USDA Purchases More Than $10 Million in California Table Grapes

Food Banks, Other Food Programs to Get Grapes as Part of Tariff Mitigation Program

New Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently completed a purchase of more than 450,000 boxes of California table grapes as part of its tariff mitigation program.

California table grapes were included in the USDA Food Purchasing Program for the first time as part of the mitigation program because of the 53 percent tariff imposed on U.S. grapes by China.CA Table Grapes

According to the most recent USDA data, shipments of California grapes to China are down 42.2 percent in volume and 41.2 percent in value in 2018 compared to 2017.

“The 2018 season has been a tough one for table grape growers,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “The tariffs on table grapes have been painful, but the real harm has been caused by the fact that tariffs on multiple competing commodities, such as cherries, stone fruits, and apples, caused more fruit of all kinds to be sold in the domestic market. The USDA purchasing program comes at a good time for table grape growers and is appreciated.”

Table grape suppliers interested in participating in the food purchasing program had to go through a rigorous process to become a USDA vendor and then if approved, submit bids in a competitive process. Multiple Valley companies were awarded the opportunity to supply California grapes to customers across the country.

The grapes will be distributed to food banks and other food programs around the country, starting in December.

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Agritourism in California

UC Davis Experts Help Farmers, Ranchers Profit  in Growing Trend

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Agritourism is growing in California, along with sales and production of much of the world’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts. More and more people are paying to enjoy the bounty and beauty of California’s farms and ranches by touring peach and cherry farms near Fresno, taking classes in beekeeping, attending festivals devoted to strawberries or attending a host of other activities offered by farmers and ranchers throughout the state.

Many farmers could benefit from agritourism and the added value it brings, but developing successful agritourism operations can be tricky. Experts at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis are helping farmers and others in the agricultural community understand the regulations, permits, insurance, marketing and other considerations needed to succeed.agritourism

“Agritourism operations are more successful when they’re part of a supportive community of tourism professionals, county regulators, agriculture regulations and others,” says Gail Feenstra, ASI’s food, and society coordinator.

Feenstra and her team recently received a $73,000 grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, to develop training, resources and peer support for farmers and ranchers considering agritourism. Feenstra is working with Penny Leff, ASI’s statewide agritourism coordinator and team project manager.

Leff led previous projects that offered agritourism education to groups of farmers, ranchers, and others involved in California agritourism. In this new project, Leff is providing comprehensive training to smaller, more targeted groups that will then offer training to others in their community.

“We’re helping farmers and ranchers assess their agritourism potential, whether it be U-pick farming, dinners on the farm, classes or even overnight lodging,” Leff says. “We help navigate everything from zoning ordinances to marketing plans.”

The project’s ultimate goal is to develop at least 24 clusters of vibrant agritourism operations in California that sustain producers, educate visitors and support the economic health of the entire community.

As Leff explained, “Agritourism is an exciting opportunity for farmers, and also for visitors who can learn about and enjoy what farm living has to offer.”

You can learn more about agritourism opportunities at the ASI agritourism website. For more information on upcoming workshops, contact Penny Leff at paleff@ucdavis.edu or call 530-752-5208.

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American Pistachio Growers Celebrate World Pistachio Day with Good News

Just a week after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), American Pistachio Growers, the trade association representing more than 625 pistachio grower members in California, Arizona and New Mexico is celebrating the good news today – on World Pistachio Day.

People who eat tree nuts on a daily basis, including pistachios, are making healthy choices, according to the report. The recommended guidelines emphasize a diet higher in plant-based foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seafood to lower the risk of chronic diseases, particularly those associated with obesity. These recommendations are consistent with the findings of numerous science-based studies on the role of tree nuts, including pistachios, in preventing obesity and providing other health benefits. The report provides the scientific evidence for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are expected to be published by the end of 2015.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese and about half of adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases. Poor dietary and physical activity patterns are associated with these conditions. Pistachios have been shown to play a positive role in weight management, blood sugar management, heart health and as a post exercise snack.

“It’s no wonder that more than 1/3 of Americans are obese. We’re eating too much salt, saturated fat, refined grains and added sugar resulting in excess weight, unhealthy blood sugar levels and deficiencies in calcium, fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, D, E, and C,” says Cheryl Forberg, Nutrition Ambassador to American Pistachio Growers.

Forberg continues, “Thankfully, the new guidelines suggest more whole foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, nuts, such as pistachios, and seeds to offset our nutrient needs and promote healthier weights and blood sugar levels.” One of the nation’s leading advisors on health and nutrition, Cheryl is a New York Times bestselling author, James Beard award-winning chef and the nutritionist for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

Pistachios a Source of Important Shortfall Nutrients

Pistachios can help consumers meet a minimum of shortfall nutrients identified by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee while limiting overconsumption of sodium and saturated fatty acids. These nutrients include vitamins A, D & C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber, potassium, and iron for adolescent and premenopausal women. Of these, calcium, vitamin D, fiber, potassium and iron are considered of public health concern.

