Posts tagged with "USDA"

America will run out of avocados in three weeks if Trump shuts southern border

April 3, 2019

President Donald Trump’s has threatened again this week to close the U.S.-Mexico border, continuing his all-out effort to coerce the political leaders of both nations to block South American immigrants from coming across.

However, even a brief shutdown at America’s southern border would strain the economies of both nations by disrupting billions of dollars in trade, about $137 billion of which is in food imports.

Nearly 50% of all imported U.S. vegetables and 40% of imported fruit are grown in Mexico, according to the latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture.

From avocado toast to margaritas, American shoppers—who are heavily reliant on Mexican imports of fruit, vegetables, and alcohol—quickly would become bereft.

Indeed, the stoppage quickly would become “hard to swallow” for U.S. residents—especially those who love avocados, according to a report by Reuters. Those of us north of the border would run out of avocados in three weeks, if imports from Mexico were cut off, according to  Steve Barnard, CEO of Mission Produce, the largest distributor and grower of avocados in the world.

“You couldn’t pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100% of the avocados in the United Stated right now. California is just starting and they have a very small crop, but they’re not relevant right now and won’t be for another month or so,” Barnard said in an interview with Reuters.

In addition to avocados, the majority of imported tomatoes, cucumbers, blackberries, and raspberries come from Mexico. While there are other sources of produce globally, opening those trade channels would take time.

And shortages of fruit and vegetables will rack up the already-soaring prices at the cash register.

On the other side of the border, Mexico is the largest importer of U.S. exports of refined fuels like diesel and gasoline, some of which moves by rail. It is unclear if rail terminals would be affected by closures.

Research contact: @Reuters

Missouri becomes first state to regulate use of the word ‘meat’

August 29, 2018

The last time most of us had “mystery meat” was either in school or in the military. On June 1, Missouri—the “Show-Me State”—made sure that its residents would never have to see mystery meat or eat it again when it became the first state in the nation to pass a law that prohibits food providers from using the word “meat” to refer to anything other than animal flesh.

This  new legislation takes direct aim at manufacturers of what has been dubbed “clean,” or “plant-based, or “nontraditional”meat, according to a report by USA Today. Clean meat—also known as lab-grown meat—comprises cultured animal tissue cells, while plant-based meat is generally made from ingredients such as soy, tempeh and seitan.

The state law forbids “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” Violators may be fined $1,000 and imprisoned for a year.

What’s more, a similar argument is unfolding on the federal level.

The meat-substitute market is expected to reach $7.5 billion-plus globally by 2025, up from close to $4.2 billion last year, based on findings by Allied Market Research.

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, which worked to get the law passed, has cited shopper confusion and protection of local ranchers as reasons for the legislation.

“The big issue was marketing with integrity and … consumers knowing what they’re getting,” Missouri Cattlemen’s Association spokesperson Mike Deering told USA Today. “There’s so much unknown about this.”

On Agusut 27, the company that makes Tofurky filed an injunction in a Missouri federal court to prevent enforcement of the statute, alleging the state has received no complaints about consumers befuddled by the term “plant-based meats” and that preventing manufacturers from using the word is a violation of their First Amendment rights. In addition, the company pointed out, “meat” also refers to the edible part of nuts and fruit.

The statute “prevents the sharing of truthful information and impedes competition,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. “The marketing and packaging of plant-based products reveals that plant-based food producers do not mislead consumers but instead distinguish their products from conventional meat products.”

The co-plaintiff is the Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

MCA spokesperson Deering said he was surprised by the suit because the primary target of the law was lab-grown meat.

Tofurky’s main ingredient is the first two syllables of its name-—tofu.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would regulate lab-grown meat. Traditional animal proteins are the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ernest Baskin, an assistant professor of Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia told USA Today that consumers use the word “meat,” when applied to nonanimal protein as a “shortcut” to understand how they eat the food they see on supermarket shelves.

“There’s a segment of consumers that doesn’t have to eat alternative products but wants to,” he said. “In those cases, putting those options together in front of consumers gives them the thought that ‘Hey, maybe these two are similar. Maybe I can substitute.’ ”

Research contact:@ZlatiMeyer

White House unveils $12 billion aid plan for farmers impacted by trade war

July 26, 2018

On July 24, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue revealed details of an emergency plan that would extend $12 billion in aid to farmers in ten states hit by retaliatory tariffs caused by the Trump administration’s escalating trade war with China, Axios reported.

However, word has come back from the sector that the farmers “want trade, not aid,” according to a report by Newser.

The funding for the expensive program would come partially from a USDA branch called the Commodity Credit Corporation, which was founded during the Depression to help farmers, according to a July 25 story by The Washington Post. Because this is an existing program, approval by Congress would not be necessary.

Farm groups–including producers of soybeans, corn, and hogs—would begin seeing payments by September. Perdue said the “one-time” program, which would be “short-term,” would help farmers dealing with “illegal retaliation” to U.S. tariffs, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Ag Secretary said that the program would give the administration time to work on a longer-term trade solution.

According to Axios, China recently retaliated against Trump’s tariffs with duties on soybeans and pork—affecting 10 farming states, nine of which voted for Trump in 2016.

According to a poll conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal—and posted by  CNBC on July 22—voters do not approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of foreign trade policy. Roughly half say Trump’s tariffs will raise consumer prices and hurt the average American, while only one-quarter say they will protect jobs and help the average person.

Research contact: @mmurraypolitics

Trump nominates pesticide pro to be USDA’s chief scientist

July 19, 2018

On July 16, President Donald Trump nominated a former Dow Chemical executive who had worked in the company’s pesticide division to be the next chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This would represent the POTUS’s third major hire of a Dow alumnus for his administration.

In recent history, Dow has been at odds with environmentalists and the USDA, not only over its pesticides, but over its genetically modified seeds.

Trump drafted Scott Hutchins for a position that has remained open since Sam Clovis’s’ nomination failed to clear the Senate, largely due to his lack of scientific background, Mother Jones reported this week.

Hutchins earned a doctoral degree in entomology—the study of insects and their relationship to humans, the environment and other organisms—from Iowa State University in 1987; so he has some knowledge of science. Since then, in addition to working in Dow’s pesticide division, Hutchins has served as global director for the company’s entire “crop protection” services division—which manufactures and markets pesticides, herbicides, and fungus killers.

In his role as chief scientist—formally known as undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics—Hutchins would set the agenda for the USDA’s $2.9 billion research budget.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded Trump’s selection of Hutchins this week, saying, “I am very excited …. [Dr. Hutchins’] extensive background in research and commitment to sound science and data make him exceptionally qualified for this post, and I am eager to have Dr. Hutchins join the team.”

The nomination still must be confirmed by the Senate.

Research contact: press@oc.usda.gov