Thursday, March 31, 2016

USDA Prospective Plantings Report Bearish for Many Row-Crop Farmers


WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 2016 -- The Agriculture Department’s Prospective Plantings Report released today suggests low prices for corn and rice will continue, extending the current, two-year farm downturn through the end of 2016, if not beyond.
“The report really highlights how challenging the market is right now for major crops,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We currently have adequate supplies both in the U.S. and globally in these commodities. It doesn’t look as though that will change. If we have normal yields, that supply side pressure will not ease up much.”
The 93.6 million acre prospective plantings figure for corn is up from 88.6 million acres planted last year, or close to three times the expected increase of 2 million acres.
The December corn contract on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange dropped by about 15 cents to approximately $3.70 per bushel within a few minutes of the report’s release.
The soybean prospective plantings figure came in at 82.236 million acres – on the low side of expectations, but still above some forecasts that had predicted just under 82 million acres.
Wheat acreage was also smaller than expectations. Winter and spring varieties combined were reported at 49.559 million acres. Pre-report estimates covered a wide range but averaged around 51.5 million acres. None of the publicly-released estimates were below 50 million acres. Wheat, like soy, however, will not likely increase greatly in price as long as corn surpluses remain.
Rice prospective plantings were well above market expectations at 3.064 million acres vs. USDA’s projected rice plantings at 2.8 million acres. If this projection holds, it will be the first time since 2010 that rice acreage has topped 3 million acres. Recent tightening of world rice supplies may limit the damage from today’s report, but forecasts still suggest significant price drops are on the way.

CALIFORNIA STATE FAIR ANNOUNCES RECIPIENTS OF PRESTIGIOUS 2016 AWARDS



(Sacramento, CA) The California State Fair has announced the recipients of its prestigious awards, including Agriculturalist of the Year. The State Fair annually recognizes the accomplishments and service of key individuals or organizations through a series of awards that are publicly recognized and honored at the Friends of the California State Fair Gala, which will be held this year on Thursday, June 23.
 
The 2016 AGRICULTURALIST OF THE YEAR AWARD will be presented to Sarbjit “Sarb” Johl. Johl first came to Sutter County from India in 1966, at the age of 13. He began farming with his father in 1976, after graduating from Yuba City High School and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He served as Chairman of the Sacramento Growers Cooperative, a cling peach co-op, from 1986 to 1993 and has also served as a board member of the California Canning Peach Association. He was founding partner of the Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers LLC., a walnut processing and marketing enterprise, and has served as Chairman of that organization since 2006. In addition to serving on the Northern California Growers Association, for 12 years, he has been a Trustee of the Butte-Yuba-Sutter Water Quality Coalition, and is currently the Chairman of the Cling Peach Board.
 
The 2016 GOLDEN BEAR AWARD is presented to Gail Kautz. A member of the California State Fair and Exposition Board of Directors from 1987 to 1995, Kautz is actively involved in her family’s farming operation, John Kautz Farms, in Lodi, California. She was the first woman Chair of the California State Fair Board in 1993, and received the Ag Progress Award in 1996 for her outstanding contribution to Agriculture. The Ironstone Concours Foundation, which Kautz started, donates $5,000 annually to the California State Fair Scholarship fund. She has consistently devoted her time to several organizations through the years, including the California State Fair Agricultural Advisory Committee, for which she served as Chair in 2006-07. Her active involvement in the agriculture industry has earned her many awards, including Lifetime Honorary Member of the California 4-H, Lifetime Honorary State Degree from the Future Farmers of America, and the California Farm Bureau Bountiful Award. She is also a member of the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame.
 
The 2016 AGRICULTURAL PROGRESS AWARD is proudly presented to Judy Culbertson, Executive Director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. A native of Courtland, California, where she grew up on a 5th generation pear orchard, Judy gained firsthand experience in the industry managing her family’s packing plant. She also worked for the California Farm Bureau, assisting with the development of agricultural education projects and activities prior to joining the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Her current vision for the foundation is to ensure that every student develops an appreciation and curiosity to learn about where their food and fiber comes from. Culbertson is a current member and past chair of the California State Fair Agricultural Advisory Council.
 
The 2016 WINE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD is granted to G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski. A nationally-known wine educator and consultant, Pooch has devoted more than 30 years to the pursuit of educating consumers and trade members alike in all aspects of the wine industry. He has served as Chief Judge and Consultant to the California State Fair’s annual Commercial Wine Competition and has judged several of the most prestigious wine competitions throughout the country. He is widely regarded as a wine industry expert and has given lectures and seminars on the subject throughout North America. He is also President/Owner of the University of Wine, in which capacity he has trained restauranteurs, wholesalers/distributors, retailers, and winery personnel.
 
The 2016 VINEYARD OF THE YEAR AWARD is deservedly bestowed to Vineyard 1869/Original Grandpere. Located in Amador County, Vineyard 1869/Original Grandpere is the oldest Zinfandel vineyard in America, as documented in a deed from a U.S. Geological Survey dated in 1869. Initially planted from hardy stock, its ancient vines survived catastrophe inflicted by both man and nature over the course of the ensuing 140+ years. Purchased in 1984 by Scott and Terri Harvey, the vines have been lovingly coaxed back into producing small yields of elegant, complex, first-growth Zinfandel by Scott, a highly regarded California winemaker who was trained in Germany.
 
The 2016 TECHNOLOGY CHAMPION OF THE YEAR, INDIVIDUAL, is awarded to Eric Brown, President and CEO of California Telehealth Network, an organization that increases access to acute, primary and preventive care in rural America. Eric’s 15 years of experience in the cable television industry have included valuable contributions in the field of network affiliate relations and the management of multiple broadband system marketing and operations. He has previously served as Chairman of the California Cable and Telecommunications Association (CCTA) and is a recipient of the prestigious National Cable and Telecommunications Association Vanguard Award for excellence in cable operations. He has also received the cable industry’s CTAM Chairman’s Award for excellence in cable marketing.
 
The 2016 TECHNOLOGY CHAMPION OF THE YEAR, ORGANIZATION, is awarded to Emergency Call and Tracking System (ECaTS). ECaTS is the first universal 911 Call Reporting System that leverages the ubiquitous nature of the Internet to provide secure, real-time reporting to the 911 industry.  In developing a product that gathers data on more than 350,000 calls per day to produce insights that not only identify the data, but establish how that data was produced, the company has brought private sector business intelligence analytics to the public safety industry, epitomizing the virtues of what it takes to confront the challenges of “Big Data” within the 911 industry.
 
