News Article | May 2, 2017
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited an elementary school in Virginia yesterday to commemorate School Nutrition Employee Week, and used the appearance to announce major changes to nutrition standards in school lunch programs. Federal requirements will be relaxed in several categories, allowing more local control of student nutrition. "This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Perdue said. "If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program." An overview of the new "flexibilities," according to the USDA: Whole grains: States may grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent of grain products as whole-grain rich for the upcoming school years. Sodium: Schools will not be required to meet Sodium Target 2 for the next four years. Instead, schools that meet Sodium Target 1 will be considered compliant. Milk: Schools may return to serving 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals programs. "I've got 14 grandchildren, and there is no way that I would propose something if I didn't think it was good, healthful, and the right thing to do," Perdue continued. "And here's the thing about local control: it means that this new flexibility will give schools and states the option of doing what we're laying out here today. These are not mandates on schools." The new regulations (or lack thereof) roll back changes championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The change reflects the Trump Administration's second suspension in a day of a Michelle Obama-backed program; the White House also eliminated the education initiative Let Girls Learn yesterday. You Might Also Like
News Article | May 1, 2017
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (C) talks to the media at the White House in Washington, U.S. April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Monday relaxed some rules aimed at making U.S. school lunches healthier, a move viewed by health advocates as a direct hit on former first lady Michelle Obama's signature issue. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in one of his first acts after his Senate confirmation last week, signed a proclamation that postpones sodium reductions, makes it easier to serve foods without whole grains, and allows the return of chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk with fat. "Certain aspects of the standards have gone too far," said Perdue, speaking at an elementary school in Virginia. The change comes as Donald Trump, one of the more fast-food-friendly presidents in recent years, has vowed to slash regulation. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was championed by Michelle Obama and became a rallying cry for her critics after it set school lunch maximums for calories, cut sodium and artery-clogging trans fat, and required more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The federally funded U.S. school lunch program, started by President Harry Truman in the 1940s, is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and feeds more than 30 million, mostly low-income, children. Healthy lunch proponents expressed the most concern about relaxing efforts to reduce excessive dietary sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. "This will lock in very high levels of sodium in school lunches," said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for Center for Science in the Public Interest. The sodium limit for a high school lunch is now about 1,400 milligrams, or three-fourths of the recommended daily maximum, Wootan said. Perdue's proclamation delays plans to reduce that to 1,080 milligrams this school year. The ultimate target is about 740 milligrams in the 2022 school year, Wootan said. "Federal nutrition programs should provide nutritious food - that's just good government, not nanny state policies run amok," said Wootan, who added that many schools have adopted the standards and worked through early problems with ingredient availability and taste. The School Nutrition Association, which represents both the industry that sells food to schools and cafeteria workers, has lobbied to weaken the rules, particularly with regard to sodium. Many large food companies are suppliers to the U.S. school lunch program, including Tyson Foods Inc, Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and General Mills Inc. Domino's Pizza Inc delivers to schools as part of its "Smart Slice" program.
News Article | May 4, 2017
School lunch programs in the U.S. will no longer be required to meet all of the nutrition standards set in the Obama era, the Trump administration announced this week. The news means that school lunches won't necessarily see the cuts in sodium and boosts in whole grains that were outlined in the Obama administration's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which aimed to improve child nutrition. Specifically, rather than requiring that all grain products served in school lunches be whole grains, the government will allow schools to request exemptions to this requirement for the 2017-2018 school year, said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who signed a proclamation outlining the changes on Monday (May 1). And instead of requiring schools to continue reducing sodium levels in school meals, the government will let schools keep sodium levels where they are now, at least through 2020. In addition, schools will be allowed to serve 1 percent flavored milk, instead of just nonfat flavored milk. [10 Ways to Promote Kids' Healthy Eating Habits] Perdue said the changes were being made because existing nutrition requirements for school lunches were too stringent and had resulted in higher costs for school districts. In addition, Perdue said, some children weren't eating the healthier food. "If kids aren't eating the food and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program," Perdue said in a statement. However, some nutrition experts expressed concern about the new standards. "While the health impact of reopening this rule is unknown at this point, it's clear [that] having American schoolchildren eat fewer whole grains is not heart-healthy," Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a statement. Relaxing the sodium requirements is also worrisome, she said. "If we don't move forward with the sodium standards, there could be serious health consequences for our kids," such as increased blood pressure, as well as higher risk of heart disease and stroke, Brown said. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog group, also called the new sodium policy concerning. "Ninety percent of American kids eat too much sodium every day," Wootan said in a statement. "Schools have been moving in the right direction, so it makes no sense to freeze that progress in its tracks and allow dangerously high levels of salt in school lunch." The new policy does not affect the requirement for fruits and vegetables in school lunches or standards for food served in vending machines set in the Obama-era act.
