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USDA fruit grower disaster aid program kicks off

WASHINGTON — Beginning July 22, eligible fruit growers who experienced losses in 2012 due to frost and freeze, and who did not have access to crop insurance, will be able to apply for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The latest farm bill included a provision — penned by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) — that allows farmers without access to crop insurance and living in primary and adjacent counties that received a Secretarial disaster designation because of frost or freeze in 2012 to be eligible for Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program assistance. The program focuses on fruit crops grown on a tree or bush that suffered low yields due to damaging weather, though it also extends to natural occurrences such as earthquakes and floods.

"Family farms and businesses shouldn't have to go under because of a few days of bad weather," Stabenow said. "That's why it was so crucial when writing the 2014 farm bill to make sure that growers of all crops have access to relief to keep their farms running."

Stabenow said cherry and apple crops in Michigan and across the country were destroyed in frosts and freezes in 2012, leaving growers without crop insurance few options.

USDA said launching the farm bill program was a priority.

"After the 2014 farm bill was enacted into law, USDA expedited the restart of disaster assistance programs as a top priority," Farm Service Agency Administrator Juan Garcia said in a statement.

NAP enrollment begins July 22, and all applications must be submitted to a FSA county office by Sept. 22. FSA has a 17-page list of counties in the nation that were designated in 2012 for freeze or frost disaster.

Producers are encouraged to gather records documenting these losses to expedite the process, and to contact their FSA county office to schedule an appointment.

"Limited resource, socially disadvantaged and beginning producers are eligible for premium reductions and also may be eligible for fee reductions," FSA said.

Interested producers are encouraged to check FSA's website for more information on the program.

Sunkist promotes fresh citrus varieties and trends at the PMA Foodservice Conference

Sunkist will be showcasing more than 40 of its varieties of fresh citrus at this year's PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo July 25-27, allowing foodservice trade to sample fresh mixology recipes that highlight trending global influences and Meyer lemons, a variety that is quickly growing in popularity.

 “Lemon demand is stronger than ever, and specialty varieties like the Meyer lemon provide new, exciting flavors that consumers are embracing on items across the menu,” Joan Wickham, Sunkist advertising and public relations manager, said in a press release.Sunkist-Meyer-Lemon-Rose-SpSunkist's PMA Foodservice booth will offer fresh drinks, including the Sunkist Meyer Lemon-Rose Summer Splash cocktail. “At this year’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo, we are pleased to be sharing two fresh mixology recipes that highlight the versatility of Meyer lemons to trade.”

Thought to be a cross between a Mandarin orange and lemon, Meyer lemons are sweeter than conventional lemons and have a bright thin skin. Its sweeter flavor has quickly made it a culinary favorite that Sunkist is pleased to offer year-round.

To showcase the variety, Sunkist Chef Robert Danhi will be at the Sunkist booth serving up fresh cocktails and mock-tails with a Southeast Asian flair for attendees, including a refreshing Sunkist Meyer Lemon-Rose Summer Splash cocktail and a non-alcoholic Sunkist Lemonade with Chinese Dates and Star Anise.

As part of the tradeshow’s new product showcase, Sunkist will be featuring Sunkist Family Stories. This new multimedia storytelling project tells the stories of the families that make up the 120-year old citrus cooperative — offering a glimpse into the life of today’s modern farmer.

“Diners are increasingly aware of and interested in the stories behind their food,” added Wickham. “As a 120-year-old cooperative with a rich history in California and Arizona, Sunkist has many powerful narratives that speak to who we are as a company and supplier — and we are excited to share those stories with the foodservice trade with our Sunkist Family Stories program.”

Mann Packing introducing Kalettes, Arcadian Harvest Emerald at PMA Foodservice Expo

Mann Packing will launch two items — Arcadian Harvest Emerald and "Kalettes" brand Kale sprouts — and feature its Salad Solutions program at the PMA Foodservice Expo this year in Monterey, CA.

Arcadian-Harvest-EmeraldArcadian Harvest EmeraldMann’s Arcadian Harvest Emerald is a blend of two green leaves with a sweet crisp bite and a sophisticated leaf shape. Gina Nucci, director of healthy culinary innovation, noted that it is ideal for upscale salads.

Arcadian Harvest Emerald joins Mann’s other Arcadian Harvest premium fresh lettuces as part of its Salad Solutions program for foodservice operators.

“Our blends are comprised of carefully selected varieties, cut just once in the field, washed and packaged, to provide an array of lettuces that look and taste fresh from the garden,” Nucci said in a press release.

