The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee-USA Onions announced on Nov. 11 that Weber Grill Master Kevin Kolman will make a special appearance at the Nov. 16 USA Onions pre-game Boise State/Wyoming grilling competition at Boise State University.
BSU Broncos host the University of Wyoming Cowyboys, and USA Onions Marketing Director Sherise Jones said the match-up between two Western state teams promises to be exciting.
Jones said the pre-game grill-off, a competition between the Idaho and Oregon onion growers, will give the two teams opportunity to show their prowess in grilling “Onions and Elk,” two abundant food items in the Treasure Valley of Idaho-Eastern Oregon.
The grill-off is set to begin at 5 p.m. in the Ford Fan Zone at Bronco Stadium and will provide game-day fans with grilled onion samples and a Weber grill giveaway sweepstakes. USA Onions mascot Jumbo will be on hand, and Kolman will demonstrate his expert grilling techniques. At 6 p.m. the grower teams will “fire up their grills for a sizzling head-to-head BBQ battle,” Jones said.
“Both teams will grill up their own special recipe for onions and elk under the watchful eye of Weber Grill Master Kolman,” she added.
The Nov. 16 event is the fifth in a series of six grill-offs presented by USA Onions during Boise State 2013 home games, and Jones said, “It is one of our most highly anticipated because of Weber Grill Master Kolman’s participation. He is an expert in his field, and what better way to highlight USA Onions than with his guest appearance.”
To prepare for his guest appearance at the event, Kolman was given a VIP tour of “Onion Country USA” located just west of Boise in Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon where he had a firsthand look at the region’s state-of-the-art storage methods and “techniques used to grow some of the world’s most desired onions,” Jones said.
She added, “Kolman is Weber’s go-to guy for all grilling techniques, products, and questions. As Weber’s Grill Master, Kevin inspires average grillers to become backyard heroes through his how-to videos and blogs. He has a BS degree from Eastern Illinois University and a Master’s degree in college student affairs.”
The acclaimed grill master is also a “brand enthusiast, due to his extensive hands-on testing and scrutiny of Weber products, accessories, and cooking,” Jones said.
Food Lion has made significant investments in 169 stores in North Carolina and South Carolina and created 500 new jobs. Key markets include Greenville and Wilmington, NC, as well as Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, SC.
The company improved its produce as part of its "Fresh From the Field" initiative. Customers will experience better quality, enhanced freshness and expanded variety in Food Lion's produce section. In addition, Food Lion's produce and store brand products are backed by a double-your-money-back guarantee.
To celebrate the launch, Food Lion is holding grand re-opening festivities at the 169 stores, including providing the first 50 customers at each location with a bag of free groceries Wednesday, Nov. 13 through Saturday, Nov. 16.
"With today's launch, nearly all Food Lion stores have received these store investments," Greg Finchum, senior vice president of retail operations for Food Lion, said in a Nov. 12 press release. "We invite customers to visit their local Food Lion, where they will experience firsthand new lower prices and other store enhancements, such as the greatest value in store brands and fresher produce. We hope that you will visit your local Food Lion and experience our changes."
Food Lion's key investments offer customers lower prices on 6,000 items throughout the store and access to quality store brand products at new lower prices. To further enhance customer savings, Food Lion has added MVP Savings Centers in each of its stores. Customers can scan their MVP Card to receive personalized offers for additional savings on national and private brand products in-store during their shopping trip.
The investments are based on customer feedback and will continue to position the company for future success. A list of the 169 stores is available at www.foodlion.com/newsroom.
Food Lion also plans to donate $2,000 to local food banks, which will help each agency provide up to 10,000 meals to its constituents. In addition, Food Lion will continue working with these food banks in its ongoing efforts to fight food insecurity and relieve hunger in our communities. Food Lion is on track to donate more than 1.1 million pounds of food collectively to these agencies by the end of 2013.