These awards will be presented at the annual Friends of the California State Fair Gala on Thursday, June 23, 2016. Funds raised from the Gala support Friends of the California State Fair student scholarships. Prior to the dinner and awards ceremony, the Best of California Tasting will feature award-winning wine, beer, cheese and olive oil from the State Fair competitions. To support the celebration please email gala@calexpo.com.

Lawsuit challenges FDA’s approval of genetically engineered salmon


Coalition of fishing, consumer, and environmental groups say first-ever approval of laboratory-created food animal violated laws and ignored risks to wild salmon and fishing communities
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approving the first-ever genetically engineered -- GE -- food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade.  In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval.
Statements from counsel and plaintiff coalition:
“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”
“Atlantic salmon populations including our endangered Gulf of Maine fish are hanging on by a thread– they can’t afford additional threats posed by GE salmon,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic salmon as endangered. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law.”
“On Prince Edward Island and across Atlantic Canada, indigenous peoples, anglers and community groups are working hard to protect and restore endangered salmon populations and rivers. Genetic contamination threatens all this work and in return there is little or no economic benefit to the region,” said Mark Butler, policy director at Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
There’s never been a farmed salmon that hasn’t eventually escaped into the natural environment. Why should we believe that long term, these frankenfish won’t be the same?” asked Golden Gate Salmon Association executive director John McManus.
“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”
“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”
“The FDA has failed to adequately examine the risks associated with transgenic salmon,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The long term effects of people eating genetically modified foods have never been adequately addressed—and this GE salmon is no exception. This fish is unnecessary, so why take the risk?”
“It’s clear that the market has rejected GE salmon despite FDA’s reckless approval,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Major retailers including Costco, Safeway and Kroger won’t sell it and polls show the vast majority of people don’t want to eat it. Yet under this approval it won’t be labeled, violating our fundamental right to know what we are feeding our families.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Culver’s Raises Nearly $20,000 for FFA Jackets 153 Students to Receive Their Own Prestigious FFA Jacket


PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. – March 30, 2016 – In 2012, the average age of a farmer was 58.3 years old, continuing a 30-year trend of an increasingly older demographic in agriculture. Recognizing the need to support young farmers, the latest Thank You Farmers initiative from Culver’s encourages franchisees and the Culver’s Support Center in Prairie Du Sac, Wis., to sponsor the cost of purchasing FFA jackets for members who otherwise wouldn’t be able to own this special attire.
Working alongside the National FFA Organization and Foundation, which develops student leaders and supports the future of agricultural education, Culver’s raised nearly $20,000 and will present 153 deserving FFA members with their very own FFA jacket this fall.
This jacket is more than just something students wear; it’s representative of the pride, responsibility and tradition that unites more than 629,000 FFA members across the nation. And every student who puts on his or her jacket does so with a commitment to making the future of agriculture brighter.
“FFA members are an incredibly passionate group of people who do so much to better the agricultural community,” shared David Stidham, vice president of marketing at Culver’s. “We’re proud to support these young folks today, so they can lead us tomorrow.”
Following the student nominations made by FFA advisors, Culver’s is working with the National FFA Foundation to match deserving members with local restaurants. Later this year, the blue jackets will be shipped to FFA advisors, so they can present them to selected students.
To learn more about Culver’s efforts to support the next generation of America’s farmers, visit www.culvers.com/farmers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MALDEF AND PARTNERS URGE ARIZONA GOVERNOR TO OPPOSE UNCONSTITUTIONAL ANTI-IMMIGRANT BILL




NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
March 25, 2016


CONTACT:
Larry Gonzalez: (202) 466-0879
lgonzalez@rabengroup.com

Donald Gatlin: (202) 587-2871
dgatlin@rabengroup.com






Bill suffers from same fatal flaws as SB 1070, could lead to litigation, and would harm Arizona’s reputation


PHOENIX, AZ — MALDEF and five other legal organizations that advocate for the rights of immigrants sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey yesterday explaining the severe legal and policy implications of an unconstitutional, anti-immigrant bill that is moving in the Arizona Legislature.

SB 1377 would impose additional incarceration on certain criminal defendants based on a state-court belief that they have violated specific federal immigration laws, even when they have never been convicted or even prosecuted for any such federal violation. The bill suffers the same unconstitutional defects that brought down key sections of SB 1070.

Not only would this bill lead to likely litigation, it would also force the state to incur millions more in incarceration costs annually, and convey a message to the world, including potential trading partners, that little has changed in Arizona since SB 1070 was approved in 2010.

“For the sake of the community, Arizona should move beyond attacking Latino immigrants, but instead the Legislature appears willing to double down on its ugly, recent history,” said Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel. “The Governor should veto this bill if it gets to his desk.”

In addition to MALDEF, the letter is signed by the ACLU of Arizona, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, which have all been involved in the successful litigation against SB 1070.

SB 1377 has already passed the Arizona Senate. It is still being considered in the House.

OSHA updates eye and face protection standards in final rule


WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published a final rule that updates requirements for personal protective equipment for workers in general industry, shipyards, longshoring, marine terminals and construction.
The final rule reflects current national consensus standards, and ensures that workers can use up-to-date eye and face protection.
The rule updates references in OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection Standards to recognize the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010, Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, while deleting the outdated 1986 edition of that same national consensus standard. OSHA is also retaining the 2003 and 1989 (R-1998) versions of the ANSI standard already referenced in its standard.
In addition, the final rule updates the construction standard by deleting the 1968 version of the ANSI standard that was referenced and now includes the same three ANSI standards referenced above to ensure consistency among the agency's standards.
OSHA’s final rule becomes effective on April 25, 2016.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Next Steps, Funding to Address Substance Abuse in Rural Communities


