U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today joined President Trump for a “Farmers Roundtable” at the White House to address issues facing the American agriculture community, as the President signed an Executive Order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The roundtable discussion allowed representatives from all corners of American agriculture to raise concerns and share ideas, just as the task force begins its mission “to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America,” according to the president’s order. The session capped a busy first day in office for Perdue, who was sworn in by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture before greeting employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and travelling to the White House for the roundtable.
“The people who are on the front lines of American agriculture don’t have the luxury of waiting to tend to their crops and livestock, so there was no better time to convene this meeting of the minds than on my first day,” Perdue said. “President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side.”
The Farmers Roundtable featured more than a dozen farmers and representatives of the agriculture community who discussed with President Trump and Secretary Perdue a variety of topics, including agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural investment and infrastructure, labor issues, and the Farm Bill. Participants in the roundtable included:
• Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former Oklahoma House member, Lindsay, Oklahoma
• Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
• Hank Choate, Choate’s Belly Acres, Cement City, Michigan
• Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, Ohio
• Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, Georgia
• Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, Minnesota
• Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Inc., Fanning Springs, Florida (also farms in the state of Kansas)
• A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce, Newport Beach, California
• James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, North Carolina
• Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and farmer, Spirit Lake, Iowa
• Jose Rojas, Vice President of Farm Operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, Colorado
• Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, Colorado
• Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, New York
• Steve Troxler, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, North Carolina
“The Farmers Roundtable provided the chance for the President to hear directly from the people on the front lines of American agriculture about what they are dealing with every day,” Secretary Perdue said. “By hosting this discussion, the president has demonstrated his awareness of the plight of American farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, his intention to seek input, and his determination to help.”
President Trump’s Executive Order
President Trump’s Executive Order established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity “to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.” As Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue will serve as the task force’s chairman.
“It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture while protecting and supporting the rural communities where food, forestry, fiber, and renewable fuels are grown,” the text of the Executive Order reads. “It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.”
The task force will examine and consider, among other issues, current barriers to economic prosperity in rural America and how innovation and technology may play a role in long-term, sustainable rural development. The panel will attempt to strengthen federalism by working with state agencies charged with implementing economic development, agricultural, and environmental programs, while also emphasizing regulatory flexibility for farms and small businesses. With a dependence on sound science, task force members will examine crop protection tools used by farmers and also address concerns regarding labor needed for livestock and year-round agricultural jobs. Additionally, the group will focus on tax policies that allow family farms to remain intact, while also protecting against federal takeover of state-adjudicated water rights, permitting and licensing, and conservation requirements beyond what is provided in law. Finally, members will look to improve food safety and the implementation of food safety laws, but also recognize the unique nature of farming and the diverse business structures of farms.
“It used to be that people in agriculture feared disease and drought as the greatest threats to their livelihoods and their mission of feeding America and the world,” Perdue said. “While those hazards remain, too often now it is the government – through interference and regulation – that poses the most existential threat to American farming. We aim to put a stop to that.”
The task force will seek input from stakeholders in the agricultural community and is required to issue a report with recommendations for legislative or administrative actions within 180 days. The task force will consist of representatives from the following cabinet agencies and executive branch departments:
• Secretary of the Treasury;
• Secretary of Defense;
• Attorney General;
• Secretary of the Interior;
• Secretary of Commerce;
• Secretary of Labor;
• Secretary of Health and Human Services;
• Secretary of Transportation;
• Secretary of Energy;
• Secretary of Education;
• Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;
• Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission;
• Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
• Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;
• Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy;
• Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers;
• Director of the Domestic Policy Council;
• Director of the National Economic Council;
• Administrator of the Small Business Administration;
• United States Trade Representative;
• Director of the National Science Foundation; and
• Heads of such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the President or the Secretary of Agriculture may, from time to time, designate.
PS Seasoning & Spices announced that the company has recently received its SQF(Safe Quality Food) Level 2 certification. SQF is a comprehensive HACCP-based food safety and quality management certification system for all sectors of the food industry, from primary production to transport and distribution. As a Global Food Safety Initiative that is recognized world-wide, an SQF Certification demonstrates the supplier’s commitment to produce safe, quality food as well as to meet international food safety requirements and to comply with other applicable food legislation. The new certification attests to PS Seasoning & Spices’ ability to produce products that meet the highest level of food safety and quality standards.
