What happened this week while you were working? Well, the USDA hiked inspection fees; Lidl’s entrance to the U.S. market is just around the corner; Asparagus is shipping out of central Mexico; Produce For Kids is expanding its digital presence; Our man Mike Prather provides a photo report from the West Coast Produce Expo; the New York Times realizes the South is an actual place; You’re running out of time to register for the 2017 CPS Research Symposium and the PMA Foodservice Conference and Expo; Wendy’s plans to move 2 million pounds of mangoes this summer; and a huge colony of stolen bees found their way home. No kidding. Click through our Week-In-Review below:

USDA AMS Inspection Fees Hiked

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has announced 2017 rates it will charge for voluntary grading, inspection, certification, auditing and laboratory services for a variety of agricultural commodities including fruits and vegetables.

The new rates vary by service. For instance, quality and condition inspections for whole lots will rise to $191 per while half lots will see an increase to $159 per.

The new specialty crop rates will go into effect Oct. 1. The 2017 regular, overtime, holiday, and laboratory services rates will be applied at the beginning of the crop year, fiscal year or as required by law depending on the commodity.

USDA says the rate hikes are needed to cover operating costs. You can read more about why here and see the full rate schedule here.

Here Comes Lidl: First Stores Open In VA, Carolinas 6/15

The retail wars will get even hotter June 15 at 8 a.m. when German value retailer Lidl opens its first nine U.S. locations in Virginia and the Carolinas. The locations are the first of 20 Lidl plans to open in the Southeast this summer.

A division of Schwarz Group, Lidl’s U.S. headquarters are in Arlington, Va. The chain focuses on store brand products – more than 90 percent of its inventory – and is promising prices up to 50% lower than competitors.

At least 100 locations are planned along the East Coast by mid-2018.

“We cannot wait to open our first U.S. stores and introduce customers to grocery shopping refreshed, retooled and rethought to make life better,” Brendan Proctor, president and CEO of Lidl US, said in a statement. “Every day in our stores, customers will enjoy the smell of Lidl’s freshly baked breads, a selection of sustainable products like our certified fresh and frozen fish, and top-quality wines from around the world available at market-beating prices. Our mission every day is to deliver our customers less complexity, lower prices, better choices, and greater confidence. ”

All Lidl stores are roughly 20,000 square feet with just six aisles.

The nine opening June 15 are in Kinston, Greenville, Rocky Mount, Sanford and Winston-Salem, NC; Spartanburg and Greenville, SC; and Virginia Beach and Hampton, VA.

CarbAmericas Begins Asparagus from Central Mexico

CarbAmericas, the Ft. Lauderdale, FL-based importer of fresh fruits and vegetables, transitions into asparagus from Central Mexico this week and will continue shipping from the region through early September.

This season’s shipments will originate in the Irapuato-based CarGoldMex facility which opened in November 2016. CarGoldMex, a vertically integrated grower, shipper and packer of Mexican fruits and vegetables, has been a partner of CarbAmericas for four years.

“We are very excited about our state-of-the-art facility in Irapuato and look forward to utilizing our capabilities there to better serve our customers,” said Jeff Friedman, president of CarbAmericas. “We expect to grow and ship around half a million cases this season through our Central Mexico program.”

CarbAmericas supplies Central Mexican asparagus packed in 11 and 28 lbs. and tips. Cypress Creek branded custom packs are also available. Shipments will come into the US via McAllen, Texas.

Produce For Kids Expands Digital Footprint

The healthy eating-focused Produce for Kids® campaign will again join forces with Meijer on June 4 to raise funds to bring the Jump with Jill nutrition education program to schools within the Meijer footprint. This year, there are new digital elements that will enhance the campaign and reach the growing segment of grocery delivery shoppers and digital coupon users through Shipt and the Meijer mPerks program.

During the Produce for Kids campaign, Meijer shoppers using Shipt, the official home delivery partner of Meijer, can identify Produce for Kids campaign produce sponsors in a dedicated in-app category. Shipt and Meijer began a home delivery partnership in 2016 and are currently rolling out home delivery across the retailer’s six-state footprint.

“With the growing number of shoppers using grocery delivery services, it’s important that Produce for Kids campaigns evolve along with the shopper,” said Trish James, vice president Produce for Kids. “In our efforts to create a healthier generation, we must now capture the shopper both in-store and in the digital space.”

In addition to the new home delivery initiative, the Meijer mPerks digital coupon program will feature produce partners in offers throughout the campaign, including Dole, Earthbound Farm, Green Giant Fresh, Grower Direct, HMC Farms & Sunwest Fruit Company, Honeybear Brands, Marzetti, RealSweet Vidalia® Onions, SUNSET and Well-Pict Berries.

