A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.
The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.
There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »
A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.
For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities. However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.
In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration. For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. Read more »
Food donated from local restaurants and supermarkets through coordination with the Food Donation Connection is used to make delicious & healthy meals served in homeless shelters and food pantries. Photo courtesy of Food Donation Connection.
Thirty-one percent of food that is available at supermarkets, restaurants, and in households goes uneaten – food that was nurtured and harvested in the fields and ends up in a landfill. Increasingly food processing facilities, food service companies, supermarkets, and restaurants are recognizing the need to reduce, recover, and recycle all of this wasted food. The momentum is building as more and more address the problem and take action to keep good food from entering landfills.
A week from today – on September 24, Wednesday at 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern – you can join us for a webinar on “Supermarkets and Restaurants Fighting Food Waste and Saving Money” that will feature industry representatives discussing how they are leading the fight against food waste. There will also be time devoted to dialogue, Q&As, and the sharing of resources. Read more »
Utah farms and ranches occupy 10.97 million acres of land and Utah farmers sold more than $1.8 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012. Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Utah agriculture is varied and prevalent across the state. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that our farms and ranches occupy 10.97 million acres of land, or more than a fifth of the total land in Utah.
In 2012, our state’s farmers sold more than $1.8 billion worth of agricultural products, with one-third in crop sales and two-thirds in livestock and poultry and their products. In contrast to sales, farm and ranch expenses totaled almost $1.6 billion with feed and labor being the two highest expenditures. According to a survey done by Utah State University in 2012, when multiplier effects are included, agricultural processing and production account for $17.5 billion in total economic output in our state. Read more »
S’mores, a treat whose recipe first appeared in the 1927 Girl Scouts Handbook, is a staple of National Roasted Marshmallow Day (Aug. 30). (Think Stock/Getty Images)
Some wonderful memories are born around a fire ring. But whether you are camping, “glamping” or sitting with friends and family in your backyard, waning evenings typically include one campfire staple: marshmallows.
So, on the eve of National Roasted Marshmallow Day (Aug. 30), we pay tribute to the sweet ingredient that makes any form of outdoor gathering, well, sweeter.
For some, the best use of marshmallows is as the gooey main ingredient of s’mores. Take a graham cracker, place a section of chocolate on it, and then carefully place a freshly roasted marshmallow on top of the candy bar. Top the marshmallow off with another graham cracker, carefully squeezing the campfire dessert sandwich together as the hot marshmallow melts the chocolate. Read more »
Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.
They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.
The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring. Read more »