The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association has a stellar group of speakers lined up for this year’s IDDBA 17 conference and trade show, which will be held June 4-6 in Anaheim, California. The General Session speaker line-up includes former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy, IDDBA President and CEO Mike Eardley, former Trader Joe’s CEO Doug Rauch, Celebrity Chef Giada De Laurentiis, former Starbucks CEO Jim Donald and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises.
And that’s not all. Eddie Yoon, the author of “Superconsumers;” Eric Chester, the author of “On Fire at Work” and Molly Fletcher, the author of “Fearless at Work,” will also be speaking. Jewel Hunt, IDDBA’s Chairman and the Group Vice President of Bakery for Albertsons Companies, is also on the schedule.
IDDBA’s Show and Sell Workshop line-up offers Steve Dragoo of Solutions Consulting, Yoon, De Laurentiis, Harold Lloyd of Harold Lloyd Presents and Rauch. The Show and Sell Workshops are 30-minute sessions that cover various industry-specific topics and frequently include live demonstrations in a smaller and less formal setting that allows for personal interaction with the experts.
This show also includes merchandising displays that provide examples of some of the best ideas in the industry – ideas that are designed for attendees to take home and replicate easily in their own stores. The concepts that will be demonstrated on the show floor this year include a breakfast bakery bar, a cheese pub with cheese pairings and tapas ideas, an in-store foodservice program and a cake design display intended to provide attendees with an engaging experience of creative and unique cake ideas for entertaining occasions.
And that’s not all – in keeping with this show’s focus on providing retailer attendees with real solutions to enhance profitability, IDDBA will offer its Expert Neighborhood for the first time this year. This is an area on the show floor where attendees can meet one-on-one with experts to discuss questions, industry challenges, and business problems. The association has an absolutely phenomenal line-up of industry stars who are prepared to discuss issues like engaging customers and employees, complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act and the evolving rules about product and menu labeling, and dealing with food waste, enhancing innovation and product profitability. Twenty-five minute appointments with these experts can be booked at the show starting on June 3.
Beaverton Foods, Oregon’s 88-year-old specialty condiment manufacturer, springs into the new year with eight awards, including three gold medals, from this year’s 22nd annual World-Wide Mustard Competition. More than 100 judges gathered at the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, to evaluate 291 entries from as far away as Japan, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and Canada.
Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard won a gold medal for its third consecutive year, while Inglehoffer Ghost Pepper Mustard repeated last year’s gold medal win in the category for hot pepper mustards. Inglehoffer Hot Horseradish Mustard won a gold medal in the category for mustards whose heat is rooted in horseradish or wasabi, while Inglehoffer Horseradish Wasabi Mustard won a silver medal in the same category.
Napa Valley Orange Ginger won a silver award for fruit mustards, while Beaver Brand Extra Hot Russian Mustard took home a bronze award for a classic hot mustard, Inglehoffer Sriracha Mustard earned a bronze medal for a hot pepper mustard, and Inglehoffer Creamy Dill won a bronze medal in the category for mustards flavored with herbs or vegetables.
“It’s humbling to say we have won more than 150 medals at this annual competition,” said Domonic Biggi, CEO of Beaverton Foods. “We are especially pleased that our new Inglehoffer Ghost Pepper Mustard was selected for a Gold medal for a second consecutive year. Additionally, we’re grateful that culinary experts around the world like our products.”
The annual competition, held since 1995, is open to all commercial mustard producers and agents worldwide. There are 16 flavor categories in which gold, silver and bronze awards are presented. The contest is a blind tasting judged by chefs, food writers and mustard aficionados.
Southeastern Grocers LLC, parent company of BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, has become the first North American retail member of the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), a non-profit association committed to supporting small-scale fisheries that pursue high quality, responsible and ethical tuna caught using one-by-one methods.
To coincide with this announcement, Southeastern Grocers has launched an exclusive private label-Fisherman’s Wharf, pole-and-line, canned albacore tuna product displaying the IPNLF ‘Supporting Member’ logo to demonstrate its commitment to the most environmentally and socially desirable methods. The Fisherman’s Wharf Albacore Tuna is on the shelves of select BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys and Winn-Dixie stores for $2.49 a can.
Ian McLeod, President and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, said, “At Southeastern Grocers, we know how important it is to support sustainable fisheries and we are very pleased to be the first North American retail member of the International Pole & Line Foundation.”
