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First USDA Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair

First USDA Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair

The USDA is to host the first-ever Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair on May 26 (12-4 p.m. ET), to showcase USDA investments and business leadership in reducing food loss and waste throughout the food system.

“In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through food loss or waste,” said USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison Jean Buzby. “USDA is proud to highlight public and private leaders who are transforming the food system and combatting food loss and waste.”

The Innovation Fair will present businesses and research teams that have received USDA funding to research or commercialize cutting-edge food loss and waste solutions. Additionally, several USDA agencies – such as the Agricultural Research Service and the Food Safety and Inspection Service – will discuss their food loss and waste activities in research, measurement, education, funding, and outreach. Other presenters include several U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, businesses that have committed to reducing food loss and waste in their operations by 50 percent by 2030. The 2030 Champions initiative is co-led by USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Among the presenters:

Lake County, Illinois received a USDA grant for a pilot community compost project. Activities include conducting a compost-to-farmland demonstration study, engaging community gardeners through education and outreach, and reducing and diverting food waste from landfills.

En Solución (Austin, Texas) was funded by a USDA Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop and deploy a sanitizer made from ozone nanobubbles to wash harvested produce. This technology has great potential to increase food safety and extend produce shelf life.

ReGrained (San Francisco, California) collaborated with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to develop patent-pending technology to dry and process brewers’ grains into healthy, high-quality flours, transforming food waste into value-added – and tasty – products.

Sodexo, a global food service and facilities management corporation, will highlight their change management and operational engagement strategy to cut food waste in half by 2025 to reach their 2030 Champions target early.

 

This free, virtual event will feature virtual booths where visitors can learn about state-of-the-art solutions from business, government, and academic innovators. Attendees can text chat with representatives and other guests, watch videos, and download reports and other materials.

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NASA to contribute to agricultural research

This image taken by the Landsat satellite shows an agricultural region in Idaho on August 14, 2000, captured in the visible spectrum
© NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

 

The US Department of Agriculture and NASA have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening their longstanding partnership on space-based assets benefitting life on Earth. The agreement brings together NASA’s experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA’s scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands.

USDA and NASA will explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies developed over the next decade. The collaboration also will address recommendations made in the 2017 National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.

“As we’ve seen over the past 100 years, increasing innovation in agriculture is limitless,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This partnership between USDA and NASA will bring together the best research, science, and technology we have to offer to help produce more food to feed the growing world. We are continuing an already great collaborative effort to utilize space-based technologies across sectors and into agriculture.”

“When we combine research on the International Space Station with the amazing capabilities that Earth observation provides, I believe that NASA, in partnership with USDA, could transform farming and bolster agricultural production in ways we can’t even imagine today,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Microgravity research can unlock secrets in a wide variety of fields, and I’m particularly excited about our agency’s potential impact on next-generation agricultural techniques.”

The agreement also will leverage USDA’s connections with the agricultural community and the global marketplace.

The partnership outlined in the agreement will benefit a variety of Earth and space-based goals, including activities in support of NASA’s Artremis programme, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners. Plant-related research on the International Space Station, and other space or ground platforms, may lead to creative new ways to improve American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and contribute to better human health. 

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USDA to strengthen organic rule enforcement

USDA to strengthen organic rule enforcement

 

The deputy administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), Dr Jenny Tucker, is to use her address to the sixth annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum this week to focus on strengthening organic rule enforcement and building relationships with various USDA agencies to protect the integrity of the organic brand, reports Organic Produce Network.

“The publishing of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule was a significant milestone and represented input from a full range of organic community members, including organic farmers and businesses, advocacy groups, and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB),” Tucker said. “The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”

“We are also proud of the relationships we have built with the USDA Customs and Border Protection, USDA Office of the Inspector General, and other USDA agencies to expand our enforcement reach. Many hands are acting to protect the organic market!”

