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Posts tagged: Fruit and Vegetable Program

USDA Program Helps High School Students Realize Ag Jobs are Everywhere

Summer student interns Joe Dionne and Elliot Alexander; Specialty Crops Inspection Division Assistant Central Region Branch Chief Phil Bricker; AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Associate Deputy Administrator Chris Purdy

This summer, several employees joined our staff as interns in our New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia locations. The program allows students to gain practical work experience while the agency helps develop future leaders. (Pictured left to right): Summer student interns Joe Dionne and Elliot Alexander; Specialty Crops Inspection Division Assistant Central Region Branch Chief Phil Bricker; AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Associate Deputy Administrator Chris Purdy. (AMS photo)

Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the many benefits of creating marketing opportunities for ag businesses is seeing first-hand how the industry supports 1 in 12 jobs all over the country. In addition to feeding the world, the ag industry continues to be the strong backbone in our nation’s economy – in both rural and urban areas. To help continue this trend, we set out to groom the next generation of ag leaders. Our Fruit and Vegetable Program developed a strong relationship with high schools in a couple of the country’s largest cities, allowing students to work with the agency while still enrolled in high school.

We started in New York City, home of the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market – the nation’s largest wholesale produce market – so that students at John Bowne High School could get their feet wet in the agriculture industry. We did this by offering the students the opportunity to come on board as interns for our Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI). Employees in this division inspect produce entering and leaving Hunt’s Point, which employs more than 10,000 people and generates $2 billion in sales annually. Thanks to a budding relationship with this school featuring a strong ag curriculum, students can now get practical work experience while in school. Read more »

Talking All Things Produce at the United Fresh Convention & Expo

A team of AMS employees staffing a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo

A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.

The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »

Solving the Fresh Produce Equation

The webinar series is an off-shoot of an ongoing AMS produce webinar series and the popular Produce Safety University (PSU), which helps school foodservice personnel identify and manage food safety risks associated with handling fresh produce. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

The webinar series is an off-shoot of an ongoing AMS produce webinar series and the popular Produce Safety University (PSU), which helps school foodservice personnel identify and manage food safety risks associated with handling fresh produce. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

Whether it’s solving a math problem or figuring out how to buy quality fresh apples, having the right tools and training will lead you to a positive solution. Managing fresh and fresh-cut produce purchases can seem like a complicated math problem for many schools, food banks and other large volume institutions. To help them figure out the right formula and address all of the variables, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) designed a webinar series to help these establishments successfully buy, receive and handle fresh and fresh-cut produce.

The webinar series is an off-shoot of an ongoing AMS produce webinar series and the popular Produce Safety University (PSU), which helps school foodservice personnel identify and manage food safety risks associated with handling fresh produce. While PSU was delivered using interactive, hands-on classes, the webinar series’ online format allows more people to expand their knowledge of all things produce. As a result, more and more large volume institutions will be able to satisfy their demand for fresh produce. Read more »

Celebrating the Blueberry – A Fruit and an Industry That Really Packs a Punch

In addition to purchasing blueberries for federal food distribution programs, AMS supports the blueberry industry through grant programs like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. This program offers funds to states to support research and marketing projects that do things such as increasing crop yields. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

In addition to purchasing blueberries for federal food distribution programs, AMS supports the blueberry industry through grant programs like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. This program offers funds to states to support research and marketing projects that do things such as increasing crop yields. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

Blueberries are often highly sought after because of their long list of health benefits and their sweet taste. Whether purchased fresh, frozen, or pureed, the blueberry has long been a staple in the diets of many people. Every July, the entire nation celebrates Blueberry Month by coming up with creative recipes and other unique ways to get their fill. Here at USDA, every month is Blueberry Month. One of the ways that we show our appreciation for our nation’s blueberry producers and processors is by creating more opportunities for people to enjoy this delicious fruit.

Indigenous to North America, the history of blueberries can be traced all the way back to Native Americans, who added them to soups, stews, and even meats. Highbush or cultivated blueberries are grown on large bushes that are planted in rows. These blueberries are often sent to the fresh market. Lowbush or wild blueberries produce smaller sized berries and are pruned every couple of years. The majority of lowbush blueberries are processed into items like jams, jellies and baked goods. Read more »

Tracing a Path Out of a Costly Trade Dispute

The trade dispute was resolved after AMS helped the businesses produce paper work and take the South Korean officials on tours of orange juice processing plants. USDA Photo courtesy of Ken Hammond.

The trade dispute was resolved after AMS helped the businesses produce paper work and take the South Korean officials on tours of orange juice processing plants. USDA Photo courtesy of Ken Hammond.

When we shop for items like orange juice at the grocery store, we often take for granted what goes on behind the scenes before we can enjoy these quality foods. Our nation’s producers and processors do not take it for granted. These products represent their livelihood, and the ability to reach new customers—especially through the export market—is critical to their businesses’ success. Recently, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) helped four businesses from Florida avert a costly 54% tariff, enabling them to continue to export frozen concentrated orange juice duty free to South Korea.

The US – Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) exempts U.S. orange juice from a 54% tariff when exported to Korea. However, in March 2013 Korean officials questioned the domestic origin of orange juice exported from the Sunshine State to the East Asian country. Without proof that the juice came from the U.S., exporters faced the costly tariff and the volume of exports to South Korea decreased. It was a huge loss for the Florida citrus industry which creates 76,000 jobs and pumps $9 billion into its local economy. Read more »

Picking a Winner Part II – More Tips and Insights for Selecting Seasonal Produce

Cantaloupes are a refreshing treat that is always a hit during the summer. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Most cantaloupes will need to be kept in the refrigerator before eating. USDA Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer.

Cantaloupes are a refreshing treat that is always a hit during the summer. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Most cantaloupes will need to be kept in the refrigerator before eating. USDA Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer.

We all have our own methods and traditions for selecting fresh produce, especially as the weather gets warmer and our stores and markets are full of fresh seasonal offerings. Whether it’s smelling the rind or checking the firmness of the skin, these age-old practices are all designed to help pick the winning ingredients for snacks and meals.  Last spring, we provided tips for buying artichokes, apricots, broccoli, cherries, and strawberries. This time around, we will focus on some other seasonal favorites.

Whether it is part of a fruit salad or eaten by itself, cantaloupe is always a hit during the summer months. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Ripe cantaloupes should yield to light pressure and have a sweet aroma. Most cantaloupes need to be kept in the refrigerator for 2-4 days before eating. Some may prefer to eat their cantaloupes at room temperature, while others like theirs after leaving it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Read more »