USDA’s keep-it-open power extended to fruits and vegetables

The USDA and the FDA have agreed that the USDA can use its authority under the Defense Production Act to tell foodmakers, including fruit and vegetable processors, to operate during a coronavirus outbreak at their facilities. The directions could override decisions by state or local health officials. (No paywall)

New agreement will govern imports of tomatoes from Mexico

The Commerce Department and Mexican tomato growers initialed a new agreement that, beginning on Sept. 19, will control U.S. imports of roughly $2 billion a year worth of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, said officials from both nations on Wednesday.

Produce safety rule will weigh heaviest on small growers

The smallest fruit and vegetable growers will pay comparatively more than big operators to comply with the so-called Produce Rule from the FDA — as much as 6.8 percent of their sales compared with less than 1 percent for big farmers, said three USDA economists on Wednesday.

Iconic Northwest organic produce company sold, without selling out

Call it the paradox of the organic food industry: Small companies that position themselves as alternatives to mainstream food brands become popular, grow quickly, add employees, and eventually get sold — often to Big Food companies. Now one company is trying to avoid that fate by selling itself to what’s known as a purpose trust. No paywall

Popular U.S. produce helps hold down food inflation

Lower prices for tomatoes, potatoes, and apples — three of the four most popular fruits and vegetables sold in America — are helping to hold down food price inflation, according to a government forecast.

Dropped fruit and dashed hopes for Florida citrus growers

With agricultural losses from Hurricane Irma expected to run into billions of dollars, the head of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) says the industry will lobby for federal relief, reports The Packer. "Hurricane Irma left Sunshine State citrus groves with dropped fruit, standing water and dashed hopes," said the trade publication, while tomato, strawberry and vegetable growers "came through the storm in comparatively better shape."

With labor shortage, Salinas Valley produce industry turns to robots

With a shortage of farmworker labor and growing concerns about food safety, one of the largest produce companies in the Salinas Valley of California is turning to mechanized harvesting and robotic processing of its vegetables, forever replacing the workers who once performed these jobs, says the San Francisco Chronicle.

At marathon NAFTA hearings, ag sector speaks in many voices

Farm groups were among the first to testify at three days of hearings called by the Trump administration as it decides how to modify the North American Free Trade Agreement. Agriculture has been an overall winner under NAFTA.

Amazon’s free fruit upsets local banana market

The 8,000 free bananas that Amazon hands out every day are disrupting the banana business for local vendors. “The brainchild of CEO Jeff Bezos, there are now two stands on its corporate campus staffed with ‘banistas’ led by ‘bananagers’ who give out bananas to anyone and everyone nearby, whether that’s one banana for breakfast or a dozen,” says Consumerist.com.