Monthly Archives: January 2017

Low Prices Straining Florida growers

abandoned field





Florida growers have seen such low prices this winter that some have elected to disk fields or to not harvest their full yield.

The market has improved some recently, particularly for sweet corn and squash, growers said, but the season has been a difficult one.

Gene McAvoy, the Hendry County extension director, said the drop in prices has been unusual in its duration and in its breadth.

“Oftentimes you’ll see tomatoes are down but peppers are up or squash is up, but we’ve seen peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, radishes, just a wide variety of produce, lettuce, a lot of stuff has been down,” McAvoy said.

“Hundreds of acres of tomatoes, sometimes only picked once, not that they’re totally abandoned, but they may just take the crown, the best fruit off, and then move on,” McAvoy said. “Acres of radishes, a lot of different vegetables.”

Tony DiMare, vice president at Homestead, Fla.-based DiMare Co., said prices are a bit better now than earlier this winter, but remain low.

“You’re talking about — still — significant losses,” DiMare said. “This is pretty bad.”

Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, said a number of factors have contributed to the situation, including ideal weather.

“Some growers have said they have 20% more product this year, with no changes in production practices,” Lochridge said in an e-mail. “Mexico production is high as well. But consumer demand has stayed flat, so in essence there’s nowhere for all of that great produce to go.”

Chuck Weisinger, president and CEO of Fort Myers, Fla.-based Weis-Buy Farms, said many crops were picked only once and that everyone is feeling the lower prices.

“It’s sad,” Weisinger said. “It’s terrible.”

The Hendry County extension office recommends that, once a decision is made to abandon a field, whatever product remains there should be destroyed quickly, lest insects and disease take hold and later affect nearby fields.

“It’s a tough call but they don’t have any choice, really,” McAvoy said. “Once the economics get to a point where you’re going to lose more money (if you harvest), you have to make that call as a businessman. But nobody’s happy about it.”

McAvoy said he has gotten criticism regarding the disking of fields, with some wondering why the produce isn’t donated.

The answer is that food banks simply cannot absorb it all.

Feeding Florida took in 2 million pounds of fresh produce from growers in December alone. It had access to 6 million, said Feeding Florida executive director Robin Safley, who started in her job about a year ago and is working to increase the cold storage capacity of the organization’s network.

Low prices have caused concern for many, with some growers worried their businesses may not survive.

“There’s a lot of gloom and doom out there,” McCoy said, describing the sentiment of a group of growers with whom he talked during a recent trade meeting.

“Some of the weaker growers could go under as a result of this,” McCoy said. “It’s hard to say at this point. They weren’t talking real positive, let’s put it that way.”

DiMare, too, had heard a couple of tomato growers who weren’t sure they could weather this season’s losses.

Bryan Biederman, an owner of Belle Glade, Fla.-based Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers, said he thought the market had turned a corner, with prices coming back.

Sweet Pac grows a lot of sweet corn, and Biederman hadn’t heard of anyone disking that crop, though for about two weeks after Thanksgiving prices were less than ideal.

“Things slowed down, but they didn’t hit rock bottom,” Biederman said.

He had heard that tomato and pepper growers were hurting, however. Lochridge also noted those groups as having the most difficult time.

Jon Browder, sales manager at Belle Glade-based Pioneer Growers Co-Op, also noted a turnaround in prices for sweet corn.

“We went through the doldrums from December until about 10 days ago,” Browder said in an e-mail Jan. 18.

DiMare had a different observation.

“I don’t see any relief in sight,” DiMare said.

Weisinger said he expected prices would turn around but said that damage was already done.

“I think we’re going to see better prices now,” Weisinger said. “The only thing is it’s too late for some Florida growers.”

Story by : ThePacker (Ashley Nickle)

Why aren’t more groceries sold online?








The grocery business in the US is about $675 billion. Virtually every household shops for groceries and over 90% of households shop for groceries once a week or more. Many products are now regularly bought online that were thought to be impossible to be converted to online shopping. Yet online grocery sales continue to be a small fraction of the industry. Depending on who you ask, online grocery sales this year will be 1-3% of industry sales. Compared to other product classes, it’s minuscule. So why aren’t more groceries sold online?

One big problem: Perishables

Consumers are understandably reluctant to have someone else pick out their fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and chicken. Anecdotally, you never hear a consumer talk about how an online grocery service picked out better products than they could do at the store. The best you’ll ever hear is that it was ‘pretty good’. You never hear better than that and you could hear worse.

