Posts Tagged “USDA”

U.S. Produce Consumption Decline Continues

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IMG_6589+1by Biing-Hwan Lin and Rosanna Mentzer Morrison

Despite Federal nutrition guidance, food industry promotional campaigns, and encouragement from parents to “Eat your vegetables,” Americans’ consumption of fruits and, especially, vegetables has declined.

Over the last decade, loss-adjusted supplies of total fruits and vegetables available to consume in the United States have fallen from 299 pounds per person in 2003 to 272 pounds per person in 2013.  Not the direction that nutritionists and others interested in the public’s health had hoped for.

However, a deeper look into the overall numbers reveals that three fruits and vegetables—orange juice, potatoes, and head lettuce—account for 22 pounds of this 27-pound decline.  And, despite the decline in consumption of some fruits and vegetables, Americans are consuming more of other types of these nutrient-packed foods.

The loss-adjusted food availability data serve as a proxy for consumption by the nation as a whole but do not reveal who eats what foods and how much is eaten by particular demographic groups.  A more nuanced analysis of consumption trends—by product and by demographic groups—would identify shortfalls for particular groups and help in targeting nutrition outreach efforts.

In a recent report, Economic Research Service (USDA) researchers linked ERS’s food availability data and food intake survey data, using a USDA database that translates foods into their commodity components. This linkage enabled them to break down ERS’s national consumption estimates by household and personal characteristics, helping to answer the questions: How widespread is the decline in fruit and vegetable consumption?  And, is it steeper for some groups than others?

Potatoes Driving Declining Vegetable Consumption

National food intake surveys provide demographic breakdowns of who is eating what foods and how much. However, survey respondents report foods as eaten—such as a slice of apple pie, a cup of applesauce, or a glass of apple juice. A database providing the amount of apple in each food is needed to derive the total amount of apples, or other food commodities, consumed by an individual.

ERS researchers used FICRCDs to disaggregate the thousands of mixed foods recorded in the intake surveys—from apple pie to zucchini lasagna—into 63 foods and beverages, including 11 fruits or fruit groups and 15 vegetables or vegetable groups.  Per capita measures of foods and beverages eaten by people in different demographic groups were estimated by taking average consumption patterns from the surveys for different subgroups of the U.S. population and applying these patterns to the loss-adjusted food availability data for the corresponding year.

Consumption of total vegetables fell across the four age and gender groups between 1994-98 and 2007-08. Much of this decline was driven by reduced consumption of potatoes, which includes baked, mashed, french fries, chips, and other forms expressed in fresh-weight equivalents. Boys (age 2 to 19) had the largest drop; their potato consumption fell from 63.7 pounds per person per year in 1994-98 to 45.2 pounds in 2007-08. Potato consumption by non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, and other races fell over the period from 63.8 to 55.4, from 52.4 to 38.2, and from 50.5 to 37.1 pounds per person per year, respectively. Throughout the period, non-Hispanic Blacks consumed about 58.1 pounds of potatoes per person per year.

Intake of tomatoes—the second most consumed vegetable—held fairly steady between 1994-98 and 2007-08 for all age groups. When consumption of potatoes and tomatoes is subtracted from the mix, consumption of other vegetables by girls, boys, and men fell, too, but not as sharply as that of potatoes. For women, annual consumption of nonpotato and nontomato vegetables increased slightly (2.2 pounds per person). Some vegetables posting gains in consumption over this period in all age groups include peppers, leafy greens, and broccoli and cauliflower.

Total vegetable consumption declined between 1994 and 2008 across four race/ethnic background groups—non-Hispanic Whites, Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanics, and others. The decline was smallest among non-Hispanic Whites (5.5 pounds per person per year), followed by non-Hispanic Blacks (11.9 pounds), Hispanics, (23.0 pounds), and others (27.2 pounds).

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USDA Makes $22M Available for Citrus Greening Research

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010By USDA

WASHINGTON  – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the availability of $22 million in grants to help citrus producers fight Huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease. This funding is available through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Since 2009, USDA has committed significant resources to manage, research and eradicate the citrus greening disease that threatens citrus production in the United States and other nations,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Thanks to the continued, coordinated efforts between growers, researchers, and state and federal government, we are getting closer every day to ending this threat. The funding announced will help us continue to preserve thousands of jobs for citrus producers and workers, along with significant revenue from citrus sales.”

