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Archive for the ‘food and agriculture’ Category

Foreign Agriculture Service — Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (PDF)
Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

The United States Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is one of the U.S. Government’s four Foreign Affairs Agencies under the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Chartered in 1953, FAS is a small agency with a global mission and presence. FAS is responsible for a broad range of programs, activities and tasks designed to carry out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statutory responsibility to promote U.S. agricultural interests overseas. The core mission of FAS is to facilitate trade and international cooperation, which are critical to the vitality of the U.S. agricultural sector. Staff includes about 850 people stationed in Washington, about 160 Foreign Agricultural Affairs Officers, and 350 locally employed staff overseas. Foreign Service officers represent the interests and needs of American agriculture at U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.

If you are interested in a Foreign Service career at FAS, there is plenty of opportunity, but entry is a competitive process that takes place only once every 12-24 months depending on the needs of the service.

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CRS — Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are the laws, rules, standards, and procedures that governments employ to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, toxins, and other contaminants. Examples include meat and poultry processing standards to reduce pathogens, residue limits for pesticides in foods, and regulation of agricultural biotechnology. Technical barriers to trade (TBT) cover technical regulations, product standards, environmental regulations, and voluntary procedures relating to human health and animal welfare. Examples include trademarks and patents, labeling and packaging requirements, certification and inspection procedures, product specifications, and marketing of biotechnology. SPS and TBT measures both comprise a group of widely divergent standards and standards-based measures that countries use to regulate markets, protect their consumers, and preserve natural resources.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), SPS and TBT measures have become more prominent concerns for agricultural exporters and policy makers, as tariff-related barriers to trade have been reduced by various multilateral, regional, and bilateral negotiations and trade agreements. The concerns include whether SPS and TBT measures might be used to unfairly discriminate against imported products or create unnecessary obstacles to trade in agricultural, food, and other traded goods. Notable U.S. trade disputes involving SPS and TBT measures have included a European Union (EU) ban on U.S. meats treated with growth-promoting hormones and also certain pathogen reduction treatments, and an EU moratorium on approvals of biotechnology products, among other types of trade concerns with other countries. Foreign countries have also objected to various U.S. trade measures.

CRS — Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers (TAAF) program provides technical assistance and cash benefits to producers of agricultural commodities and fishermen who experience adverse economic effects caused by increased imports. Congress first authorized this program in 2002, and made significant changes to it in the 2009 economic stimulus package (P.L. 111-5). The 2009 revisions were intended to make it easier for commodity producers and fishermen to qualify for program benefits, and provided over $200 million in funding through December 2010. Subsequently, P.L. 112-40 (enacted in October 2011) authorized $202.5 million through December 2013. No program activity occurred, because Congress did not appropriate funds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to follow a two-step process in administering TAAF program benefits. First, a group of producers must be certified eligible to apply. Second, a producer in a certified group must meet specified requirements to be approved to receive technical assistance and cash payments.

CRS — Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79)

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

The farm commodity program provisions in Title I of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, the 2014 farm bill) include three types of support for crop years 2014-2018:

+ Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments, which are triggered when the national average farm price for a covered commodity (e.g., wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and peanuts) is below its statutorily fixed “reference price”;

+ Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) payments, as an alternative to PLC, which are triggered when crop revenue is below its guaranteed level based on a multiyear moving average of historical crop revenue; and

+ Marketing Assistance Loans (MALs), which offer interim financing for the loan commodities (covered crops plus several others) and, if prices fall below loan rates set in statute, additional low-price protection, sometimes paid as loan deficiency payments (LDPs).

CRS — Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the public and policy interest in animal agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly managed, can harm water quality through surface runoff, direct discharges, spills, and leaching into soil and groundwater. A more recent issue is the contribution of air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement. This report provides background on the latter issue.

CRS — Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals/strong> (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United Egg Producers (UEP), the largest group representing egg producers, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal protection group, have been adversaries for many years over the use of conventional cages in table egg production. In July 2011, the animal agriculture community was stunned when the UEP and HSUS announced that they had agreed to work together to push for federal legislation to regulate how U.S. table eggs are produced. The agreement between UEP and HSUS called for federal legislation that would set cage sizes, establish labeling requirements, and regulate other production practices. As part of the agreement, HSUS agreed to immediately suspend state-level ballot initiative efforts in Oregon and Washington.

CRS — Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States alone, the value of insect pollination to U.S. agricultural production is estimated at $16 billion annually, of which about three-fourths is attributable to honey bees. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global crop production for human food is valued at about $190 billion. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades.

Are you ready for the resource revolution?

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Are you ready for the resource revolution?
Source: McKinsey & Company

Meeting increasing global demand requires dramatically improving resource productivity. Yet technological advances mean companies have an extraordinary opportunity not only to meet that challenge but to spark the next industrial revolution as well.

Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

This report presents data on debt-use patterns by farm businesses and explores key trends over 20 years.

Do You Live in a Food Desert?