At this point, the majority of Food Lion locations have now received these investments. The company launched 167 stores in the Raleigh and Fayetteville, NC, markets in May 2011, 268 stores in March 2012 in Virginia, West Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, 269 stores in North Carolina and South Carolina, including its hometown markets of Salisbury, NC, and Charlotte, NC, in July 2012, and most recently, 178 stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia in May 2013.
Food Lion was founded in 1957 as Food Town in Salisbury and has since grown to more than 1,100 stores in 10 states.
The Kroger Co. contributed $3.2 million to the USO in 2013.The funds were raised through the company's Honoring Our Heroes sales event in May and customer contributions collected at check stands through the summer and fall.
"Kroger is honored and privileged to support our service men and women through our partnership with the USO," said Lynn Marmer, Kroger's group vice president for corporate affairs. "And we are humbled by the generosity our customers have shown through their participation in Kroger's Honoring Our Heroes campaign and by donating spare change or rounding up their purchases at cash registers."
The Kroger family of stores, in partnership with customers, associates and vendors, has donated a total of $8.4 million to the USO since 2010.
All of the funds raised support the broad range of programs and services the USO provides to service members, their families, wounded, ill and injured troops, and veterans. A private, nonprofit organization, the USO provides programs, services and entertainment events to enhance the quality of life for America's military personnel and their families wherever they serve.
Kroger is also committed to hiring veterans. Since 2009, more than 21,200 veterans have joined the company. Last year Kroger joined more than 90 other companies in the "100,000 Jobs Mission." The program has a collective goal of hiring more than 100,000 transitioning service members and military veterans by 2020.
Kroger also makes it easy to support the troops online. By visiting www.honoringourheroes.com, customers can volunteer with the USO, make a donation or write a note to a service member.
In January 2012, Texas officials found the first confirmed case of huanglongbing — HLB or greening disease — in a grove near San Juan, TX. In October, a second case was confirmed in nearby Mission, TX.
The second discovery is not cause for alarm and in fact in some ways can be seen as a victory. While greening has decimated the Asian and Brazilian citrus industries and has destroyed thousands of trees in Florida, a coordinated approach to spraying for the psyllid that spreads the disease has kept it at bay to date in Texas.
The vast majority of the Texas citrus crop is unaffected by either outbreak and there are quarantine zones in place to prevent further spreading.
Madhurababu Kunta, who runs the lab at the citrus center, said it processes more than 100,000 insect samples per year and nearly as many plant samples. New semi-automated machinery purchased in the last year has been able to extract and evaluate more DNA samples, making identification of "hot" psyllids and infected trees a much more efficient process.
About 80 trees have been removed from the San Juan grove, which is a commercial operation. The latest confirmed case is in a backyard grapefruit tree - which was removed -- in Mission.
In fact, homeowners with citrus trees are a larger concern now than commercial groves for possible contamination. While growers coordinate spraying and take other measures to prevent HLB, homeowners do not.
The latest outbreak also points out that HLB can lie dormant for years before rearing its ugly head. There is no way to know how long any of the impacted trees in Texas were infected.
The citrus industry and local governments are reaching out to homeowners to make them more aware of HLB and signs to look for. The industry, meanwhile, is purchasing its new stock from indoor nurseries to avoid potentially exposed plants.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture has also intervened, releasing thousands of Pakistani wasps - a natural predator that feeds on the psyllids -- each month from a location in Edinburg, TX. Texas A&M scientists are also studying a fungus that feeds on the psyllid for possible use in the field.
A&M researcher Eric Mirkov recently made the staggering discovery that citrus cultivars crossed with genetic material from spinach are, seemingly, wholly resistant to HLB. It is a find that could literally alter the course of history and certainly of the citrus industry.
No, the spinach genes do not affect the taste, shape, appearance or color of citrus grown on trees that include its DNA.
"Those are the top questions I'm asked," Mirkov laughed. "Will my orange juice be green? Will it taste like spinach?"
Public response to the hybrid fruit has been generally positive but the new varieties are undergoing thorough vetting by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Even though the new citrus cultivars are a cross between two commonly accepted, undeniably safe food products, they must still go through the same rigorous testing as any genetically modified crop.