USDA has invested more than $380 million to address citrus greening between fiscal years 2009 and 2015, including $43.6 million through the SCRI CDRE program since 2015.

HLB was initially detected in Florida in 2005 and has since affected all of Florida’s citrus-producing areas. A total of 15 U.S. states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for HLB. Those states include Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

USDA has employed both short-term and longer-term strategies to combat citrus greening. Secretary Vilsack announced a Multi-Agency Coordination framework in December 2013 to foster cooperation and coordination across federal and state agencies and industry to deliver near-term tools to citrus growers to combat Huanglongbing. The Huanglongbing MAC Group includes representatives from the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA NIFA, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Environmental Protection Agency, State Departments of Agriculture from California, Florida, Texas and Arizona, and the citrus industry

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Grapes Can Lower Risk of Infection, Study Suggests

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DSCN2927+1A USDA study has revealed that eating grapes could help obese people decrease certain types of fats in their blood that are linked to heart disease and lower their risk of infection.

Susan Zunino, a molecular biologist with the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Western Human Nutrition Research Center (WHNRC) in Davis, California, studies phytochemicals—natural compounds found in fruits such as grapes and strawberries. Her recent work suggests that phytochemicals from grapes may have a positive effect on the immune system of obese individuals.
Hospital and clinic documentation of viral and bacterial infection has shown that obese people are at a much higher risk for developing infections after surgery, according to Zunino. About 35 percent of Americans are obese, which puts them at a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and bacterial and viral infections.
In the study, obese participants drank either a mixture of water and grape powder made from freeze-dried table grapes or a placebo twice a day for three weeks. The two groups switched to the opposite mixture for the next three weeks.
Blood samples were analyzed to measure the effects of grapes on blood lipids (fats), blood markers of inflammation and cells of the immune system during the study. Compared with the placebo group, the grape powder group had reduced plasma concentrations of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterol, which is associated with heart disease.
When scientists stimulated immune cells from blood with a bacterial component, they found an increase in the production of proteins—cytokines—that are instrumental in fighting off infections. In previous research, Zunino discovered that one of the same cytokine proteins was produced when obese individuals consumed strawberry powder.
However, obesity leads to more inflammation in the body, according to Zunino. Therefore, more studies are needed to find out if the increase in cytokine production, after grapes and strawberries are eaten, contributes to more inflammation or is beneficial in reducing infections.

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Almonds Improve Overall Health, Study Says

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DSCN2874+1A new study shows that eating a handful of almonds everyday can improve a person’s diet quality which may have numerous lifelong health benefits.

 The study,  conducted by researchers from the University of Florida. included 28 parent-child pairs: the parents were instructed to eat 42 grammes of whole almonds each day during the three-week intervention portion of the research period.  The children were encouraged to eat 14 grammes of whole almonds or an equivalent amount of almond butter each day.
At the beginning of the 14-week research period the participants’ average Healthy Eating Index scores were 53.7 for the parents as well as children. The Healthy Eating Index is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
A score below 51 is reflective of a poor diet, a score between 51 and 80 reflects a need for improvement and a score greater than 80 indicates a good diet.
After the study, the average Healthy Eating Index score for parents as well as children increased to an average 61.4.
They increased their Healthy Eating Index component scores for total protein foods and decreased the intake of empty calories.
The results suggest whole food approaches, like adding almonds to one’s diet, may be an achievable way to improve overall public health.

