Here is part two of my look at the hot trends and topics for 2011. Check my earlier post for other forecasts.
Some recent happenings in DC should continue to have some big play throughout the year.
Food Safety- The President just signed a food safety bill. Implementation may be jeopardized through a funding fight as many think it is too costly. However, the CDC estimates that food-borne illnesses sicken 48 million people in the US each year and 3,000 Americans die from these food-borne illnesses. This is too big of an issue to go away.
The Northwest Horticultural Council is leading our industry’s push to ensure that implementation is based on science and risk with commodity-specific protocols, i.e. more scrutiny to crops grown on the ground than those grown in a tree, as the risks are much different.
Nutrition – On a more positive note, the President also recently signed the child nutrition bill. This will provide an additional 29 million meals to school kids with an emphasis on healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables
We are working hard to ensure that pears are a part of those meals including outreach to schools and a presence on www.schoolmenu.com.
If pears were served in just 10% of those meals, that could mean 30,000 additional truck loads of pears going to schools.
Along those lines is the debate over the nutrition standards served in school. This will be a debate for this congress. A recent gap analysis released by the Produce for Better Health Foundation points out that while only 20% of USDA funding is spent on fruit and veg, the percentage of the recommended servings is 40%.
If recommendations are followed, these new standards would call for a doubling of fruit served in school breakfasts and double the amount of fruit and veg in school lunches. This would be a boon for pears and the fresh produce industry in general.
Mexican Trucking Issue – We will hear more debate about this in the next several months now that the administration has finally developed a position to start negotiations. This issue has caused financial pain to pear growers in the neighborhood of $27 million.
Farm Bill Discussions – The current farm bill expires in 2012 and I believe that you will begin to hear more discussion about how the bill will be shaped. While specialty crops fared very well in the last bill, programs such as the Market Access Program may be under more fire in this round than in recent memory as groups look to offset spending with cuts.
In 2010 the American Dialect Society named “app” the word of the year while Merriam-Webster chose “austerity”. Last year also brought the term Quantitative Easing into the mainstream. (The second round of this policy was dubbed QE II, a reference to the famous cruise liner.)
A term that I think we will hear more often in 2011 is PAYGO. This term is used a lot in Washington DC and defines the practice of financing expenditures with funds that are currently available rather than borrowed.
I also think 2011 will bring continued good returns to pear growers as prices for this season have been healthy and the overall Northern Hemisphere pear supply is down about 12%.
Every year is different. Let’s make this a good one.
All pears all the time,