"We've really got something solid here. We've got something in hand, it works. But we've got a big challenge ahead of us with getting through EPA," Mirkov said. "It's good, it's great, it's necessary to regulate and make sure it's safe. But we kind of thought, 'Look, it's spinach, everyone eats spinach, there are no known allergies,' so we thought we might have an expedited path through. But we might as well have invented a new type of warfarin or rat poison and put it in citrus. We have to do basically the same thing that a manufacturer would do if they came out with a new fungicide. This is all very time-consuming, it's all very expensive - as a scientist I'm frustrated. It has to be done but I wish with something so important that there might be ways to do this faster. But it's just not possible. I get a lot of farmers who say, 'I'll just call my congressman.' Well that doesn't work either. The rules are the rules that are set in stone and we've got to do it."
Still, "History repeats itself. When HLB shows up somewhere, it's always the same,"Mirkov said. "We're hitting this hard and we're doing everything we have to do and we hope to have gone through the regulatory process and finished it and been okayed by late 2016. But it's going to take time to build up trees and get trees out there."
Four months of near-to-above-average rainfall has brought desperately needed drought relief to the Lone Star State, but Texas voters took a stand at the polls Nov. 5 that should eventually provide even more benefit.
Texas voters approved a proposition that will let the state dip into its "rainy day fund" to the tune of some $2 billion, amending the state constitution to fund future water planning projects, primarily through low-cost loans.
On July 9, the current drought - which began in 2011 and is already on-record as the second-worst in history, eclipsed only by the 1950 to 1957 unprecedented and since unparalleled drought that parched the entire state - had left 92 percent of Texas in at least a moderate drought and more than 75 percent in severe drought or worse.
In the wake of rains starting in mid-July and continuing at normal or higher levels, today half of the state is in a moderate drought or worse, but just one-quarter is in severe drought.
The Lone Star State is in the best water position it has been in since the drought began in 2011 and Texas is the wettest it has been since November 2010.
Combined losses from the 1950 to 1957 drought totaled $22 billion in today's dollars. The current drought has taken a toll approaching $20 billion. The state's famous beef production has been reduced by almost a quarter in three years, a reduction of 1 million head, leaving the U.S. with its smallest herd of cattle in 60 years.
Crops have been similarly affected, especially in the Winter Garden area and to a lesser extent in the Rio Grande Valley. Some growers, unable to secure water rights, are simply forgoing crops. Others have sold their water rights to growers willing to pay a high price for a precious commodity.
In late July, Gov. Rick Perry reissued proclamations designating 221 counties drought disaster areas. Reservoirs and rivers are overtaxed. Legal battles are brewing over water rights with neighboring New Mexico, Oklahoma and even Mexico.
While "2011 was the single hottest and driest year since records started being kept in the state of Texas, the 1950s is still the record because of its duration," said Homer Tuck of the Texas Water Conservation Board. "If conditions keep up like this much longer we may have a new drought record. Things are not good on the water side. [Water restrictions] may be in effect for a long time, unfortunately."
"We've been lucky to have decent rains in parts of the state -- west Texas was wet for the first time in ages -- but the 12-month map [is] still exceptionally dry on top of two years of drought before that," added state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A&M University. "Since 1895, there have been 14 droughts of multiple-year duration and it's going to be just a few more months before we've outlasted those except 1950-1957 -- and this could rival that one potentially. We continue to set records for lack of water in reservoirs, unfilled capacity is larger than it ever has been in the middle of the summer. The good news is levels have been relatively stable, but at near-record lows, about 65 percent full."
Agriculture and municipal officials are hopeful funds from the recently passed referendum will help more water start flowing in the very near future.
Said Perry in a press conference after the vote, "Today, the people of Texas made history, ensuring we'll have the water we need to grow and thrive for the next five decades without raising state taxes. Now it's time to get to work on the projects that'll help us meet our growing water needs, preserving and improving both our economic strength and quality of life."
Nearly a third of the new funds will be set aside for conservation and water re-use issues.