Good Egg Award Goes to Natural Grocers

In 2007 Compassion in World Farming created the “Good Egg Award” to recognize companies that are ready to use, or commit to use within five years, eggs and egg products entirely derived from free-range chickens.

Eggs laid by free-range chickens, who found a convenient place under a tree. (At a family organic farm in Bruthen, Victoria) Photo courtesy of Vmenkov.

The organization hosted their Good Farm Animal Awards Ceremony in London, awarding to Natural Grocers the award that recognizes and honors the company’s innovative supply chain of 100% Free-Range Eggs. They are the first major US grocery chain that exclusively carries free-range eggs.

Natural Grocers has been supporting the improvement of animal welfare guidelines. In the case of cage-free eggs, the company went beyond the accepted standards in 2016 when they began their 100% Free-Range egg supply chain. This approach assures consumers that only non-cage eggs are sold at Natural Grocers, and that the price is the same, or even lower, with the new higher standard.

“There is a momentous shift happening in the US and beyond towards cage-free and free-range egg production. We are thrilled to be awarding Natural Grocers for being at the forefront of that shift,” said Rachel Dreskin, US Head of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming. “We would like to congratulate Natural Grocers for the huge difference they are making to the lives of laying hens in their supply chain. As hundreds of other food businesses move in the same direction their commitment to animal welfare will serve as an excellent example.”

“We are proud to have our industry-leading 100% Free-Range egg standard recognized by Compassion in World Farming,” said Heather Isely, Executive Vice President at Natural Grocers. “We hope to inspire other companies around the world to follow our example and to realize that it is possible to offer the highest quality standards at affordable prices. We are here to show that a just, sustainable and equitable food system is possible.”

Logan Schoon Honored by Minnesota FFA Association

Logan Schoon, a Menahga FFA member, was recognized by the Minnesota FFA Association as the 2017 Star in AgriBusiness, one of the association’s highest honors.

Schoon has been working as a construction foreman for Kevin Kocurek as his supervised agricultural experience (SAE). At the moment, he is working on a multi-million-dollar project, and has been involved in his SAE for more than a year and a half. While working Schoon has acquired many skills, including carpentry, electrical, roofing and installing rafters.

“Since day one of working on the house, pouring the footings, I have taken great pride in my work,” said Schoon. “This job has taught me many things. The biggest accomplishment is looking at the work I have done and seeing how the hard work has paid off.”

Schoon explained that his SEA has helped him make the decision to study heavy equipment operation and maintenance at his school of choice, Central Lakes College in Staples, Minnesota.

Agribusiness Biggies Teaming Up to Address Hunger in Africa

The MV Caroline Scan, chartered by the World Food Programme, is protected by a Finnish Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment from the EU Naval Force – April 2013. Photo courtesy of European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta

For the first time the world’s leading agribusiness conglomerates are teaming up to fight hunger and prevent famine in East Africa. The companies, Cargill, Bunge, ADM and Louis Dreyfus Company will contribute collectively $525,000 to the World Food Programme. The WFP is the world’s leading humanitarian group which is fighting hunger, reaching tens of thousands of people each year in East Africa.

The WFP launched an organized response to the famine in South Sudan which was created by the war going on there. They are also addressing the issue of extreme malnutrition in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. In those countries, acute drought ruined thousands of acres of crop land, leaving millions of families at the mercy of emergency food assistance.

“We can turn the tide and save millions of lives,” said President and CEO of World Food Programme USA Rick Leach. “Support from leading companies and individuals will be the key to reaching millions of people as quickly as possible before it’s too late.”

Today over 16 million people in the region are negatively affected by economic instability, conflict and drought, for example:

•    Somalia has experienced almost complete crop-failure after two years of poor rainfall. About 3 million people in this devastated country are facing the possibility of not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
•    Political conflict and war have placed over 40 percent of the population in South Sudan in need of emergency food assistance, and an additional 100,000 are in danger of starvation.
•    Due to extreme drought conditions in Ethiopia about 5.6 million people need emergency food assistance.
•    There are about 344,000 malnourished children in Kenya due to extreme drought conditions.