Southeastern Grocers has become the 42nd member of IPNLF. The company’s membership is a further step in its on-going support for environmentally and socially responsible tuna fisheries and for improved tuna management worldwide.
In partnership with members, IPNLF provides much-needed support for fishing communities who are heavily reliant upon those fisheries, and works on practical fisheries improvements and stronger management to meet the growing global demand.
Commenting on Southeastern Grocers’ membership, Adam Baske, Director Policy and Outreach at IPNLF, said, “It is fantastic to have our first retail member in the US market on board with our mission to see coastal tuna fishing communities thrive alongside healthy ocean ecosystems. We look forward to working with Southeastern Grocers to further demonstrate the value of sourcing from one-by-one tuna fisheries, and encourage other retailers in North America to join this collaborative effort. IPNLF is a hub for proactive companies like Southeastern Grocers who want to reward fishing communities committed to the highest environmental and social standards. The global demand for these products continues to grow as a result of companies using their buying power to create the future they want to see.”
Membership of IPNLF is open to all stakeholders involved in the one-by-one tuna supply chain, from fisheries associations to processors, food service and retailers, and all members are encouraged to engage in fisheries improvement.
Blue Apron has partnered with FOX’s culinary competition series, MASTERCHEF JUNIOR to develop a Mystery Box Challenge in the episode that aired first on Thursday, April 20.
During the episode, each young home cook opened his or her Mystery Box to reveal a Blue Apron Family Plan box with a choice of two proteins and an assortment of farm-sourced winter vegetables. They were given 45 minutes to curate a dinner recipe that the whole family can enjoy using the 10-12 mystery ingredients and items from the MASTERCHEF JUNIOR pantry.
The winner received a competitive advantage in the next cooking challenge in the show and the opportunity to have his or her own winning recipe featured on an upcoming Blue Apron Family Plan menu. To celebrate the partnership, all eight MASTERCHEF JUNIOR contestants will also receive one year of Blue Apron meals.
Dang Foods‘ Coconut Crunch Sticky-Rice Chips is the recipient of a bronze sofi Award in the sweet snack category. “We’re extremely honored that our newest addition to our snack portfolio, the Sticky-Rice Chip, has been recognized with a sofi™ Award,” said CEO and Founder of Dang Foods Vincent Kitirattragarn. “We’re glad to see our efforts to innovate in the better-for-you snack space and to harness the nutritional benefits of whole, responsibly-sourced ingredients appreciated by the industry.”
Made with certified organic rice grains and other clean ingredients, Dang Sticky-Rice Chips are non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free and soy-free. Starting with steamed Thai sticky rice, each chip is soaked in watermelon juice, then crisped and seasoned for the ideal crunchy texture. The Sticky-Rice Chips have 30-40 percent less fat compared to regular potato chips.
Sticky-Rice Chips hit stores in January 2017 in 3.5-ounce family-size packages retailing for $3.99. Dang Foods products are available nationwide in more than 8,000 brick-and-mortar and online outlets.
Murray’s Cheese has introduced a brand new cheese to its exclusive Cave Master line. Ezra, a Clothbound Cheddar, is the first cheese created by Murray’s from initial concept all the way through research and development, cheesemaking and aging and then into the market. Ezra will be exclusively available at Murray’s New York flagship stores in Greenwich Village and Grand Central Terminal and online at www.murrayscheese.com.
“This cheddar is the culmination of many factors coming together over many years,” said Steve Millard, Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Operations for Murray’s Cheese. “From our unique relationships with cheese makers, to more than a decade’s worth of experience aging cheese in our New York City caves, there’s a lot of things we do well. But we hadn’t ventured into making cheese ourselves.”
Ezra was developed in partnership with Cornell University and Old Chatham (New York) Creamery and is named after the university’s founder, Ezra Cornell. Millard, along with Murray’s Cave Master Peter Jenkelunas, worked closely with Matt Ranieri, Ph.D., a Cornell alumnus and expert on food science and dairy technology, to develop the cheese. Aged 12 months in Murray’s cheese cave, Ezra is modeled after classic British clothbound cheddars. It’s crumbly and boasts bright flavors of lemon curd and brown butter.