ATLANTA, March 28, 2016 – At the Operation UNITE Summit in Atlanta today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of upcoming rural town halls as well as funding rural communities can use to conduct health and safety outreach around prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, accounted for 28,648 deaths in 2014, and rural communities are affected at higher rates than urban communities. This is in part due to a lack of outreach and treatment resources available in rural communities, and this year USDA is expanding its Rural Health and Safety Education (RHSE) competitive grants program to give rural communities the opportunity to use funds for programs that will address the opioid epidemic.
In January, President Obama tapped Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency task force focused on this specific challenge. Recent efforts have helped identify effective tools to reduce drug use and overdose, including evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose reversal drug naloxone.
“The opioid epidemic is a fast-growing problem all across America, and we know that rural communities are facing an even higher burden than those in urban areas,” said Vilsack. “We’ve identified ways to use existing resources to help rural towns and organizations address this challenge head-on and potentially save lives, and I look forward to meeting with community leaders to better understand how we can further support their efforts to create healthier, safer futures for families and individuals who may be struggling.”
Over the next several months, Vilsack will travel to New Hampshire, Missouri, Nevada, Mississippi and Appalachia to participate in town halls that will bring together local and state government partners, the health community, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue and discuss possible solutions. Vilsack will encourage public and private organizations to commit to plans of action for their communities.
Additionally, USDA is making available $1.4 million through its Rural Health and Safety Education (RHSE) competitive grants program. Administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA), the program’s goal is to enhance the quality of life in rural areas through improved health and safety education efforts, including expanding the focus to address the critical challenges of substance abuse in rural communities across the nation. For the first time, USDA is encouraging applicants to develop projects that specifically work to educate the public about opioid abuse and overdose. USDA will also consider projects that target other health outcomes.
Since 2009, NIFA has awarded $10.6 million to the RHSE program for projects that support the health and safety needs of rural America. Fiscal year 2016 applications to the RHSE program should focus on supporting projects proposing to scale-up existing, outcome-based extension programs in the area of individual and family health education to rural communities, state-wide or regionally across state lines.  Programs that apply for RHSE funding in fiscal year 2016 can focus on extension work in the realm of substance abuse, as well as nutrition and physical activity, healthy and safe homes, aging in place, as well as other behavioral health and human social topics.
Applications are due June 1, 2016. More information is available in the online Request for Applications.
Past projects funded through the RHSE program include an Oklahoma State University project that aims to improve healthy literacy among family and consumer sciences educators, rural hospital discharge planners, and family caregivers. A project from the University of Wisconsin seeks to increase cancer treatment education and access to services for rural residents, while also forming coalitions to address rural health disparities.
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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eggs For Your Spring Basket Up, Salad and Orange Juice Down



WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2016 – Lower retail prices for several foods, including salad, orange juice, shredded cheddar, ground chuck, sirloin tip roast, vegetable oil, white bread, ground chuck, deli ham and orange juice, resulted in a slight decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey.
The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $53.28, down $.59 or about 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, ten decreased and six increased in average price.
“Egg prices are up sharply from first quarter of 2015, a year ago but are down even more sharply from the third quarter of 2015. This shows the effect of the HPAI (High Pathogenic Avian Influenza) event last year,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “Prices soared in the latter half of last year, but are working their way back down as increasing production has started to catch up with demand, which has moderated prices somewhat,” he said.
Prices on the beef items in the marketbasket – ground chuck and sirloin tip roast – are lower compared with the first quarter of 2015, explained Anderson.  Retail beef prices peaked in early 2015 at record high levels.
 
“Since then, a combination of increasing beef production, weaker exports, and lower competing meat prices have led to modest price declines,” he said.
Dairy product prices also remain relatively low. At $4.29 for a one-pound bag, shredded cheddar cheese price is at the lowest price in this survey since the third quarter of 2012.  The whole milk price rose almost 3 percent from the third quarter of last year, but that third quarter price was the lowest price in the survey since 2010, noted Anderson.  The whole milk price remains well below the 2015 first-quarter price.
 
“Apple prices are up quite a bit year-over-year. This is a reversal of retail prices that were historically low in 2015,” said Anderson. Last year, the apple market faced a really tough export environment with labor disruptions at west coast ports as well as an increasingly strong dollar.
“Current retail apple prices are still below some pretty recent years, for example 2011 and 2012,” he said.
Items showing retail price decreases from a year ago included:
bagged salad, down 11 percent to $2.20 per pound
orange juice, down 8 percent to $3.21 per half-gallon
shredded cheddar cheese, down 7 percent to $4.29 per pound
whole milk, down 6 percent to $3.23 per gallon
ground chuck, down 5 percent to $4.36 per pound
vegetable oil, down 5 percent to $2.55 for a 32-ounce bottle
white bread, down 3 percent to $1.69 per 20-ounce loaf
flour, down 1 percent to $2.49 for a 5-pound bag
sirloin tip roast, down 1 percent to $5.65 per pound
potatoes, down 1 percent to $2.71 for a 5-pound bag
These items showed modest retail price increase compared to a year ago:
apples, up 12 percent to $1.64 per pound
eggs, up 9 percent to $2.23 per dozen
bacon, up 8 percent to $4.78 per pound
toasted oat cereal, up 6 percent to $3.31 for a 9-ounce box
chicken breast, up 3 percent to $3.37 per pound
deli ham, up 1 percent to $5.57 per pound
Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.13; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.32; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.67.
The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm) report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.
“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.
Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $53.28 marketbasket would be $8.52.
AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 87 shoppers in 28 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March

Friday, March 18, 2016

Soy Growers Oppose Targeting of SNAP in Budget Proposal


WASHINGTON (March 18, 2016) - The American Soybean Association (ASA) responded to a proposal included in this week's House Republican budget, passed by the House Budget Committee, that would cut spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by transitioning it to a block grant-based system administered at the state level. ASA opposed the proposal based on its longstanding opposition to reopening of the farm bill and policy opposing the separation of the nutrition and agriculture components of the bill. In a statement, ASA President Richard Wilkins of Greenwood, Del., also signaled the association's desire to unify the farm and food communities moving into debate on the 2018 Farm Bill:
"When we talk about maintaining the integrity of programs authorized in the farm bill, we mean all of the programs in the farm bill, including SNAP. As a policy organization, we encourage the regular evaluation of programs to determine how they can be most effective. But as producers of the nation's food, we can't support a proposal that would weaken the ability of Americans in the most need to buy that food. As we approach discussions on the next Farm Bill, we need to stand together as a food community. This partnership is critically important for those of us in production agriculture, since only 60 or 70 members of the House identify themselves as representing rural districts. We must ensure that nutrition and farm programs stay united and the decades-old link between the people who grow the nation's food and the people in need of help to put it on their family tables is preserved.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Statement by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Senate Voluntary GMO Labeling Vote


WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2016 – “It is inexcusable that today’s Senate vote on a voluntary federal GMO labeling bill that preempts a damaging patchwork of state measures fell short. While we appreciate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduling this floor vote today, we will continue our fight for this vital piece of legislation, along with Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and others, to secure a law that supports consumers, America’s farmers and ranchers and our nation’s system of affordable, productive agriculture.