Money raised from the private sector allows WFP to emergency food assistance and nutrition help. The organization uses e-voucher-cards to purchase food locally, in-kind rations, and targeted support for young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.

“Companies and individuals are stepping up to address the emergency and advance longer term solutions,” said Leach. “We hope it inspires others to donate and get involved today.”

Cal Poly Student Proposes Cost-Saving Plan to Help Small Farmers Recruit Workers

Fourth-year agribusiness major at Cal Poly Jose Alvarez was recognized by the California Legislature for his proposal to streamline the federal H-2A visa program.

Alvarez, who is scheduled to graduate soon, submitted his idea in the national Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences annual conference last spring in Jacksonville, Florida. He was representing Cal Poly’s Latinos in Agriculture Club.

His business pitch is called “Together in Agriculture for a Greater Good.” It uses a nonprofit model that would reduce costs for small ranchers and farmers to hire a professional who would complete the federal H-2A visa program applications.

“In theory, it would start as a pilot program in California, where essentially the program would subsidize the cost of using the H-2A visa program,” Alvarez said. “Usually, big farmers are the ones that use that because it’s costly, time-consuming, has government regulations and the cost goes to the farmer.”

The H-2A visa program was first launched in the 1980s. It allows foreign nationals to come into the US only temporarily for seasonal agricultural work. It was created to respond to the shortage of native agricultural workers.

There is time-consuming paper work process needed to process an H-2A visa, which larger farms and ranchers out-source to private contractors.

The program would do the paperwork and reduce the costs, and cut out middlemen and contractors,” he said. “I was focused on smaller farmers and allowing them to use a similar service.”
In addition to this simple cost-saving aspect of the proposal, Alvarez also added the idea of recruiting illegal immigrants who are already living in the country, but having a difficult time finding work.

This would reduce the pressure and inconvenience of recruiting workers outside the country.

“You have to find these workers and do recruiting, so I thought, ‘Why not let people already illegally here in the U.S. apply for this program, too?’

US Agribusiness Pleased with Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture; Conservationist Not So Much

Sonny Perdue. Photo courtesy of Bruce Tuten from Savannah, Georgia, United States

The final appointee to Donald Trump’s cabinet seems to be well-liked all around, and was praised as an excellent choice for Secretary of Agriculture by several US agriculture groups.

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue was praised by US agribusiness associations as an “outstanding” choice for the cabinet post.

Perdue was acclaimed by the National Grain and Feed Association for his vast experience. He was an owner of three agribusiness and transportation companies that farmers across the south utilize. He was also a member of the NGFA’s board of directors from 2014 until the time of his nomination.

“Governor Perdue is an accomplished, innovative, problem-solving and proven public servant, and is an excellent choice to serve as secretary of agriculture,” said Randy Gordon, president of the NGFA. “He has strong rural roots, having grown up on a row-crop and dairy farm, and is a person of impeccable character, trustworthiness and integrity who is an energetic, passionate and tireless advocate for U.S. agriculture and for America. Gov. Perdue also is a very open and receptive person who seeks out and listens to advice. He also possesses the business acumen, experience, common sense and sound policy-making background that will serve him extremely well as a member of the president’s cabinet.”

Other interest groups are not so sure about Perdue, saying that while he was Governor he showed favor to the timber industry while ignoring the effect the loss of forests have on climate and global warming.

Conservationists and climate activists point out that Perdue has ties to the timber industry, being an owner of woodland himself, and has dismissed climate change science as inconclusive. He has questioned the connection between extreme weather and climate change, he received campaign funding from the timber industry, and has been a supporter of converting forests to ethanol, despite those implications for climate change as well.

“The concern is we’ll go back to the Reagan days—of billions of board feet of wood coming out of the national forests,” said Mark Woodall, the legislative chair of the Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter. “There’s a concern that Sonny Perdue has always been close to the timber companies and would be favorable to them.”

