Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ban on Chocolate Milk Backfires

Sorry I'm a little late getting this posted -- been very busy lately.

From Cornell University:

To some, banning chocolate milk from elementary schools seemed like a good idea, but new Cornell University research shows that removing chocolate milk from school menus has negative consequences.
“When schools ban chocolate milk, we found it usually backfires. On average, milk sales drop by 10 percent, 29 percent of white milk gets thrown out, and participation in the school lunch program may also decrease,” reports Andrew Hanks, lead author and research associate Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “This is probably not what parents wanted to see.”
The Cornell study, which included professors David Just and Brian Wansink was published today in PLOS ONE; it examined what happened when chocolate milk was banned in a sample of Oregon elementary school. It shows what happens when chocolate milk-loving kids are suddenly confronted with something paler – and proposes what researchers hope can be a healthful compromise.
“Members of the school district’s PTA were adamantly opposed to offering chocolate milk in the cafeterias, claiming it was as bad as soda,” said Hanks. “While this policy does eliminate the added sugar in chocolate milk, it also introduces a new set of nutritional and economic consequences. Children typically don’t choose foods for health, but rather for taste.”
Nutritionally, after the milk substitution, students consumed less sugar and fewer calories; however, they also consumed less protein and calcium.
Here’s what the behavioral economics experts propose: “Instead of banning chocolate milk, make white milk appear more convenient and more ‘normal,’” said Wansink co-author and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “Put the white milk in the front of the cooler, and make sure that at least one-third to half of all the milk is white. We’ve found that this approach can increase sales by 20 percent or more."

USDA Researchers Come Up With Handy Innovations

I found this to be really cool. I hope you do too.

The USDA has issued a new report scientific breakthroughs discovered by USDA researchers that led to new patents and inventions with the potential for commercial application and potential economic growth. 

Innovations included in the report range from flour made out of chardonnay grape seeds that prevents weight gain to antimicrobial packets that keep food from spoiling, efforts to protect U.S. troops in Iraq from diseases carried by sand flies, new processes for turning grass clippings and raked leaves into bioenergy, and many more.

"Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to the economy. We have accelerated commercialization of federal research and government researchers are working closely with the private sector to develop new technology and transfer it to the marketplace," said Ag Secretary Thomas Vilsack. "USDA has a proven track record of performing research that benefits the public."

USDA reports receiving 51 patents, filing 147 patent applications, and disclosing 180 new inventions in the last fiscal year, which are detailed in the Department's 2013 Annual Report on Technology Transfer released last week.

Helping drive these innovations, USDA has 259 active Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with outside investigators, which includes Universities and other organizations, including 117 with small businesses. The USDA's technology transfer program is administered by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Discoveries from USDA's 2013 Technology Transfer Report include:
  • A new kind of flour made from chardonnay grape seeds that can prevent increases in cholesterol and weight-gain (the Mayo Clinic is currently conducting human clinical trials on the product);
  • New ways to turn lawn clippings and tree leaves from cities into bioenergy;
  • An enzyme compound that can be used to develop insecticides to combat sand flies, a disease spreading insect that poses a major problem for U.S. military in Iraq and is responsible for hundreds of thousands of childhood deaths in Africa;
  • A computer-based model of the fluid milk process to lower greenhouse gas emissions (the model has been distributed to more than 100 processors in the United States and should help the dairy industry realize its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent per gallon of milk by 2020);
  • Oat concentrates, a digestible, functional food from oats licensed for the production of Calorie-Trim and Nutrim;
  • A new process for turning old tires into zinc fertilizer;
  • A handheld device that uses gold nanoparticles to detect West Nile virus (and potentially other diseases) in blood samples;
  • Window cleaners that use a biodegradable solution of nanoparticles that prevent water-beading that are superior to current cleaners;
  • A small packet that when inserted in small fruit containers releases an antimicrobial vapor that helps keep fresh fruit from rotting on the shelf.
Over the years, USDA innovations have created all sorts of products Americans use every days, from cosmetics, to insect controls, leathers, shampoos, and of course food products. Here are just a few examples of things USDA research is responsible for:
  • Frozen orange juice concentrate;
  • "Permanent press" cotton clothing;
  • Mass production of penicillin in World War II;
  • Almost all breeds of blueberries and cranberries currently in production, and 80% of all varieties of citrus fruits grown in the U.S.;
  • "Tifsport", a turf used on NFL, collegiate, and other sports fields across the country, specifically designed to withstand the stress and demands of major team sports. Tifsport is also used on PGA and other golf course fairways, while its sister turf, "Tifeagle", specially designed to be mowed to one-tenth of an inch daily, is used on PGA putting greens.
The 2014 Farm Bill will help to build on these accomplishments by establishing a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research that leverages $200 million in public funding and another $200 million from the private sector to support groundbreaking agricultural research.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Researchers Unveil New Alfalfa Variety that Resists Snout Beetle

