Category Archives: Produce News

Produce groups seek 2-year wait on electronic logging

A coalition of industry associations has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a two-year exemption on electronic logging device mandate for trucks carrying agricultural commodities.

A current ELD mandate waiver which postponed the measure for trucks carrying produce and other ag products ends March 18.

In a letter submitted Feb. 20, the United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers, the National Potato Council, the U.S Apple Association and more than 20 other produce groups said a combination of factors have driven up transportation costs.

“With the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, driver shortages, and other issues, there have been considerable increases in transportation costs for fresh produce causing devastating effects on our industry,” the letter said. “We are hearing from many of our members across multiple commodities and sectors throughout the country that shippers are having to pay two or three times, occasionally more, the normal rate for transporting their product.”

ELD concerns

The letter said feedback from producers and trucking operations indicates many ELDs on the market are not able to accommodate the agricultural exemption that is provided under the hours-of-service regulations. Under the agricultural exemption, hours-of-service regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities operating within a 150-air mile radius of a pick-up.

“We believe that this extension would provide a reasonable period of time for FMCSA to work with the technology providers in developing a program to verify that the ELDs on the market can perform the tasks that the rule mandates and allow trucks hauling agricultural commodities to fully utilize the 150-mile exemption,” according to the letter.

The coalition is asking the agency to consider hours-of-service modifications to accommodate the realities of loading and unloading fresh produce.

“The unpredictability of loading and unloading times as it relates to fresh fruits and vegetables can significantly detract from the on-duty hours drivers are allowed in a day,” according to the letter, which notes that two-to four-hour delays at loading are not uncommon.

“We encourage FMCSA to consider flexibility under either the ELD rule or the hours-of-service rule for truck drivers who are idling, waiting or traveling small distances reflective of negotiating a congested terminal to be considered in an exempt status,” according to the letter. “We do not believe that this type of activity is as demanding as over-the-road driving and therefore should not contribute to maximum driving times.”

The letter also asks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to:

  • Allow packing facilities, cold storages and other locations to be considered as a “source” location under the hours-of-service regulation.
  • Allow the agricultural exemption’s 150-air-mile radius to begin at the final pick up point for multi-point pickups. Drivers make multiple pick-ups from small packinghouses or cold storage facilities to fill their load before continuing to final destinations. “We would encourage the 150 air-mile radius to begin at the location of the last pick-up point so as not to disrupt current supply chains and accommodate the operational efficiencies organically created by the marketplace over the last 100-plus years,” according to the letter.
  •  Clearly define that empty trucks are covered under the agricultural exemption. According to the letter, agricultural exemptions should be clearly defined to include unladen trucks as eligible if they are traveling to a facility exclusively to pick up an order.

Story by Tom Karst @thepacker

Del Monte to purchase Mann Packing

Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to purchase Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing for $361 million.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of this year, according to a news release.

“Mann Packing’s strength in the vegetable category, one of the fastest-growing fresh food segments, will provide us with synergies, enhancing our ability to better serve our combined customers and address consumers’ needs for healthier products,” Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, Del Monte chairman and CEO, said in the release. “This acquisition is a significant step toward our goal to be the world’s leading supplier of healthful, wholesome and nutritious fresh and prepared food and beverages for consumers.”

Mann Packing sales in 2017 were $535 million.

“Everyone at Mann is excited with this development,” Lorri Koster, chairman and CEO of Mann Packing, said in the release. “We share Del Monte’s values and commitment of providing fresh, high-quality produce based foods that are nutritious and delicious. Both our companies have been successful in their own right with their superior quality, service and value to our customers and consumers in all channels throughout North America. This will only be enhanced by combining the business expertise and skills of two of the industry’s premiere organizations.”

Story by Ashley Nickle at

Walmart could give online shoppers final OK on produce

A system patented by Walmart aims to address one of the top drawbacks for would-be online shoppers: the desire to pick their own produce.

The “Fresh Online Experience,” a process Walmart outlined in a patent published Dec. 28, would allow consumers to remotely approve or reject specific produce items prepared for online orders. The service could be used for other fresh items as well.

When placing an order, consumers could select which items to confirm. Once two-dimensional or three-dimensional photos of the produce have been sent, the consumer has a set amount of time to approve or reject the items.

Walmart explained its rationale for the system — for which fulfillment could be manual or automated — in the background section of patent.

“A customer when visiting a retail store can inspect and choose produce that seems to look like the highest quality,” the company stated in the document. “However, a customer who orders the same item from a retail store website for grocery pickup and/or delivery has to rely on the store associate to choose the actual item to be delivered. They may be dissatisfied with the result.

“It is desirable for the customer to be able to request images of the item in the retail store, so that the customer can be satisfied with their online purchase,” Walmart stated.

The company has patented numerous other ideas over the years that have not been deployed. E-commerce, however, has been a major area of growth for Walmart, and inability to inspect produce and other fresh item is one of the most cited reasons people give for not grocery shopping online.