“The Old Chatham Creamery team is pleased to be able to collaborate with the Murray’s team in creating and producing the new Murray’s Clothbound Cheddar,” said David Malcolm Galton of Cornell. “We are committed to producing high quality cheeses for Murray’s customers across the country and believe that Ezra is a fantastic place to start.”
By Lorrie Baumann
The Specialty Food Association announced on April 19 that 154 products earned sofi Awards this year. An additional sofi Award for Product of the Year, awarded to the single product that received the highest score in the judging, will be announced at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June.
The April announcement, made without a public ceremony by Specialty Food Association President Phil Kafarakis and celebrity Chef Sara Moulton, honors products in 39 categories with gold, silver, and bronze awards for each category. Sofi awards have been presented by the Specialty Food Association since 1972. This year, sofi Awards were also given to the best new product in 37 of the categories. The winners were chosen from among almost 3,000 entries submitted by 875 Specialty Food Association member companies, noted Kafarakis. “Winning the sofi is really a big deal,” he said.
“It’s the best of the best. It’s promoted in the industry like crazy,” added Moulton, who recalled that in covering the Fancy Food Show for 12 years for “Good Morning America,” she always liked to head first to the display case for sofi winners because she knew that those products had already been filtered by knowledgeable judges. To this day, when she’s at the Fancy Food Show, the sight of a sofi statuette in a vendor’s booth will often make her turn aside and take a look at that booth, even if she hadn’t intended to do so, because the statuette indicates to her that the booth represents a company that produces good products, she said. “It attracts a lot of traffic,” she said.
Judging for this year’s awards competition was done at the Specialty Food Association offices in New York over a two-week period by 62 judges who included chefs, culinary instructors, bloggers, food writers and specialty food buyers, Moulton said. “We all get together to talk about what’s happening in the specialty food world,” she said. “You learn while you’re tasting. It’s fantastic.”
The products were judged after being prepared by professional chefs as they were intended to be used, according to Moulton. For instance, a marinade intended to be used with chicken was prepared by the chefs according to package directions before being presented to the judges for tasting. “These are all prepared right then and there as we tasted them,” she said with particular reference to the entries in the pasta, rice and grains category.
Each product was judged in a blind tasting, so the judges didn’t know which company had made it. Scores were sent directly from each judge to be tallied without any discussion that might otherwise have influenced anyone’s individual decision, according to Moulton. “We tasted the food the way it should be tasted,” she said, adding that this year’s judging process was an improvement over the methodology of previous years. “I think it was the best it’s ever been,” she said.
In four categories, the gold award winner was also named best new product. Those were Wozz! Kitchen Creations’ Cambodian Coconut Peanut Sauce, Aunt Dottie’s Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette from JGF Enterprises, Manicaretti Italian Food Imports’ Rustichella d’Abruzzo Pasta Integrale di Farro – Couscous and Le Bon Magot LLC’s Spiced Raisin Marmalata. JGF Enterprises also won a silver sofi in the salad dressings category for its Aunt Dottie’s Turmeric Maple Dressing. Le Bon Magot also won a gold award for its Tomato and White Sultana Chutney, a bronze award for its Lemon-Sultana Marmalata with Caraway and Saffron and a bronze award for its Brinjal Caponata condiment. Manicaretti Italian Food Imports also won a bronze award for IASA Spicy Anchovies in the seafood category. In addition to the two sofi awards for Cambodian Coconut Peanut Sauce, Wozz! Kitchen Creations won a bronze award in the vinegar category for its Spiced Beet Vinegar and a silver award in the condiment category for its Balsamic Fig Mostarda Savory Spread. Calivirgin Olive Oils swept the gold, silver and bronze awards for olive oils with a gold award for Jalapeno Garlic Olive Oil, a silver award for Blood Orange Olive Oil and a bronze for Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Azienda Agricola Coppini Arte Olearia Srl won the award for best new product in the olive oil category with Olives and Mandarines Condiment Coppini Arte Olearia. More than 80 olives oils were entered for the sofi judging this year, according to Kafarakis.
Vermont Creamery was also among this year’s big winners. Its Vanilla Creme Fraiche received a gold award in the category for a dessert sauce or topping or a syrup; Cultured Butter with Sea Salt Crystals won a bronze award in the category for dairy, yogurt or dairy alternative products; a silver award for Bonne Bouche, a geotrichum-rinded aged goat cheese; and a best new product award for St. Albans, an aged cow milk cheese introduced to the market in October of 2016.