“Once finalized, the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule will increase the program’s authority to oversee and enforce the organic standards. The revised regulations are expected to reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain; standardize organic certificates; require the use of import certificates for imported organic products; increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections; increase inspector qualifications; strengthen fraud prevention procedures; and increase data reporting requirements,” she said.

“The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”

Dr Tucker believes the biggest challenge the industry faces is balancing the need for consistency in enforcement with the reality of diverse site-specific conditions around the globe.

“Soil-based farms and greenhouse operations in New England are going to be different from those in California. They are in different environments with different conditions and pressures. They can both be good for the environment, and they are both governed by the same rules under the Organic Foods Production Act,” she said. “Ensuring fair, consistent enforcement across diverse organic control systems will remain the largest challenge for the industry.”  

She will also address the results from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) 2019 Organic Survey that was released last week and highlighted the continued growth of the organic market.  

“As the number of organic farms and businesses grows, we continue to launch new tools and approaches to oversee and surveil the market – we will continue to go where organic grows. While the organic sector is still a small part of American agriculture, more farmers and consumers choosing the organic option year after year is a strong indicator that people value the choice. All of us in the organic community will continue to protect that choice!” 

 

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Coalition files lawsuit to prevent soilless agriculture from receiving organic certification

Coalition files lawsuit to prevent soilless agriculture from receiving organic certification © Réussir Fruits et Légumes

© Réussir Fruits et Légumes

 

The US Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit with a coalition of organic farms and stakeholders challenging the US Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic. According to Planetwatch, the lawsuit contends that hydroponic operations violate organic standards because they fail to build healthy soils and asks the court to stop the USDA from allowing hydroponically-produced crops to be certified. The US is one of the few countries that will allow hydroponics to be certified organic. Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries all ban hydroponic vegetable production to be labelled organic. 

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the body assigned by Congress to advise the USDA, has repeatedly asked the USDA to ban organic certification of hydroponics. The NOSB recommended in 2010 that hydroponics be prohibited from organic certification. The USDA continues to ignore that recommendation. In January 2019, the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition asking the USDA to ban hydroponics from organic certification. The USDA denied the request that same year.

The lawsuit claims that denying the petition violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Organic Foods Production Act, which requires farmers to build soil fertility to obtain organic certification. Hydroponic crops are grown without soil using water-based nutrient solutions. Synthetic salts are the most common nutrients used in hydroponics, and most of them are not allowed in products certified organic.

“Healthy soil is the foundation of organic farming,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “Organic farmers and consumers believe that the Organic label means not just growing food in soil, but improving the fertility of that soil. USDA’s loophole for corporate hydroponics to be sold under the Organic label guts the very essence of Organic.”

The basis of organic agriculture is to feed the soil, not the plant. Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm told Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont: “Organic farming is based on enhancing and cultivating the wonderful balance of the biological systems in the soil. It isn’t just about replacing chemical fertilizers with natural fertilizers.”

One of the objections to hydroponics is that it relies heavily on fertilisers. Oregon Tilth Certified Organic states that hydroponics relies on large volumes of soluble fertilisers with little nutrient cycling. Commercial hydroponic growers will rarely reveal the fertilisers they use, according to the Texas Organic Research Center. Another objection is that hydroponics use chemicals, which organic producers are prohibited from using.

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$161 billion of food wasted each year

$161 billion of food wasted each year

A report published by the USDA estimates the annual wastage of food to be at over $161 billion at the retail and consumer stage of the supply chain, with 30% of losses in fruits and vegetables occurring in the earlier stages of the chain. One factor impacting food loss is price volatility. When prices fall below production costs, it becomes unprofitable for growers to advance produce through the supply chain. When prices go up, growers may be incentivised to send products of lower cosmetic quality to market, which can then lead to increased loss further down the supply chain. Other influencing factors include labour costs, the availability of cold-chain infrastructure, aesthetic standards, consumer preferences, contract requirements, and policies related to the harvest and marketing of fresh produce.

