WIC PASSES PRODUCE DEADLINE
WASHINGTON — WIC, the federal government's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, on Oct. 1 began requiring all states participating in the program to distribute vouchers for fruit and vegetable purchases. Every mother on the program will now receive an $8 per month produce voucher — or $10 for breast-feeding mothers — while every child on the program will receive $6 per month. Given WIC's total national caseload, the new vouchers will total $600 million per year in new fresh, frozen and canned produce sales. In states such as New York and Delaware, where the produce program was implemented earlier this year, redemption rates for the new vouchers have topped 90%. To pay for the new produce vouchers without raising the total federal cost of the program, the amount that participants can spend on juice has been cut by half, and the amount that can be spent on milk has been cut by one-third.
SUNFLOWER EXPANDS NEW FARM
BOULDER, Colo. — Sunflower Farmers Market here has announced plans to expand its commercial-scale farm near Longmont, Colo., from 2 acres to 12, according to a report from the Denver Post. The natural and organic food retailer will also add a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse, powered by wind and solar energy, to the facility next year. The farm currently produces crops such as arugula, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, peppers, radishes, squash, turnips and assorted lettuces for the company's stores in nearby Boulder and Denver. Chief Executive Officer Mike Gilliland said that the company hopes the farm will eventually turn a profit, but told the Post that it was launched primarily to raise awareness of organic farming and sustainability issues.
DATABAR TOOL AIDS BULK PRODUCE
NEWARK, Del. — The Produce Marketing Association here has launched DataBar Online, a new online portal and central database geared toward simplifying the transition to item-level DataBar coding for suppliers and retail buyers of loose and bulk produce. Suppliers can use the portal to link Global Trade Item Numbers to their price lookup numbers, and retailers can then access the portal to download these appropriate GTINs into their point-of-sale systems. PMA members can access the DataBar Online utility at sites.pma.com/databaronline. The association has also published a DataBar Implementation Guide, available for free at www.pma.com/cig/tech/rss.cfm.
PMA HOSTS FDA FARM TOURS
NEWARK, Del. — Produce Marketing Association officials recently hosted special farm tours on the East and West coasts for U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials, including FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Growers and regulators discussed “a range of topics during tour stops, including how to cost-effectively address the produce industry's food safety needs, such as audits and traceability; commodity-specific issues; … industry-wide issues such as water testing and standards; and the particular challenges faced by small operations,” according to a PMA release.
PMA NAMES NEW PR MANAGER
NEWARK, Del. — The Produce Marketing Association has named Nancy Ferguson its new public relationship manager. Ferguson will report to PMA Public Relations Director Julia Stewart, and will be responsible for “developing and executing plans for communicating with media, industry and other publics as needed, and supporting PMA's ongoing member communications,” according to an announcement from the trade group.