Goat Meat Gaining Popularity in the USA

This is a classic and delicious Moroccan dish, called a Tajine, made out of goat meat and quinces. The sweet-salty mix, along with the herbs and local spices give this dish its delicious personality. Picture courtesy of Magda Baidan.

According to a study conducted at the University of Missouri extension, American consumers of meat are beginning to purchase goat meat in addition to the standard animal protein stables of beef, pork and poultry.

Goat meat is purported to be a healthier choice than the usual animal proteins eaten in the US, and is enjoyed by 75 percent of the rest of the world on a regular basis. Goat meat is less fatty than beef per gram of protein, and has less saturated fat than chicken. Goat meat is also loaded with iron, more per serving than beef, chicken, pork or lamb.

“Consuming goat meat hasn’t been part of our culture, but its popularity is rising as people search for healthy, lean, hormone-free sources of protein,” said Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition and health specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

Goats raised in the US must adhere to strict USDA regulations and inspections. Production practices must be hormone-free and antibiotics can only be used within federal guidelines.

“Look for goat meat sold at traditional grocers or specialty markets. Goat meat can also be ordered online,” added Stevenson.

Want to get started trying goat meat? Stevenson suggested an easy recipe here.

Pope Addresses Effect of Technology on Biodiversity

 Pope Francis. Photo by Casa Rosada.

Pope Francis. Photo by Casa Rosada.

Warning that mankind cant always know the ultimate effects of technology on the environment, Pope Francis spoke with members of the International Catholic Rural Association.
The Pope said that technology in the sphere of agriculture is “the best response possible to poverty and food shortages,” nevertheless he cautioned that there are certain “models of agribusiness” which could “eliminate the variety and the richness of biodiversity.”

The speech was held on December 10, at the Apostolic Palace.

Although technology can be used for great benefit to mankind, he still felt that in some cases society has taken “a rash recourse to technology.” He continued to warn that “we do not know its effects on human health; when we encounter so many ‘rare diseases’ and don’t know where they come from, we have to wonder.”

The Pope also said:

Looking at rural life today, we see the primacy of the market, which determines actions and decisions. Making money, above all else! Even at the expense of sacrificing the rhythms of agricultural life, with its times of work and leisure, its weekly rest and its concern for the family … Solidarity itself, frequently invoked as a remedy, is insufficient unless it is accompanied by justice in the allotment of land, in agricultural salaries and in access to markets.

Irish Dairy Acquires US Ingredients Company

The largest exporter of Irish dairy products, Ornua, recently purchased CoreFX Ingredients, a division of MCT Dairies, Inc. together with a powder production factory in Orangeville, Illinois.

The purchase is Ornua’s first such specialty dry ingredients production facility in the United States. The company already owns ordinary ingredients production facilities in Spain, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, as well as in the US.

The new company will be known as CoreFX Ingredients LLC. Ornua is planning to continue to grow the scale and capability of the new acquisition via customer-led innovation, team expertise and new dairy technologies. Ornua is investing in the growth of the facility’s technical output plus in a new Customer Innovation Center in its headquarters in Chicago.

CoreFX Ingredients, which is headquartered in Chicago, uses spray drying and blending technologies. Serving a wide range of markets from snack foods, to sports nutrition, soups/sauces and salad dressings, baby food, desserts, bakery and dairy, the company supplies cheese and lipid powder ingredient solutions for food manufacturing companies.

Kevin Lane, CEO of Ornua commented on the deal:

“This acquisition is another key milestone in Ornua’s US expansion programme and is in-line with our strategy to invest in high growth and profitable dairy businesses. CoreFX Ingredients will provide our Ingredients division with greater scale and enhances our capability to deliver bespoke ingredient solutions to our customers. Importantly, we can share its dairy technologies across all of our ingredient operations around the world and in turn drive growth.”

Federal Labeling Law on GMOs Does Not Pass the “Laugh Test”

 A protester in San Francisco, California, advocates for the labeling of GMO constituents in foodstuffs. Photo courtesy of Daniel Goehring.