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$3 a Day for Produce Can Meet Dietary Guidelines

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DSCN5310Consumers can meet the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americas for less than $3 per day, according to a new report.
The report, The Cost of Satisfying Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines,  the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service updated previous estimates of the costs required to meet federal fruit and vegetable recommendations.
“Our analysis shows that individuals on a 2,000-calorie reference diet can purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables satisfying the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for $2.10 to $2.60 per day,” according to the report. This would purchase a pound and an edible cup-equivalent of 156 commonly consumed fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA. The dietary guidelines recommend consumers on a 2,000 calorie diet consume 2 cup-equivalents of fruit and 2.5 cup equivalents of vegetables each day.
Using retail scanner data from 2013, the USDA estimated average prices for 24 fresh fruits and 40 fresh vegetables, and 92 processed fruits and vegetables.
Retail costs of fruits and vegetables vary over time. However, the authors point out the Consumer Price Index shows that fruit and vegetable prices increased by just 4% between 2008 and 2013.  This was less than the 8.2% increase for all consumer goods and services in that period. This suggests the relative cost of fruits and vegetables has decreased for consumers.
The USDA said nine of 63 fruits (14%) cost less than 40 cents per cup-equivalent. Watermelon (21 cents), frozen concentrated apple juice (27 cents), and bananas (29 cents) were the least expensive. Twenty-six fruits (41%) cost between 40 and 80 cents per cup-equivalent, according to the USDA. These include apples, 42 cents, oranges, 58 cents, and grapes, 72 cents. Twenty-seven fruits cost more than 80 cents per cup-equivalent, the USDA said, with fresh raspberries ($2.32) and canned cherries ($2.39) at the top of the price range,
Likewise, the USDA said that 16 of 96 vegetables (17%) cost less than 40 cents per cup-equivalent. Potatoes (18 cents), dried pinto beans (19 cents), and dried lentils (20 cents) were least expensive. 58 vegetables (60%) cost between 40 and 80 cents per cup-equivalent, including onions (41 cents), canned tomatoes (50 cents), and broccoli (72 cents), according to the release.  22 vegetables cost more than 80 cents per cup-equivalent, with frozen artichokes $2.55 and fresh asparagus $2.58 are at the high price range.

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Savannah Port is Now Handling Imported Peruvian Grapes

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DSCN3240+1+1Imported grapes from Peru are now being handled by a port of entry in Georgia.
The Port of Savannah is now receiving Peruvian imported grapes, adding to the list of cold-treated perishables using Savannah as a port of entry.  The port also is handling avocados, citrus and sweet onions from Peru, although the season for the latter commodity has recently ended.
With the introduction of Peruvian red globe grapes, Savannah is now receiving all of the grape category leaders from Peru.
The grapes, moved from Andean Sun Produce farms in Ica and Piura, Peru, are part of a USDA’s program, in which citrus, grapes and blueberries are chilled for at least 17 days prior to entry into the U.S.   Removing potential pests via cold treatment reduces the need for pesticides.
By delivering fresh produce in Savannah, receivers are taking advantage of much shorter and faster refrigerated truck transportation to Atlanta and other major markets across the U.S. Southeast.  For example, this means only a four-hour truck ride to Atlanta versus a day and half from the Philadelphia ports.
The USDA program to allow cold-treated produce to enter through more U.S. ports will relieve congestion at older ports of entry, while shortening the supply chain between producers and final consumers.   The ultimate goal is to deliver imported fruit to our U.S. receivers faster, fresher, and at competitive prices, cutting logistics costs.

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USDA awards $20 million for citrus greening research

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IMG_6019+1The USDA recently awarded $20.1 million in grants to university researchers for research and extension projects to help citrus producers fight Huanglongbing, commonly known as citrus greening disease. This funding is available through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative Citrus Disease Research & Extension Program, which was authorized by the 2014 farm bill and is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“Citrus greening has affected more than 75 percent of Florida citrus crops and threatens production all across the United States,” Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, said in a press release. “The research and extension projects funded today bring us one step closer to providing growers real tools to fight this disease, from early detection to creating long-term solutions for the industry, producers and workers.”

The SCRI program addresses critical needs of the specialty crop industry by awarding grants to support research and extension activities that address key challenges of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems.

Since the SCRI CDRE program’s inception in 2014, USDA has granted $43.6 million in research dollars to combat the destructive citrus greening disease. HLB was initially detected in Florida in 2005 and has since affected the vast majority of Florida’s citrus-producing areas. It has also been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas and several residential trees in California. It has also been detected in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 14 states in Mexico. A total of 15 U.S. states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for HLB. Those states include Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Low Inflation Forecast for Produce

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DSCN4665Fresh produce price inflation will be low again in 2015 as it resists California’s drought, the USDA’s Economic Research Service has forecast.

