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Restaurants: The next front for the immigration debate? | Posted on January 30, 2017

From down-home delis to upscale bistros, dozens of restaurants nationwide are seeking "sanctuary" status, a designation owners hope will help protect employees in an immigrant-heavy industry and tone down fiery rhetoric sparked by the presidential campaign. First inspired by churches, the label is something cities and other public entities have sought to offer local protections to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, whether it's barring police from asking citizens about immigration status or refusing to cooperate with federal agents.  Roughly 80 restaurants are participating, in locations including New York, Minneapolis, Detroit, Boston, Oakland, California, and Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The restaurants agree to anti-discrimination policies, put up signs on windows that pronounce their sanctuary status and receive know-your-rights training, such as webinars on how to ask federal immigration agents for proper paperwork if there's an attempted raid. Some will also offer a text line for customers or employees to report any incidents of harassment.

Canadian utility agrees to buy Washington Gas

The Washington Post | Posted on January 27, 2017

WGL Holdings, which supplies natural gas to 1.1 million customers in the Washington region, was bought by Calgary-based ­AltaGas in a cash deal worth $6.4 billion, the companies said Wednesday. They hope to close the sale by year’s end.  AltaGas Ltd. said it will relocate its U.S. power business to WGL Holding’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in Washington. The Canadian firm may add about 20 positions over the next two years, according to executives on both sides of the deal.

Massachusetts working on improving access to fresh food

The Recorder | Posted on January 27, 2017

Rather than allow a 416-page state plan released in December 2015 to rot on a shelf, a Greenfield-based collaborative has been working to have it seed a bold future for farming and food accessibility in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative is working to promote, monitor and facilitate implementation of the plan, one that was written for and accepted by a state’s Food Policy Council, says collaborative Director Winton Pitcoff. After getting organized, the collaborative, which was itself one of the recommendations of the plan, has focused its first year on two projects, as well as moving along legislative initiatives and policy objectives recommended in the report. First, there’s trying to balance the potential conflict between farming and the autonomous town public health boards, which have authority over a vast array of issues, some of which can involve farming practices and may result in restrictive policies and regulations made in the absence of expertise. Those regulations, which can be adopted even without a public hearing, may vary from town to town, making it hard for farmers, who look for consistency, said Pitcoff.

Farm near Fukushima nuke plant ships milk again for public sale

South China Morning Post | Posted on January 26, 2017

A dairy farm near the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan began shipping raw milk again. It was the first milk shipped for processing and public sale from an area previously designated for evacuation following the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the seaside plant in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the prefectural government. Milk produced at the farm in the Naraha district had been checked for radioactive cesium every week from last May to December, with no reading ever surpassing the government-set limit of 50 becquerels per kilogram. In fact, the readings were below the testing equipment detection limit. Around 400 kg of raw milk from 18 cows was shipped

More meat price declines forecast, but chicken looking up

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on January 26, 2017

Ample supplies of beef and an expected rise in pork production will keep retail prices for both proteins on a downward path in the coming year, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) predicted in its 2017 Food Price Outlook.  Beef and veal prices paid by consumers declined 6.3 percent in 2016 as the increased pace of cattle slaughter, especially during the second half of the year, and higher carcass weights resulted in higher year-over-year beef production. ERS predicts beef and veal prices will decrease an additional 2.5 to 1.5 percent in 2017. Retail pork prices fell 4.1 percent in 2016, largely due to ample supplies of other animal proteins, particularly beef, available for domestic consumption. With USDA forecasting a 5.1 percent increase in pork production in 2017, large pork supplies are expected to drive retail prices 1 to 2 percent lower this year, ERS said.  Retail chicken price inflation remained relatively low into 2016 partly due to an increase in broiler production. The strong U.S. dollar also kept more broilers on the U.S. market, weighing on retail chicken prices.Poultry prices declined 2.7 percent in 2016. However, as the industry recovers from lower 2016 retail prices, ERS predicts poultry prices will rise between 2 and 3 percent in 2017.

Farm Direct Marketing Revenue Topped $8 Billion in 2015

Growing Produce | Posted on January 26, 2017

USDA has released its first-ever survey on direct marketing, and it shows that the local food industry is huge. More than 167,000 U.S. farms sold food through direct marketing, earning $8.7 billion in 2015, the survey shows. The report includes not only fresh produce, but also “value-added foods,” defined as foods like meat and cheese.  The report, titled “Local Food Marketing Practices Survey,” is the first survey USDA has conducted focusing on the economic impact of farm marketing in the U.S. It will be repeated following the 2017 Census of Agriculture, pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget.

A2 milk will be expanding nationwide | Posted on January 25, 2017

Leading Australian dairy brand, a2 Milk®, today announced the beginning of the national launch of its full line of 100 percent pure, natural cows' milk that is easy to digest. A natural alternative for people with sensitivities to conventional dairy milk - which typically contains the A1 beta-casein, a protein often associated with indigestion and discomfort - a2 Milk® offers consumers with perceived lactose sensitivities the opportunity to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of real and natural dairy milk.

Vegetarian diet increases risk of preterm births

UPI | Posted on January 25, 2017

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found women who lacked vitamin B12 in their diets were more likely to have a preterm birth.  The study of 11,216 pregnancies in 11 countries showed that low levels of vitamin B12, commonly found in animal products, were linked to increased risks of having preterm births. Vitamin B12 is vital for the production of red blood cells and cellular metabolic energy. Vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to anemia and damage to the nervous system. "Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient found only in products of animal origin such as meat, milk and eggs," Dr. Tormod Rogne, of Akershus University Hospital and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Pregnant women who consume too few animal-derived foods increase their risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency."

At eye of GMO storm, a non-browning apple

The Washington Post | Posted on January 25, 2017

Fruit, which industry hopes is a breakthrough, may hit some stores soon. After years of development, protest and regulatory red tape, the first genetically modified, non-browning apples will soon go on sale in the United States. The fruit, sold sliced and marketed under the brand Arctic Apple, could hit a cluster of Midwestern grocery stores as early as Feb. 1. The limited release is an early test run for the controversial apple, which has been genetically modified to eliminate the browning that occurs when an apple is left out in the open air. Critics and advocates of genetic engineering say the apple could be a turning point in the nation's highly polarizing debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While genetic modifications have in the past been mainly defended as a way to protect crops, the Artic Apple would be one of the first GMOs marketed directly to consumers as more convenient. "What companies are desperate for is some really popular GMO product to hit the market," said McKay Jenkins, the author of a forthcoming history of the debate. "Any successful product could lift the cloud over GMOs."  Industry executives predict the apple could open a whole new trade in genetically engineered produce, potentially opening the market to pink pineapples, antioxidant-enriched tomatoes and other food in development.  "We see this as less about genetic modification and more about convenience," said Neal Carter, founder of the company that makes the Arctic Apple. "I think consumers are very ready for apples that don't go brown. Everyone can identify with that 'yuck' factor."

Bob Evans Farms to sell restaurant business unit

Meat + Poultry | Posted on January 25, 2017

Bob Evans Farms, Inc. is now a pure play food company. On Jan. 24, the company announced the sale of its Bob Evans Restaurants business unit to the private equity company Golden Gate Capital for $565 million plus the assumption of certain liabilities. Net proceeds from the sale to Bob Evans Farms are expected to be between $475 million to $485 million.  On the same day, Bob Evans Farms entered into an agreement to acquire the Pineland Farms Potato Co. (PFPC), Mars Hill, Maine, for $115 million. Pineland Farms is a value-added potato processor serving the retail and food service markets. The company also operates a cheese processing business.