My tongue in cheek fun with the Pundit elicited a few responses (sadly none from Jim), both off and on the record. For my part, I’ll continue to refer as needed to the Pundit in this space, my little corner of the blogosphere. I hope to be fair with my observations, and I’ll count on readers to let me know if I stray too far afield.
Here are a few headlines worth noting from the long holiday weekend:
Produce for Better Health Foundation communication
TK: Update from PBH on the National Fruit & Vegetable Research & Promotion Board concept that was proposed for industry consideration at the PBH Board meeting on April 3, 2009.
From the letter from Elizabeth Pivonka:
Over the past six weeks, I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss the promotion board concept and "best thinking" of the task force with many association boards, in public meetings, via webinars, and with the trade press. We've heard a lot of important feedback, and that is precisely why our Executive Committee wanted to conduct an industry discussion on the topic before deciding whether to support a formal recommendation to USDA for consideration.
In general, there are two types of feedback that we've received - one expected and hoped for, and one rather unexpected.
First, we are very pleased with the different views and critiques expressed about specific provisions of the concept. There have been important questions raised about who should fund and who should vote on a promotion board; about what level of funding would be most effective, and how we'd measure success; about the expertise and controls needed to ensure wise use of funds; and many other views on specific aspects of how a board might work, and whether it's a good idea. Let me assure you, those are precisely the views the Executive Committee had hoped to hear by taking this discussion to the broad industry.
On the other hand, we've also heard some criticism that perhaps PBH shouldn't even be having this conversation. That was unexpected, although perhaps we were naïve not to anticipate some of that reaction. Our Executive Committee met again this week by conference call, and again expressed its strong belief that this is an important issue for the industry to debate, and that the Executive Committee believes it is squarely within the scope of PBH's mission to facilitate the industry's discussion on this subject. Fostering consideration of any "big idea" that might help us grow fruit and vegetable consumption is our mission, and we think this might be one of those ideas. The industry can only vote on the matter if someone serves it up for consideration, and we believe that PBH is "on mission" acting as the catalyst for consideration.
That does not mean PBH is lobbying for this proposal. In fact, the Executive Committee has made it extremely clear that we want to get the dialog going, listen carefully to input from all those potentially affected, and only then would we consider asking USDA to plan a formal referendum in which the industry would vote.
Do we explain why a decision was made one way or the other by the task force? Absolutely. Do we propose alternatives? Certainly. That, to me, is dialog, not lobbying. Unless this dialog occurs, we won't really know what you in the industry think of various options.
Honestly, we have no interest in pushing any concept if it is not supported by the majority of those who would fund such a program. We do believe, however, that it is part of our responsibility at PBH to explore all potential concepts that might help meet our goals for increased consumption, and this is an entirely appropriate conversation to have.
Let me also share a few thoughts about steps we are taking:
1. We want to be transparent in this effort, and take in all views pro and con. You can be assured we're writing down all comments we hear in meetings, saving emails and letters, and accumulating all the pros and cons we can. We're also looking at the best ways to make these comments publicly available, so it furthers an open and candid discussion. For now, the initial expected questions with responses can be found here at www.fvcampaign.org and the last six weeks of questions with responses are found here on the same site.
2. We've also formed a task force of volunteers to look at issues that are being raised as we go, so we can listen for consensus and begin to explore options to address potential problems identified.
3. We've almost completed our first round of information sharing with various boards and industry groups, and will continue to host public webinars for industry input. Rather than one-way sharing which was necessary in first sharing the concept, we now want to stimulate greater comments from the industry. One way we hope to do that is to invite some advocates, pro and con, to share their views in future webinars and town hall meetings. Again, our goal is to get as much dialog going and input as possible.
4. The Executive Committee has authorized working with an independent research firm to gauge opinions of growers/shippers/processors over the course of this process: this firm will conduct two surveys, several months apart to provide objective feedback about questions, issues and concerns, and to see whether efforts to address those concerns over the course of the industry feedback period have any material impact on the level of industry support. In addition to PBH, various trade associations will be providing confidential contact information to the third party vendor to assure that a wide sample of growers/shippers/processors is reached. This will be the main means of assessing industry interest and the results will also be made publicly available on the www.fvcampaign.org website, once aggregated.