News Article | May 8, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO — Wine Institute’s third international “California Wines Summit” taking place May 15-20, 2017 will host 30 key wine media and trade from 10 countries: Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Sweden, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland. The week of wine tastings and experiences was designed to build on California’s reputation as a world class wine producer and top destination for wine country travel. The media/trade group will taste 500 wines from more than 50 American Viticultural Areas in California, presented by 200 vintners from across the Golden State. The 10 markets represented by the Summit guests account for more than 80 percent of the value of California wine exports. U.S. wine exports, 90 percent from California, were $1.62 billion in 2016, a record dollar value and a 25 percent increase from five years ago. “Our California Wines Summit is providing key opinion leaders a wide-ranging experience of all that California wine offers,” said Wine Institute President and CEO Robert P. (Bobby) Koch. “We will show the passion and innovation of our people, the high quality and diversity of California wines and our strong environmental stewardship. This event is one of our many initiatives to reach our goal of $2 billion in California wine exports by 2020.” To open the week-long program, U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson and veteran industry analyst Jon Fredrikson will give presentations on the “state of the state” of the California wine industry and its significant contributions to California: adding 325,000 jobs, $57.6 billion in economic impact and 24 million tourist visits annually. To close out the week, California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross, President and CEO of Visit California Caroline Beteta, and Allison Jordan of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) will discuss sustainability and how California vintners and growers have established the state as the wine world’s environmental leader in both acreage and production. CSWA’s 2,100 participating wineries and vineyards represent 75 percent of California’s winegrape acreage and 80 percent of its case production. The guests will also experience in-depth tastings of Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, red and white blends, and sparkling wines from around the state led by top U.S. wine media and trade including Karen MacNeil, Leslie Sbrocco, Virginie Boone, Elaine Chukan Brown, Kelli White, Matt Stamp, MS, and Geoff Kruth, MS. “These international leaders will have the opportunity to meet our vintners and experience the beauty and diversity of California wine country and its renowned wine, food and lifestyle,” said Linsey Gallagher, Wine Institute Vice President of International Marketing. “We want them to share their experiences and what they learn about the tastes and trends in California wine when they return home and become “ambassadors” for California Wines in their home markets.”
News Article | May 4, 2017
Michael Cleugh, a vice president at Eclipse Berry Farms, which grows strawberries on more than 800 acres in California, implored the state to find some common ground. "Competition among breeders and breeding companies is a good thing and there is room in this industry for California Berry Cultivars, UC Davis and any other breeders who want to improve our industry," Cleugh wrote in a letter to state leaders. "Growers need access to varieties that produce better yields and a better product. We need progress and we need it now.'' The letters come less than two weeks before the start of a trial between California Berry Cultivars (CBC) and UC Davis. Shaw is revered in the strawberry industry, having developed 24 new types of strawberry plants – nearly one a year – that have allowed growers to double production in addition to dramatically improving the quality and flavor of the fruit. An estimated 65% of the acreage of California's $2.6 billion strawberry crop is planted with varieties developed by Shaw and Larson. The growers are aghast that UC Davis is portraying Shaw in legal filings as a researcher driven by greed. During their tenure at UC Davis, Shaw and Larson generated nearly $100 million in royalties for the university, shared nearly half of their own royalties – hundreds of thousands of dollars – with co-workers, and contributed more than $9 million of their own royalties to help fund the breeding program. Shaw, growers say, has been a singular force in improving the fortunes of all of California's strawberry growers. The researchers contend that, prior to their retirement in 2014, they, in concert with the UC Davis Plant Sciences Department, proposed a public-private partnership that would allow them to continue developing plants and sharing the royalties with UC Davis. With a diverse group of growers, they formed CBC with a plan to share royalties with the university. UC Davis initially approved the plan, but reversed itself after the California Strawberry Commission, with backing from large agricultural companies that have their own competing breeding programs, filed suit against UC