The other big problem: Price

The profit margins in the business of selling groceries in stores is as thin as it gets. And online shoppers don’t want to pay a premium. The problem is, when you go to the supermarket, you do the picking and then you bring it home yourself. When you order online, they do the picking and they bring it to your home and someone has to pay those workers so online grocers have built-in disadvantages. Cheerios or Russet potatoes are the same online as in store and if the delivered price of online groceries isn’t competitive, it’s not compelling to consumers. Consumers don’t like shipping costs, don’t like service costs and they sure won’t (generally) pay for a shopper to pick their apples or tomatoes. So the online services are stuck doing their customers’ work of picking the products while being unable to charge for it. (There is an offset to the higher labor cost in the form of lower real estate costs but clearly the savings in real estate don’t offset the higher labor.) When you add in the cost of handling returns, it becomes impossible. That’s why you never heard of an online grocer making a profit, it’s much too hard to compete against the legacy retailers and their lower costs.

What could change all these problems? Technology

If online grocers could avoid the extra labor cost involved in picking, it would make a substantial dent in their costs. If they could simultaneously give consumers the confidence and trust that they will get produce and other perishables of the same quality they would pick for themselves and at prices that can compete with supermarkets, it will drive consumer adoption of online grocery shopping. The only way I can think of how to do that is to use technology to pick produce and other perishables. Theoretically, anyone could create that technology but when you think about who’s best suited to do that first, the answer is the technology leader in retail, Amazon.

Amazon has a big initiative for online groceries with Amazon Fresh. But when you look at what Amazon is doing in groceries, they are also building Amazon Go, a tech-enabled physical store. It is one of the few businesses that Amazon is developing in bricks and mortar retail. That makes me think that even Amazon believes that big-time consumer adoption of online grocery sales is a long way off. According to Uwe Weiss, CEO Blue Yonder, a machine-learning software company that aims to help retailers optimize fresh food replenishment and pricing “Once Amazon’s growing grocery business reaches critical mass, the shift will happen immediately. All other retailers will have no other choice but to make it work any way they can.”

Story by : Richard Kestenbaum

Quarterly RockStar!

Congratulations to Amy Meifert , ReedTMS Logistics’ Quarterly Rockstar! Amy Meifert has been an incredible asset to the ReedTMS and throughout the last quarter has routinely been one of the first employees in the office and one of the last out.

Some of the comments as to why she became the Quarterly Rockstar are as follow:

“I would like to recognize Amy Meifert for her 110 percent dedication to her job. She works long hours to insure that all trucks have scheduled loads. She is the type of employees we need to drive our business forward.”

” Over the past 2 weeks specifically, without being asked or complaining afterwards, she worked on holidays, PTO days, after-hours when she has not been on-call, etc.  From a more macro view, she’s been instrumental in turning our FL local fleet into a losing fleet into a thriving fleet.”

“Anytime I have after hours coverage and need assistance Amy is always receptive to helping no matter the time of day or night I call her.. Always very helpful….”

Thank you for everything you do Amy! Congratulations on being our Quarterly Rockstar!!

December Employee Of The Month

Congratulations to Michael McQueen, ReedTMS Logistics’ employees of the month! Michael McQueen has been an incredible asset to the carrier relations department team and has gone above and beyond in helping other areas within the company with their duties.

Some of the comments as to why he was nominated are as follow:

“Mike has taken ownership over his role in the carrier relations department, which I think is something that makes him a role model in this building. He is thorough and helpful.”

” He has directly helped myself and a customer set up a qualified carrier for a load with a tricky shipper.”

” He makes a point to directly communicate with booking reps on the status of their packet carriers every day. He has helped another associate get acclimated to his role. McQueen works hard and deserves some recognition.”

Thanks for all you do Mike, keep up the good work!

College Football Championship brings a big win to Tampa Business

Clemson University beat the University of Alabama 35-31 at Raymond James Stadium Monday night in the College Football National Championships, but Tampa Bay turned out to be the real winner.

The football game was the culmination of a days of events designed to show off Tampa as a destination and provide an economic boon to the area. Hotels in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties were projected to be at full capacity as fans of both teams poured into town days ahead of the game to see other related events

Tampa officials are hoping the game has an economic impact equal to or perhaps greater than the $308 million Dallas saw in 2015 and the $274 million in Phoenix last year.

On Monday, fans of both teams streamed into the stadium hours ahead of the big game, snarling traffic and eventually filling up the stands. The official attendance at the stadium was a record 74,512 people. Bands representing the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide played from either side of the stadium, later coming onto the field before the game.

Local restaurants and other businesses also were expected to do well. The game was a huge opportunity for Patrick Ruddell, owner of the Mini Doughnut Factory in South Tampa. His doughnuts were served during halftime in the press box of the stadium, where scores of out-of-town reporters were covering the game.

“This is amazing for us to be involved in something so big,” Ruddell said. He was approached about two months ago to have his doughnuts be part of the championship. “They reached out to us in November. They said they want one local business in every city they go to. I don’t know how they found us but it’s a blessing.”