“To say we are angry with those senators who abandoned farmers and ranchers and turned their backs on rural America on this vote is an understatement. Their votes opposing this measure ignored science, threw our nation’s food system into disarray and undermined the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing and hungry population. We remain hopeful they will have a chance at redemption by correcting this situation that will otherwise lead to increased food costs for consumers and stifle agricultural innovation, which remains a strength of our nation. We must not let anyone forget that rural America and our farmers and ranchers do matter.”

Chairman Conaway statement on Senate failure to advance bioengineered food labeling legislation

 


Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s failure to advance critical bioengineered food labeling senators on the proposed bioengineered food labeling bill.

"The House Agriculture Committee has been working for months to promote bipartisan solutions to the problems confronting American agriculture. We have listened to our constituents, engaged in deliberate public debate, and proceeded doing the jobs we were elected to do.

"My good friend Pat Roberts along with many members of his Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry have been true leaders. They have attempted countless times to do the work of the Senate but have been hampered at every step by an uncompromising and inflexible group of minority party Senators.

"Make no mistake, it's not Republicans these Senators have opposed, it's the American farmer and rancher. Enough is enough. Americans are tired of viewing a broken system that refuses compromise at the behest of extreme views be it on the left or the right. These Senators have refused to move from their position calling for a mandatory warning label for products of biotechnology. They have chosen to side with activists who have publicly acknowledged their objective is to stigmatize a safe and valuable tool for America’s farmers and ranchers.

"There are many marketing techniques available to provide consumers with information about the products they choose to purchase. Biotechnology is not an issue of safety. Therefore, government mandated warning labels having nothing to do with product safety and serve no purpose other than to disparage one product over another. These Senators cannot continue to say that they are advocates for America’s farmers and ranchers when they consistently oppose those who provide the food we eat and the clothes on our backs.

"Today, no thanks to this small group, the Senate defeated a motion to conclude debate on legislation to establish a standard for marketing products of agricultural biotechnology. Due to these actions, interstate commerce will be severely threatened; small, family-owned food companies face penalties that include a $1,000 per day, per product fine should their products intentionally or unintentionally cross into Vermont’s borders; America's farmers will lose access to vital technologies; and our ability to continue to provide the world’s safest, most abundant and affordable food supply will be threatened.

"Today does not need to be a bad day for American Agriculture. I call on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member to fulfill her responsibility by standing up for America’s farmers and ranchers. This issue cannot be resolved so long as it is viewed as a zero-sum game.”

CFSAF Statement on Senate Cloture Vote on Roberts Bill


(Washington, D.C.) – The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food issued the following statement today after the Senate failed to pass Chairman Pat Roberts’ uniform, national food labeling standard:
“This is the most pressing issue currently facing the food and agriculture industries, so it is disappointing that despite nearly 800 groups united in support behind this reasonable solution, the Senate could not get it across the finish line today,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
“Despite today’s vote, there continues to be a strong bipartisan consensus to protect American consumers from the increased food costs and confusion of a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws,” added Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “GMA is committed to rolling up our sleeves to work with Chairman Roberts and Senator Stabenow so that the Senate can enact a bipartisan solution in the near future.”

Bipartisan defeat of Senate GMO “DARK Act” a victory for right to know


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today a bipartisan group of senators voted to block Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-Kan.) legislation, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which would have prevented Vermont and other states from labeling genetically modified foods. The bill would have put in place a discriminatory and voluntary system reliant on QR codes, websites and toll-free numbers to disclose GMO content. A similar bill, which passed last year in the House, took away states’ rights to label and regulate GMO crops.
Friends of the Earth Food and Technology Program Director Lisa Archer offered the following statement in response:
Friends of the Earth strongly supports mandatory GMO labeling and applauds the senators who stood against  the DARK Act, an undemocratic and desperate attempt by junk food and chemical corporations to keep Americans in the dark about what we feed our families. More than 90 percent of Americans want GMO labeling and this bill would have done nothing to satisfy the tidal wave of consumer demand for transparency evident in states across the U.S. The bipartisan defeat of this bill is a testament to the strength of the movement for a truly sustainable, healthy and transparent food system.
We urge the Senate to stand strong against any proposals that fall short of clear, on-package labels that allow Americans to make an informed choice about what they eat. Proposals for GMO disclosure via QR codes, websites or toll-free numbers discriminate against lower-income, rural and elderly Americans who have less technological access. In this election year, voters won’t soon forget which senators choose to stand up for their right to know.

US Labor Department announces $81 million in available funds to support migrant, seasonal farmworkers


Program provides services, training for nation’s agricultural workers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced $81 million in available funding through the National Farmworker Jobs Program to provide additional employment, training and housing assistance to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families.

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers often experience chronic unemployment and underemployment due to the nature of the agriculture industry. The National Farmworker Jobs Program is designed to help participants retain and stabilize their current jobs, and acquire new skills and better living arrangements to start careers that provide higher wages and stable, year-round employment.

“America’s farms and the people who work on them are critical to the life we enjoy. Too often, these workers face significant challenges accessing the resources and training needed to plan for a sustainable future,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “These grants will provide additional training and services to help farmworkers create better futures for themselves and their families.”

The NJFP grant competition is part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to raise the standards of living for migrant and seasonal farmers, and adheres to the job-driven training principles presented in 2014 by the Vice President’s Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity report.

Authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and administered by the department's Employment and Training Administration, the funding will provide approximately $75,885,000 for Employment and Training Grants to applicants with defined plans to engage employers and offer participants work-based learning opportunities. It will also provide approximately $5,517,000 for Housing Assistance Grants to applicants who have identified the challenges and can implement solutions for migrant and seasonal farmworkers seeking affordable housing.

For more information on the National Farmworker Jobs Program, including a list of current grantees, visit http://www.doleta.gov/msfw/html/nfjp.cfm

Labor Department announces availability of $338 million in grants



Grants seek to provide meaningful employment, economic stability
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the opening of a $338 million grant competition for national organizations to provide critical job training and related services to low-income, older American workers through the Senior Community Service Employment Program.
Approximately $338 million in grants are available for national grantees in Program Year 2016. The total SCSEP appropriation is approximately $434 million; the remaining approximately $96 million will be awarded to state and territorial grantees based on a statutory formula, and will cover program administration.
“The funds announced today will provide important opportunities for low-income seniors across the country to access jobs that benefit themselves and their communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “These grants support our mission to help every American who wants to work find a job that can contribute to economic stability.”
The department anticipates funding between 10-22 grants that will serve more than 53,000 older Americans per year, with award amounts expected to range between $2 million and $50 million.
The SCSEP fosters economic self-sufficiency, provides career skills training, and promotes useful part-time employment through community service assignments for unemployed, low-income individuals aged 55 years or older who have poor employment prospects. The SCSEP provides older workers with access to comprehensive services such as orientations, community service assignments, occupational, work skills and aptitude assessments, skills training, free physical examinations, an assessment of needs based supportive services and job search assistance. Additionally, SCSEP participants can receive employment assistance through the American Job Centers.
SCSEP national, state and territorial grantees spend more than 35 million hours per year working in community service assignments at public agencies and non-profit organizations while simultaneously developing crucial job skills that foster self-sufficiency.
The Funding Opportunity Announcement, which includes information on how to apply, is available at www.grants.gov.