A protester in San Francisco, California, advocates for the labeling of GMO constituents in foodstuffs. Photo courtesy of Daniel Goehring.

Due to pressure from the processed food industry, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a new federal law requiring QR codes on the labels of products containing genetically modified foods, or GMOs. For activists, especially in Vermont, this was very bad news.

After years of activism Vermont became the first state in the United States to pass a law to require manufacturers to state on product labels if the food within contains GMOs. The law passed in Vermont’s legislature in 2014 with an overwhelming majority, and went into effect on July 1st, 2016.

As the law was challenged in court during the summer, unsuccessfully, activists in New York and Massachusetts took heart and gained momentum to pass similar laws. In addition, several food companies decided that it would be easier to put labels on their products throughout the country rather than just creating a different label just for their small Vermont market. Some companies even decided it would be easier to just leave out GMOs altogether.

Then, in mid-July, congress took the side of processed food, pesticide and biotech companies. With little debate and no hearings, first the Senate, and then the House, passed a much less potent law for disclosing GMOs in food. But not only that: the law also prevents individual states, including Vermont, from making their own labeling requirements. President Obama signed this law into effect on July 29th.

The weaker federal law makes it more difficult for consumers to find out what is in their food, requiring them to either have a smart phone to read the QR code, or look up the ingredients on a web site, or make a phone call.

“The idea that this will provide right to know is ridiculous,” says Andrea Stander, the executive director of Rural Vermont, which pushed for Vermont’s labeling law. “It doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

Obama Cancels Meeting After Philippine President Insults Obama’s Mom

Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau

Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau

You don’t mess with the POTUS and then expect a meeting, as US President Barack Obama proved to his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte.

Affronted by the possibility that Obama was going to express disapproval of the extrajudicial killings that have been taking place by the thousands in the context of the Philippine “war on drugs,” Duterte was said to have called Obama’s mother an insulting epithet. In response, President Obama cancelled the scheduled meeting which was going to discuss agribusiness issues and other issues of relevance to the US and other Asian countries.

President Duterte express regret about his comments insulting President Obama. It is estimated that about 1,300 people have been killed since the Philippine President launched is war on drugs, most of them without the benefit of a trial. An additional 650,000 have turned themselves in as drug addicts, hoping to get treatment instead of a bullet. Unfortunately, the country is not in a position to offer any real assistance to these addicts.

Land O’Lakes Buys Biotech Company Ceres

This grass is grown as an annual crop for biofuel, burned at Drax power station to generate electricity. Photo courtesy of  alh1

This grass is grown as an annual crop for biofuel, burned at Drax power station to generate electricity. Photo courtesy of
alh1

US agribusiness giant Land O’Lakes announced its acquisition of Ceres, a California-based biotechnology firm for $17.2 million.

Ceres develops and manufactures seeds from genetically modified crops that are used in the production of biofuels. The company will become part of the forage business unit of Land O’Lakes which is now made up of Forage Genetics International (FGI.)

The deal will enable FGI’s research and development division to further its plant breeding and biotechnology goals. The company will better be able to bring new forage characteristics to the marketplace as well as placing the company in a position to better expand and become a holistic forage provider to its customers.

FGI said that the partnering of Ceres and FGI brings together complimentary capabilities which will speed up the process to the creation of new forage solutions for farmers around the world.

Wisconsin Welcomes Participants to 18th Annual National Value Added Agriculture Conference

2011_logo_7594642DD4086The Park Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, will be the venue for the 18th yearly National Value-Added Agriculture Conference, to be held on July 21st and 22nd. The event is designed to focus on the interests of farmers, service providers, extension specialists and community leaders.

According to business development specialist Kietra Olson of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, there will be participants from across the country as well as experts from far and wide.

“We have speakers coming from around the United States to talk about agri-tourism and rural and urban economic development, local and regional food systems, alternative-energy technology, supply-chain issues, and a lot more,” Olson said.

Wisconsin is the perfect place for a meeting of this kind. With 77,000 farms, almost all of which are family owned, Wisconsin has more farms than any other state. In addition, it is the leading state in terms of diversity of produce.