A 1-ounce 160 calorie serving of pistachios provides:

  • 290 mg potassium (8% Daily Value)
  • 3 g total fiber (12 % Daily Value) making pistachios a “good” source of fiber
  • 6% Daily Value of iron
  • 8% Daily Value for magnesium

In addition, unsalted pistachios are a sodium-free food. Pistachios provide 13 g of total fat primarily monounsaturated fatty acids (7 g) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (4 g) with about 1.5 g saturated fatty acids.

Three USDA-Recognized Healthy Diet Patterns Include Nuts

The Committee encouraged consumers to adopt dietary patterns low in saturated fat, added sugars and sodium. These include Healthy U.S.-Style, Healthy Vegetarian and Healthy Mediterranean diets. Such patterns are:

  • Rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts such as pistachios
  • Moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products
  • Lower in red and processed meat
  • Low in sugar sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains

 

About American Pistachio Growers

            American Pistachio Growers (APG) is a non-profit voluntary agricultural trade association representing more than 625 grower members in California, Arizona and New Mexico. APG is governed by a democratically-elected board of directors and is funded by growers and independent processors with the shared goal of increasing global awareness of nutritious American-grown pistachios. For more information, visit AmericanPistachios.org.

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USDA announces $9 million to support Community Food Projects program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of $9 million in funding to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and independent food systems. NIFA is funding the grants through the Community Food Projects program (CFP), authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).

“Community Foods Projects provide the opportunity for low-income communities to become more self-reliant and take control of their own food systems,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These projects create food systems that are economically equitable and socially and environmentally sustainable, providing real solutions for communities most in need.”

Community Food Projects involve the entire food system. Projects assess strengths and establish connections among existing food systems, resulting in improved food systems that support self-reliance.

Grants are intended to help eligible, private, nonprofit entities in need of a one-time installment of federal assistance to establish and carry out multipurpose community food projects. Projects are funded from $10,000 to $300,000 and up to 36 months. All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in resources.

Applications are due March 17, 2015. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.

CFP is an important part of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which works to strengthen and support local and regional food systems. More information on the initiative, including an interactive map of CFP and other federally-supported local food projects, can be found at: www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer.

The primary goals of the Community Food Projects program are to (1) meet the food needs of low-income individuals; (2) increase the food self-reliance of low-income communities; (3) promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm and nutrition issues; and (4) meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs, including needs relating to infrastructure improvement and development, planning for long-term solutions and the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Since 2009, NIFA has provided more than $28 million to 154 Community Food Project awards in 48 states to help communities improve access to healthy, local food. Past projects include Philadelphia Green, which supports small-scale growers in their efforts to bring fresh, locally grown produce to the Philadelphia metro area, and RootDown LA, which is engaging Los Angeles-area youth in community gardens.

Funding for the CFP program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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USDA Announces New Support to Help Schools Purchase More Food from Local Farmers

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that more than $5 million in grants will be given to 82 projects that support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program. The program helps schools purchase more food from local farmers and ranchers in their communities, expanding access to healthy local food for school children and supporting local economies.

According to USDA’s first-ever  Farm to School Census released earlier this year, school districts participating in farm to school programs purchased and served over $385 million in local food in school year 2011-2012, with more than half of participating schools planning to increase their purchases of local food in the future.

“USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects,” said Vilsack. “These inspiring collaborations provide students with healthy, fresh food, while supporting healthy local economies. Through farm to school projects, community partners are coming together to ensure a bright future for students, and for local farmers and ranchers.”

Secretary Vilsack made this announcement at Common Market, a pioneering food hub in Philadelphia that connects wholesale customers to farmers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Common Market is receiving a grant to support their “An Apple a Day” Program. The facility will act as a bridge between Pennsylvania Family Farms, a small Pennsylvania value-added processor, and public charter schools to provide food safety, product development, packaging, educational, marketing, planning, ordering and delivery support to farm and school food service partners.

Together, Common Market and the other selected projects will serve more than 4,800 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 51 percent of whom live in rural communities.

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USDA report outlines opportunities in the emerging bioeconomy

Source: Monique Bienvenue – Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a comprehensive report synthesizing current literature that explores opportunities in the emerging bioeconomy. The report, entitled Why Biobased?, was created as a precursor for a more comprehensive economic study to be released in the coming months by the USDA BioPreferred program on the economic impacts of the biobased products industry.

