Archive For The “News” Category

Construction Underway for Huge New York Greenhouse by Mastrondardi Produce

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Mastronardi Produce Ltd., of Kingsville, Ontario, Canada is building a 71.6-acre glass greenhouse for growing Backyard Farms brand tomatoes in Oneida, NY.

“This expansion allows us to meet the incredible loyal consumer and retailer demand for this brand,” Paul Mastronardi, president, CEO of Mastronardi Produce, said in a news release.  “It also ensures that all Northeasterners can enjoy what New Englanders have come to expect—fresh-from-the-vine Backyard Farms tomatoes delivered within hours.”


Founded in the 1940s, Mastronardi Produce is a large vertically integrated producer and distributor of greenhouse-grown produce, marketed under the Sunset and Backyard Farms brands.

The greenhouse will provide Northeasterners with better access to fresh-from-the-vine Backyard Farms tomatoes delivered within hours, Mastronardi said in the release.

The expansion is the first phase of the company’s ambitions for its locally grown Backyard Farms label, according to the company.

The greenhouse more than doubles Backyard Farms’ greenhouse growing acreage and increases Mastronardi Produce’s internal greenhouse network to seven locations nationwide, providing more than 4,000 acres of growing capacity.

New-York-grown Backyard Farms brand tomatoes are expected to be shipped by the fall of 2019, according to the release.

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Import Update: Fewer Bananas are Imported, While Tomatoes Increase

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A moderate decline in volume has been reported for U.S. banana imports in 2018, while tomato imports are increasing, according the USDA.

U.S. imports of bananas totaled 4.2 million metric tons in 2018, off 4 percent from 2017. By value, imports of bananas totaled $1.91 billion in 2018, up 2 percent from 2017.

Guatemala was the leading supplier of bananas to the U.S. in 2018, accounting for 1.88 billion metric tons, down 5 percent from 2017. By value, imports of Guatemala bananas totaled $851.4 million, up 2 percent from 2017. Guatemala accounted for 45 percent of volume and value of total banana imports.

Other leading suppliers of bananas in 2018 to the U.S., by value and compared with last year, are:

  • Costa Rica: $399.9 million, down 10 percent;
  • Honduras: $218.5 million, down 1 percent;
  • Ecuador: $189.2 million, up 16 percent;
  • Mexico: $136.2 million, up 19 percent; and
  • Colombia: $104.8 million, up 15 percent.

Tomato Imports

In 2018 total U.S. tomato imports increased 9 percent in value and 4 percent in volume.

USDA trade statistics show that total U.S. tomato imports were $2.38 billion in 2018, up 9 percent from $2.17 billion in 2017.

Volume of tomato imports rose 4 percent in 2018, climbing from 1.79 million metric tons in 2017 to 1.86 million metric tons in 2018.

Mexico is the top supplier of imported tomatoes, accounting for 87 percent of the value of total U.S. tomato imports and 91 percent of imported tomato volume. By value, U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes, at $2.06 billion, were up 12 percent from 2017.

The volume of U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes totaled 1.69 million metric tons in 2018, up 5 percent from 1.61 million metric tons in 2017.

By comparison, U.S. imports of Canadian tomatoes declined 7 percent in value and 9 percent in volume in 2018. Canada is the number two supplier of imported tomatoes, accounting for 9 percent of imported tomato value and 8 percent of tomato volume.

The Dominican Republic and Guatemala are number three and four ranked tomato suppliers, but both represent less than 1 percent of value.

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Ready-to-Eat Food Purchase are Increasing, Study Shows

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Ready-to-eat convenience food sales over the last decade have increased, according to a new survey.

The USDA’s Flexible Consumer behavior Survey reports consumers in 2015-16 reported purchases of 2.4 ready-to-eat foods in the past 30 days, up more than 25 percent from 2007-08, when consumers reported consuming 1.9 ready-to-eat foods in the same period.

Eating out

The USDA survey found for 2015-16, about 89 percent of adults bought food from a fast-food restaurant and 90 percent of adults ate at a sit-down restaurant in the past 12 months.

The 2015-16 survey related consumers reported eating 3.6 food away from home meals in the last week, down slightly from 4 food-away-from-home meals reported in the same period in 2007-08.

For both 2007-08 and 2015-16, less than half of food-away-from-home meals were from a fast-food restaurant.

The percentage of adults who saw nutrition information on a fast-food restaurant menu increased from 20 percent in 2007-08 to 42 percent in 2015-16. The percentage of adults who saw nutrition information on a sit-down restaurant menu increased from 16 to 27 percent.

