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Posts tagged: Food

Don’t Miss Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager Diane Van’s Live Facebook Chat, Thursday at 1:00 p.m. EDT

The mercury is rising as we near the 4th of July weekend, and so are opportunities for foodborne illness. To ward off the potential food disasters that large gatherings, sweltering heat, and high humidity can combine to create, FSIS is taking a new approach to getting its Be Food Safe message to consumers before the summer’s hottest holiday begins.

On Thursday, July 1 at 1:00 p.m. ET, FSIS Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager Diane Van will host a live “Summer Food Safety Chat” on USDA’s Facebook page. With over 8,000 fans and popularity among consumers of all ages and backgrounds, the USDA’s Facebook page will serve as our platform to let consumers ask our expert what they want to know about shopping, preparing and grilling for the 4th of July.

We hope this chat will be succesful in engaging consumers in our food safety education efforts, and we hope it will be successful in reducing instances of foodborne illness this Independence Day. To join, simply log in to your own Facebook account, become a fan of the US Department of Agriculture, and ask away! Invite your friends—Facebook ones and real ones alike—and make sure they know to join as well.  Until then, we suggest following our Twitter feed, where you can’t ask us questions, but you can get short, timely notices of FSIS recalls, other news, and seasonal food safety tips.

Farm-to-school project opens up new markets for small family farms

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.By Jennifer Sowerwine, University of California – BerkeleyMy mouth begins to water just thinking about all the delicious fruits and vegetables I will enjoy this coming weekend celebrating the Fourth of July. And we’re lucky here in Northern California to have a wealth of fresh produce grown locally.

Many stores, restaurants and even schools aren’t taking advantage of this local supply. This past spring, with support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and in coordination with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service, I started a project to open up new markets for local growers by connecting them with new buyers. In particular, we worked with strawberry growers of Southeast Asian descent in the Sacramento and Fresno regions. This is part of a larger program to increase the economic viability of Southeast Asian farms in California’s Central Valley through on-farm research and training in crop production, pest management, food safety and marketing.

Most of the 95 strawberry farm stands in the Sacramento region are owned by Hmong and Mien refugees from Laos, who turned to farming when they immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War. They sell most of their product at farm stands, but during peak season demand can’t keep up with production. With limited language skills, most farmers can’t access new markets and leave the fruit to rot in the field.

In partnership with local produce distributor, Produce Express, and several nonprofits including the Community Alliance with Family Farms, the Alchemist Community Development Corporation and Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, we now bring fresh, local strawberries into children’s school lunches, restaurants and low-income neighborhoods. Some farmers deliver direct to the schools, allowing children to consume berries picked just hours before.

We also want to reduce “food miles” or the distance food must travel from farm to fork. We created a Google map to help residents find their closest farm stand. Sacramento-area residents are able to enjoy fresh strawberries from farms located less than 10 miles from their residences.

This year, twelve local strawberry farmers sold an additional 4,600 cases of berries beyond their own farm stands, earning a combined $58,000. These additional revenues are a welcome relief for these small farmers, who on average gross $15,000 in a good year. These partnerships are a win-win solution for both small farmers and residents, especially low income residents and school children, who have greater access to fresh, nutritious, local food.

Fresh, local strawberries are now available to more than 60,000 school children through a partnership between local growers, the Sacramento School District and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

Fresh, local strawberries are now available to more than 60,000 school children through a partnership between local growers, the Sacramento School District and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

Honduras’ Biotechnology Leadership Will Advance Both Food and Energy Security in the Region

By John Brewer, Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service

I’m here in Tegucigalpa to recognize Honduras as one of the Western Hemisphere’s leaders in incorporating biotechnology in agricultural and energy production. Biotechnology is a powerful tool that can be used to boost agricultural productivity and food security, reduce environmental impact, combat climate change, and build prosperity among the rural poor – a vision that USDA and the U.S. Government share with Honduras.

Last night and this morning I met with Honduran government officials from the agroforestry sector and the Honduran Biotechnology and Biosafety Commission; the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture; academic and think tank scholars; and local farmers. Each of these groups work together to implement the use of biotechnology in the fields and to gain acceptance by society.

While 25 countries around the world are currently planting genetically engineered (GE) crops, Honduras is the only Central American country doing so.  I chose to come to Honduras because their leadership in the implementation of bio-safety regulations can be a model for other countries in the region.

GE crops provide a multitude of tangible benefits to both producers and consumers. Pest-resistant crops reduce the need for pesticides and save on fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions. Increased productivity per acre ensures food security and keeps food prices down, while enhanced nutritional value helps to alleviate hunger.

Planting GE crops isn’t the only area where Honduras can be a leader in our hemisphere. The U.S. government is committed to working with willing partners such as Honduras to simultaneously combat climate change and provide alternate sources of energy. Under President Obama’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Honduras is a priority country for collaboration with USDA’s Renewable Biomass Energy project. This program aims to improve agriculture and forestry practices, increase scientific exchanges, and enhance biomass production. Today I encouraged Honduras to ramp up production of renewable biomass energy with USDA’s assistance through this program.