News from Cornell University:

Cornell University plant breeders have released a new alfalfa variety with some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle, which has ravaged alfalfa fields in nine northern New York counties and across the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

There are no other known alfalfa snout beetle infestations in North America, but the pesky beetle has been spreading. The snout beetle’s larvae feed on and damage the alfalfa plant’s roots, limiting yields for this major livestock feed.

“We are the only ones who can work on [this pest], because it is so regional,” said Don Viands, professor of plant breeding and genetics and director of the Forage Breeding Project.

The new resistant cultivar, called Seedway 9558 SBR, has been in development since 2003, along with six other populations. But Seedway 9558 SBR has provided the most resistance while also maintaining the highest yields.

On a scale of one to five, where one represents little to no root-feeding damage and five is severe root-feeding damage, Seedway 9558 SBR scored a 2.9.

“This initial variety is better than anything else, but we feel we can still do better,” Viands said. “We are trying to get a variety that is at least twice as good as this one.”

For effective control, the resistant alfalfa should be planted with a larvae-killing nematode that has been studied and released by Elson Shields, professor of entomology, said Viands.

“We are making significant progress in developing resistance, but it has been very slow,” Viands said. The first-year base crop for Seedway 9558 SBR was 13 percent resistant, compared with 38 percent after seven cycles. “Normally it takes four to five cycles to develop resistance, but this [alfalfa snout beetle resistance] may have multiple genes, so it is taking time,” Viands added, noting that it is still unknown exactly what mechanism allows the plant to deter the beetles.

Get Ready Now for New York State Fair Competitions

News from the New York State Fair:

  Did you know that the Great New York State Fair runs an annual competition for antique automobiles and tractors, and another for pigeons, and a third for carving watermelons?  

They are among the scores of competitions that will take place during the 2014 Fair.  Registration is now underway for most competitions.

Most competitions are true to the Fair’s agricultural roots and mandate, such as the competitions for horses and livestock, flower arranging, and dairy products.  However, others encompass the arts.  

The annual fine arts competition, which occupies the entire second floor of the Art & Home Center, is one example, and the daily talent competition on the Talent Showcase stage is another.  In 2013, more than 6,000 people submitted about 28,000 entries in 275 categories.

Among the new competitions this year is one called “Bucket of Junk.” Teams of competitors must make an identifiable object using only the odds and ends in their buckets.  The items in each bucket are identical.  Also new this year is a watermelon carving event, in which people try to make the best design they can from the watermelon and various pieces of fruit that they bring from home.  Each competition happens on just one day, and each is limited to 10 participants.

Any New York state resident can enter a New York State Fair competition and you do not have to win a local competition in order to compete.  Some competition winners earn a share of more than $200,000 in cash prizes.  Others receive medals or ribbons.  Daily winners of the culinary competition have their creations sampled on live television.  

Some deadlines for entries are approaching.  Competition rules, deadlines, and entry forms can be found on the New York State Fair website, located at www.nysfair.org/competitions.  Most entry forms can be filled out and submitted online.  However, competitors who prefer printed information can have it sent through the mail by calling the State Fair at 487-7711, extension 1337. 

Weekly Column from Ag Secretary Thomas Vilsack

Weekly column by Ag Secretary Thomas Vilsack:

Last week, farmers and ranchers began signing up for disaster assistance programs that were restored by the 2014 Farm Bill. 