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USDA Opens Registration for 2020 Agricultural Outlook Forum

USDA Opens Registration for 2020 Agricultural Outlook Forum

 

Registration is now open for the 96th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF), the largest annual meeting and premiere event of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The two-day Forum will take place on Feb. 20-21, 2020, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

The 2020 Forum, themed “The Innovation Imperative: Shaping the Future of Agriculture”, will feature more than 30 sessions covering topics such as innovations in agriculture, global trade trends, food loss and waste, frontiers in conservation, and the science of food safety. In addition, USDA Chief Economist will unveil the Department’s outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade in 2020 and discuss the U.S. farm income situation.

An exhibit hall will showcase resources from USDA agencies and private organisations. The 2020 Forum’s programme will be announced at the beginning of November.

USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum began in 1923 to distribute and interpret national forecasts to farmers in the field. The goal was to provide the information developed through economic forecasting to farmers so they had the tools to read market signals and avoid producing beyond demand. Since then, the Forum has developed into a unique platform where key stakeholders from the agricultural sector in the United States and around the world come together every year to discuss current and emerging topics and trends in the sector. On average, 1,600 people attend the Forum each year.

The Agricultural Outlook Forum, organised by USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist together with other USDA agencies, is independent of commercial interests and aims to facilitate information sharing among stakeholders and generate the transparency that leads to well-functioning open markets.

 

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Recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake costs around $2.50 in US

Recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake costs around $2.50 in US

A USDA food consumption survey found that US citizens are consuming only 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables per day. This is well below the recommendation to include 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables in their daily diets. The main cause of this deficiency is thought to be cost, with low-income households particularly affected.

It was found that 8 out of 62 fresh and processed fruits cost less than 40 cents per cup in 2016, while another 21 fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup. The cheapest fruits per cup were fresh whole watermelon (20 cents) and processed apple juice (26 cents), while the most expensive were found to be fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries.

Vegetables tended to be more affordable than fruits, with 77% of vegetables and only 47% of fruits costing less than 80 cents per cup. The cheapest fresh and processed vegetables were heads of Romaine lettuce, fresh whole carrots, canned green beans and dried pinto beans, which all cost less than 40 cents per cup in 2016 – in fact, dried pinto beans cost 17 cents per cup. The most expensive vegetable was found to be fresh asparagus, at $2.47 per cup, at $0.17 per cup equivalent.

The study found that 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables could be obtained in 2016 for about $2.10 to $2.60 as part of a 2,000-calorie diet.

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Morocco’s orange exports continue their ascent

Morocco’s orange exports are expected to reach around 120,500 tons in the 2016/17 marketing year – up 29% from 92,246 tons in 2015/16 – as increased availability allows it to meet growing demand from Russia and the EU, according to a new GAIN report.

Morocco’s orange exports are expected to reach around 120,500 tons in the 2016/17 marketing year – up 29% from 92,246 tons in 2015/16 – as increased availability allows it to meet growing demand from Russia and the EU, according to a new GAIN report.

The report says the country will likely also benefit from an expected decline in citrus exports from Spain due to quality issues caused by overabundant, late rainfall there.

In 2015/16, the EU and Russia bought 73% of Morocco’s orange exports, which were mainly (66%) Maroc Late oranges.

Morocco’s orange production should increase by 4% over the previous year to 962,250 tons, according to estimates by a USDA post in the country.

Much of that rise in production will be due to increases in the area harvested, as younger trees begin to bear fruit, the GAIN report says.

Source: Gain report 1617, Dec 14, 2016, 2016 Morocco Citrus Annual Report
Orange image: Pixabay under CC0 Public Domain licence

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Russia’s 2015/16 apple imports fell 9% to 741,000 tons

The world’s largest apple importer, Russia, imported 741,357 tons of apples valued at $379.5 million in 2015/16, a 9% decrease in volume on MY2014/15, according to a new USDA Gain report.

