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Field tours to kick off 2014 PMA Foodservice Conference

PMA Foodservice Conference attendees will get a fresh look at leading crops on an exclusive visit to some of Salinas Valley’s fields and facilities on the Behind the Scenes: Field & Plant Tour. In addition to facility tours, registrants will get a field-to-fork perspective of these crops as they learn growing, picking, packing and culinary preparation tips.

“This will be our ninth year hosting the PMA Foodservice tour groups,” Kori Tuggle, director of marketing and business development at Ocean Mist Farms, said in a press release. “The event is right in our backyard, and we appreciate the opportunity to showcase our program and educate attendees about the commodities we grow.”

The Ocean Mist Farms stop of the tour will highlight its full line of premium fresh vegetables with a special focus on its heirloom artichokes and brussels sprouts.

Braga Fresh Family Farms will share insights about how it produces organic and conventional leafy greens, broccoli, beets and a growing line of herbs. “Everyone who visits Braga Ranch gains appreciation for the complexity of agriculture and the bond of a generational family farm,” Rod Braga, president and chief executive officer of Braga Fresh Family Farms, said in the release. “We’re excited about the opportunity to welcome PMA members and students to our home ranch and give them a unique education about what it takes to grow and distribute fresh, healthy vegetables around the world.”

At Naturipe Farms guests will tour strawberry, blackberry and raspberry fields, as well as a sustainability-driven packing facility. “The most valuable asset to us is showing rather than explaining how we do things," Kyla Oberman, Naturipe’s marketing manager, said in the release. "To see the harvesting and experience the various processes that happen between the field and the cooler are things that all of our customers should see to truly understand everything involved in berry production.”

PMA’s Foodservice Conference & Expo, now in its 33rd year, is a networking opportunity for members of the global, fresh produce supply chain to come together and build business connections. The three-day event will bring more than 1,700 leaders in foodservice and the produce industry, looking to forge new relationships in order to add healthy, fresh and tasty choices to their menus. The conference will also feature educational sessions and forums to discuss ways to increase the role of fresh produce in foodservice, and will end with a five-hour expo.

For more information, registration and full program of the Foodservice Conference & Expo, visit the Foodservice website and the Field & Plant Tour website.

Potential West Coast dock strike looms

The six-year contract that West Coast dock workers have been operating under expired today, July 1, without a new contract, and although negotiations are continuing the possibility of a strike looms large.

Ken Gilliland, transportation expert for Western Growers Association in Irvine, CA, said that as of the latest information no strike or lockout has been called for, but it is always a possibility in labor negotiations. He said many importers and exporters remember the dock strike of 12 years ago, in 2002, which lasted 10 days and greatly disrupted movement of fresh produce. “It’s a big gamble to send product to the docks and then have a strike occur,” he said.

One Central Coast vegetable shipper, who asked not to be identified, is not planning to load product on the usual Thursday schedule this week. He typically ships broccoli and the product has to be fumigated for his overseas destination. “If I fumigate it and they go on strike and it can’t be shipped, I’ll have to destroy it. We are not willing to take that risk.”

This shipper said he is in constant contact with port officials and others, “but nobody really knows what’s going on, except the people in the negotiating room.”

Though he said reports about the negotiations have been positive, that won’t help if there is a strike and product has to be destroyed. “Our customers are still placing orders but they are not the ones taking the gamble if we can’t load.”

Gilliland said exporters are looking for alternatives if a strike occurs, but all 13 U.S. West Coast ports will be affected. There might be opportunities to load out of Mexico or Canada, but he said that will add shipping costs.

Currently vegetable exports is the sector experiencing the biggest effect, but if a strike occurs grapes, tree fruit and other items would be affected. On the import side, the summer months would typically have fewer shipments headed to the United States but there could be some effects with an item such as Peruvian avocados, though most of those shipments go into the East Coast.

To-Jo spotlights its business with Farm Star Living

farm-star-LOGOtransparentFarm Star Living, a lifestyle brand that celebrates American farming, farmers and food, recently partnered with To-Jo Mushrooms, a fourth-generation family-owned-and-operated mushroom farm that grows and distributes a full line of fresh and prepared mushroom products.

“We are so pleased to welcome To-Jo Mushrooms to the Farm Star Living family," Mary Blackmon, Farm Star Living founder, said in a press release. "For over four generations the D'Amico family has been harvesting mushrooms, and we are so excited to help raise awareness of this fabulous company that is family owned and produces locally grown products.IMG 2104Mary Blackmon We are also proud to showcase the mushrooms' impressive attributes as a Superfood.  In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently proposed to require the declaration of vitamin D on the nutrition facts panel of food and beverage products.” 

To-Jo Mushrooms has joined the growing roster of Farm Star Living sponsors, which also includes Limoneira, Springer Mountain Farms and SunWorld.

"To-Jo is committed to excellence in growing standards and raising public awareness about how its farmers and growers take pride in producing fresh, quality, products that are a healthy addition to your family's diet. We believe that Farm Star Living, which celebrates U.S. farmers, is an ideal partner to help people nationwide feel good about the locally grown products they are serving to their families like our To-Jo mushrooms," Peter Wilder, marketing director, said in the release.