Davis to intimidate the university into ending its relationship with CBC. As part of the settlement of that lawsuit, UC Davis confiscated 800 plants, destroyed about half of them and promised to involve the strawberry commission in any UC Davis licensing decisions. California Berry Cultivars sued the university after it seized the plants and blocked the ability of Shaw and Larson to continue to breed and develop new strains of strawberries. UC Davis then counter sued, adding Shaw and Larson as co-defendants. California Berry Cultivars is seeking up to $45 million in damages in its suit against the university. Growers large and small, who depend on a supply of new and improved strawberry varieties, fear they have become pawns in a political fight between UC Davis and the mega strawberry companies that have their own breeding programs. Independent growers worry that they will be forced to buy expensive plants from private sources or face a precipitous drop-off in crop quality and production. A federal judge ruled last week that as part of their contracts with UC Davis, Shaw and Larson were obligated to assign the rights to those plants to the university. But the judge also decided there is evidence that the university acted in bad faith against the esteemed researchers. The judge's ruling suggested that both sides face some liabilities at trial. "On these facts, and given the language of this contract, from a legal standpoint it would be acceptable for the judgment to sock it to both sides,'' the court ruled. A.G. Kawamura, a strawberry farmer, former California Secretary of Agriculture and part owner of CBC, said that a vibrant and competitive breeding program is essential for the continued viability of the state's growers. "After nearly six decades of successful strawberry innovation, it has been very frustrating to see the feuding between the UC and so many of the multi-generation family farms that have supported and depended on this public-private breeding program," Kawamura said. "Costly litigation is such a waste when there are avenues for multi-benefit collaboration. Our future as California strawberry growers is at stake.'' To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/strawberry-growers-urge-resolution-to-breeding-dispute-with-uc-system-300451343.html
News Article | November 14, 2016
Donald Trump has begun setting up his cabinet and choosing his closest advisors, so far a mix of establishment conservatives and alt-right provocateurs like Steve Bannon and Peter Thiel. Meanwhile, he's indicated his likely choices for the mostly men that will oversee environment and energy roles in his administration, according to documents obtained by Politico, The New York Times and Buzzfeed. (It's important to note that these are not his confirmed choices and are subject to change.) Many of those he's chosen have decades of experience in finance, agriculture management and politics. But his cabinet choices are largely anti-regulation conservatives, some of whom have fought environmental protections and deny the need for government interference in how people treat the planet. Trump has tapped Myron Ebell, a well-known climate change skeptic, to lead the EPA transition.Trump has already stated he wants to disassemble the EPA, which was put in place to safeguard clean water, air and land. Ebell has been directing environmental and energy policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institution, and has spent years trying to deny or question threat of climate change. In 2006, he wrote an opinion column for Forbes encouraging people to "love global warming", suggestion they should embrace milder winters. He did not, meanwhile, address the implications of rising seas, stronger storms and droughts that are predicted to occur from climate change. Like Trump, Ebell has also suggested the US should leave the Paris Agreement, in which countries pledged to cap their carbon emissions to help lower the global temperature. He also promotes unregulated coal, oil and gas. Trump has indicated his leading candidates for the Secretary of Energy are venture capitalist Robert Grady and businessman Harold Hamm. Grady is a partner at middle-market venture capital firm Gryphon Investors, a managing director at Maxim Integrated Products which produces semiconductors, and board member of asset management company Stifel Financial Corp. He jumped into politics as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and was later named associate budget office director for natural resources, energy and science for the Bush Administration. The Washington Post reported in 1989 that Grady "was the architect of Bush's promises during the campaign to take a more activist role than President [Reagan] in controlling acid rain, stopping ocean dumping, expanding national parks and accelerating toxic-waste clean-up." Meanwhile, Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma billionaire and CEO of oil extraction company Continental Resources, made his fortune by developing oil and gas resources in the Bakken Formation, which covers parts of Montana and North Dakota. He was named the presumptive choice for secretary of energy in Mitt Romney's cabinet in 2012, and