Ag in the News
U.S. Senate Panel Gets Earful On Oil Spill Aftermath
Nearly 15 months after the massive BP oil spill blighted the Gulf of Mexico and beaches across the southeast, Florida’s top agriculture official said Monday that an untold number of residents whose livelihoods were disrupted have not yet been compensated. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, along with some Panhandle business owners and fishermen affected by the massive spill, testified at a U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing. U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requested the hearing to be updated on the long term effects on those affected most by the spill that resulted from a blowout of a wellhead on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010. (Associated Press, 7/11)
USDA To Test Farm-To-School Programs In Florida And Michigan
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected Florida and Michigan for test states to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in its farm-to-school programs. The agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service divisions plan to conduct the pilot which will use existing commercial distribution infrastructure and allow schools to source locally grown produce, according to a July 12 news release. Jimmie Turner, a USDA spokesman, said details of the program are being worked out. He said the reason Florida and Michigan schools are involved in the pilot is because their schools approached the USDA. Turner said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been the driving force in getting fresh produce into the schools. (The Packer, 7/14)
Adam Putnam Ready To Deliver Farm-Fresh Florida Food To Schoolchildren
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is ready to deliver on his promise to provide fresh Florida produce from local farms to school cafeterias across the state, beginning in the fall semester. Putnam says the fact that his department, rather than the Department of Education, is now in charge of lunches will provide a double benefit: It will help provide better sources of nutrition to Florida’s schoolchildren and support local farms, too. Schools play a vital role in shaping and improving children’s eating habits, say nutrition experts. Hundreds of schools in Florida provide one or two meals daily to millions of children. Sadly, for some of those children, the meals they get at school are their only meals. (Sunshine State News, 7/9)
House Votes To Block EPA On Water Pollution
The House on Wednesday approved legislation to smack down the Obama administration’s water pollution policies, despite a looming veto threat from the White House. The chamber voted 239-184 to adopt a bipartisan bill that seeks to limit EPA’s authority over state water quality decisions after recent agency actions have irked lawmakers, particularly in coal states and in Florida. (Politico, 7/13)
A Pestering Problem: Unwanted Visitors Harm S. Fla Economy
Pack your sunscreen. Pack your bathing suit. But, please. Don’t pack a pest. That’s the message Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam wants to give to every arriving Miami visitor. Putnam’s department launched the “Don’t Pack a Pest” outreach campaign Friday at Miami International Airport to raise awareness about the risks involved in bringing in plant and animal products from other countries without declaring them at customs. (Miami Herald, 7/8)
Time To Plow Under Farming Subsidies
Negotiations over raising the national debt ceiling have given federal lawmakers the chance to reshape the nation’s fiscal picture for years to come — if they will take it. Republicans want spending concessions from the Democrats, who in turn want the GOP to acquiesce to revenue enhancements. Same old, same old. Except in this dour economic climate spending reformers are not the only members of Congress serious about trimming future budget deficits. A place to start would be to cut farm subsidies. The government spends up to $30 billion a year subsidizing agriculture, including large-scale farmers who aren’t hurting for money. Although that’s a pittance of the budget, it’s the kind of expense that galls taxpayers. And if Congress is poised to make changes to Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security, it is inconceivable that agriculture would not share in the sacrifice. Thus members of both parties seem prepared to reduce farm giveaways. Having said that, there is a difference between market-distorting subsidies and a federal investment in agriculture. As Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam points out, agriculture is one of the bright spots in our economy and must not be shortchanged. (Tampa Tribune, 7/10)
Monday, Commissioner Putnam traveled to Pensacola, where he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Alongside U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Commissioner Putnam discussed the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on the Florida Gulf Coast seafood and aquaculture industries and expounded upon the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ efforts to restore consumer confidence in these valuable industries. The Department conducts rigorous testing to identify long-term effects of the oil spill on Florida Gulf seafood and of more than 300 samples, the findings show that Florida Gulf seafood is safe to eat. The Department launched a multi-faceted public awareness campaign to inform the public of the proven safety of Gulf Seafood. A transcript of Commissioner Putnam’s testimony is available here.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Putnam delivered remarks before the Big Bend Chapter of the National Association of American Foresters at the Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, FL.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Putnam toured and met with staff in the Division of Licensing in Tallahassee.
Today, Commissioner Putnam traveled to Live Oak to explore the best management practices employed by Pilgrim’s Pride to more effectively use the resources available.
Also this week, Commissioner Putnam presented awards to Department employees who have served for five, 10, 15, 20 and even 25 years. Monday’s event was in Tallahassee and today’s event is in Gainesville.
At the Department
The Department’s Division of Food Safety is responsible for assuring the public of a safe, wholesome and properly represented food supply through the permitting and inspection of food establishments, inspection of food products and performance of specialized laboratory analyses on a variety of food products sold or produced in the state of Florida. The Division of Food Safety monitors food from farm gate through processing and distribution to the retail point of purchase.
There are also methods individuals can use to help ensure the safety of their food. As the weather warms up, family and friends tend to join together for outdoor picnics and barbeques. These higher temperatures also stimulate illness-causing bacteria in food that can potentially cause foodborne illnesses, also known as food poising. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department’s Division of Food Safety urges you to keep the following six tips in mind to reduce the chance of food poisoning during your summer activities.
1. Wash your hands: Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Bring water, soap and paper towels or have disposable wipes/hand sanitizer available if you are eating at a place without running water.
2. Marinate food in the refrigerator: Marinate in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first.
3. Keep raw food separate: Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler so their juices won’t contaminate already prepared foods or raw produce. Don’t use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood without cleaning them first. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving.
4. Cook food thoroughly: Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly to destroy harmful bacteria. Refer to the Safe Minimum Temperatures chart for safe internal temperatures for foods
5. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold: Keep hot food at 135°F or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill or wrap well and place in an insulated container. Keep cold food at 40°F or below until served. Keep cold perishable food cool until serving time. Don’t let hot or cold perishables sit out for longer than two hours or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F. When reheating fully cooked meats, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot. Transport food in the passenger compartment of the car where it’s cooler, not in the trunk.
6. Put these items on your list: These non-food items are indispensable for a safe barbecue.
- Food thermometer
- Several coolers: one for beverages, one for raw meats, poultry and seafood, and another for cooked foods and raw produce
- Ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
- Jug of water, soap and paper towels for washing hands
- Enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
- Foil or other wrap for leftovers
A Look Ahead
- Monday, July 18: Commissioner Putnam will explore the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee with Colonel Alfred Pantano of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Tuesday, July 19 through Wednesday, July 20: Commissioner Putnam will meet with members of Florida’s Congressional delegation and key leaders at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.