TK: A very transparent communications effort by PBH, and I like the concept in point #4 of the surveys to determine objective feedback. Elizabeth’s #3 idea – inviting industry advocates, pro and con, to share their views in webinars and town meetings – is an exciting prospect and I am intrigued with the question of who will agree to participate in a spirited, on the record debate….
The great ad-vocado war Mail Online
TK: Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer each claim to have brought pebbly fruit to UK shelves. Sainsbury’s appears to have won the day, stocking the fruit in 1962, six years before M&S. Dare I say it – who was first in the U.S.?
Grocers claim audits reduce foodborne illness; no evidence provided Barf blog
TK: Doug Powell of KSU gets after the GMA. From his post:
In a press release intended to highlight private sector initiatives to bolster food safety – which I’m all for, they make the profit, they should shoulder the burden when they make their customers barf – GMA said,
“Ultimately, wider use of third party certification/audits will reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.”
There is absolutely no evidence to support that statement.
Later, Doug writes:
I’ve been hearing such statements for 15 years, and while it sounds good, I’ve seen little evidence to back such proclamations. As I’ve written before,
The third-party food safety audit scheme that processors and retailers insisted upon is no better than a financial Ponzi scheme. The vast number of facilities and suppliers means audits are required, but people have been replaced by paper. Audits, inspections, training and systems are no substitute for developing a strong food safety culture, farm-to-fork, and marketing food safety directly to consumers.
If someone barfs, they’re going to go after the biggest name they can find, whether it’s a retailer or a processor. So protect that brand. Have your own people and some institutional expertise to assess food safety risks. And avoid unsubstantiated statements.
Child Well Being Index Foundation for Child Development
TK: From the report:Children’s overall health is expected to decline due to obesity. Though obesity has been on the rise for several years, it is now likely to spike as the recession drives parents to rely more on low-cost fast food.
Chiquita touts green efforts at annual meeting Business Journal
TK: Chiquita makes a bold claim: “We are doing great work that no other player in the industry is doing in either bananas or salads,” said Fernando Aguirre, CEO of the Cincinnati-based produce company. Chiquita cited construction of 1,850 new housing units for banana workers in Honduras and Guatemala and a water-recycling initiative that saved 576,000 gallons in Latin America.
Report finds problems at pistachio plant linked to Salmonella McClatchy Newspapers
TK: More questionable management practices at a food facility. From the story: “Between October 2008 and March 2009, the report noted that "there were at least eight reported Salmonella-positive test results" coming out of the Terra Bella plant. When the firm learned of the private laboratory test results, inspectors said, there were no "procedures in place" to respond appropriately.”
Scientists found salmonella’s weakness Thaindian News
TK: Manipulation of glucose could limit spread of bacteria; finding could open door to a vaccine.
Hepatitis warning on semi-dried tomatoes ABC News
TK: Strange case of sun dried tomatoes being tentatively linked to spike in Hepatitis A cases in Australia.
Ag opposition growing to Waxman/Markey climate change bill Hoosier Ag Today
TK: From the story: “So far the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, United Egg Producers, American Farmers & Ranchers and the Fertilizer Institute have joined 16 state organizations in making their opposition to the bill known. No ag organization, national or state level, has voiced an opinion in favor of the legislation.”
House Democrats battle new emissions standards .. again
TK: Rep. Collin Peterson wants the White House to eliminate biofuel rules coming from the EPA; the fate of the Waxman-Markey bill may hang in the balance. From the story: “EPA has also outlined a plan — mandated by Congress in 2007 — for ensuring that the shift to biofuels won’t unintentionally hike carbon emissions elsewhere.” Later… “EPA’s model is designed to account for deforestation by overseas farmers who might be forced to expand cropland in response to higher food costs. Those fuels failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by certain amounts relative to the gas and diesel they would replace would no longer be eligible for federal subsidies.”
Carbon trading's inconvenient truth SF Gate.com
TK: If you are looking for a perspective that Waxman-Markey climate change bill doesn’t go far enough, start here. Coal companies shouldn’t have such liberal use of carbon credits and carbon offsets in the bill, says author Patrick McCully , executive director of International Rivers, a Berkeley-based human rights and environmental advocacy group.
High speed trains coming to the U.S.? ABC News
TK: Don’t look for coast to coast service for perishables in this concept. The idea is for stimulus funding to benefit plans for high speed trains in densely populated regions in California, the Midwest and Florida.