Statement from Snack Food Association President and CEO Tom Dempsey


 
(Washington, D.C.) – The Snack Food Association issued the following statement today after the Senate failed to advance Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts' proposal to establish a uniform, national food labeling standard:
 
"We are extremely disappointed that the Senate could not come together today to support a bipartisan solution that would have called for unprecedented disclosure of ingredient information to consumers and prevented a chaotic patchwork of state laws from taking effect. The Snack Food Association's members are committed to meeting consumer demand for information, but we urgently need Congress to come together to set clear guidelines that don't lead to confusion, increased grocery bills, and crippling costs for food manufacturers. We view today's result as a major failure on behalf of our Congress to stand up and do the right thing for American food and agricultural business, as well as for consumers.  
 
Small and midsized companies will be hit the hardest by the state-by-state approach to mandatory labeling if the Senate does not quickly reach a compromise.  We must find a solution that establishes federal guidelines for GMO labeling that does not stigmatize a technology that has been proven safe and beneficial. Only Congress has the ability to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from beginning to take effect in July 2016. The time to act is now.
 
We thank Chairman Roberts for his leadership and will continue to work toward a bipartisan agreement."

Monday, March 14, 2016

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces Seven Finalist Cities for Smart City Challenge


Foxx also announces new partnership with Amazon Web Services

AUSTIN, TX – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, joined by Barbara Bennett, President and COO of Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. and Rick Clemmer CEO of NXP Semiconductors, today announced seven finalists for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) Smart City Challenge.  The U.S. DOT has pledged up to $40 million (funding subject to future appropriations) to one city to help it define what it means to be a “Smart City “and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into their transportation network.

The finalists are: Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA. Secretary Foxx was joined by representatives of the seven city finalists, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales for the announcement at the C3 Connected Mobility Showcase being held during the South by Southwest conference (SXSW).

“The level of excitement and energy the Smart City Challenge has created around the country far exceeded our expectations,” said Secretary Foxx. “After an overwhelming response – 78 applications total – we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

When the challenge was issued in December 2015, the Department’s launch partner, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., announced its intent to award up to $10 million to the winning city to support electric vehicle deployment and other carbon emission reduction strategies.

“The creativity and determination of the applicants to envision a greener future represents the best of American ingenuity. It is this kind of belief in the power of new ideas that drives Paul Allen’s commitment to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Barbara Bennett, President and COO of Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. “As the Smart City Challenge's philanthropic partner, we hope to catalyze a transportation transformation across the country that will dramatically drive down emissions from this leading source of carbon pollution."

In addition to announcing the seven finalists, Secretary Foxx also announced a new Smart City Challenge partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), a secure cloud services platform, which will provide solution architecture and best practices guidance to the finalists to help them leverage AWS services for Smart City solutions, as well as award $1 million of credits to the Challenge winner for AWS Cloud services and AWS Professional Services. Furthermore, AWS will collaborate with U.S. DOT on efforts to engage the startup community, and bring their ideas to the finalists. The credits, support, and collaboration will help the winning city design and build a truly Smart City on the AWS Cloud.

In this second phase of the competition, the seven finalists will receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their proposals. Whereas the first phase called for a high-level overview, the winning city will be selected based on their ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how they will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city. The Department will work with each city to connect them with existing partnerships and support their final proposal with technical assistance.

Other partners that have already joined the Smart City Challenge include:

o Mobileye
Mobileye will equip the winning city’s public bus system with their Mobileye's Shield +TM technology on every bus which helps bus drivers avoid and mitigate imminent collisions and protect road users including bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists.

o Autodesk
Autodesk will provide InfraWorks 360 and finalists will get access to (and training on) Infraworks 360, a modeling platform that uses 3-D visualizations and real-world data to plan major engineering projects.

o NXP
NXP will provide the contest’s winning city with wireless communication modules that allow cars to securely exchange data, such as hazard warnings, over distances of more than a mile to prevent accidents and improve traffic flow.

“Affecting transformative change in America’s transportation infrastructure is going to require innovative thinking and strong support from both the government and the private sector,” said Mobileye Co-Founder, CTO and Chairman Professor Amnon Shashua. “It’s fantastic to know these Smart City Challenge finalists are one-step closer towards truly impacting the transportation challenges their respective cities face and embracing forward-looking technology solutions like  Mobileye. Working alongside the U.S. Department of Transportation and Secretary Foxx on this Challenge allows us to deliver the safer city of the future we all want and we couldn’t be more pleased to be involved in such an important project.”

"A single mission and a collaboration on bold and disruptive ideas put a man on the moon, not one technology or lone effort," said Amar Hanspal, Senior Vice President, Autodesk. "We applaud Transportation Secretary Foxx for challenging our cities to reimagine themselves with transportation at their core. Autodesk's design, visualization and analysis technologies will help the finalists and their partners in their quest to achieve a smarter, more sustainable cities."

“NXP is pleased to partner with the USDOT as a provider of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology for this truly innovative program,” said NXP CEO and President Rick Clemmer. “We aim to deliver secure connections for a smarter world, and the Smart City Challenge aligns perfectly with this mission. We look forward to seeing the innovative ways the contest’s winning community will apply and leverage this life-saving NXP technology.”

The Department developed the Smart City Challenge as a response to the trends identified in the Beyond Traffic draft report. The report, issued last year, revealed that our nation’s aging infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a dramatically growing population in regions throughout the country.  It also identified a need to increase mobility options in developing megaregions – specifically mid-sized cities.

The winning city will be announced in June 2016. To view the list of cities that submitted applications for the Smart City Challenge or explore Smart City Challenge partnership opportunities, visit www.transportation.gov/smartcity.
                                                         

Friday, March 11, 2016

SAY What? A New Source of Agriculture Safety Information for Youth


A new initiative provides one-stop shopping for agriculture educators who seek safety resources and training programs aimed toward youth.

The Safety in Agriculture for Youth (SAY) project homepage (http://extension.org/say) is an umbrella compilation that includes many different curricula, programs, projects, and activities that have a common purpose of increasing safety and health knowledge and reducing hazard and risk exposure to youth on farms and ranches.

