This week’s top food and ag stories:
1. Hawaiian bees now protected under the Endangered Species Act. The federal government has put seven species of native Hawaiian bees on the Endangered Species List, according to AP. “The bees face a variety of threats including ‘feral pigs, invasive ants, loss of native habitat due to invasive plants, fire, as well as development, especially in some for the coastal areas,’ [Sarina] Jepson [, a director of the Xerces Society,] told The Associated Press. The bees can be found in a wide variety of habitats in Hawaii, from coastal environments to high-elevation shrub lands, she said. The yellow-faced bees pollinate some of Hawaii’s endangered native plant species. While other bees could potentially pollinate those species, many could become extinct if these bees were to die off entirely.”
2. Government to issue $7 billion in subsidies to US farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it would pay 1.7 million farmers more than $7 billion due to the 2015 market downturn. “’This fall, USDA will be making more than $7 billion in payments under the ARC-County and PLC programs to assist participating producers, which will account for over 10 percent of USDA’s projected 2016 net farm income. These payments will help provide reassurance to America’s farm families, who are standing strong against low commodity prices compounded by unfavorable growing conditions in many parts of the country.”
3. Soybean and corn exports rise in Q4. Soybean and corn exports had a strong finish to the 2015-16 harvest season, reports Reuters. “This past marketing year, the largest-ever volume of soybeans departed the United States, some 1.936 billion bushels or 52.7 million tonnes. Corn outperformed last year but ended up with the 19th-largest volume of the past 50 years at 1.895 billion bushels or 48.1 million tonnes. Both corn and soybeans owe such large totals to considerable success in the fourth quarter, which were both the best fourth quarters on record for either crop. Earlier in the season, disappointing export numbers – especially for corn – had many in the industry concerned that exports could fall well below expectations.”
4. Cargill to test non-GMO ingredients. Agriculture and commodities company Cargill will have a third-party group confirm that certain ingredients are genetically unchanged, reports Star-Tribune. “In a bow to market pressure, Wayzata-based Cargill has had three major products verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization that tests products and ingredients to ensure their genetic origin and tracks them to make sure the full production process is uncontaminated. The products are sugar cane, high oleic sunflower oil and a bulking agent called erythritol that’s used in chewing gums and sweeteners such as Truvia, Cargill’s stevia-based product and a favorite among natural food consumers.”
5. Recalls issued for infant formula, eggs, clams and mussels. Several recalls were issued this past week affecting shellfish, eggs, and infant formula. Mussels and clams harvested in Maine were recalled by the state’s Department of Marine Resources after testing positive for domoic acid, a neurotoxin. A voluntary recall for eggs sold by Earth Egg Company was issued on Tuesday due to a salmonella outbreak in three states. Graceleigh, based in California, has recalled all of its Sammy’s Milk Baby Food due to potential Cronobacter contamination.