To-Jo Mushrooms is a vertically integrated grower-shipper that has been harvesting mushrooms in southeastern Pennsylvania for more than 70 years. To-Jo delivers its mushrooms to stores nationwide, including foodservice and grocery chains across the U.S.

Farm Star Living celebrates American farming, farmers and farm-fresh food. The Farm Star Living website informs customers eager to know who’s behind their food and how to support farmers and farm-fresh food.

Farm Star Living recently launched its A-Z Guide, showcasing all health benefits and nutrition info for every vegetable, fruit, nut, herb and spice from A-Z. Farm Star Living also has an app that provides easy, quick access to hundreds of Farm-to-Table restaurants in major cities throughout the U.S. as well as hundreds of farms open to the public for exciting activities and fun.

More information about Farm Star Living is available at www.farmstarliving.com, facebook.com/FarmStarLiving and @FarmStarLiving.

Obama pledges to bypass Congress on immigration reform

WASHINGTON — With the House unlikely to vote on immigration reform, President Obama announced Monday he’s exploring executive actions to fixing immigration problems.

In the White House Rose Garden, Obama said yesterday that Republicans in the House have refused an up-or-down vote on immigration reform, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) informed him last week there would be no vote on the issue this year.

As a result, he said he’s beginning a new effort “to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.” He’s asked the Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General  Eric Holder to come back with recommendations that don’t require congressional approval by the end of the summer.

Obama plans to continue reaching out to House Republicans “in the hope they will deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill. Maybe it will be after midterms, when they’re less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year,” he said. “I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don’t consider perfect.”

The United Fresh Produce Association praised Obama’s “commitment” for moving the issue ahead but again urged the House to take up immigration reform and save fruit and vegetable production from being driven out of the United States.

“We appreciate President Obama’s commitment to try to address our broken immigration policy through executive action, but urge the House of Representatives not to abandon their responsibility to address this serious issue,” Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer, said in a statement Monday.

“If the House continues to disregard its responsibility to address this issue, the produce industry has no choice but to work with the Administration on short-term administrative patches that will be appreciated, but are ultimately unsatisfactory,” Stenzel said.

“Congressional inaction on immigration reform is driving fruit and vegetable production out of the United State, costing U.S. consumers and farmers millions of dollars, and eliminating jobs across the produce supply chain,” he said.

South African citrus arrives at Gloucester Marine Terminal

GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ — The season's first break bulk ship bearing South Africa citrus discharged June 23 at the Gloucester Marine Terminal, located here on the Delaware River. 

Fruit sampled by The Produce News was sweet and in good condition. According to Tom Mastromarco at Holt Logistics Corp., there were 3,400 pallets of South African citrus aboard "Green Italia." The ship belongs to Seatrade, which has a two-year exclusive agreement to run this South African reefer program to Gloucester.

Thomas Holt III, who works in business development for Holt Logistics Corp., which owns and operates the Gloucester Marine Terminal, said the South Africans will ship a total of about 30,000 or 40,000 pallets of citrus to the United States this season.2014-6-23-0919-Green-ItaliaStevedores at the Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, lift pallets of South African citrus from the hold of the refrigerated cargo ship "Green Italia," which belongs to Seatrade.

Holt said most of that volume will come through his facility this year but in the shoulder seasons — as the South Africans built, then eventually reduce volumes — the citrus will be shipped in refrigerated sea containers.

South Africa's very first seasonal citrus arrival was in sea containers arriving in the Port of Newark, NJ, on June 10, marking the start of the 15th season for South African summer citrus in the U.S., according to Suhanra Conradie, chief executive officer of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum. The season's first container vessel, "MSC Valvik," carried 90 tons of clementines and Navel oranges for the U.S. market.

In a press release, Conradie indicated that container vessels transport approximately 15 percent of the overall volume during the season.  The Holt operation will receive the remaining 85 percent.

Conradie's office said fresh South African will arrive from South Africa every 10 days through October.

Consumer access to the South Africa citrus will be more rapid in 2014 than in recent years due to a pilot program, which reduces the cold sterilization from 24 to 22 days.

South Africa citrus production for this season is at high levels and will enable greater volumes for the U.S. market. Normal weather conditions to date have enabled harvesting to proceed without interruption. "Weather and climate conditions cannot be underestimated when it comes to the taste and appearance of our fruit," said Conradie. "South Africa's summer heat contributes to the sweet taste followed by colder temperatures which enable the fruit's color to brighten orange.

Strong relationships with importers and retailers in the U.S. and close collaboration before and throughout the season assure the preferred sizes and volumes are shipped at the correct market time. "Smaller fruit yields well for the growing popularity of bagged fruit in the U.S. market," said Conradie. "In all cases, fruit to the U.S. exceeds the internal quality requirements and is packed to assure it exceeds the strictest of fruit safety regulations."

This program began in 1999 with 50 tons and has grown to roughly 41,000 tons per year. South African citrus exported to the U.S. is grown primarily in the Western and Northern Cape regions.