KalettesKalettesMann will also introduce "Kalettes" brand Kale sprouts at the trade show. Mann’s Kalettes are a new hybrid vegetable, a cross between kale and brussels sprouts.  Mann’s will offer Kalettes in a two-and-a-half-pound bag for foodservice. All items will be on display at the PMA Foodservice Expo on Sunday, July 27 in Booth No. 139.

In addition, Mann’s will serve samples of Arcadian Harvest Emerald Caesar spring rolls, a recipe created by Chef Lindsey Hull. The recipe is a finalist in the PMA Foodservice Sensory Experience contest; Mann’s entry won the contest last year.

For more information about Mann Packing, visit veggiesmadeeasy.com.

Ready Pac introduces Baby Kale European Salad Blend

Ready Pac Foods, based in Irwindale, CA, is capitalizing on the soaring popularity of kale with the release of the Ready Pac Baby Kale European Salad Blend.

More and more consumers are incorporating kale into their everyday meals, with the items experiencing 250 percent increase in dollar sales since last year.Ready-Pac-Baby-Kale-Blend According to International Dairy, Deli & Bakery Association's 2013 issue of What's In Store, 78 percent of consumers say nutrient-dense foods like kale have a meaningful effect on their health, and 76 percent say health benefits are the reason to eat them more often.

For shoppers looking for a gateway kale offering, Ready Pac's Baby Kale European Salad Blend is a perfect solution. In addition to being accessible, this nutrient-dense bagged blend is a rich source of vitamins A and C, and protein.

"The Baby Kale European Salad Blend is a perfect fit for Ready Pac consumers who are ready to 'up their game' with superfoods, but need a little help navigating their options," Tristan Simpson, vice president of corporate communications at Ready Pac, said in a press release. "At Ready Pac, we view kale the same way as we view our brand — complex and deeply nutritious, yet incredibly adaptable. We're excited to see this product pique the interest of curious, health-driven consumers everywhere."

Shoppers can find the Baby Kale European Salad at their local Albertsons. To learn more about Ready Pac Salad Blends, in addition to its extended range of fresh-cut solutions, visit http://www.readypac.com/products.

Community pulls together, Northwest fire rages

The Carlton Complex Fire, which has burned nearly 100 homes in Washington's Methow Valley and displaced 40,000 residents, continues to burn out of control. Conditions in the region have been extremely hot and dry, and strong winds whipped flames into a scene reminiscent of Dante's Inferno.

Lightning strikes kindled some fires around the July 4 holiday. By Friday, July 18, the Carlton Complex Fire had mushroomed to 260 square miles from 28 square miles. The Methow Valley isCarltonComplexFireA satellite image of smoke plumes taken on July 18 shows multiple wildfires in the state of Washington. These fires include the Carlton Complex and the Chiwaukum Creek Fire, part of the Mills Canyon Complex. (Photo courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) situated about 180 miles east of Seattle and is a popular destination for hiking and fishing.

The towns of Pateros and Brewster, WA, were evacuated. The fire jumped U.S. Highway 97 in Brewster and Pateros and has been burning along the Columbia River. Other highways in the area have been closed.

Mac Riggin, director of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing in Chelan, WA, told The Produce News July 21, "The whole community is pulling together and has been very supportive. Thank goodness, there's been no loss of life."

The fire burned two major power lines in Okanogan County, resulting in a widespread power outage. Riggin said, "Crews will get the power on as soon as possible."

Chelan Fresh was in the middle of cherry production when the fire erupted. "We've picked and packed a lot of cherries through all this," he told The Produce News. Cherry orchards are still intact, with none having burned.

He credited employees, some of whom have lost their homes, for their dedication and resilience in the face of disaster. "To be able to function under these circumstances is [incredible]," he stated.

The fire will not affect the company's upcoming apple and pear production.

The Washington State Horticultural Association, working in collaboration with employers in the tree fruit industry, has set a mechanism enabling people to make financial donations to benefit those who lost their homes and suffered loss attributed to the fire. Donations made be made to: Community Foundation of North Central Washington Brewster/Pateros Tree Fruit Fire Victims Fund, 9 S. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801.
 
Further information can be obtained at www.cfncw.org or by contacting Beth Stipe at 509/663-7716; or email beth@cfncw.org.

Donation checks should be marked “Brewster/Pateros Tree Fruit Fire Victims” on the memo line.