016, at the Worthington Renaissance in Fort Worth, Texas.
For the next step of the competition, the division winners will compete for two grand prizes, one in the “less than 25 million annual miles” category and one in the “25 million or more annual miles” category. To win the grand prize, companies will be judged on their overall safety programs, both on and offhighway, including employee driver/independent contractor selection procedures, training, supervision, accident investigation, inspection and maintenance of equipment, and outside activities including general highway safety.
As with the division winners, the two grand prize winners will be honored at an awards ceremony to be held first during TCA’s Annual Convention and then again during TCA’s Safety & Security Division Annual Meeting.
To stay informed of further developments related to TCA’s National Fleet Safety Awards, please visit www.truckload.org and follow the organization on Facebook—www.truckload.org/Facebook—and Twitter—www.truckload.org/Twitter.

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