For years, agricultural safety workers have been developing youth-oriented educational materials. Still, more than 2 million youth under the age of 20 are exposed to agriculture production related hazards in the United States, partly because these resources have not reached the hands of educators within the school systems and other agricultural youth educational settings such as 4-H .

All educational resources located on the SAY Clearinghouse are aligned to the 2015 Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) standards.  The Clearinghouse also includes a search engine feature for users to search for a curriculum or resource by a specific topic. Beyond the search engine, users can navigate through the clearinghouse by clicking on different AFNR standards on the right side of the webpage to see all of the educational products which align to a particular standard.  Each educational resource has a page that provides a description, type of resource, language (English and/or Spanish), website link to resource, and alignment chart to AFNR standards.

The AFNR Standards provide agricultural educators (both formal and informal) with a high-quality, rigorous set of standards to guide what youth should know and be able to do after completing a program or educational event. The SAY Clearinghouse lists formal curriculum and other educational resources. Formal curricula are those products that have stated objectives, educational materials that support those objectives and an evaluation component. Other educational resources lack one of the three components listed above, but still have an alignment to AFNR.

“We want these resources to be dispersed to high school students who are receiving formal agriculture classes within their school system, and we realized that if the agriculture teachers are going to use these resources, the resources need to be tied to the standards that the teachers use in the classroom,” said Dave Hill, SAY project manager.
Safety in Agriculture for Youth is a grant project funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute for Food and Agriculture to develop a sustainable and accessible national clearinghouse for agricultural safety and health curriculum for youth.

CarbonTV Launches New Original Series American Harvest

 

New docu-series about farming reveals how the oldest, & now most advanced industry in the world, feeds humankind 
DETROIT, Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Produced by CarbonTV, the leading streaming destination for rural lifestyle video content, and directed by the award-winning Hunter Weeks, American Harvest is a serial documentary that delves into the heart of the oldest industry known to mankind — farming. Through the eyes of Lance and Shawn Johnson, brothers and co-owners of Johnson Harvesting, Inc., an esteemed family owned and operated custom harvesting operation, viewers will experience the world of food like never before. Rooted in the ethos of hard work and community, viewers will gain unique perspective surrounding the intricate system that ultimately feeds the world. 
"With the help of our sponsors — Bayer Crop Science, Case IH and Shell Rotella — we were able to produce an intriguing and inspiring series that provides an authentic glimpse into modern American farming practices that audiences are sure to enjoy," says Daniel Seliger, EVP of Content and Marketing at CarbonTV. 
American Harvest is airing on RFD-TV on Tuesdays at 9:30pm ET and is available on demand and for free at CarbonTV.com and through the CarbonTV apps on Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Xbox One. 
Watch American Harvest now: http://www.carbontv.com/shows/american-harvest/

Thursday, March 10, 2016

DeLauro Celebrates National School Breakfast Week



NEW HAVEN, CT — Today Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) visited Fair Haven School in New Haven to celebrate National School Breakfast Week and eat breakfast with students in the free breakfast program. This year, National School Breakfast Week is March 7-11 and the theme is “Wake Up to School Breakfast.”

Studies have found that students who eat school breakfast attend on average 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests. Students with access to school breakfast are also more likely to have a better overall diet and a lower body mass index (BMI) than nonparticipants.

“The School Breakfast Program is vital in our fight to combat childhood hunger— no child should be so hungry that they cannot focus in school. For children, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Studies have found that students who consume breakfast make greater strides on standardized tests, pay attention and behave better in class, and are less frequently late, absent, or visiting the school nurse,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “We must support programs that keep our children healthy and fed, and make robust investments in child nutrition. I will continue to support the School Breakfast program, as well as any program that helps our students succeed.”

“We are very proud of our food program in New Haven, where we strive to serve fresh and healthy meals to our students every day. We know that the health and well-being of our students is a critical aspect of their education and through our food program and other wellness initiatives, we strive to serve the whole child as we prepare every student for success in college, career, and life,” said Garth Harries, Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools. “Congresswoman DeLauro has been a fierce advocate for our program, and has worked hard for the funds necessary to expand our summer program, supper program, after school snack, fresh fruits and vegetables, and salad bar initiatives, and many other supports for our students.”

“We’re happy to be here today to celebrate National School Breakfast Week with a district that excels at ensuring kids get a healthy morning meal as part of their school day. School breakfast is proven to be a tool for academic success, as students who participate can think better, focus better, and do better on tests. We commend New Haven Public Schools and the staff at Fair Haven School for embracing school breakfast and all it has to offer,” said Dawn Crayco, Deputy Director of End Hunger Connecticut!.

The USDA is celebrating 50 years of the school breakfast program. Participation in this program has increased by almost 27 percent and now over 14 million students are now eating school breakfast each day. Last year, over 2.3 billion breakfasts were served by more than 90,000 schools and child care sites, including at Fair Haven School in New Haven. Of students eating these breakfasts, over 10.1 million received their meals free or at a reduced price.

The School Breakfast Program operates in the same way as the National School Lunch program. Schools receive cash reimbursements for each breakfast served – they receive $1.66 for free breakfasts, $1.36 for reduced-price breakfasts, and $0.29 for paid breakfasts. In return, schools must serve breakfasts that meet federal requirements, and must offer free or reduced price breakfasts to eligible children.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on the appropriations process



Today, a broad alliance of 254 farm, conservation, and nutrition groups delivered a letter to the House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees, urging them not to re-open the 2014 Farm Bill through budget reconciliation or through the FY17 appropriations process. The letter calls upon the Budget and Appropriations Committees to leave the determining of farm bill funding levels to the existing, rigorous farm bill debate process, and not attempt to reset committed funding levels through appropriations.
Greg Fogel, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition offered these observations:
“NSAC has consistently advocated against using the annual appropriations process to re-open the farm bill and cut conservation program assistance to farmers and ranchers. Year after year, however, the Appropriations Committees have used this process to reset funding levels already agreed to during the farm bill debate. Over the last several years, appropriations bills have cut farm bill mandatory funding for agricultural programs, particularly for conservation programs, by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Last month, in a move widely praised by NSAC and other sustainable food and agriculture groups, the Administration released an FY17 budget request that included no cuts to farm bill funding for private lands conservation programs. These conservation programs, which include the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), are a primary means through which farmers, ranchers, and foresters build soil health, prepare for extreme weather, limit water pollution, and enhance wildlife habitat
254 farm, conservation, and nutrition groups have today come together to urge the Budget and Appropriations Committees to leave farm bill mandatory funding, for conservation and all other farm bill programs, intact. Decisions regarding the funding levels for these programs should be left to the Agriculture Committees to determine during their farm bill debates.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Professional truck driver is flown to TCA’s Annual Convention and honored for his random act of kindness – helping a pregnant woman escape from a crushed car

