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When President Trump approved an Aug. 2 proposal that would slash immigration by half within a decade by limiting the ability of citizens and legal immigrants to bring family members into the country, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina immediately declared it a non-starter.

“South Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture and tourism is number two,” Graham said in a statement posted on his website Aug. 3. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy which relies on this immigrant work force.publicSen. Lindsey Graham

“South Carolina’s agriculture and tourism industry advertise for American workers and want to fill open positions with American workers,” he added. “Unfortunately, many of these advertised positions go unfilled. Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”

The bill, advanced by two Republican senators, would award points based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. It would allow some family members in, while eliminating preferences for other relatives, like siblings and adult children.

Currently, more than 1 million people are granted legal U.S. residency each year, most based on family ties. President Trump and the bill’s sponsors claimed low-skilled immigrants pushed down wages for native-born Americans, a charge countered by a raft of studies.

For example, studies show that the children and grandchildren of immigrants paid far more in taxes than they consumed in public services; are better educated than the average American; and rather than taking existing jobs, are almost twice as likely to start a small business as native-born Americans.

The only economist cited in support of the administration’s proposal, George J. Borjas of Harvard University, said in an interview Aug. 3, quoted in the New York Times, there was no economic justification for reducing skilled immigration. “That is a political decision, he said. “That is not an economic decision.”

Agriculture (farming, fishing and forestry) ranks first among the occupations immigrants held in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, with immigrants working in 46 percent of the jobs.

The studies are echoed by the voice of experience in South Carolina agriculture, Martin Eubanks, assistant commissioner of agriculture and a 32-year veteran in the department, who told The Produce News last year, “SCDA is still hoping the U.S. Congress will pass legislation giving the nation a reliable, legal and affordable seasonal labor force.”

Though California has been harvesting its new crop of garlic for the past couple of months, there has been no significant downward pressure on price and it doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Bill Christopher, chief executive officer of Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, CA, said garlic has actually been in short supply for most of the time over the last couple of years, which is a reflection of decreased volume from China, the world’s largest global supplier of garlic.

“Right now the market has stabilized and I don’t think it’s going to come down any more,” he said in early August.

As a longtime grower and promoter of California garlic, Christopher is unabashed in his reasoning for the strong market. “The demand for California garlic is high. More and more people are switching to California garlic.”

He acknowledged that Chinese garlic does have its followers. “I do not know why, but some people do prefer the Chinese garlic.”

California firms typically harvest the new crop from June through September and then sell it from storage the rest of the year. Christopher said the market on organic garlic continued to be in a demand-exceeds-supply situation with absolutely no relief in sight.  

During this interview, the first full week of August, the longtime garlic salesman said conventional garlic was selling at a range of $1.50 to $2.50 per pound, while the organic market ranged from $3.50 to $4.50 per pound.

Jim Provost of I Love Produce in Kelton, PA, another longtime garlic importer and distributor, noted the strong market for garlic and opined that it appeared that it would not be dropping soon.

He said with the California fields in mid-harvest, one might expect to see a softening of the market, but that has not occurred. He added that there is less product available than he would have expected, which has kept the strong market in place.  

Christopher mentioned that there were some production holes. California had some very high temperatures in June, with some areas experiencing temperatures as high as 115 degrees, and that could have affected yields.

As a buyer of California garlic, Provost said at least one shipper that he utilizes noted shorter supplies.

A quick survey of the San Francisco terminal market price on conventional garlic in mid-August revealed a robust price of $70-$74 for a 30-pound carton. Organic garlic was almost impossible to find with one observer noting if you could find it, the price would be well above $100 per carton.

Oxnard, CA-based Mission Produce has developed a new bag design for extra small avocados. Dubbed with the name Minis, the package features a consumer-friendly design. Small avocados tumble across a green background beneath a bold Minis label.min

Mission said its Mini avocados are “small but mighty.” They can be used in a variety of recipes and the backside of the package presents one such recipe, avocado brunch toast.

Mini avocados are approximately 3.5 ounces each and yield about one-quarter to one-third cup of creamy avocado goodness. They are the perfect single-serving avocado. One Mini yields the amount of avocado for a sandwich, a smoothie or simply on its own as a snack. The beauty of Minis is that the entire avocado is used, so there is zero food waste.

“Mission has always produced these extra small avocados, but they’ve typically been sold to foodservice. With the evolution of healthy-snacking, to-go packaged foods and 100 calories packs we know there is a need for a to-go, value-added avocado,” Robb Bertels, vice president of marketing for Mission, said in a press release.

Brent Scattini, Mission’s vice president of sales and marketing, added, “One of our initiatives is to efficiently sell what the tree produces. By creating this package, it gives us the opportunity to develop a retail pack that both addresses a consumer need, and helps us optimize our fruit utilization throughout the year.”

Mission’s Minis are currently being supplied from Mexico. They’re packaged in two-pound bags with approximately eight to 10 mini avocados in each bag. Today they can be found in Grocery Outlet stores in Northern California.

 

Sunkist Growers and Fruit Growers Supply Co. boards of directors announced a consolidated management structure to lead both companies moving forward.

“Sunkist Growers and Fruit Growers Supply are sister cooperatives that service the same constituencies,” Chairman of the Sunkist board of directors Gerald Denni said in a press release. “A shared management structure will increase efficiencies in both organizations and drive a culture that best serves our membership.”

The two companies will remain legally separate entities with a shared leadership structure headed by Russ Hanlin as president and chief executive officer of both organizations. Given the different natures of the cooperatives' business activities, chief operating officers at both organizations will manage day-to-day operations — John Striff at Sunkist and Ted Pajak at Fruit Growers Supply. Legal, finance, information technology, human resources and government affairs services will be shared across the two cooperatives.

“These organizational changes at Sunkist Growers and Fruit Growers Supply will streamline operations of both companies,” Hanlin said in the press release. “This structure will allow us to fully utilize talent and resources across both organizations to optimize service and value to our constituents.”

A private equity firm, Rotunda Capital Partners, on Aug. 15 finalized a deal to acquire a majority interest in Indianapolis-based IF&P Foods LLC. IF&P is the parent company of Indianapolis Fruit, Piazza Produce and Garden Cut.

The partnership will allow IF&P’s companies “to focus on growth and excellence in continuing to provide superior service to its customers. IF&P’s management structure and personnel will remain as part of the partnership,” according to an Aug. 15 press release.

Greg Corsaro, president and chief executive officer of IF&P Foods, told The Produce News that “our customers and vendors should see no change” because of the transaction.

Corsaro said Rotunda Capital has offices in Washington, DC, and Chicago, and it specializes in investing in distribution and family-owned businesses. “This is their first foray into food distribution, and, particularly, produce.”

Asked to explain the background leading to the change, Corsaro said, “We weren’t really looking to do anything, but we were introduced by a third-party acquaintance” to Rotunda.

“It was a good investment for them, with their distribution-related companies,” Corsaro said. “Fresh food was a space in which they wanted to be. They told me they had looked for one-and-a-half years for a company such as ours with which to partner.”

The benefit for IF&P is “capital infusion, if we need it.” And Rotunda offers distribution industry expertise.

Corsaro said there might be synergies between IF&P and other Rotunda companies, but that wasn’t a motive in this deal.