While it took a year to implement disaster relief programs after the last farm bill was passed in 2008, disaster programs were up and running in just 60 days this time around, thanks to hardworking Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees in more than 2,000 offices across the country. These disaster programs will not replace all of the losses farmers and ranchers faced, but it will provide some relief and help ensure that extreme weather won’t cause families to lose the farm.

After just one week, I am pleased to say that we’ve received more than 10,000 applications for these programs. About 95 percent of the applications were for the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), which provides payments to eligible producers for grazing losses. The high number of applicants is no surprise considering the widespread, ongoing drought that has plagued livestock producers in the West Coast and Midwestern portions of the United States for nearly three consecutive years.

Our livestock producers have waited long enough and we understand the urgent need to provide payments in a timely manner. While the time for application processing and review will vary depending on the complexity and type of loss, the electronic payment and application systems are up and running. 

Since sign up began last week, we have processed nearly 60 percent of incoming applications and approved payments to help nearly 6,000 producers begin the recovery process.

The program is off to an excellent start, but it doesn’t stop here. We will continue to work through the spring and summer months to assist those who have experienced disaster losses.  FSA will provide monthly updates at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov, including data by state, number of applications, and payments issued.

In the coming weeks and months, I encourage farmers and ranchers impacted by drought, snowstorms and other unforeseen weather events to contact their FSA county office to make an appointment and learn if they are eligible for disaster assistance. Depending on the program and year of the loss, you have three to nine months to apply, and FSA staff can tell you what documents and records you will need to apply.

As we move into spring, drought and severe weather events continue to impact farmers and ranchers across the country. Thanks to resources provided in the new Farm Bill and our strong network of partners, I am confident that USDA will be able to offer producers the surety they need to invest confidently in the future and ensure a safe, affordable food supply to millions of Americans for generations to come.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Money Available To Help Schools Offer Healthy Lunches

From the USDA:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $25 million in grants to help schools purchase needed kitchen equipment as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow.

More than 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards, serving meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat. These new grants provide additional support to schools to help them prepare meals that meet those standards.

In December, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to the District of Columbia, Guam and 14 states. For the latest round of funding, USDA will ensure all state agencies receive a proportional share of the funding.

States will competitively award the funds to school districts to purchase needed equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

New York state received about $2 million from the program in fiscal year 2014.

The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project – a collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – recently released a report on school kitchen equipment needs that shows most school districts in the U.S. (88 percent) need at least one additional piece of kitchen equipment, and more than half (55 percent) need infrastructure upgrades to serve healthier meals that meet science-based nutrition standards.

The report concluded: Investing in kitchens and cafeterias will help schools better serve the nutritious foods and beverages that students need.

Since 2009, USDA has provided $160 million in kitchen equipment funding to states and schools. The President's fiscal year 2015 budget requests an additional $35 million for kitchen equipment grants. These grants are one of several ways that USDA is supporting schools as the implement the updated nutrition standards.

"Farmland" Coming to Theaters Next Month

The new documentary "Farmland" is supposed to start hitting theaters May 1.

A check of the www.farmlandfilm.com website shows the film coming to Auburn (the only site on the website so far in Central New York) but a date and time has yet to be announced. The website also shows the film coming to Albany and New York City.

The film is by Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Moll and includes interviews with farmers in Minnesota, Colorado, California, Georgia, Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

To see the trailer and learn more about the film, go to www.farmlandfilm.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sign Up Begins for USDA Disaster Assistance Programs

Eligible farmers and ranchers can sign up for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance programs restored by passage of the 2014 Farm Bill beginning April 15.

"We implemented these programs in record time and kept our commitment to begin sign-up today," said Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack. "To ensure enrollment goes as smoothly as possible, dedicated staff in over 2,000 Farm Service Agency offices across the country are doing everything necessary to help producers that have suffered through two and a half difficult years with no assistance because these programs were awaiting Congressional action."