he was consulted in a report that proposed removing federal protections for oil drilling from federal land and giving states authority to make those decisions. While he was heralded as part of the U.S.'s post-recession recovery, his career hasn't been without controversy. He asked the dean of the University of Oklahoma to fire earthquake scientists who suggested fracking was connected to major earthquakes in the Midwest, Bloomberg reported in 2015. The U.S. Geological Survey has since reported a strong connection between the wastewater leftover from fracking and the earthquakes. While there is a long list of prospective choices for Secretary of Agriculture, the most widely discussed choice is Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Miller, an eighth-generation farmer, has stated he wants trade with Cuba and would support changing the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), McClatchy reported. He's also had a troubled tenure as state agriculture commissioner, and has been under investigation for inappropriately using state money to take personal trips. "He has expanded the department's top paid positions, doled out more bonuses than any other statewide official and dramatically hiked fees for many of the industries and agricultural interests his agency regulates," the Texas Tribune reported in April. Sam Brownback is presumed to be another top contender for Secretary of Agriculture. Brownback, governor of Kansas, was Kansas's secretary of agriculture in 1986 and was raised in a farming family. He has been tangled in a financial web this year because his state didn't generate enough tax revenue to pay for all its services. This summer, the state had to hold back $260 million from public schools to balance its budget, largely due to Brownback's income tax cuts, the Kansas City Star reported. Other possible choices are former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, agriculture businessman Charles Herbster, and dairy executive Mike McCloskey, Politico reported. Forrest Lucas, an oil magnate, is said to be the top choice for Secretary of the Interior, which oversees all national parks, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management. Lucas, a former trucker, is the CEO of Lucas Oil Products, which manufactures and distributes oil for automobiles, additives and lubricants. He is also the founder of Protect the Harvest, a pro-farming and pro-ranching non-profit that opposes "radical animal rights organizations." He considers the Humane Society of the United States to be among those groups and to be an "attack group." Politico reported a source close to the Trump campaign confirmed the future president's interest in bringing Palin on board to a cabinet position. The former Alaska governor and Trump loyalist actually raised taxes on oil back in 2007, unlike her GOP predecessors, and wants to cap carbon emissions. But Palin has also voted to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest tract of protected wildlife in the country, and promotes unregulated hunting and fishing. She has also spoken out against efforts to classify polar bears and beluga whales as endangered species. Robert Grady and Harold Hamm are also being considered for the post, in addition to Donald Trump Jr. and several midwestern governors. Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.
News Article | February 16, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - February 16, 2017) - The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) commends Alexander Acosta on his nomination as Secretary of Labor. Having served in three presidentially-appointed and Senate confirmed positions; Acosta holds a long track record of public service and dedication to the American people. "R. Alexander Acosta is an outstanding choice for this cabinet position," said Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of the USHCC. "His record reflects a skill set and expertise both in the private and public sector which will serve the administration and the nation greatly. We are thrilled to work with Acosta on a host of economic and labor issues which directly affect our members and the Hispanic community as a whole. When Gov. Purdue was nominated for Secretary of Agriculture, I said we will continue to advocate for diversity within the administration, including if and when a cabinet position becomes available during President Trump's time in office. Our ongoing dialogue with the administration has proven effective." The USHCC applauds President Trump's nomination of R. Alexander Acosta for Secretary of Labor, not because the nominee is of Hispanic descent, but because he is highly qualified and the best-suited choice for this significant cabinet post. The USHCC actively promotes the economic growth, development and interests of more than 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses that, combined, contribute over $668 billion to the American economy every year. It also advocates on behalf of 260 major American corporations and serves as the umbrella organization for more than 200 local chambers and business associations nationwide. For more information, visit ushcc.com. Follow the USHCC on Twitter @USHCC.