TCA and EpicVue Name Highway Angel of the Year: Josh Grimaldi



LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Each year, the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and its partner EpicVue honor a Highway Angel of the Year who best embodies the spirit of the organization’s Highway Angel program. The 2015 “EpicAngel” is Josh Grimaldi of Springfield, Missouri, a professional truck driver for Prime, Inc., also of Springfield, Missouri.
The recognition ceremony took place Tuesday, March 8, 2016, at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. First, Lance Platt, CEO of the Salt Lake City, Utah-based EpicVue, presented Grimaldi with a trophy and prize, a complimentary EpicVue satellite TV package that includes a 24-inch flat screen TV, a DVR, and a one-year subscription to over 100 channels of DIRECTV programming, including premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and the NFL Sunday Ticket. Then, Nashville recording artist Lindsay Lawler, the official spokesperson of the Highway Angel program, sang one of her songs, appropriately titled “Highway Angel.”
Grimaldi’s good deed took place on a cold and snowy evening in December 2015. As he drove westbound in Nevada on I-80 over Donner Pass, Grimaldi, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, noticed a car attempting to pass him. Unfortunately, it hit an icy patch, fishtailed, hit the back of Grimaldi’s trailer, flipped several times, and finally came to a stop near the edge of the road.  Grimaldi immediately pulled over and ran to the vehicle, which had been severely crushed.
Unable to open the door, Grimaldi yelled to another motorist to call 911 and then ran back to his truck to get his flashlight, which he used to force the door open. Inside, he found a woman who appeared to be in shock. She was screaming that she was pregnant.  After several attempts to calm the injured woman down and encourage her to crawl to him, he climbed into the vehicle and lifted her out of the car.  He then carried her to a nearby embankment and began to assess her injuries. After what seemed like an eternity, another driver stopped to help—fortunately, a nurse on her way home from a nearby hospital. Grimaldi was able to leave the woman with the nurse while he placed strobe lights and reflective safety triangles around the crushed vehicle to warn other vehicles approaching the crash scene. Grimaldi then called 911 and spoke directly with the paramedics about the severity of the situation.
“Josh has only been working as a professional driver for about a year now, but he certainly made a name for himself right away,” said Robert Low, a former TCA chairman and the president and founder of Prime, Inc. “We are very pleased to call him part of our trucking family.”
EpicVue’s Platt said, “I admire what Josh did—and what all of the Highway Angels have done throughout the years. None of them were required to stop and help; they did it freely and on their own. It is our privilege to sponsor this very worthwhile program that recognizes them for their selfless acts of compassion.”
More information about Grimaldi's good deed can be found at truckload.org/Highway-Angel-of-the-Year.
Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angels program, sponsored by EpicVue, has recognized hundreds of drivers for the unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job. Archival copies of past Highway Angel press releases can be found at www.truckload.org/newsroom. To learn more about the program or to nominate a driver, go to www.truckload.org/highway-angel.
You can learn about TCA’s activities, including the Highway Angel program, by following the association on Facebook—www.truckload.org/Facebook—and Twitter—www.truckload.org/Twitter.  On both social media sites, you can also learn about this year’s Annual Convention with the hashtag #2016TCA.

###

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Discuss Opioid Epidemic at National League of Cities’ Congressional City Conference


WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, 2016 – TODAY, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver remarks on opioid abuse at the National League of Cities’ Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C.

Prescription drug and heroin abuse have taken a heartbreaking toll on too many American families, while straining public resources. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows opioids were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014, which means more Americans are dying from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents each year.

Addressing the opioid epidemic is a priority for this Administration and in January, President Obama appointed Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency task force focused on this specific challenge. Recent efforts have helped identify effective tools to reduce drug use and overdose, including evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose reversal drug naloxone. In order to continue this progress, the President’s FY17 budget includes new mandatory funding to expand access to treatment and help individuals with an opioid use disorder seek and complete treatment, and sustain recovery

TCA Convention Attendees Boogie to Raise $275,000 for Scholarship Fund



LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Members of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) are known for their strong leadership skills, business acumen… and groovy bell bottoms?
That’s right, attendees of TCA’s Annual Convention at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort “got down” at last night’s third annual Scholarship Fund Gala, which raised over $275,000 to support trucking families’ dreams of a higher education and helped fund future scholarships to be named after past TCA chairmen. Thanks to the generosity of hosts Freightliner Trucks of Duluth, Georgia, and Pilot Flying J of Knoxville, Tennessee, 100% of all the evening’s proceeds went directly to the Scholarship Fund.
Beginning with tables and individual seats purchased in advance by various companies and individuals, the gala consisted of a 70s-themed reception and dinner, silent and live auctions, “selfie” photo stations, and dancing to everyone’s favorite hits from the decade.
Josh Kaburick, chairman of the TCA Scholarship Fund and the CEO of Earl L. Henderson Trucking Company of Salem, Illinois, said, “Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves so much last night. We had a great time raising money for a good cause. I can’t think of a better way to make sure that the Scholarship Fund keeps on truckin’!”
The live auction items included a platinum diamond ring, a sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet, and black and white diamond earrings. Participants also bid on three highly desirable travel opportunities: three days at one of the nation’s premium golf resorts, an eight-day stay at a luxurious villa at Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club in Hawaii, and a Rock & Roll Fantasy package with three nights at a four-star hotel in Manhattan, dinner at the Peter Luger Steak House, and two tickets to see Steve Miller, Chicago, Cheap Trick, and others inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Silent auction items included a diamond pendant, two music systems, a set of four premium tires for either a light truck or consumer vehicle, and a six-day, five-night stay at a Florida country club, including a round of golf for two.
Applications for the 2016-17 scholarships will be due in June 2016. For more details about TCA’s Scholarship Fund, visit www.truckload.org/Scholarships or follow TCA on Facebook—www.truckload.org/Facebook—and Twitter—www.truckload.org/Twitter.  You can also follow what is happening at the convention with the hashtag #2016TCA.