“This new report presents the opportunities U.S. agriculture and forests have in the emerging bioeconomy,” said Vilsack. “The recent inclusion of mature market products into the BioPreferred program strengthens our commitment to the U.S. biobased economy and brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing.”

Synthesizing findings from existing government, academia, and non-governmental organizations, the new report explores how government policies and industry business-to-business sustainability programs are driving the biobased economy. The report further demonstrates that the biobased economy is, in fact, growing and it offers great potential for increased job creation in numerous sectors across the U.S.

For instance, one report cited concludes that biobased chemicals are expected to constitute over 10 percent of the chemical market by 2015. Another report in the study concludes that there is a potential to produce two-thirds of the total volume of chemicals from biobased materials, representing over 50,000 products, a $1 trillion annual global market.

On the heels of this completed study, the USDA BioPreferred program has awarded a contract for a more in-depth economic study of biobased products and economic impacts, including research on job creation and economic value. It will be the first federally-sponsored economic report of its kind targeting the biobased products industry in the U.S. Congress mandated the upcoming study in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The USDA BioPreferred program works to increase the purchase and use of designated biobased products through a preferred procurement initiative for federal agencies. Designated products may also carry the voluntary consumer label.

The voluntary “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label is designed to promote the broad-scale marketing of biobased products to consumers. As of September 2014, USDA has certified over 1,940 biobased products in more than 187 product categories for the label. Certified and designated products include construction, janitorial, and grounds keeping products purchased by Federal agencies, to personal care and packaging products used by consumers every day.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has estimated that U.S.-based jobs for the renewable chemicals sector will rise from approximately 40,000 jobs in 2011, which represents 3%-4% of all chemical sales, to over 237,000 jobs by 2025. This employment level would represent approximately 20% of total chemical sales.

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USDA Expands Access to Credit to Help More Beginning and Family Farmers

Source: Monique Bienvenue – Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will improve farm loans by expanding eligibility and increasing lending limits to help more beginning and family farmers.

As part of this effort, USDA is raising the borrowing limit for the microloan program from $35,000 to $50,000; simplify the lending processes; updating required “farming experience” to include other valuable experiences; and expanding eligible business entities to reflect changes in the way family farms are owned and operated. The changes become effective Nov. 7.

“USDA is continuing its commitment to new and existing family farmers and ranchers by expanding access to credit,” said Harden. “These new flexibilities, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, will help more people who are considering farming and ranching, or who want to strengthen their existing family operation.”

The microloan changes announced today will allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access an additional $15,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay. These efforts are part of USDA’s continued commitment to small and midsized farming operations, and new and beginning farmers.

In addition to farm related experience, other types of skills may be considered to meet the direct farming experience required for farm loan eligibility such as operation or management of a non-farm business, leadership positions while serving in the military, or advanced education in an agricultural field. Also, individuals who own farmland under a different legal entity operating the farm now may be eligible for loans administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Producers will have an opportunity to share suggestions on the microloan process, and the definitions of farming experience and business structures through Dec. 8, 2014, the public open comment period.

FSA is also publishing a Federal Register notice to solicit ideas from the public for pilot projects to help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of farm loan programs. Comments and ideas regarding potential pilot projects will be accepted through Nov. 7, 2014.

Since 2010, USDA has made a record amount of farm loans through FSA — more than 165,000 loans totaling nearly $23 billion. More than 50 percent of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers. In addition, USDA has increased its lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2010.

These programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.

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Water Crisis Reducing Valley Fruit Production

The impact of the worsening drought can be seen in the expected drop in crop production.

Valley fruit production is down on many farms, but the lack of water isn’t the only factor causing the lower expectations.

The grape crop is ready for harvest in many Valley vineyards but there’s not nearly as much of the sweet fruit this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects grape production in California to dip 9 percent.

“We came off two big years in both wine grapes and Thompson seedless, so those vines are taking a little bit of a rest,” said Nat Dibuduo with Allied Grape Growers. “The other factor is obviously the drought. We’ve got growers that lost wells or they’re minimizing their irrigations to stretch out the water they do have.”

Table olives fared even worse with the dry conditions. Production is expected to dip 45 percent statewide but as much as 60 percent in Tulare County. 

“When olive trees go into dormancy they need some good deep soil moisture and they didn’t get it,” said Adin Hester with the Olive Growers Council. “The lack of moisture is something that certainly exacerbated, number one. Number two, we’ve got growers that are just flat out of water.”

Peach production is down 4 percent. We’re seeing peach, olive and grape growers rip out orchards and vineyards to put in more profitable crops like almonds and pistachios.

“I think there’s going to be not only Thompson seedless grapes pulled out after this harvest but also wine grapes throughout the San Joaquin Valley because they’re not making money, and they see their neighbors are making money with any of the various nut crops,” said Dibuduo.