However, the percentage of adults who used nutrition information on a fast-food restaurant menu was 41 percent in 2015-16, up only 1 percent from 2007-08. The number of adults who used nutrition information on a sit-down restaurant menu actually declined, from 53 percent in 2007-08 to 43 percent in 2015-16.


The survey found that the MyPlate guide to support healthy eating is not widely known by consumers.

The survey found 24 percent of adults reported that they had heard of MyPlate in 2015-16, up from 20 percent in 2013-14. Among those who heard of MyPlate, the survey found the percentage of adults who had tried to follow the recommendations in the MyPlate plan remained stable at 35 percent over these two time periods.

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Women are Safer Truck Drivers Than Men, Study Reports

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Research shows women truck drivers are safer truck drivers than men, at least according the conclusion of the American Transportation Research Institute’s Crash Predictor Model. The model statistically estimates the likelihood of future crash involvement based on specific truck driving behaviors, according to a news release.

Published in 2018, the 62-page report, draws data from over 435,000 U.S. truck drivers over a 2-year time period to reveal nearly a dozen behaviors that raise a driver’s risk of being involved in a future truck crash by more than 50 pecent.
Female truck drivers were safer than male counterparts in every statistically significant safety behavior and men were 20 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than women, the study reports.

“ATRI’s Crash Predictor Model is a key input to our driver hiring and training practices,” John Prewitt, president of Tideport Distributing Inc., said in the release. 

“Safety is our first concern and by understanding how driver histories relate to future crash probability, we can develop targeted solutions for minimizing safety risks.”

Other key findings from the report, according to the release, are:

  • The top 2 behaviors for predicting future crash involvement, each with more than 100 percent increased likelihood of a future crash, are a reckless driving violation and a failure to yield right of way violation;
  • Prior crash involvement continues to have a statistically significant relationship to future crash involvement with a 74 percent increase of the likelihood of being in a future crash; and
  • Other statistically significant predictors of future crash involvement including convictions for improper lane/location, reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving, and improper or erratic lane change.

The report also provides a list of states that have proven track records of maximizing their enforcement resources while minimizing their share of the nation’s truck crashes.  

Indiana tops that list, followed by New Mexico, Washington, California and Maryland, according to the release.

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Philadelphia Port Adds 2 Super Cranes to Accommodate Growth

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The Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in Philadelphia welcomed two super Post-Panamax container cranes from China that arrived recently.

The arrival marks another important milestone in the comprehensive modernization project underway at Packer Avenue, according to a news release. 

The arrival highlights a key competitive advantage for shippers looking to improve time to market on the East Coast of the U.S.

PhilaPort has seen a 166 percent container growth in the past decade, and in 2018 handled a record 600,000 20-foot-equivalent units.

“Our terminal is currently under capacity, meaning we could handle rerouted surplus bound for nearby congested terminals immediately without blinking an eye,” David Whene, president of Greenwich Terminals, operator of the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, said in the release. 

“With ship productivity as high as 140 gross moves per hour, turn-times of under 40 minutes, and an abundance of available chassis, Packer Avenue offers carriers unparalleled efficiency in reaching the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.”

With a $300 million public-private investment in the terminal, the release said Packer Avenue is a model of 21st century port operations. 

According to the release, the upcoming completion of the Delaware River Deepening Project will provide a full 45-foot shipping channel through Philadelphia, allowing vessels as large as 14,500 TEUs to traverse into the port. 

That deepening project is timed perfectly with the arrival of the new super Post-Panamax cranes, bringing the total operational cranes on the terminal to six (a seventh will arrive in August).

The gain in capacity will lead to improvements on the 40-minute turn times for containers coming in and out, according to the release.

“We have always known that PhilaPort’s market potential was significantly greater than reflected in past volumes,” PhilaPort CEO Jeff Theobald said. 

“Now with our capital improvements nearing their completion, shippers should know that we have excess capacity and that we are open for new business.”

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Georgia Peach Shipper is Doubling Capacity of Packinghouse

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Lane Southern Orchards, a major peach grower and shipper based in Fort Valley, GA, is doubling the capacity of its packinghouse in a $4 million project to be completed before the 2019 season.

By the early summer peach harvest, the renovated and expanded facility will allow the company to pack 23,000 25-pounds boxes a day, putting Lane’s seasonal capacity at 3 million boxes.