President Lobo’s government has stated that each hectare of biomass harvested in Honduras could create 1.5 jobs directly and 2 jobs indirectly. The U.S. government fully supports Honduras in realizing this potential.  Since 2007, Honduras has reduced or eliminated taxes and tariffs on biofuels and implemented a mechanism to mix biofuels with fossil fuels to lower harmful emissions from cars, making this sector attractive for investments. By offering energy alternatives to fossil fuels right in our own hemisphere, Honduras is increasing energy security for the United States too.  I’ve appreciated meeting the people making these advances possible. USDA and Honduras have a win-win biotech partnership that I see strengthening in the future.

Check back tomorrow for another blog post from me about USDA’s Food for Progress programs here in Honduras. Be sure to check out FAS on Facebook and Twitter too!

On June 28 and 29, Administrator Brewer met with Honduran government officials, including Agriculture and Livestock Minister Jacobo Regalado.

On June 28 and 29, Administrator Brewer met with Honduran government officials, including Agriculture and Livestock Minister Jacobo Regalado.

PaymentAccuracy.gov

As I wrote recently, one of the steps we are taking to cut waste in government and boost performance is establishing a Do Not Pay List, a single source through which all agencies can check the status of a potential contractor or individual, so that a barred or ineligible individual or organization is not paid erroneously. This is part of a sustained effort we have taken to go after the $100 billion wasted in improper payments each year by the federal government. Read more »

Supplying Locally Grown Foods to the Consumer

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

By Michael Hand, Economist, Economic Research Service

Anyone who has shopped at a farmers market on a weekend morning can appreciate the freshness of the food, the interaction with farmers, and the ability to know where and by whom the food was produced. Demand for locally produced food has increased sharply in recent years, precisely because of such consumer preferences.

As an economist, I’m interested in how locally grown food is supplied – specifically, how local food supply chains compare with mainstream chains in delivering products from farm to consumer. With a group of my colleagues in the profession, I conducted a series of 15 case studies to help understand these dynamics.

The case studies covered locally produced apples, blueberries, spring mix greens, beef, and fluid milk, each in a different major metropolitan area. In each of the five product-place groupings, we looked at three types of supply chains: direct market (e.g., farmers markets or home delivery); intermediated (sales through natural foods chains or institutions); and mainstream (e.g., supermarkets).

We visited and talked with farmers, cooperative grocery stores, retail distribution centers, food processors, and supermarkets. Larry Thompson, for example, farms 145 acres within 20 miles of downtown Portland, OR, and focuses his sales of blueberries through farmers markets and farm stands. Edwin Shank operates a 250-cow grass-based organic dairy in Southeastern Pennsylvania; he supplies milk to a processor ten miles away that delivers milk and other dairy products to MOM’s Organic Market stores in the Washington, DC area.

Their stories, their business models and decisions, and those of other players we interviewed, indicate the wide variety of ways local foods reach consumers. Our case studies provide details that, along with publicly available data, will likely be of interest to farmers, entrepreneurs, and retail operators, as well as researchers and policymakers.

Among our findings is that producers receive a greater share of retail prices in local supply chains than they do in mainstream chains, and their net revenue is higher despite the cost of undertaking the distribution and marketing themselves. Interestingly, while “food miles” are lower in the local supply chains, fuel use per unit of product varies across locations and products. This finding is an example of the need for further research on the relative environmental impacts across supply chains.

Cheri Fletcher (l.) and Lauren Michael, of Thompson Farms in Boring, Oregon, set up a stall at a local farmers market. Credit: Courtesy Thompson Farms and Boring Farmers Market
Cheri Fletcher (l.) and Lauren Michael, of Thompson Farms in Boring, Oregon, set up a stall at a local farmers market.
Credit: Courtesy Thompson Farms and Boring Farmers Market


A sign inside the Maple Avenue Market in Vienna, Virginia promotes locally produced dairy products and other foods. Courtesy Gary Jeter.
A sign inside the Maple Avenue Market in Vienna, Virginia promotes locally produced dairy products and other foods.
Courtesy Gary Jeter.

Remembering Their Sacrifice: Food Safety Employees Killed in the Line of Duty

By Al Almanza, Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service

Today marks a difficult time in the hearts of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service employees.

Ten years ago, FSIS compliance officers Jean Hillery and Tom Quadros; California special investigator Bill Shaline; and California inspector Earl Willis were shot as they worked together investigating a San Leandro, Calif., sausage plant. Jean, Tom and Bill would die from their injuries, while Earl would barely escape with his life.
Earl recently passed away.

Our fallen comrades are representative of the many outstanding public servants driving our government’s work for all Americans, everyday. USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, FSIS Assistant Administrator William Smith, coworkers, family and I are honoring them in ceremonies today and tomorrow.

Though the plant’s owner was tried and convicted, 10 years later, we haven’t forgotten this tragedy and our commitment to make sure it never happens again.

Workplace violence prevention is a priority for us — and should be everywhere. We emphasize outreach to improve relationships with plant staff, so they know we’re not there to harm them, but to protect the public and assist the plant in producing safe food. Other steps include a 24-hour hotline to report threats and appointing workplace violence liaison/intervention officers nationwide.

As we recall the lives and service of these four, we remember our mission to ensure safe food is a noble, important one. Those performing it — often without thanks and under the radar — are some of America’s most dedicated civil servants.