Story by Ashley Nickle at

USDA declares disaster for 19 Florida counties

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a natural disaster declaration for 19 Florida counties, acknowledging widespread damage by Hurricane Irma.

The declaration lets farmers and ranchers in those areas seek support, including emergency loans, from the Farm Service Agency, according to a news release.

“I thank U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for taking action to support Florida’s farmers and ranchers still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Irma,” Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam said in the release Oct. 13. “Our preliminary estimates peg the total damage at more than $2.5 billion, but it’s important to recognize that the damage is still unfolding.

“Today’s disaster declaration provides much needed support, and I will continue working with (Florida Gov. Rick Scott) and our leaders in Washington to get Florida agriculture the relief it needs to rebuild,” Putnam said.

Citrus industry losses have been projected at $760 million.

The USDA released its first citrus crop estimate last week, but industry members say the department grossly understated the extent of the damage from Irma.

Story by Ashley Nickle @

Understanding the Millennial Mindset

Produce Retailer Editor Pamela Riemenschneider and The Packer  editor Greg Johnson answer questions after presenting Fresh Trends research at The Packer's West Coast Produce Expo in May. Their presentation will focus on millennials at this year's MIdwest Produce Expo.

The Packer’s Midwest Produce Expo is back in Kansas City, Mo., Aug. 14-16 for its sixth annual edition, and this year the show focuses on a huge generation of consumers who are changing food retailing: millennials.

“Millennial Mindset is our theme this year to get the produce industry better information about reaching this important group of consumers,” said The Packer Publisher Shannon Shuman

The Packer Editor Greg Johnson and Produce Retailer Editor Pamela Riemenschneider will present a millennial version of their Fresh Trends Quiz Show, which uses Fresh Trends 2017 data to show attendees how to better market to millennials, and it uses real-time audience answers in the presentation.

“Pamela and I have some surprises for our attendees,” Johnson said. “For instance, younger consumers tend to buy fruits and vegetables less often than other age groups according to our Fresh Trends survey, but they’re even with or above the other groups on tropical fruits. We’ll explain why and what retailers can do with that information.”

Keynote speaker Matt Beaudreau has given keynote presentations to many corporate groups, and he uses proprietary data on millennials to show how to better market to and employ them.

The Millennial Mindset education program starts with a presentation on e-commerce and grocery delivery by Erick Taylor, president and CEO of Pyramid Foods, a Rogersville, Mo., retail chain, which operates 52 stores under several banners in Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Then, Garland Perkins, U.S. retail solutions with The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, will analyze millennials using her personal experience and professional experiences.

The 5-hour expo is Aug. 15 at the headquarter hotel, the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.

Buyers from Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kroger, Supervalu, Woods Supermarkets, B&R Stores, Lucky’s Market, 99 Cents Only Stores, Reasor’s Food, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, McKeever Price Chopper, Queen’s Price Chopper and Balls Food Stores, and more, are registered to attend.

Story by Greg Johnson at

Citrus greening threatening your trees? Florida will send you tiny wasps

Homeowners with citrus trees in their yards can apply online to have a vial of tiny parasitic wasps mailed to them, that can then be released onto citrus trees.

To defend the state’s citrus crop from an industry-crippling infection, scientists with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services are fighting pest with parasites.

Florida residents can apply online to the department for tiny parasitic wasps called tamarixia that hunt the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive insect that spreads the fatal disease “citrus greening.”

The psyllid carries the infection, which plugs the plant’s phloem, starves the tree and causes fruit to drop prematurely. Tamarixia feed on the pest and lay eggs inside young psyllids, killing them and, hopefully, the bacteria that cause the disease, said biological scientist Gloria Lotz.

At a mass-rearing lab in Gainesville, one of a few throughout the state, Lotz and fellow researchers supply over 1 million tamarixia every year to commercial citrus growers and now, Florida residents who want to protect their backyard citrus trees.

The tamarixia release program is one of several tools researchers and growers use to slow greening’s spread, including pesticides to kill the disease-causing bacteria and hydroponic systems to keep infected plants healthy.

But there’s no single solution to a complex problem like citrus greening. It’s infected nearly 100 percent of the state’s mature citrus trees, said Steve Futch, a citrus agent at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Biocontrol methods usually operate as a “series of waves,” he said; when there are fewer pests, the parasite that hunts them starts to decline, too.

The chances of eradicating the psyllid and the infection with tamarixia are slim, he said — but it should work well in smaller, urban environments, where wasps can fly between citrus trees on different properties.

The citrus industry employs nearly 76,000 growers, truckers, pickers, and packers who face job loss if crop production continues to decline. But Futch said despite the bleak prognosis, Florida’s staple crop will survive—though it may be a bit smaller.

“There will always be a citrus industry in Florida,” he said. “It will be different in the future than it is today and in the past.”

Citrus tree owners can apply here to have a small vial of the tiny wasps sent to their home:

Story By Scottie Andrew, GateHouse Media Services