WASHINGTON, May 2, 2016 - Congress has left town, but USDA’s farmer’s market – where you can find everything from snap peas to fresh bread - is returning after a winter hiatus and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will mark the occasion by touring the stands full of farmer goodness on Friday. In the past, Vilsack has been known to give away some of his highly sought after honey reserves that come from hives just four floors above his corner office, on the roof of USDA headquarters in D.C.

It's prime example of urban agriculture and that’s a topic Vilsack addressed in a trip to Baltimore on Friday. He was joined there by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Baltimore Raven Crockett Gillmore to celebrate Arbor Day and unveil new government resources to help urban farmers.

USTR takes TPP argument to Los Angeles. On the other coast, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will be working today to show how the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will benefit producers and exporters in California.

Froman’s first stop is a tour of Huy Fong Foods, a company that exports its sauces around the world and stands to benefit from the 12-nation trade pact that’s widely supported by the agriculture and food sectors. Afterwards, he’ll attend the Milken Institute Global Conference, where one of the topics will be “the path forward in Congress” for the TPP.

Froman, USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator Darci Vetter and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack have said often they are confident Congress will approve TPP during the lame duck session after the November elections, but the outlook is grim according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who sat down in an exclusive interview with Agri-Pulse. You can hear the full conversation at agripulse.com.

How do you Daybreak? Here's what Whitney Klasna, who farms with her husband near Lambert, MT. starts her morning during calving season.

FDA unveils final guidance on menu labeling. About a year from now the Food and Drug Administration will begin enforcing its labeling requirements for restaurant and retailer menus, the agency announced Friday, the same day it released the final draft of its industry guidance document.

The National Restaurant Association is supportive of the menu labeling laws that were first approved by Congress in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act and many restaurants like McDonald’s have already begun posting calorie counts on the big boards above the cash registers and on signs next to the drive-thru microphones.

“Posting calories on menus and menu boards and providing other nutrient information in writing in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments will fill a critical information gap and help consumers make informed and healthful dietary choices,” the FDA said about the rules.

Criminal investigation opened on Dole. The Department of Justice is investigating the culpability of the Dole Food Co. after four deaths were tied to a Listeria outbreak and packaged salad products that were produced in the company’s Springfield, Ohio, facility, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, responded angrily, saying Dole should be held responsible because the company new of the listeria contamination before people were sickened.

DeLauro said in a statement: “News that Dole knew about a listeria outbreak in their facility, yet continued to push contaminated salads onto the American consumer is an outrage. How could executives at Dole even consider putting products onto store shelves and into American homes when they knew for close to two years that there was a major public health issue.”

Local food markets benefit from new USDA loans. There’s a new kind of low-interest financing available from USDA’s Farm Service Agency that’s going to be a boon for farmer’s markets that sell local food. The FSA has announced that its Farm Storage Facility Loan program will now provide financing for portable storage and handling equipment.

Ferd Hoefner, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said the loan program “now has options to finance produce packing and washing sheds and mobile equipment that very much puts the program on the map for farms that have never had reason to look at the program and its low-interest financing heretofore.”

He said it: “Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. She’s already making plans to see them every day.” That was President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents dinner, explaining a benefit of the first family’s decision to stay in D.C. for two years after he leaves office.


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