Huddle Notes from April 5th, 2021

The huddle this month focused on the early observations of the new administration, dairy trends, and worldwide food system issues. Listen to the recording here.

Talking Points

  • New Administration Observations
    • Increased funding amount for the Value-Added Producer Grant, decreased match percentage, plus additional time to turn in proposals
      • The most funding available for dispersal for this grant
      • Sounds like this will be happening for Farmers Market/Local Food Promotion Program grants as well (FMPP/LFPP ­(Food Systems focused))
    • Climate Change program office within USDA to provide focus to accelerate the efforts towards mitigating climate change
      • Discussion around creation of a financial institution that would be working on carbon credit payments to farmers
    • Stimulus package included an approximate total of $10B for programming for ag and $5B allocated to farmers of color
      • In the last 100 years, American farmers of color have lost 90% of the farmland they’ve owned. Currently, as a whole, people of color own less than 1% of farmland in the United States.
      • Challenges all of us – how can we make the biggest difference; how can we deploy what we know in the best way?
  • US Restaurant Industry
    • Example: Food Fight Restaurant Group in Madison, WI offers great benefits and highly values their employees which has resulted in lower turnover rates.
      • Had 1,000 employees before COVID and had slowed their expansion due to lease rates being too high.
      • Less than 400 employees during COVID. Coming out of COVID they want to rehire their staff and looking at expansion due to lower lease rates and the number of open spaces.
      • Uneven recovery across the nation, constrained by labor
  • Suez Canal Ship Blockage and Food System Issues
    • Caused a back-up of ships, 20 of which had live cattle on them which were not allowed to dock because of disease concerns…
      • Why are we shipping live cattle? It’s cheaper than slaughter, freeze, and ship frozen meat.
    • Organic soybeans have a lot weed suppression problems, difficult to grow. Most organic soybeans are imported from India – suspect of cheating going on. A lot of soybean feed was likely backed up in the Suez Canal.
  • UK Food Issues
    • 67% of the produce consumed in the UK is imported. In the final hour of the Brexit discussions, agreed to let produce ship between the UK and Europe tariff free.
    • COVID has greatly impacted the oyster industry in the UK. A huge exported good in the UK. Before COVID they could ship them with closed shells, the receiving country would then open them. Now have to air freight them because they have to be opened before shipping
    • Wine & cheese – Huge tariff increases and lots more paperwork – expecting to see an average increase of $5 on a single bottle of wine
  • What the History of Pandemics Can Teach Us About Resilience? | Read Full Piece
    • Writer Anna North writes an op-ed piece after finishing fiction novel about a pandemic
      • Black plague killed 50% of UK and 30-60% of continental Europe over the course of a just a couple of years leaving nobody to harvest crops… no peasants. Essentially ended feudalism in the UK and the birth of a middle class in the UK.

Trends

  • Dairy
    • In 1975 per capita consumption of milk was 31 gallons per person per year. 2019 it was 17 gallons per person per year.
    • Cheese consumption has increased though but not enough. Compared to Europe, there is room for Americans to consume more.
    • Are we going to start seeing cheese made from nut milks? How will this impact places like Wisconsin whose agriculture is very dairy dependent?
    • Are cooperatives the way of the future for small dairy farms?

Tips & Next Steps

  • Book Recommendation: The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr – Goes through the entire food chain for something to get to a grocery store and looks at the ugly underbelly.
  • On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed The American Rescue Plan Act, which provided $10 billion to fund the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI).  SSBCI will fund state, territory, and Tribal government small business credit support and investment programs. More info.

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