Technology upgrades to grading and sorting processes is also included, along with improved cold storage and shipping and receiving facilities, according to a news release.

A Durand-Wayland robotic bin handling system, designed to be gentle on the peaches, will streamline efficiencies in the packinghouse.

International Farming Corp. purchased Lane Southern Orchards in 2015, and the peach company’s CEO, Mark Sanchez, said it has been a “great partner.”

“They understand the culture of farming and have given us the opportunity for tremendous growth,” Sanchez said in the release. “The ability to enhance our facilities to create best-in-class efficiencies and quality control is the latest example of that growth.”

In 2018, Lane Southern Orchards and Taylor Orchards of Reynolds, GA merged, combining peach/pecan acreage, facilities and innovation. A surge in plantings in 2018 and this year brings the total acreage of peaches and nuts to more than 10,000.

“The complete renovation of the original Lane facility with new technology allows us to easily handle the additional supply of peaches and be a better supplier to our existing customers while we expand our customer base,” Duke Lane III, director of sales for Lane Southern Orchards, said in the release.

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Walmart is Hiring More Drivers Again in 2019

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Walmart will be adding hundreds of more truck drivers this year after adding 1400 drivers in 2018.

The company reports assessments, mentorship and a faster hiring process are all a part of new onboarding events that are filling critical new jobs created by Walmart’s business growth during an industry-wide driver shortage.

“These hiring events are both improving the skill level of our candidates and enriching their onboarding experience,” Lori Furnell, Walmart’s director of driver talent acquisition, said in a press release. 

“We’re leaning heavily on the expertise of our Walmart road team and our certified driver trainers to grow our skilled fleet of professional drivers,” she said.

Walmart is raising driver wages, accounting for a one-cent-per-mile increase and additional pay for every arrival. 

Walmart drivers will now earn on average $87,500 a year and with an all-in rate close to 89 cents per mile, according to the release.

Furnell said Walmart is transforming its hiring process to give applicants the opportunity to learn the “Walmart way.”

The release said two centralized locations — Casa Grande, AZ., and Lauren, S.C. — serve as week-long onboarding facilities for new hires to observe veteran drivers and then practice those skills “the Walmart way.”

Targeted one-on-one mentoring from veteran drivers has been introduced in the new way that Walmart hires, according to the company.

The revamped orientation initiatives have already cut in half the time between a candidate’s initial interview and a mandatory driving assessment, according to the release. 

To be hired by Walmart, drivers must meet Walmart’s high minimum standards for its private fleet drivers, which includes 30 months of experience in the past three years and a clean safety record, according to the release. 

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Henry Avocado Moves to New Headquarters in Escondido

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Henry Avocado Corp. of Escondido, CA., has moved about 7 miles across town to a spacious west side location after being on the east side of town for 94 years.

The two-story, 50,000-square-foot headquarters facility includes a packinghouse and distribution center. It is located in an industrial center and is close to two major thoroughfares — the Interstate 15 Freeway, which runs north and south, and State Route 78, which runs east and west.


The new building is 20 percent larger than the previous facility and has the latest processing, refrigeration and forced-air ripening elements in the industry.

The move allows the consolidation the administrative and processing machinery and personnel, all of which were in several buildings at the old location.

It includes 6,000 square feet of office space, 20 forced-air ripening rooms and 5 loading docks.

The facility also has a modern cold storage facility and a large yard for tractor trailers.

The move started in late summer and was just completed.

The company continues to operate a second 29,000-square-foot cold storage facility in Escondido. 

Henry Avocado can ship 2 million cartons of avocados from the 2 facilities annually.

The original Escondido facility will be demolished to make room for a housing development, but the firm will continue to farm in the upper elevations.


The company, a year-round avocado grower-shipper, operates seven Primus Labs-certified distribution centers throughout the U.S. with a total of 100 ripening rooms. 

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Village Farms Planning to Grow, Ship Hemp, CBD in the U.S.

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Vegetable grower Village Farms International recently completed conversion of 1.1 million square feet of greenhouse area in a partnership with cannabis company Pure Sunfarms in Canada. It is now ready pursue hemp and Cannabidiol (CBD) oil production at its U.S. facilities.

The company has filed documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to list common shares on the NASDAQ Capital Market under “VFF,” according to a news release.