Dibuduo is worried about this year’s outlook. He says winery demand for Valley grapes has taken a big hit because of international competition. Some grapes, he says, might not get sold.

Other crops like pears, apples and rice are also down from a year ago.

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USDA study places cost of raising a child at nearly $250,000

Source: CDFA Planting Seeds Blog

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report, Expenditures on Children and Families, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child. The report shows that a middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend about $245,340 ($304,480 adjusted for projected inflation*) for food, housing, childcare and education, and other child-rearing expenses up to age 18. Costs associated with pregnancy or expenses occurred after age 18, such as higher education, are not included.

While this represents an overall 1.8 percent increase from 2012, the percentages spent on each expenditure category remain the same. As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and rural ($193,590) regions of the country. Families in the urban Northeast incurred the highest costs to raise a child ($282,480).

“In today’s economy, it’s important to be prepared with as much information as possible when planning for the future,” said USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “In addition to giving families with children an indication of expenses they might want to be prepared for, the report is a critical resource for state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments.”

The report, issued annually, is based on data from the federal government’s Consumer Expenditure Survey, the most comprehensive source of information available on household expenditures. For the year 2013, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,800 to $14,970, depending on the age of the child.

The report, developed by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), notes that family income affects child-rearing costs. A family earning less than $61,530 per year can expect to spend a total of $176,550 (in 2013 dollars) on a child from birth up to age 18. Middle-income** parents with an income between $61,530 and $106,540 can expect to spend $245,340; and a family earning more than $106,540 can expect to spend $407,820.

“Food is among the top three expenses in raising children,” said CNPP Executive Director Angela Tagtow. “Parents have the challenge of providing food that is not only healthful and delicious, but also affordable. We have great resources such as ChooseMyPlate.gov that features tips to help families serve nutritious and affordable meals. I encourage parents to check out our Healthy Eating On a Budget resources, 10-Tips Nutrition Seriesrecipes, and MyPlate Kids’ Place, which features digital games for kids to get engaged themselves in healthy eating.”

For middle-income families, housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging 30 percent of the total cost. Child care and education was the second largest expense at 18 percent, followed by food, which accounted for 16 percent of the total cost.

“Variations by geographic region are marked when we look at housing, for example,” said study author and CNPP economist Mark Lino, Ph.D. “The average cost of housing for a child up to age 18 is $87,840 for a middle-income family in the urban West, compared to $66,240 in the urban South, and $70,200 in the urban Midwest. It’s interesting to note that other studies are showing that families are increasingly moving to these areas of the country with lower housing cost.”

In 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($198,560 in 2013 dollars) to raise a child until the age of 18. Housing was the largest child-rearing expense both then and now. Health care expenses for a child have doubled as a percentage of total child-rearing costs during that time. In addition, some common current-day costs, such as child care, were negligible in 1960.

Expenses per child decrease as a family has more children. Families with three or more children spend 22 percent less per child than families with two children. As families have more children, the children can share bedrooms, clothing and toys can be handed down to younger children, food can be purchased in larger and more economical quantities, and private schools or child care centers may offer sibling discounts.

The full report, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2013, is available on the web at www.cnpp.usda.gov. In addition, families can enter the number and ages of their children to obtain an estimate of costs with a calculator via the interactive web version of the report.

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USDA Launches New Website for New Farmers and Ranchers

Source: Logan Britton, 2014 National FFA Organization Communications Intern

Farmers work hard. They work to produce food that will eventually be on our dinner plate, while dealing with unpredictable weather, long hours and countless risks. New farmers face more obstacles with starting their operations with acquiring land, equipment and capital as well as learning about regulations and insurance policies.

With these new challenges, the U.S. Department of Agriculture hopes to guide the next generation of farmers for their future careers. As FFA members are also preparing to be future leaders in the industry, USDA’s New Farmers website could be used as a valuable resource.

The website takes users through a step-by-step process in creating an operation. These steps include education and technical assistance, acquiring land and capital, managing risk and financial management.

FFA members trying to start their supervised agriculture experience programs can find youth loans useful. The Farm Service Agency provides up to $5,000 to be used to buy livestock, seed, equipment and other operational items. If an FFA member wanted to expand their SAE, they could check out value-added producer grants and the USDA National Farmers Market Directory. These resources could help a member find different ways to sell their products in new markets.

Krysta Harden, agriculture deputy secretary, said the age of farmers is increasing, with the average age currently standing at 58 years old.

“New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture,” Harden said. “For agriculture to continue prospering in this country, we need to offer products and policies that address the unique challenges and issues facing new and beginning farmers. This website aims to address some of those challenges and make getting started just a little bit easier for the next generation.”

The website also provides information for creating a business plan as well as blogs and videos of topics that pertain to new farmers and ranchers.

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