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Agrimarketing : September 2012
LABOR ISSUES In 2011 E-Verify was threatening to halt growers in their tracks. Georgia implemented its own E-Verify law, and in the end, fruits and vegetables were not harvested and the Georgia produce industry suffered massive losses. Despite efforts to educate the government on ag's labor need, there has been little progress made on Capitol Hill. A dwindling labor force means growers need to find ways to lessen the amount of labor necessary in the field. Research is ongoing in the development of labor-saving technology but the price burden of some equipment might just be too much for smaller growers. FOOD SAFETY There is still uncertainty over how the Food Safety Modernization Act will be implemented. In the meantime, commodity specific outbreaks continue to be a problem. Some of the lessons learned from the outbreaks include the importance of sanitation, and that changes in production and packaging practices may change food safety risks. California's cantaloupe advisory board voted to adopt commodity- specific food safety guidance for California cantaloupes and appointed a committee to seek USDA acceptance of metrics, while the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) is looking to be recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative. DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY More and more growers are utilizing digital technology in the field, primarily for recordkeeping purposes. However, agriculture- specific mobile apps for smart phones remain the exception. Anything involving weather would garner the most interest from growers. What is lacking, and where they may be market opportunities, is pest information, in particular pest ID and control suggestions. As the nation's farming population ages --- the average American farmer is 57 --- younger farmers are stepping up. Government funding and USDA programs favor commodity farmers and large-scale producers in general, making capital and land access difficult for beginners. The younger generations of growers are also looking for new, more efficient and sustainable ways of running their family business. The specialized media has a responsibility in filling the informational gap for this younger audience. Meister Media publishes American/Western Fruit Grower, American Vegetable Grower, Florida Grower, Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center magazines, web sites and e-newsletters. AM September 2012 Agri Marketing 59
AgCareers USA 2012