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Do You Live in a Food Desert?
Source: Walk Score

A food desert is a neighborhood without access to healthy food. Why does this matter? Living in a food desert can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Walk Score helps you make more informed decisions about where to live, like finding an apartment within walking distance of a grocery store.

Many cities are making access to healthy food part of their general plans. For example, Washington D.C.’s sustainability plan sets a goal of having 75% of residents within a 5 minute walk of healthy food.

But how many people can walk to a grocery store in 5 minutes?

Today, we’re announcing a new ranking of the best and worst U.S. cities for access to food based on our database of local places and our Travel Time API and ChoiceMaps technology.

NRDC Report: Potentially Unsafe Chemicals in Food Threaten Public Health

April 9, 2014 Comments off

NRDC Report: Potentially Unsafe Chemicals in Food Threaten Public Health
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

Federal protections to keep potentially unsafe chemicals out of our foods are woefully inadequate and may be putting the health of Americans at risk, a Natural Resources Defense Council investigation found.

The food safety protection system is marred by minimal supervision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rife with apparent conflicts of interest in safety evaluations, and rendered all but toothless by a gaping loophole that allows companies to simply declare as safe hundreds of chemicals added to our foods—without any notification to the FDA or the public, according to an NRDC report released today.

Restaurant Owners’ Perspectives on a Voluntary Program to Recognize Restaurants for Offering Reduced-Size Portions, Los Angeles County, 2012

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Restaurant Owners’ Perspectives on a Voluntary Program to Recognize Restaurants for Offering Reduced-Size Portions, Los Angeles County, 2012
Source: Preventing Chronic Disease (CDC)

Introduction
Reducing the portion size of food and beverages served at restaurants has emerged as a strategy for addressing the obesity epidemic; however, barriers and facilitators to achieving this goal are not well characterized.

Methods
In fall 2012, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health conducted semistructured interviews with restaurant owners to better understand contextual factors that may impede or facilitate participation in a voluntary program to recognize restaurants for offering reduced-size portions.

Results
Interviews were completed with 18 restaurant owners (representing nearly 350 restaurants). Analyses of qualitative data revealed 6 themes related to portion size: 1) perceived customer demand is central to menu planning; 2) multiple portion sizes are already being offered for at least some food items; 3) numerous logistical barriers exist for offering reduced-size portions; 4) restaurant owners have concerns about potential revenue losses from offering reduced-size portions; 5) healthful eating is the responsibility of the customer; and 6) a few owners want to be socially responsible industry leaders.

Conclusion
A program to recognize restaurants for offering reduced-size portions may be a feasible approach in Los Angeles County. These findings may have applications for jurisdictions interested in engaging restaurants as partners in reducing the obesity epidemic.

U.S. Beverage Results for 2013

April 4, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Beverage Results for 2013 (PDF)
Source: Beverage Digest

The challenging recent trends in the U.S. beverage business continued and worsened in 2013. Total liquid refreshment beverages (LRBs), which had grown modestly in recent years, were down last year. And the biggest category — carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) — which has declined in recent years, declined again with the rate of decline worsening. In 2013, LRB volume was down -1.6% compared to growth of +1% in 2012 and +0.8% in 2011. At least part of the deterioration was due to the worsening CSD performance. In 2013, the CSD category was down -3% vs down -1.2% in 2012 and down -1% in 2011. Also, the large bottled water category performed less strongly in 2013 than in 2012.

Diet Soft Drinks. As BD reported several times last year, diets CSDs are now struggling. At least some consumers seem to be shying away from the legacy diet sweeteners, according to sources. Last year, in this all-channel data, brand Coke way out-performed Diet Coke. Brand Pepsi out-performed Diet Pepsi. Mt. Dew out-performed Diet Mt. Dew. And Dr Pepper out-performed Diet Dr. Pepper.

Cola Wars. In the face-off between Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo, Coca-Cola out-performed in both CSDs and LRBs. Coke’s LRB volume was down -1.1% vs PepsiCo down -3.4%. In CSDs, Coke’s volume was down -2.2%. PepsiCo’s rate of decline was double that: down -4.4%. Coke also out-performed Dr Pepper Snapple in both CSDs and LRBs.

Eyes in the Aisles: Why is Cap’N Crunch Looking Down at My Child?

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Eyes in the Aisles: Why is Cap’N Crunch Looking Down at My Child?
Source: Social Science Research Network

To what extent do cereal spokes-characters make eye contact with children versus adults, and does their eye contact influence choice? The shelf placement and eye positioning of 86 cereal spokes-characters were evaluated in ten grocery stores in the Eastern United States. In Study 1, we calculated the average height of cereal boxes on the shelf for adult- versus children-oriented cereals (48 versus 23-in.) and the inflection angle of spokes-characters’ gaze (0.4 versus -9.6 degrees). We found that cereal characters on children- (adult-) oriented cereals make incidental eye contact at children’s (adults’) eye level. In Study 2, we showed that eye contact with cereal spokes-characters increased feelings of trust and connection to the brand, as well as choice of the brand over competitors. Currently, many of the cereals targeted towards children are of the heavily sugared, less healthy variety. One potential application of this finding would be to use eye contact with spokes-characters to promote healthy choices and healthier food consumption.

Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security
SOurce: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The narrowing of diversity in crop species contributing to the world’s food supplies has been considered a potential threat to food security. However, changes in this diversity have not been quantified globally. We assess trends over the past 50 y in the richness, abundance, and composition of crop species in national food supplies worldwide. Over this period, national per capita food supplies expanded in total quantities of food calories, protein, fat, and weight, with increased proportions of those quantities sourcing from energy-dense foods. At the same time the number of measured crop commodities contributing to national food supplies increased, the relative contribution of these commodities within these supplies became more even, and the dominance of the most significant commodities decreased. As a consequence, national food supplies worldwide became more similar in composition, correlated particularly with an increased supply of a number of globally important cereal and oil crops, and a decline of other cereal, oil, and starchy root species. The increase in homogeneity worldwide portends the establishment of a global standard food supply, which is relatively species-rich in regard to measured crops at the national level, but species-poor globally. These changes in food supplies heighten interdependence among countries in regard to availability and access to these food sources and the genetic resources supporting their production, and give further urgency to nutrition development priorities aimed at bolstering food security.

Introduction of New Food Products with Voluntary Health- and Nutrition-Related Claims

March 31, 2014 Comments off

Introduction of New Food Products with Voluntary Health- and Nutrition-Related Claims
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

New food labeling regulations and new diet and nutrition information can affect food companies’ use of health- and nutrition-related claims. This report examines the use of these claims from 1989 to 2010.

Public Service Delivery: Role of Information and Communication Technology in Improving Governance and Development Impact

March 31, 2014 Comments off

Public Service Delivery: Role of Information and Communication Technology in Improving Governance and Development Impact
Source: Asian Development Bank

The focus of this paper is on improving governance through the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the delivery of services to the poor, i.e., improving efficiency, accountability, and transparency, and reducing bribery. A number of papers recognize the potential benefits but they also point out that it has not been easy to harness this potential. This paper presents an analysis of effective case studies from developing countries where the benefits have reached a large number of poor citizens. It also identifies the critical success factors for wide-scale deployment.

The paper includes cases on the use of ICTs in the management of delivery of public services in health, education, and provision of subsidized food. Cases on electronic delivery of government services, such as providing certificates and licenses to rural populations, which in turn provide entitlements to the poor for subsidized food, fertilizer, and health services are also included. ICT-enabled provision of information to enhance rural income is also covered.

Why Are Americans Consuming Less Fluid Milk? A Look at Generational Differences in Intake Frequency

March 28, 2014 Comments off

Why Are Americans Consuming Less Fluid Milk? A Look at Generational Differences in Intake Frequency
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Decreases in intake of fluid milk since the 1970s mainly reflect changes in consumption frequency, not portion sizes. Generational differences in intake frequency have contributed to the per capita decline in intake.

FDA – Proposed Rule: Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration

March 28, 2014 Comments off

Proposed Rule: Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (via Regulations.gov)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) is proposing to require domestic and foreign food facilities that are required to register under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act) to address hazards that may be intentionally introduced by acts of terrorism. These food facilities would be required to identify and implement focused mitigation strategies to significantly minimize or prevent significant vulnerabilities identified at actionable process steps in a food operation. FDA is proposing these requirements as part of our implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Further, as part of the proposal, FDA discusses an approach to addressing economically motivated intentional adulteration. We expect the proposed rule, if finalized as proposed, would help to protect food from intentional adulteration caused by acts of terrorism.

New From the GAO

March 26, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. International Food Aid: Better Agency Collaboration Needed to Assess and Improve Emergency Food Aid Procurement System. GAO-14-22, March 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-22
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661963.pdf

2. Medicare: Certain Physician Feedback Reporting Practices of Private Entities Could Improve CMS’s Efforts. GAO-14-279, March 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-279
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661980.pdf

3. Federal Contracting: Noncompetitive Contracts Based on Urgency Need Additional Oversight. GAO-14-304, March 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-304
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661984.pdf

Testimonies

1. USDA Litigation: Limited Data Available on USDA Attorney Fee Claims and Payments, by Eileen R. Larence, director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, House Committee on Agriculture. GAO-14-458T, March 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-458T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661943.pdf

2. Critical Infrastructure Protection: Observations on Key Factors in DHS’s Implementation of Its Partnership Approach, by Stephen L. Caldwell, director, homeland security and justice, and Gregory C. Wilshusen, director, information security issues, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-464T, March 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-464T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661946.pdf

3. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Slower Than Expected Progress in Software Testing May Limit Initial Warfighting Capabilities, by Michael J. Sullivan, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-14-468T, March 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-468T

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