In fact, it was Gina Lehe, senior director of communications and branding for the College Football Playoffs, who found the business run by Ruddell and his wife, Zezura. “I came out here in March looking for a dessert item,” Lehe said. After seeing the reviews on Yelp, she hopped in her car and headed over to Ruddell’s shop.

“It was a hidden gem that wasn’t a huge chain. I fell in love with the concept. It was easy to prepare and present,” Lehe said.

Of course, there were the bacon-topped mini-doughnuts. “It was perfect because we do a bacon-themed dinner after the game,” Lehe said.

Ruddell is planning five more stores in the Tampa Bay area this year, including one in St. Petersburg in May. He wants to have 55 locations by 2019.

At the game, Raymond James Stadium was turned into competing seas of orange versus crimson under fair skies on a cool, 56-degree night. Fireworks, two paratroopers dropping onto the field after the university bands played and a bald eagle flying into the stadium as the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung started off the evening.

The two teams traded the lead back and forth over the course of the game but Clemson came back late in the game to take the lead and win.

Story by TampaBayBusinessJournal

Florida Truckers Say ‘Road Rage’ Getting Worse, Not Better

If commuters only understood. That is the prevailing mentality of truck drivers when it comes to courtesy, and the lack thereof, on Florida’s highways.

Jacksonville-based truckers say if people better understood the challenges of driving 18-wheelers, they’d be less inclined to spar with them on the roads.

Lane changes and merging trigger the vast majority of road rage between trucks and other vehicles, the drivers said. That’s especially true of cars squeezing in front of tractor-trailers, forcing them to slam on the brakes.

“What the car doesn’t realize is: We’re not as light as they are; we can’t stop as quick as they do,” said Wes Sellars, safety director for Rinaudo Enterprises, a Jacksonville-based trucking company that maintains a fleet of 67 heavy-haul trucks and 77 specialized trailers.

Hitting the brakes hard on a truck causes dysfunction in the braking system and can shift the truck’s load out of balance, truck drivers said. They also shared horror stories of truckers being killed after having to veer out of the way of commuters cutting them off. In one Jacksonville incident, a truck driver was killed after becoming a victim of road rage.

In May, George Guerrero of New Jersey was leaving Jacksonville on Interstate 10 near Chaffee Road when witnesses said a second semi pulled alongside him and bumped his truck. Guerrero was shot and killed by the second truck driver. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has not yet identified a suspect in the shooting.

Brion Newcomb, a veteran trucker, said he has never experienced any road rage quite like that in his 30 years of driving. But he said other truck drivers are getting just as aggressive as those who drive commuter vehicles. “I was brought up old school. My daddy drove,” Newcomb said. “I’ve been around it all my life. I flash lights and try to be courteous, and people just come over without even thanking you.”
Shawn Raymond, another truck driver, said he hadn’t heard of Guerrero’s death, but he has heard of other truckers being shot at.

“A lot of us would really, really like to be able to arm ourselves,” said Raymond, who drove trucks in the Army before entering the domestic trucking industry. “It is that big of a concern, that it gets talked about with truckers. … None of us want to be shot at and not be able to shoot back.”

Company policies and gun laws prevent most truckers from carrying weapons, Raymond said. Gun-free zones such as ports, which truckers frequent, also pose restrictions to carrying firearms as a truck driver. Newcomb, for his part, took more of a pacifist route. “I try to walk away from a fight; I try to just steer away from everything,” he said.

“I have grown to have more patience the more I’ve driven. I have patience that’s just unreal. I don’t let nothing bother me.” But the two truckers could agree that road rage is getting worse, and they say it’s related to two other things that are growing more prevalent: traffic, and texting while driving. Newcomb said he often sees drivers drifting all over the road, or driving slowly, then sees that they are holding smartphones when he passes them.

“Nobody is paying attention,” he said. There is also a mentality of anonymity that people get behind the wheel, aided by the idea of a quick getaway, truckers said. Raymond said that people often flip him off and drive away, knowing that he’ll never see them again.

“If somebody got ticked off at me at the grocery store, well, now I’m standing there,” he said. “That could evolve into something else, and they’d probably think it through a little more.”

That same thought process could play into the thinking of the man who shot Guerrero, Raymond added. “That guy was obviously insane,” he said. “But he thought he could shoot that guy and get away.”

For now, that’s exactly what’s happened. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has not reported any developments on the investigation into locating Guerrero’s killer since the weeks after his shooting.

One potential solution to road rage Newcomb suggested was mandatory education on how cars interact with semis when drivers get their licenses.

“There ought to be a simulator at a DMV where they can try driving a truck and a car pulling out in front of them,” he said. “Nowadays, people just don’t care.”

Read more at:
By Benjamin Conarck The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)