Lidl promises 50 percent discounts in Southeastern stores; Japan figures out a way to grow food with no dirt; 40% of all produce winds up in landfills; Georgia passes tax law for leased equipment; Florida looks for Ag Hall of Fame nominees; citrus forecast goes up for a change; and America’s not the only place with an ag labor shortage. Just another week in the produce biz:

Lidl Coming to Southeast Promising 50% Discounts; 20 Stores Open This Summer

The supermarket wars are about to get super-heated with German discount grocery chain Lidl entering the market with 20 stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia this summer, with another 80 planned for year one.

With 10,000 stores in 27 countries, Lidl and its chief German rival Aldi have significantly dented world players like Britain’s Tesco and overseas Wal-Marts.

Lidl CEO Brendan Proctor told Reuters this week that the chain’s products would somehow cost up to 50 percent cheaper than U.S. competitors when its first American location opens June 15.

All Lidl stores are 20,000 square feet and feature just a half-dozen aisles (see photo above for a typical store-set). Store brands make up 90 percent of the stock.

Lidl says the first 100 stores, newly constructed standalone retail properties that Lidl owns and developed, will create 5,000 jobs. Industry analysts estimate Lidl will have about 330 U.S. stores by 2020. The company has said it is open to leasing locations for some of those.

Wal-Mart and Aldi are not standing idly by. Reuters reported last week that Wal-Mart is testing new pricing strategies in 11 states, aiming for 15% reductions while Aldi is targeting prices 21% below U.S. competitors.

About 40% of All Perishable Food Winds Up At the Landfill

The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that between 31%-40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted.

Perishable food goes to waste more often than processed products. The annual waste averages about 1200 calories a day for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

About half of the food that goes to waste gets pitched before it reaches consumers; the other half sits and shrivels in refrigerators and pantries until we throw it away.

Researchers arrived at their conclusions by studying two USDA data sources. The Loss Adjusted Food Availability (LAFA) tracks the waste levels of 213 commodity foods at the retail and consumer level in terms of pounds per person per year. The National Nutrient Database details 27 different nutrients in those commodities.

In September 2015, USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency introduced an effort to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030.

Earlier this year the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association announced standardized, voluntary regulations to help consumers better understand label dates on food products.

Japanese researchers grow food with no dirt and less water

Researchers at the Mebiol Research and Development Center near Tokyo have found a way to grow produce atop a layer of polymer film in a process that results in as much as 90% water savings.

Hydrogel – the same thing that makes diapers absorbent – also soaks up water and nutrients through nano-pores, meaning it’s now theoretically possible to grow fruits and vegetables on any flat surface. Plants grow on top of the film as root structures spread out rather than dig in.

Researcher Yuichi Mori first came up with the concept 20 years ago while working on an artificial kidney; turns out the same technology that grows synthetic blood vessels and membranes is also food-friendly.

A decade of further research made the idea feasible; now some younger Japanese farmers are growing crops like boutique tomatoes with no soil at all.

The system also reduces water needs by 90% and the film’s microscopic pores block most bacteria and viruses as well.

There are 150 locations in Japan growing some sort of product with the polymer, as well as one in China and another in the United Arab Emirates. Mebiol plans to introduce the technology to Europe and the rest of the Middle East later this year.

Nominations Open for Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

Adam Putnam

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam has announced that the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame is now accepting nominations for the class of 2018. The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made lasting contributions to Florida agriculture. More information, nomination forms and a list of past inductees are available at Nominations must be submitted by Sept. 1.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services partners with the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation each year to recognize outstanding individuals nominated by Florida’s agricultural community. Inductees will be honored at the annual banquet during the Florida State Fair in February.

Nominations can also be mailed to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame at 100 South Mulrennan Rd., Valrico, FL 33594; you can also call 813-230-1918 for more information.

Farm Credit, ELFA, Equipment Groups Join to Support Georgia Legislation for Leased Equipment Tax Exemptions

A new law that will help Georgia farmers get deserved tax exemptions for leased equipment is now in effect.

Georgia HB 290 was drafted by an Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) workgroup and introduced by Rep. Sam Watson (R-GA-172). It passed the Georgia Senate 51-0 on March 24 and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Rep. Watson, a member of the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, worked closely with ELFA’s Tax Workgroup to get the bill to the Senate, where it was sponsored by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-GA-007). The group is headed by AgSouth Farm Credit’s Christian Taylor and comprised of representatives of AgGeorgia Farm Credit, AgSouth Farm Credit, and John Deere. The group was instrumental in obtaining the critical support of the influential Georgia Association of Manufacturers and its president, Roy Bowen.

This measure addresses a personal property tax dilemma that has faced Georgia’s family-owned farms for more than 10 years, namely, inconsistent application, by both local assessors and state auditors, of the personal property tax exemption for equipment with a lease-purchase agreement that was passed in 2007. The ELFA-backed legislation provides for consistent treatment across the state and ensures that certain farm equipment owned or leased by family farmers in Georgia will be exempt from property tax as intended by the original law.

AgGeorgia Farm Credit and AgSouth Farm Credit are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, which has been providing financing and other support to farmers and rural America since 1916. The associations are customer-owned cooperative lending institutions that provide loans for land, equipment, homes, and production agriculture and also offer crop insurance and leasing.

(L-R) Marty Moore, COO AgGeorgia Farm Credit; Pat Brown, John Deere – Augusta; Greg Van Bladel, John Deere – Augusta; Senator Tyler Harper; Roy Bowen, President and CEO of the Georgia Association of Manufacturers; Georgia Governor Nathan Deal; Representative Sam Watson; Scott Riehl, VP State Government Relations, The Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA); Christian Taylor; AgSouth Leasing; Theron Anderson; AgSouth Farm Credit; Bryan Tolar, President of the Georgia Agribusiness Council

Florida Citrus Projection Goes Up for The First Time In Months

Florida citrus growers got their first good news in a while with the May citrus crop forecast from USDA. For the first time in recent memory the projection was actually adjusted upward.

According to the latest data from USDA, the all-orange forecast increased 1 million boxes from last month’s count to 68 million boxes: 33 million boxes of early, midseason, Navel, and Temple oranges; and 35 million boxes of Valencias.

Even with the late rally, Florida citrus is shaping up for a production drop of 17 percent over 2016.

America’s Not the Only Country With An Ag Labor Problem

Labor shortages are nothing new to American growers. But a new report from the University of Adelaide Law School shows that a quarter of Australia’s vegetable growers have had to let product rot in the field because there’s no labor available to harvest and ship it.

“I am not picking that…”

The country is a major supplier to Asian countries. Much of its labor comes from those countries via guest visa programs similar to America’s H-2A.

The study surveyed 332 Australian vegetable growers and found that about two-thirds had experience labor shortages at some point. Of those, 63 percent left crops unpicked.

The most common complaints among Australian growers will be familiar to Americans who use the H-2A program: bureaucratic delays, a limited pool of countries to choose from and work periods that can typically be no longer than six-to-nine months.


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