The world’s largest apple importer, Russia, imported 741,357 tons of apples valued at $379.5 million in 2015/16, a 9% decrease in volume on MY2014/15, according to a new USDA Gain report.

And in the 2016/17 marketing year, Russian apple imports are expected to decline by 3% to 720,000 tons, it says.

Russia’s main apple suppliers in MY 2015/16 were Belarus (221,908 tons), Serbia (198,892 tons) and China (113,923 tons). Moldova became its fourth largest supplier, doubling its exports to 57,206 tons.

Officially, Russian importers are importing apples from suppliers that are not subject to its counter sanctions affecting agricultural products originating from the US, Canada, the EU, Australia and Norway.

“However, the Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (Rosselkhoznadzor) has repeatedly detected shipments of fresh produce from various banned origins.

“Since August 2014, Rosselkhoznadzor has detected more than 1,085 illegal shipments. In many cases, these shipments transited through Belarus with counterfeit phytosanitary certificates from countries like Albania, Chile, Turkey, Israel, Tunisia, Morocco, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Egypt and the Republic of South Africa,” the report says.

In November 2015, President Vladimir Putin issued a decree also banning imports of Turkish apples, grapes, pears and other agricultural products.

“Tighter border controls will increase the cost of imported apples, and with more locally produced fruit available on the market, budget conscious consumers are expected to curb spending on imported fruit, the report says.

Source: GAIN Report RF1666, 11/1/2016 Russian Federation: Continuing Countersanctions Propel Growth in Domestic Production (Annual Fresh Deciduous Fruit Report)

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Canada’s apple imports to dip 2%

For MY 2016/17, the USDA post forecasts an 11% increase in Canadian apple production, following an average growing season. Canada’s fresh apple imports are set to slip 2% to about 225,000 tons but the US should retain its 80% share of the total Canadian import volume.

Canada’s imports of fresh apples in the 2016/17 marketing year are set to slip 2% on the previous year to about 225,000 tons.

A recent GAIN report also says that based on forecasts from a USDA post in Canada, the US, Canada’s main supplier of fresh apples, will retain a stable market share of about 80% of those imports.

Canada’s fresh apple production for the 2016/17 marketing year (July to June) is expected to rise 11% to 375,000 tons.

“As the planted area remained unchanged from the previous year, this production increase is attributable to an overall good growing season in Ontario and British Columbia, two of the major apple producing provinces in Canada. However, a dry summer and blight have negatively impacted the production in Eastern Canada, particularly in Quebec and Nova Scotia.

“Over the past fifteen years, fresh apple production in Canada has slowly declined, consistent with reduced planted areas and reduced profitability of apple cultivation. However, data for the recent years seem to indicate that the sector has now stabilized, as growers have learned what production level is most economical and profitable,” the report says.

Canada’s apple industry was forced to downsize due to more affordable imports from the US, Chile and other low cost countries, as well as its high production costs and a strong Canadian dollar.

“Many apple growers responded to the evolving market situation by converting orchards over to new plantings of vinifera grapes (especially in British Columbia and Ontario) and other fruits, as well as by turning land over for new housing development projects,” the report says.

Growers planning to stay in the industry are turning to newer, more popular varieties such as Ambrosia and Honeycrisp and new, modern intensive planting systems.

Meanwhile, Canadian apple consumers are trending away from some of the more traditional varieties, such as the McIntosh, which was once the most popular apple variety there.

According to the Ontario Apple Growers Association, these days one in every three apples eaten in Ontario is a Gala, most likely grown in Washington state or Chile.

Canada’s fresh apple exports are expected to inch up 2% to 35,000 tons in 2016/17.

“In general, the export volumes of the past several years represent about one-third of what Canada used to export over a decade ago. Canadian exports of fresh apples have steadily declined over the last 10-15 years, reflecting the overall decline in production and reduced profitability and competitiveness in export markets.”

Source: Canada Fresh Deciduous Fruit Annual 2016, GAIN Report CA16051, 11/1/2016