Monday, November 21, 2016

USDA's Five Tips for a Food Safe Thanksgiving

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

Farm Journal Media Launches Farm Journal AgTech Expo

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Dinner Ticks Down to Less Than $5 Per Person

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

DeLauro Applauds Obama Administration for Dropping Trans-Pacific Partnership Push

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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trump Down but Not Out

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

USDA Seeks Applications for $25 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

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