Photos From Friends: A Southern Boy In Southern California

While we were busy roaming around the Southeast, we asked our friend Mike Prather from Handy Candy LLC to serve as a photo correspondent for the West Coast Produce Expo earlier this month at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, CA.

The three-day event featured more than 150 produce suppliers, educational sessions and field tours through the Coachella valley.

Our man Mike’s favorite part of the show? Learning to dunk from basketball legend and keynote speaker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

1Action from the tradeshow floor in Palm Desert, CA

2The Handy Candy booth for a little shameless self promotion with Clarissa Tavor and Mike Prather

3More from the floor — see yourself anywhere?

4And one more — where’s Waldo?

5Last one from the floor — Waldo wasn’t there, you can stop looking for him now

6Mike says keynote speaker and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar taught him to dunk after this presentation (doughnuts in coffee, maybe?)

7The fortune teller at the opening event says, “Mike, thanks for the reportage, but don’t quit your day job”

8Outdoor reception in the gorgeous California evening

9Island-themed entertainment at the luau

10These two are either entertainers or a new species of bird

11Pink flamingoes on the loose

12Mike’s view of the host location, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, CA


New York Times Makes Southern Peach Shortage Official

We first reported it here over a month ago, but now even the New York Times has caught on to the fact that the South’s not going to have many peaches this year in a slightly histrionic and somewhat condescending May 30 piece that says, among other things, “Southerners… summertime rituals involve eating peaches over the sink, making them into cobblers and ice cream and canning whatever’s left…”

All of which might be true, it just sounds snotty coming from the NYT.

That said, the nation’s newspaper of record went on to confirm what we first said: Georgia will only bring about a quarter of its typical annual crop to market while Southeast production leader South Carolina will only have about 15% of a crop.

The paper went on to say that “one would be hard-pressed to find a Southerner who really wants a California peach” and that “a giant statue of a peach” is South Carolina’s “most famous roadside attraction.”

Bless our hearts, we’d have thought that was South of The Border.

Registration for CPS, PMA Foodservice events closing soon

CPS Research Symposium moderator Tiffiani Miller of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs know that being at the cutting edge of food safety is understanding what a positive STEC result could mean, determining effective ways to control Listeria monocytogenes, and gaining insight into the role the physiological state a pathogen may play in conducting validation experiments.

Registration ends soon for the June 20-21 event in Denver.

Panelists include Suresh DeCosta of Lipman Produce, Jennifer McEntire of United Fresh Produce Association and Max Teplitski of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientists presenting research include Trevor Suslow, University of California, Davis; Rolf Joerger, University of Delaware; Stefan Wuertz, University of California, Davis; and Martin Wiedmann, Cornell University.

Meanwhile, hotel rooms are booking fast for PMA’s Foodservice Conference and Expo July 28-30 in Monterey, CA, which attracts more than more than 1,800 attendees and more than 180 exhibiting companies. Highlights for the only event dedicated to fresh produce in foodservice include: networking with customers and potential partners, hands-on produce training, chef demos, menu tastings, insights on new culinary trends and flavors, and a must-see expo. Register by June 23 for early-bird savings.

Foodservice suppliers must apply by June 12 for a chance to join Foodservice Buyer Roundtables scheduled for July 30. This unique, new opportunity allows suppliers to connect face to face with operators and distributors. Confirmed buyers include Arby’s, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, P.F. Chang’s, Pro*Act, Sysco and Wendy’s.

Wendy’s Will Move 2 Million Pounds of Mangoes

Wendy’s expects to burn through some 2 million pounds of mangoes between now and Labor Day in its new Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad.

Joining the world’s favorite fruit (look it up) are hand-cut strawberries, tangy feta cheese, crunchy sunflower seeds and a honey citrus vinaigrette.

The chain promises fresh produce will be shipped to each of its restaurants two or three times a week to ensure an optimal dining experience for customers.

Stolen Bees Make It Back Home

As we’ve all tried to figure out what’s been happening to the bee population over the past few years, the Fresno County Sherriff’s Office discovered where 2,500 hives – worth almost $1 million – went.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a 51-year-old beekeeper in Sacramento, CA was arrested this week on suspicion of possessing stolen property after detectives saw him in beekeeper gear tending to more than 100 hives.

A tip in late April put detectives onto the thief when another keeper recognized hives belonging to a robbed keeper at the thief’s nursery operation. When police eventually tracked down the bee bandit, they discovered he had been stealing hives across California for the last three years. The man worked at night, moved the heisted hives on flatbed trailers, then rented them out for cash to California growers.

Beekeepers mark their hives distinctively, making it easy to spot the purloined goods.

At least one of the owners has already been to Fresno County to recover more than 600 stolen bee colonies that had been repainted and rebranded. No word on when the other beekeepers will recover from the buzzkill.

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