News Article | February 15, 2017
John Comegys of Hartly in Kent County had the state’s top 2016 soybean yield with 80.74 bushels per acre of full season soybeans. Comegys planted Pioneer P36T86R. Kevin Evans of Bridgeville in Sussex County won the statewide double crop competition with 73.51 bushels per acre. Evans planted Pioneer 42T71, a Plenish bean which produces high-oleic soybean oil. Both men received a check for $1,000. The awards were announced by Delaware Soybean Board chairman James “Jay” Baxter, a farmer from Georgetown, at the annual Ag Week education program in Harrington. The Delaware Soybean Board is funded by the national soybean checkoff program, which assesses one-half of one percent of the net market value of soybeans at the first point of sale. The funds are collected for soybean research, marketing and education projects. County winners for full season soybeans included Robert Garey of Sussex County with 73.52 bushels per acre; Dale Scuse of Kent County with 80.10 bushels per acre; and Robbie Emerson of New Castle County with 66.84 bushels per acre. County winners for double crop beans included David Smoker of Sussex County with 69.13 bushels per acre and Dale Scuse of Kent County with 62.94 bushels. There was no entry from New Castle County for double crop beans. County level winners received $250. All entries in the contest were irrigated beans. Delaware farmers plant about 180,000 acres of soybeans each year, and the crop generates approximately $60 million in value to the state. Delaware’s agricultural industry contributes about $8 billion per year to the Delaware economy. The Delaware Soybean Board consists of nine farmer-directors and the Secretary of Agriculture, and administers the federal soybean checkoff programs in the state. About Delaware Soybean Board: The Delaware Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Delaware for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board. To learn more about the Delaware Soybean Board, visit http://www.desoybeans.org.
News Article | November 17, 2016
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research today launched Seeding Solutions, a funding opportunity for researchers proposing to address one of the Foundation’s seven food and agriculture Challenge Areas, which range from making agricultural water use more efficient to promoting healthy food choices. Prospective Seeding Solutions grantees are invited to submit a pre-proposal for up to $1 million of Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research funding, and must secure equal or greater matching funding from a non-Federal source before a grant will be awarded. The Foundation anticipates funding at least one meritorious and transformative proposal in each of its Challenge Areas: Food Waste and Loss, Healthy Soils Thriving Farms, Innovation Pathway to Sustainability, Making “My Plate” Your Plate, Protein Challenge, Urban Food Systems, and Water Scarcity. “The breadth of proposals that the Foundation is accepting for the Seeding Solutions program leaves the door open for new and creative ways of working toward our mission to tackle some of the most monumental issues in food and agriculture,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. “I look forward to supporting bold scientific proposals that show promise of progress toward solutions in our Challenge Areas.” The Seeding Solutions program is the first funding opportunity within the Foundation’s recently launched Challenge Areas and is just one of an array of programs and partnerships to be launched in pursuit of scientific solutions to today’s most pressing challenges in food and agriculture. Yesterday, the Foundation announced the nine recipients of its New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award, a program that supports the next generation of food and agriculture scientists through grants to early career faculty members and the students and post-doctoral scholars who collaborate on their innovative research pursuits. About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. Leveraging public and private resources, FFAR will increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. Established by the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR is governed by a Board of Directors chaired by former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and with ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Dickerson, of Laurel, farms about a thousand acres of soybeans, corn and wheat, and raises peas, sweet corn, baby lima beans, edamame, string beans, yellow squash on contract and pumpkins and other vegetables for the fresh market. He also operates a roadside stand and raises broilers for Perdue Farms, Inc. Dickerson also attended the United Soybean Board’s 2015 “See For Yourself” tour of China and Vietnam. The Delaware Soybean Board sponsored his trip. Delaware farmers plant about 180,000 acres of soybeans each year, and the crop generates approximately $60 million in value to the state. Delaware’s agricultural industry contributes about $8 billion per year to the Delaware economy. Soybean Leadership College, coordinated by the American Soybean Association, provides current and future agricultural industry leaders with training to effectively promote the soybean industry, communicate key agricultural messages, and work to expand U.S. soybean market opportunities domestically and internationally. The program also fosters networking between growers from across the country, encouraging collaboration, which in turn increases the effectiveness of soybean growers at the local, regional and national level. The Delaware Soybean Board consists of nine farmer-directors and the Secretary of Agriculture. Funded through a one-half of one percent assessment on the net market value of soybeans at their first point of sale, the checkoff works with partners in the value chain to identify and capture opportunities that increase farmer profit potential. One-half of the soybean checkoff assessments collected by the state boards are forwarded to the United Soybean Board. About Delaware Soybean Board: The Delaware Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Delaware for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board. To learn more about the Delaware Soybean Board, visit http://www.desoybeans.org.