| August 28, 2014

Amanda’s Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaThis summer, Americans proved their dedication to the cookout by shelling out a little bit more for their hot dogs and hamburgers. Despite an 11 percent increase in pork and beef prices, customers still flocked to the meat counter and kept net profit for farmers steady. The price increases come from a shortage in pork caused by a virus that killed several million piglets and an increase in cost of feed. Some retailers have tried to keep prices low to draw in consumers, bearing the extra cost of beef and pork themselves. Experts expect the record corn crop projections for this fall to make feed cheaper and help to lower meat prices again.

The next time you indulge in a Nestle Crunch Bar or Drumstick, you can feel a little bit better about the source of its ingredients. Nestle, the world’s largest food company, announced late last week that it will require suppliers to end common yet cruel farming practices such as tail docking and dehorning of cows as well as cage systems for chickens. The company has also become the first to partner with an animal welfare NGO by pairing up with World Animal Protection. Monitoring 7,300 suppliers worldwide won’t be easy, but with the help of World Animal Protection and the auditing firm SGS, Nestle believes it can track the progress of its farmers and eliminate those who do not comply.

For Farmers, the change of the season could mean less change in their pockets. Record harvests of corn and grains are likely to drop farmer income this fall by 13.8 percent. This marks lowest agriculture income in four years as supply increases and demand remains steady. The USDA has also predicted a 4 percent rise in production costs, which coupled with income loss could send some farmers into the red for the first time in years.

Don’t be so surprised if you’re local New England farmer looks a bit younger than you expected. The number of young farmers in New England has increased by 5 percent since 2007 despite national trends that show an overall decrease in the number of youth farmers. Many of these farms are less than 50 acres and charge a little more for their products, but proponents of the local food movement have willingly paid more to support their neighbors. You can find this trend not only out in the fields, but also in the classroom. In the Northeast, there are now 43 percent more undergraduate students studying agriculture than in 2004.

Farmers work diligently to protect their crops from insects and weeds, but beating the latest pest could require some new measures. This month, thieves struck two Connecticut towns, stealing enough corn from Green Acres Farm to value $1,200. Farmers say these experienced bandits picked the corn without damaging the stalks and probably sold it a few towns over where stolen produce can easily be distributed from the back of a truck. For produce snatchers, penalties are fairly lenient – a maximum of three months in jail and $500 in fines.

Whether or not you really want to know all of the chemicals that go into Twinkies (or think you’ll be able to pronounce them), you’ll soon have the answers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced a new initiative on Wednesday that will give the FDA access to a database of safety information regarding chemicals commonly used in processed foods. Until now, most chemicals were self-approved by manufactures. Of the 10,000 chemicals present in food products, only 43 percent have been recognized as generally safe to consume. The GMA has said that new safety standards will be made public by the end of the year and the database of ingredients should be accessible in 2015.

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