The state’s agriculture industry generates close to $60 billion each year in economic activity. This year’s conference theme is entrepreneurship and expanding rural economies through innovation and outreach to new markets. Olson pointed out that today’s farmers need to know much more about their industry than just planting and harvesting.

“Outreach programming for market expansion as it’s related to value-added processing: grant writing, entrepreneurship, aquaponics and soil-health topics, financing value-added products, things like that,” she said.

Mars Exploration Fertile Ground for Agricultural Innovation

Mars

Mars

According to Dr. Gernot Groemer, president of the Austrian Space Forum and the head of the PolAres Mars simulation program, exploration of space, and especially the possibility of Mars colonization, is likely to stimulate innovation, especially in the industry and agriculture sectors right here on Earth.

“It’s a clean sheet approach that provides reflections on what is really needed to sustain a community somewhere, anywhere,” explained Dr Groemer. “We use cutting-edge emerging technologies, and what you find with all of the controlled conditions and brain power being applied is that there are applications here on Earth.”

There is a long history of deriving new technologies and products from space programs. Even movies like “The Martian” can inspire creativity. Researchers from Wageningen University & Research Center in the Netherlands grew certain crops in media made to simulate the soil of Mars.

“The food crops were grown in soil that would otherwise be considered unplantable,” Groemer explained. Here on Earth this can translate to improving productivity on land which is marginal or even barren.

“What we know about Mars has progressed massively in the past 15 years, and I strongly believe that the first human to walk on Mars is already born,” stated Dr Gernot Groemer. “We could see permanent human settlement on the Red Planet several generations from now, and they may not be happy eating canned food,” he noted.

There are other issues space exploration forces mankind to investigate.

“The way our body processes food is different enough to matter a great deal. A person’s sense of taste changes in zero gravity. There are medical implications to different gravity effects,” remarked Dr Groemer. “In our work we’re verifying whether the ideas and designs to survive on Mars work in practice, and the gaps between theory and practice that we observe range from trivial to serious matters.”

Orangeburg County Offering Incentives to Agribusiness Development

Orangeburg, SC. Photo by JayeeDior12

Orangeburg, SC. Photo by JayeeDior12

Councilman Harry Wimberly of Orangeburg County in South Carolina announced that his county is creating development incentives to encourage new agribusiness investment.

The idea began back in December, 2015 when the S.C. Department of Agriculture asked Wimberly if his county could support such incentives.

Winberly said he always gets behind any initiative which supports agribusiness coming into and growing in Orangeburg County.

“Anytime we can bring new industry into Orangeburg County is a plus,” he said. “I am glad they entertained us first before any other county.”

At the beginning of May the county became the first in the state to say yes to a resolution backing incentives to grow agribusiness.

Any new businesses entering the county will be joining those who are already present and flourishing, such as: Cactus Farms, Dempsey Wood Products, Cox Industries, Bimbo Bakeries, Carolina Fresh Farms, Orangeburg Pecan, Mars Petcare, Lee’s Sausage and Super-Sod.

US Agribusiness Sees Potential in Cuba

Official photo of United States Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Official photo of United States Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

With the lifting of the US embargo on trade with Cuba US agribusiness is anticipating some benefits to their own economic sector. The American Farm Bureau and other farm groups are pushing for increased trade in agricultural goods when the embargo is nullified.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa senator, is refraining from participating in the flurry of excitement the lifting of the trade embargo has been generating. Even if the end of the embargo means more agricultural products will be sold to Cuba, Grassley is still not moved to support the historic event. He believes that when it comes to the “give and take” of negotiations of the new trade arrangement, Cuba is going to get the better end of the deal.

The Senator points out that even with the embargo still in place farm sales to Cuba has been improving.

“There’s already a provisions that have even been liberalized beyond what they’ve been through maybe ten years for agricultural foods to go there along with medicine, pharmaceuticals, medicinal things. So I don’t know whether we have to be so concerned just for agriculture,” said Grassley.

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