Ag exports surge

With the help of an ever-cheaper dollar, US food exports surged in the first half of 2008. USDA recently updated its projections, saying it expects US agriculture exports to total $108.5 billion for Fiscal 2008. Grains and animal products account for two-thirds of the export gains. 

“America’s increased export volume in bulk commodities like corn, other animal feeds and soybeans make agriculture the bright spot in the overall balance of trade,” says Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer. “US producers are on track to export a record 63 million tons of corn, and set new export volume and value records for pork.”

US processed dairy products accounted for $1.3 billion in exports in the first four months of 2008, marking the first time that exports in the first four calendar months have exceeded $1 billion. That’s nearly 92% greater than last year’s January-through-April record value of dairy exports, according to Bob Yonkers, chief economist for the International Dairy Foods Association.

Progress on Chinese products safety

US and Chinese officials are touting progress on establishing new guidelines to ensure Chinese food and feed products entering the US are safe. “I’m very pleased with our efforts and commend our Chinese counterparts for their commitment to this important work,” says US Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. Meanwhile, FDA’s Food Protection Plan Progress Report, released in conjunction with the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety Action Plan Update, shows “significant areas of activity to further improve the safety of America’s food supply since unveiling its Food Protection Plan in November 2007.” The plan focuses on identifying unsafe food before it reaches US shores. The agency said it plans to establish an FDA presence in China and is exploring current existing third-party certification programs.

Could stickers make produce safer?

Two consumer groups are pressing the FDA to implement a system that would allow investigators to more easily trace the origin of unsafe produce. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, the Consumer Federation of America and Center for Science in the Public Interest say the system could be very simple: placing small stickers on fruits and vegetables at the point of origin.