The agency recently reported  fresh fruit prices will increase just 2.5% to 3.5% this year, and fresh vegetable prices will rise 2% to 3%.
In May, the USDA said fresh fruit prices rose 1.7% compared with April, but were down 5.7% from May 2014.  Fresh vegetable prices were 0.2% lower in May compared with April but up 1% compared with a year ago, according to the USDA.
For all food items, the Consumer Price Index for food was unchanged from April to May but 1.6% above year-ago levels.
In 2014, food price inflation was close to the 20-year historical average of 2.6%, despite the effect of the drought in the Southwest and California.
While the ongoing California drought could have “large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices,” the USDA at this time projects overall food-at-home inflation of about 1.75% to 2.7%.
If oil prices continue to fall or remain low this year, projected decreases in production and transportation costs may be passed along at the retail level, according to the USDA.

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Wendy’s will Need 2 million Pounds of Blackberries

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WendysWendy’s International plans to buy almost 10% of the blackberry crop for a new seasonal salad the restaurant chain is scheduled to launch in summer 2016, based on federal numbers for domestic  shipments.

California Giant Berry Farm is one of the suppliers for the 2 million pound deal, which has been in the works since 2014.

Statistics from the USDA show wholesale channels shipped almost 21.2 million pounds of U.S. blackberries in 2014.   California shipped about 18 million pounds through wholesale channels in 2014.

California Giant has since started ramping up its blackberry production with many of its growers ripping out raspberries and planting blackberries.  Other growers are using different pruning techniques to maximize production from existing plants.

California Giant also plans to source blackberries from the Southeast U.S., including Georgia, to meet Wendy’s demand.

The timing of the Wendy’s 2016 blackberry salad is expected to come just as the Mexican deal winds down and U.S. growers begin shipping.  Supplies from California usually begin peaking in late July and continue with good volumes through the end of October.

Ultimately Wendy’s officials decided to go with California Giant and one other supplier for the blackberries.  For most fresh produce commodities the chain uses two to five companies to supply its 22 distribution centers across the U.S.

Wendy’s has about 6,700 locations in North America and has introduced seven new salads in the past two years. One of those, the strawberry fields chicken salad, proved so popular in 2014 that the company brought it back this year.

The company plans to continue developing fresh produce menu items, saying consumer trends are being driven partly by celebrity chefs and cooking shows that promote healthy eating including fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Increasing Produce Imports for Produce Truckers

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DSCN4441The U.S. balance of trade for fruits and vegetables is swinging heavily to imports, with avocados and berries seeing huge growth over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  While this may not help improve the country’s trade deficite, it means increased loading opportunities for produce haulers.

The USDA in its annual report of trade projections, estimates the trade deficit in fresh fruits and vegetables will grow from about $7.6 billion in 2014 to $16.5 billion by 2024.
The total value of fresh fruit and vegetable exports will grow from $7.3 billion in 2014 to $10.7 billion in 2024, while imports will grow even faster, climbing from $14.9 billion in 2014 to $27.2 billion in 2024.
The projections are built on trade trends over the past 10 years.
The last time the U.S. had a trade surplus in fresh fruits and vegetables was 1980, when the margin of exports over imports was $25 million. By 1990, the trade deficit in fresh fruits and vegetables was $530 million, increasing to $1.8 billion by 2000 and $6.2 billion by 2010.
Imports will supply 53 percent of U.S. fruits and nuts by 2024, up from 45 percent in 2014, while the USDA said the share of vegetables from imports will rise from 19 percent in 2014 to 26 percent in 2024.
Lower trade barriers have boosted U.S. exports and imports.
Climbing imports
“Twenty years ago you never would have thought of having citrus (imports) in the summer or grapes in November,” said Mayda Sotomayor, CEO of Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla.  “You just had gaps, and consumers lived with gaps.”
Today, Sotomayor said those gaps are now mostly gone, thanks to new varieties, growing areas and storage technology.

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