###

Thursday, March 3, 2016

FDA Seeks Public Comments, Data and Information on Assessing the Risk of Raw Manure as Fertilizer


March 3, 2016
The FDA wants input from stakeholders as it develops the framework for a risk assessment on the use of raw manure and other biological soil amendments of animal origin as fertilizer on produce farms.
This has been a controversial issue as the FDA proposed, and recently finalized, the Produce Safety rule mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The agency is concerned about the potential of raw manure and other such amendments to contain disease-causing bacteria. Growers see raw manure and other such amendments as an effective way to enrich the quality of their soil.
The FDA is planning to conduct a risk assessment to determine how much consumer health is put at risk by the use of raw manure as fertilizer in growing crops covered by the final Produce Safety rule, and what can be done to help prevent people from getting sick.
Before starting the assessment, the agency wants the help of stakeholders in the produce industry, the animal agriculture industry, academia and members of the public in developing the model for this work.
A notice published in the Federal Register requests public comments and scientific data and information, including information about how farms use raw manure and what strategies should be considered to reduce public health risk.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Examining State Options



Remarks as prepared:

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for being here as we continue our review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. This is our twelfth hearing within this series, and we have learned a tremendous amount about the complexities of SNAP and even more about the diverse individuals and communities that it serves. As we continue our review, we will do so without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthen the program so it can best serve families, most efficiently utilize taxpayer dollars, and empower states to effectively implement the program while protecting program integrity.

Today, our witnesses will help us gain a better understanding of the various options and flexibility states have when implementing SNAP. Through our review we have learned that SNAP varies greatly state-to-state, and can even vary within a state. While the Federal government provides parameters for the program, SNAP’s statutes, regulations, and waivers provide state agencies with numerous policy options to adapt their programs to meet the needs of low-income people in their states. Certain options may facilitate program design goals, better target benefits to those most in need, streamline program administration and field operations, or coordinate SNAP activities with other programs for low-income families.

When carrying out the program, states determine eligibility requirements, such as income thresholds, asset limits, and work-related requirements. Through categorical eligibility, states can utilize the participation from one means-tested program, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, to defer eligibility for SNAP. When calculating and issuing monthly benefits for those eligible, states have the flexibility to determine the value of medical deductions or standard utility allowances. It is important to note SNAP does not operate in a vacuum.

When administering SNAP, states have a multitude of programs they are overseeing. As we will hear today, other programs, such as TANF and the Supplemental Security Income program have an effect on how SNAP is administered in states. It is important to look at how, as a collective whole, these programs are used by the people they serve.

As we prepare for the next farm bill, this holistic understanding of the program will be important in order to make meaningful improvements. Understanding SNAP’s interaction with other government programs and state agencies will help to maximize the effectiveness of the federal, state, and local governments as they administer SNAP. While it is important to empower states to employ the best policies to meet the needs of low-income families they serve, we as Federal lawmakers must ensure that the integrity of SNAP is maintained and not compromised for administrative efficiencies. State flexibility can be an important tool in helping a family move out of poverty, however the American taxpayer needs confidence that government programs are being targeted to those most in need.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today as we explore how to best leverage the relationship between the states and local communities to better serve recipients and utilize taxpayer dollars.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

National Grocers Association Best Bagger Champion Crowned


Candice Lastimado of Metropolitan Markets in Washington State Wins 2016 Best Bagger Championship
Las Vegas, NV – Candice Lastimado of Metropolitan Markets, located in Seattle, WA, defeated 24 other Best Bagger competitors from across the nation to claim a grand prize of $10,000 and the title of the National Grocers Association (NGA) Best Bagger Champion.
Designed to promote supermarket employees and demonstrate a superior core customer service skill, the nationwide competition has been held by NGA since 1987. Contestants are judged by speed of bagging, proper bag-building technique, weight distribution in the bag, as well as style, attitude and appearance, and are chosen through statewide competitions over the course of last year.
This year’s competition was sponsored by PepsiCo, Inc. and emceed for the second consecutive year by Food Network star, Duff Goldman, and held during The NGA Show at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
Bethany Berger of Shaw's Supermarket in Vermont was awarded the second place prize of $5,000, and the third place prize of $1,000 went to Lauren Gillson of Lunds & Byerlys of Minnesota. Fourth and fifth place winners, winning $1,000 each, were Janessa Plummer of Plummer's Shop 'n Save in Maine and Nathan Toth of Martin's Super Markets in Indiana, respectively.
"Year after year, NGA has the pleasure of holding an event that demonstrates the collective spirit and work ethic of the supermarket industry. So often baggers or courtesy clerks are the last impression a customer has of a store, and because of this, superior bagging skills, along with friendly customer service, are critical elements to a positive shopping experience for the consumer,” said Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of NGA.  “I’d like to thank all of our Best Bagger participants for another exciting competition. Congratulations to Candice, who competed with great enthusiasm and showcased her commitment to excellent customer service.”

Corn Growers Applaud Senate Ag Committee Action on GMO Labeling



ST. LOUIS (March 1, 2016) – The National Corn Growers Association today thanked members of the Senate Agriculture Committee who voted to stand with farmers and move forward Sen. Pat Roberts’s bill to address the growing threat of a patchwork of state labeling laws and called for the full Senate to urgently take up this important legislation.

“We find the forward momentum building behind this bill encouraging, and we urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill for the good of America’s farmers and consumers,” said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Maryland.  “U.S. farmers rely on GMOs, a safe, proven technology, to protect our crops from insects, weeds and drought. The FDA should remain the party responsible for important food safety and labeling decisions based in science. Despite the scientific evidence, states such as Vermont are quickly moving toward costly, confusing mandatory labeling legislation pushed forth by agenda-driven activists. We ask the Senate to quickly move forward with this legislation to avoid a situation in which all American consumers pay a high price and gain little actual information.”

Vermont’s mandatory law requiring on-package labels of foods containing ingredients that have been genetically modified takes effect in July, and unless Congress acts swiftly, families, farmers and food companies will face chaos in the market and higher costs. Multiple studies have shown that the associated costs with Vermont’s GMO-labeling law and a subsequent patchwork of state laws will cost American families hundreds of dollars more in groceries each year – with low-income Americans being hit the hardest.

Roberts’s proposal brings continuity to the marketplace, ensuring that consumers have the access to product information they deserve without stigmatizing this safe, proven technology valued by American farmers. The bill, which will go through a markup by the Senate Committee on Agriculture next Thursday, will provide a national framework that places standards in the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and creates a campaign that will educate the public on both the safety of GMOs and on the way in which they can find out more about the foods they purchase.

NCGA, working with partners across the value chain, has pushed for a solution to this issue for more than two years now as a member of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food.

For more information on the need for a federal labeling standard, visit the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, at www.CFSAF.org.