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Top Stories for 8/28/14

EU to Support Dairy Farmers Hit by Russian Embargo

The European Commission is dipping into emergency reserves to help dairy product exporters impacted by Russia's import ban. The support will cover butter, skimmed milk power, and certain cheeses; support has already been put in place for fruit and vegetable surpluses. Moscow earlier this month imposed a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit, and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Norway, said to be in retaliation for Western economic sanctions over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine crisis. A meeting of agricultural ministers on Sept. 5 will aim to address the issues of finding alternative markets and compensating producers, reports Reuters. Full Story

Rising Grocery Costs Impact Even Upper-Income Earners

High food prices are causing a stir even among wealthier American households. Households earning $100,000 or more are increasingly complaining of high costs at the grocery store. A Consumer Edge Research survey revealed an increase of 20 percent, to 36 percent, in the number of such households complaining about climbing costs, up from 16 percent of those polled in a similar survey in January. As a result, many families are finding ways to cut costs, replacing shrimp with local heirlooms for a party, or barbecuing chicken instead of hamburgers. Grocers are helping customers cope by promoting cheaper cuts of meat and fish. Cuts are getting smaller too, in one instance going from one-and-a-half inches thick to one inch. Numerous variables are blamed for the increases, including a massive pig virus epidemic, bacterial infection of shrimp in southeast Asia, and citrus greening in Florida, reports The Wall Street JournalFull Story

Natural Ice Cream Stabilizer Found in Okra

Okra extracts can be used as a stabilizer for ice cream, according to a new study from Kasetsart University in Bangkok and Guelph University in Ontario. The vegetable's slime is often used to thicken soups and stews, but okra's fiber extract, the research found, can keep ice cream smooth by preventing melting and the reforming ice crystals. Many of the stabilizers commonly used in ice cream are synthetic chemical compounds. Natural alternatives exist, such as guar gum, carrageenan, and polysorbate-80, but okra has the added appeal of being an ingredient consumers recognize, making it a potential hit on the natural foods market, reports Modern FarmerFull Story

Hershey Sues Specialty Food Importer over Trademark, License Infringements

Hershey Co. has sued LBB Imports, LLC, a wholesale distributor of specialty foods which imports primarily from the U.K. and South Africa. The suit alleges that Toffee Crisp and other products sold by LBB infringe on Hershey trademarks and license agreements. Hershey says that the packaging for Toffee Crisp has similar color and font as its Reese's brand, and the Yorkie name infringes on its license to sell York peppermint patties in the U.S. The lawsuit contends LBB's sale of the imported candy "is likely to cause confusion … and to deceive the public as to the approval, sponsorship, license, source or origin" of the products, reports The RecordFull Story

Market Basket Accepts Ousted CEO's Bid

Market Basket shareholders have accepted former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas $1.5 billion offer. Demoulas and Class B shareholders will acquire the 50.5 percent of the company that is owned by Arthur S. Demoulas and Class A shareholders. Arthur T. Demoulas will return immediately to the company as co-CEO. The 71-store supermarket chain has been debating potential offers and solutions for eight weeks as employees protested Arthur T. Demoulas' ouster. The company urged employees to return to work and continue with normal operations, according to a statement. A final deal is expected to take months to close, reports Boston Business JournalFull Story

Mexican Sugar Faces Import Duties

Following a petition by the American Sugar Coalition, the U.S. Department of Commerce has made a preliminary decision in its investigation of countervailing duties on sugars imported from Mexico. The Department of Commerce agrees with the coalition that federal subsidies are offering an unfair advantage to Mexican sugar exporters. Going forward, those imports will incur a fee to establish a "level playing field," the agency's report states. The sugar The final determination as to whether will be announced Jan. 7, 2015. According to the Dept. of Commerce, imports of sugar from Mexico in 2013 were valued at more than $1 billion, reports The Advertiser. Full Story

Napa Valley Vintners Takes Action for Quake Recovery

Napa Valley Vintners, a trade group representing winemakers in the Napa Valley, will donate $10 million toward earthquake relief efforts. The trade group plans to create a Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund to help the many producers who were struck with severe damage and supply losses in their operations following the 6.1 magnitude earthquake on Sunday. Clay Gregory, CEO of Visit Napa Valley, the region's visitors' resource, says 95 percent of wineries and restaurants in the region are open, reports San Francisco Business Times.

Napa Valley Vintners is also planning a workshop this week to aid wineries and answer immediate questions. Cate Conniff of Napa Valley Vintners says that most of the wine at the wineries was from 2012 and 2013 vintages, which were very abundant, and that the most damage was seen on equipment and facilities. Conniff adds that temporary tanks and other production equipment will be available in the next few weeks, reports AgAlert.

CA Bill Cracks Down on Farmers Market Fraud

The California Legislature passed a bill that will increase stall fees at farmers markets to combat fraud. The money will be used to run a statewide enforcement program and reimburse county agricultural commissioners for efforts to ensure produce sold at farmers markets matches its advertised qualities, such as being organic, and is in fact produced by the vendor selling it. The bill also heightens the penalties for false claims on produce with bigger fines and the possibility of jail time.

Should the legislation be signed into law, the daily fee for a farmers market stall will be increased from a maximum of 50 cents to $2 in January 2015, raising about $1.4 million to help run the enforcement program, reports KQED Public Media. Full Story

Lake Champlain Chocolates Restaurant to Sponsor Area Food Festival

South End Kitchen, a cafe and education kitchen in Burlington, Vt., run by Lake Champlain Chocolates, is a sponsor of Eat by Northeast, a new three-day festival celebrating the region’s local food movement, scheduled for Sept. 19–21. “We couldn’t be more excited to support Eat by Northeast," says South End Kitchen's executive chef Sarah Langan. "Its mission-driven focus to offer food education to our community—for free—really sets this event apart.”

SEK will sponsor the “Go Local” sessions, a series of more than 35 free talks, tutorials, and demonstrations by local chefs, entrepreneurs, and champions of Vermont’s food landscape. On Sept. 20, South End Kitchen will present the headlining event "Cultivate Your Kitchen Confidence," an open-air kitchen demonstration tackling challenging seasonal vegetables. In addition to free music and education, there will also be special ticketed events, like The Brewhaha, a tasting of 20 of the region’s breweries, cideries, and wineries. 

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