“As a company with substantive U.S. assets and operations and, with our recently announced intention to aggressively pursue potential opportunities in the now federally legal U.S. 
hemp and CBD industry, the listing of our common shares on NASDAQ is intended to provide broader exposure to, and greater liquidity for, U.S. investors,” CEO Michael DeGiglio said in the release. “A NASDAQ listing will provide Village Farms with access to the largest equity market in the world to support our intended hemp and CBD growth strategy should U.S. state laws follow the U.S. federal decision to legalize hemp, as well as, potentially, for cannabis, in the event that it is federally legalized in the U.S.”

In anticipation of the recent passage of the farm bill, which includes the Hemp Farming Act, the company has undertaken “broad and extensive foundational work to ensure Village Farms can move quickly, aggressively and profoundly,” DeGiglio said in another news release. The Hemp Farming Act federally legalizes hemp and hemp products in the U.S., including extracts, derivatives and cannabinoids.

Pure Sunfarms is waiting for Health Canada to approve 344,000 square feet for cultivation of cannabis, bringing the total to just over 1 million square feet at its Delta, B.C. facility. 

The company’s January 2019 Investor Presentation almost focuses solely on cannabis/hemp/CBD opportunities.

According to the presentation, Pure Sunfarms has options on Village Farms’ Delta, British Columbia vegetable greenhouses, which total 3.7 million square feet. The Texas vegetable greenhouses (four facilities totaling 5.7 million square feet/130 acres) can be rapidly converted to hemp or cannabis (upon federal legalization), according to the presentation. 
Village Farms is the sole owner of the Texas facilities, but would benefit from experience gained in the 50-50 venture with Pure Sunfarms in Canada, according to the presentation.

The company also has vegetable-growing partnerships in Mexico, and in Ontario and British Columbia.

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Hours of Service, ELD Modifications Petitioned by Agricultural Groups

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A broad coalition of fruit and vegetable and other agricultural industry groups have petitionedd the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to modify the Hours of Service and Electronic Logging Device rules for perishable fruit and vegetable commodities.

The requested modifications to the hours of service and electronic logging device regulations will give increased flexibility to truck drivers for the delivery of perishable commodities, according to a news release.


A total two dozen groups asked for the following changes to the hours of service rules:

  • Add an allowance for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting this rest time against their HOS allotments;
  • Exclude loading and unloading times from the 14-hour on-duty HOS calculations; and
  • Allow drivers to complete their trip, regardless of HOS requirements, if they come within 150 air miles of their delivery point.

The petition takes into consideration the safety of both the driver and consumer to deliver produce while following U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements. 

The groups said current hours of service and ELD regulations contribute to higher volumes of food waste resulting from delays in shipping and delivery.

“Modifying the HOS and ELD regulations for perishable commodities will better align FMCSA with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule, which spells out food safety requirements,” the news release said.

Hours of service rules do not allow a driver to turn off the ELD when stopping to rest along a route. The petition, according to the release, asks for driver ability to pause the ELD during rest periods and loading times. 

The petition asks the FMCSA to consider excluding loading and unloading times from the 14-hour on-duty HOS calculations. To help address this, the petition asks for adding flexibility to the Split Sleeper Berth Provision that allows for splitting sleeper berth time, adding up to a 10-hour rest period, and allowing for more flexibility to take shorter breaks when drivers need them, according to the release.

“These modifications are necessary for the movement of perishable commodities and will give drivers the flexibility needed to complete deliveries of fresh fruit and vegetables that meet USDA regulations and enhance driver and public safety measures,” the groups said in the release.

If the recommended changes aren’t made, the groups asked the FMCSA to delay enforcement of current HOS and ELD rules for trucks hauling perishable fruits and vegetables for two to four years to allow for improvement in the regulations.

The nine-page petition was backed by:

  • American Farm Bureau Federation;
  • California Citrus Mutual;
  • California Farm Bureau Federation;
  • California Fresh Fruit Association;
  • California Specialty Crops Council;
  • Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association;
  • Florida Blueberry Growers Association;
  • Florida Citrus Mutual;
  • Florida Farm Bureau Federation;
  • Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association;
  • Florida Strawberry Growers Association;
  • Florida Tomato Exchange;
  • Florida Watermelon Association;
  • Georgia Farm Bureau Federation;
  • Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association;
  • Michigan Farm Bureau;
  • Michigan Processing Apple Growers;
  • National Watermelon Association;
  • Produce Marketing Association;
  • Sunshine Sweet Corn Farmers of Florida;
  • Texas Farm Bureau;
  • Texas International Produce Association;
  • United Fresh Produce Association; and 
  • Western Growers Association.

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