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Top Stories for 4/22/14

USDA Launches Financing Program for Rural, Small Businesses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $150 million program that aims to make capital available to rural, small agricultural businesses. Rural Business Investment Co. was licensed by the USDA to invest in these businesses and Advantage Capital Partners will manage the investment capital fund and decide which business will receive investments. Officials hope the program, authorized in the farm bill, will attract more investment dollars to rural businesses that have traditionally struggled to bring in investors. The USDA is accepting applications for additional RBIC through 2016, reports Omaha World-StaffFull Story

Mobile Apps Help Retailers Build Loyalty, Boost Sales

The latest tech in mobile apps isn't just for consumers' benefit. These apps prove retailers have plenty to gain from offering special features that will keep customers coming back.

By Emily Crowe

From managing timely customer interactions to sending out coupons and creating a platform for quick payment, mobile apps are becoming a necessary component for retailers looking to harness the latest technology to reach customers. New introductions are getting more creative—such as the new Cups app, which offers java lovers in New York City an all-you-drink monthly subscription at independent coffee shops around town—with the best of them offering a balance of benefits for consumers and retailers.

Whether utilizing a mobile phone for payment or pushing special offers, mobile apps are giving retailers a chance to connect with their customers like never before. Even grocery chains of all sizes, from Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton, Ohio, to the Midwest chain Hy-Vee, are harnessing the power of apps to give their customers weekly specials, recipes and access to previous transactions. “Our goal really is just to make it easy,” says Semonti Stephens, spokeswoman for Square, “so that the seller can focus on the experience they’re having ... Continue Reading

FDA Spent Grain Rules May Force Price Hike on Beer, Milk

The Food and Drug Administration's proposed rule to classify brewers as animal feed manufactures would increase the price of milk and beer. The proposal would force brewers to dry and package spent grain, the waste from the brewing process, before distribution. Equipment and setup would cost about $13 million per facility, according to Scott Mennen, vice president of brewery operations at Widmer Brothers Brewing in Oregon. The FDA would also require brewers and distillers to maintain extensive records of the products and waste.

Brewers shipped nearly 3 million tons of spent grain a year, with about 90 percent going to livestock. Farmers benefit from this as well, since many brewers give the grain away while others sell it to brokers for about $30 a ton. Jerosa Dairy in Gervais, Ore., feeds its 300 cows 20 tons of spent grain a week from a Portland brewery. If the rule passes, feed costs for Jerosa Dairy would increase, and with it the price of its milk. The FDA is considering whether to allow brewers to stay exempt. The proposal will be open to comments again this summer and then revised. The rule is due to be finalized by August 2015, reports ... Continue Reading

Certified Sustainable Hazelnut Project Gains Support

Utz Certified has begun a three-year initiative to develop a certified sustainable hazelnut supply in Turkey. Targeting 2016 as a deadline, the project has partnered with a Spanish chocolate supplier and Swiss and German retailers, and some 175 Turkish farmers are on board to participate. The Mediterranean country accounts for 70 percent of global production. The project aims to focus on productivity and quality in its efforts, as well as reducing unethical treatment of workers and the prevalence of child labor, reports confectionerynews.com. Full Story

Healthful Diet May Not Mean Much for Cancer Risk

When it comes to cancer, there is little evidence that fruits and vegetables are protective, or that fatty foods are bad. Researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer research found studies that say green vegetables help ward off lung and stomach cancer, or colon and thyroid cancer may be avoided with broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, may not be correct. Previous studies concluded that diets loaded with fruits and vegetables might reduce the overall incidence of cancer by more than 20 percent, but now researchers are second-guessing this theory. Additionally, new hints pointed toward coffee as a risk-reducer for some cancers and vitamin D's possible benefits, reports The New York TimesFull Story (Subscription Required)

Spearmint Oil Rates Reduced for 2014–15

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's assessment rate for spearmint oil (PDF), established for the Spearmint Oil Administrative Committee, has been reduced from 10 cents to 9 cents per pound handled for the year beginning June 1. The Committee estimates that 2.5 million pounds of spearmint oil from the Far West will be handled and that the producer prices for the 2014–15 season could range between $17 and $19 per pound.

Madyson's Marshmallows Introduces Artisan S'mores Kits

Madyson’s Marshmallows has introduced Artisan S’mores Kits, updating the campfire classic with premium ingredients including pure cane sugar, real vanilla, and artisanal chocolates. Two varieties are available: chocolate chip marshmallows with Moravian sugar cookies and chocolate peanut butter chip marshmallows with chocolate Moravian cookies.

Madyson's marshmallows are handmade vanilla bean marshmallows filled with chocolate (or chocolate and peanut butter chips); classic Moravian cookies complete the nostalgic sandwich. Each kit makes ten servings and includes skewers and matches. Kits will begin shipping on May 1.

Winery Launches Danny Seo Brand Organic Wine Collection

Danny Seo and Votto Vines introduced Danny Seo Philosophy Wines, a new line of organic wines. The collection includes sauvignon blanc and zinfandel from California, with additional wines to be added at the end of the year. The two varieties come from a certified organic vineyard in Mendocino County, Calif. The wines will debut on philosophywine.com, with plans to roll out in national and regional grocers shortly after. Each bottle ranges from $14.99–$19.99. News Release

Greek Iced Tea Brand Debuts in Northeast

Zoos, based in Newton, Mass., will launch its brand of Greek iced tea at area stores next week. Greek iced tea is an herbal tea made from sideritis, a Mediterranean flowering plant. The three flavors—original, peach, and lemon—will be available for $1.99 a bottle. In three months the tea will be available in 82 Wegmans stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. "We want to be a national, well-known brand," says co-founder Kristina Tsipouras. "We're saying Greek is the new green. Americans didn't know about Greek yogurt five years ago and now they do," reports Boston Business JournalFull Story

GA Brewery to Increase Production Capacity by 400%

Georgia brewery Macon Beer Co. is readying a major expansion. With new equipment scheduled for installation in May, Macon plans to expand its production capacity by 400 percent. The expansion will allow the brewery to distribute in other regions of Georgia. Co-owner Cory Smith says the additional capacity brings the company closer to its goal of eventually canning beers, "and that will result in potential product placement in package stores, grocery stores, and restaurants without draft beer,” he notes, reports The TelegraphFull Story

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