If you have ever described a PMA event to one of your non-industry friends, you can appreciate the fact that it is a sight that most people can't easily fathom.

For the uninitiated, the sights, colors and sounds from the PMA show floor can be overwhelming. Providing a "fresh" take on what a first-timer might experience, this Food and More blog post by John Kessler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes the scene:


Everywhere I walked, I saw glistening grapes and pop-art-perfect tomatoes. Florida avocados the size of ostrich eggs are now called “Slimcados” because they have so much less fat (and flavor) than everyone’s favorite Haas avocado. Lots of marketing and more than a little manipulation goes into the selling of nature’s bounty.

For instance, whole and cut apples now come in a variety of flavors other than the expected apple. Grape-flavored Grapples (the first popular brand) now have company in Crazy Apples, which come in grape and pomegranate. Kids, will you eat this?

Getting dubious children to consider snacking on fruit and vegetables seemed a major theme at this show. Among the various lunchbox stuffers on display were Dippin’ Stix — little packages of vegetal matter paired with flavorful, gooey dips.

 

Kessler has several comments on specific produce marketers and items, so be sure to check out the complete blog post. Also, note the follow-on reader comments. One reader who sounds skeptical of all agribusiness opined:

So how many folks were trying to pass GMO food off as something other than the complete biological horror that it is??

Fruits and vegetables are the greatest thing nature gives us to eat and it is a great tragedy that the FDA, USDA, and Monsanto are conspiring to destroy the food supply on the planet for the exclusive benefit of Monsanto.

And by the way, if you want to see a produce extravaganza every day, just go to the DeKalb Farmer’s Market on E. Ponce de Leon.

 

Check out Secretary Vilsack's remarks about 2012 farm bill priorities. From that speech, about the concept of a safety net for all producers:

“There are a few things that came up over and over again in my conversations with these farmers, and they need to be addressed in the next Farm Bill. Farmers recognize that the safety net makeup will likely change, but the production and protection it affords ought not to be compromised. And here are several keys to make sure that that protection and production are protected:

“First, producers need assistance quickly after they lose their crops to a natural disaster. Their bankers are not going to wait two years to make loan payments and receive those loan payments, and they can't expect -- nor can we expect -- our producers to wait two years to have the safety net kick in.

“Second, the safety net needs to reflect the diversity of American agriculture. That is to say, it needs to work for all kinds of farms. It can't favor the planting of one crop over another. It needs to make sense for farmers, and it needs to work for ranchers. It's got to work for row crop farmers in Iowa, specialty crop producers in upstate New York, cattle ranchers in Texas, or rice or cotton farmers in Louisiana.

“Third, the programs that comprise the safety net have got to be simple and understandable. Programs shouldn't discourage farmers from applying, they shouldn't be too costly to attain, or too slow to matter.

“And, finally, the safety net has got to be accountable and justifiable to the 98 percent of us who do not farm. We have a responsibility to the American people to use their resources wisely and to provide assistance only when it's needed. Congress has a tremendous opportunity to make sure the safety net works for all of our producers, and it's extremely important that they get it right.

 

TK: It is remarkable to think that the USDA "safety net" for specialty crop producers would have parity with the provisions designed for  "commodity" producers. That Secretary Vilsack is even suggesting the notion is a hopeful sign for fruit and vegetable growers. What that "safety net" will look like - crop or revenue insurance or perhaps some other scheme  - is a wide-open question that only Congress can answer.