Depending on the size and type of farm or ranch operation, eligible producers can enroll in one of four programs administered by the Farm Service Agency.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have suffered losses because of disease, severe weather, blizzards and wildfires.

Enrollment also began April 15 for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Producers signing up for these programs are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for information on the types of records needed and to schedule an appointment. Taking these steps in advance will help producers ensure their application moves through the process as quickly as possible.

Supporting documents may include livestock birth records, purchase and transportation receipts, photos and ownership records showing the number and type of livestock lost, documents listing the gallons of water transported to livestock during drought, and more. Crop records may include purchase receipts for eligible trees, bushes, or vines, seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records, and documentation of labor and equipment used to plant or remove eligible trees, bushes, or vines.

Producers have three to nine months to apply depending on the program and year of the loss. Details are available from any local FSA office.

Search for State Fair Director, Management to Continue

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets announced Wednesday the search for a new director of the New York State Fair will be extended and a new timeline developed as part of a comprehensive review of the fairgrounds and its year-round operations.

Former Syracuse mayor Matthew J. Driscoll, president and CEO of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp., who led the initial search at the behest of Governor Cuomo, said there were many potential candidates for the job, but more work needs to be done to find the right manager for the fair and fairgrounds.

"It became apparent to the search committee and the Department that the future of the Fair, as well as the development and management of the year-round fairgrounds, may require a broader set of skills and management approaches," Driscoll said. "Concurrent with an expanded search, the Department will have the opportunity to explore business opportunities with a variety of vendors related to the Fair, its year-round operations, and its grounds. Job candidates identified by the search committee will remain under consideration.”

In conjunction with this revised approach, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced today the appointment of Troy Waffner as Acting Director, who will lead the Fair’s management team through 2014.

Troy Waffner has served as Assistant Director of the Fair since 2010.  Prior to that, he served for 17 years in a variety of state government positions focused on agricultural-related issues, including stints in both the State Assembly and Senate.

“Troy Waffner has done a phenomenal job over the past few months in keeping the Fair on track for 2014," said acting Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dairy Carousel Continues Today and Tomorrow at State Fairgrounds

            Today and tomorrow are the last days to get out to the Spring Carousel at the state Fairgrounds.

Members of the dairy industry from all over the Northeast will be at the event, operated by the New York Holstein Association. It is said to be the largest spring show in North America.  In past years, exhibitors from as many as 15 states and Canada were on hand.  As many as 1,000 animals in all seven dairy breeds are expected.

           The event features judging and sales of various breeds of dairy cows, as well as activities for juniors.  Admission to the event is free.  It takes place Friday through Monday in the Toyota Coliseum and in the Exhibit Center.  More information is available at http://www.nyholsteins.com/.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New York Deemed Not Ag Friendly

This doesn't look good for New York.

Check out this story http://farmprogress.com/story-state-ag-friendly-surprise-new-hampshire-tops-northeast-9-110679-nl_4_nlr_2?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=04+April+2014 by great ag writer John Vogel.

Implementation of Farm Bill Continues

From the USDA:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today (April 3) announced significant progress on implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), which President Obama signed into law on Feb. 7. 
The 2014 Farm Bill reforms agricultural policy, reduces the deficit, and helps grow the economy.
“We are making tremendous progress implementing the new Farm Bill,” said Secretary Vilsack. “This law is critically important to America’s farmers and ranchers and to our nation’s economy. Every USDA agency is working diligently to implement the Farm Bill’s new provisions quickly and effectively.”

With 12 titles and more than 450 provisions, the Farm Bill drives food, farm, conservation, trade, research, energy policies and more. Implementing such a large piece of legislation within the mandated timeline requires a coordinated effort across all areas of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Immediately after enactment, USDA established a farm bill implementation team composed of key sub-cabinet officials and experts from every mission area of the Department to put new programs in place and make mandated reforms to existing programs. 
USDA also launched a website that provides details on Farm Bill implementation in one convenient location and the Economic Research Service launched a website highlighting some of the economic implications of the new programs and provisions.
In the weeks since enactment, USDA held 12 outreach and listening sessions to share information and hear from stakeholders on the 2014 Farm Bill implementation process.