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World’s Tastiest Fruit
Table of Contents The Contributors 4 Get to know the authors of this magazine!
All photos courtesy of Wikimedia
The Soil of the Ages
A cool time line of historical advances in farming.
8 10 12 16 20
A Slippery Slope
A graphic showing the process of pesticideâ€™s environmental effects.
Green Fuel for Crops A bar graph depicting how U.S. farming subsidies are distributed.
Think for Yourself
GMOs are prevalent today, but whatâ€™s the controversy behind them?
Nature vs. Machine Farming technologies have come a long way since the ard!
Behind the Produce Have you ever stopped to consider the facts behind the produce?
Letter from the Editor
he original idea for the magazine was a fruit magazine. However, over time, it was decided that farming and the agricultural industry would be a better topic to write about. With this topic, we can discuss fruity-fresh fun facts, while at the same time write about other interesting topics such as GMO crops and pesticide runoff. Farmers from around central Texas were interviewed for the stories in this magazine, spreading their farming techniques and expertise for our readers. Writing the stories was stressful, but in the process, we learned design skills that will last us a lifetime. Effort and creativity made this magazine a reality, and we hope you enjoy this issue of Sprout. The interviewing process was the most
difficult part of writing the feature stories. There was a strict deadline for interviewing, and many people that we wanted to talk to did not respond. With only three weeks to prepare questions and go through the interviewing process, we had to work quickly and effectively. Interviews were conducted by phone, email, or conversation. All nine interviews, three per member, were transcripted word for word, taking on average 30 minutes to transcirbe every ten minutes of talking. But the product of writing these feature stories was a learning experience for us all. Information on GMO crops was obtained directly from Monsanto. Information on food transportation was provided by the USDA. And TOFGA president, Susie
Marshall, contributed to the evolution of farming machinery. Writing this magazine was a learning experience for all of us, bringing us closer together as team members and teaching us things about our food we did not know before. Spreading this knowledge to readers like you will keep the population informed on what happens to what they eat and what precautions to take when buying or growing food. The goal of this magazine is to spread knowledge to the people and empower them with facts that will help them in the future. For we all know that knowledge is power and it is our duty as writer to present important information to our most valued readers. Written with care by Nicky Manavi: Head editor.
About the Authors Nicky Manavi is a great saxophone player actively involved in band and robotics. His favorite genre of music is jazz, and he makes sure to jam out whenever he gets the chance. Although he does not play any organized sports, he makes sure to keep himself in shape. You can often find him running around his neighborhood timing himself with his phone. He never receieved any farming experience in his entire life, so this magazine was an excellent learning experience for him. He can now appreciate the beauty of nature more, and can see how the difference between humans and their environment is not very large. While Stephenson may not have liked the overall topic and idea for this magazine, he has learned to appreciate how modern agriculture affects the U.S. and has gained much insight into the subject. His greatest pride from Sprout is the feature stories that his fellow group members and he made with what little they were given. Future topics for a magazine Stephenson may be interested in bringing to life include healthy food, engineering, and technology. Although you may find Stephenson looking through some Pinterest pins that depict delicious food for inspiration, he hopes to improve upon the skills he has learned in making Sprout for future applications. Dylan Baldridge intends to study the social behavior of primates when he grows up. He loves the ocean and his favorite sea creature is the California Sea Hare. Along with his love of animals, he loves rock climbing and reading. In his opinion, the best book is either “1984” by George Orwell or “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclere. He enjoys CX debate and is a member of the schools robotics team. He has learned a lot from this class and looks forward to using the skills he has acquired in ezine in the future. Illustrator is the program he looks forward to expanding his knowledge on the most.
Soil of Ages By: Dylan Baldridge
arming was one of the earliest technologies developed by humans. Unsuprisingly it has changed dramatically over the time it has been used. From the Assyrian fig farms to fish fruit fusion, this time line shows the revolutions in farming as it developed along with other advancements in production and manufacturing. The plough, is a good example of the changing nature of farming and the tools used. Form its primitive form, the ard, farming has evolved into the technological wonder we know today. The advent of replaceable parts, metal casting, and the use of beasts of burden played important roles in the evolution of this farming implement. The plough has played an important role in the growth of crops and the jobs of farmers by reducing the labor involved in tilling the fields for planting.
Cultivation of figs in the Jordan Valley is the first known instance of organized farming.
Images from Flikr and Wikipedia
Information From: Wikipedia The ard replaces the hoe. There is evidence of use of an ard in Assyria, Egypt and areas of Europe. There are early cave paintings depicting an ox-drawn ard in Sweden.
The first biological pest control is used in China. Pesticide has since evolved to deal with grubs like the one below.
The first genetically modified food is grown and sold. This technology has since evolved to include a GM strawberry with cold resistant genes from an Arctic Flounder
Iron smelting allowed for the invention of many useful farming tools such as horseshoes, the plough, and various hand tools, like the hoe.
The first all-purpose tractor is powered by gasoline and replaces the need for beasts of burden.
A Slippery Slope By: Nicky Manavi
ater permeates all land on earth via the water cycle, carrying residue along with it due to its well-known physical property, adhesion. So, it should not be a surprise to hear that pesticides are infecting our water sources. In the United states, traces of pesticides are reported to have been found in every stream and in 90 percent of wells. Pesticides are widely used by farmers to keep insects from eating their plants away, but we must both weigh in the envirnmental effects and try to reduce water contamination. In 2007 alone, 877 million pounds of pesticide was applied on farmland. Much of this can be washed down into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Contaminating these major sources of water with chemicals designed to be lethal is a danger to all life near the water. Sources Cited:
Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Ministry of Agriculture Pesticide Action North America
Raindrops, barn, sand, and clay are courtesy of wikimedia Vegetation created by Nicky Manavi
The pesticide applied to the farmland usually drains down into the soil, but will often slide down a slope if the soil is saturated with water.
Pesticides injected or incorporated into the ground are much more likely to stay within their application site.
The solubility of the pesticide is the most important factor in terms of runoff. The more soluble a pesticide is, the easier it will be picked up by running water.
Reduced-tillage cropping systems leave a lot of crop residue, which helps to capture the pesticides in the water. Vegetation is a great buffer zone for holding in the pesticides. Grass is good to have a border to make a final stand in keeping the pesticide in the application area.
Pesticides that are highly absorbent be stuck to the soil they were applied to, meaning less pesticide runoff, but possible pesticide erosion.
Clay and compacted soils absorb less water than soils like sand. Sandy soils are therefore better at retapplication zone much better than clay.
A property all pesticides have is called pesticide persistence. More persistent pesticides take longer to degrade naturally in the soil, and therefore have a higher chance of moving to a source of water.
Green Fuel for Crops By: Stephenson Gokingco
$100 million Crop Subsidies in $ Millions
80 60 40 20
gricultural subsidies have been predominant in the U.S. agricultural market for the past decade in order to keep U.S. agriculture stable. For example, one drought or one bad harvest can put a U.S. farmer out of a job in one go; however, due to government subsidies in the form of crop insurance, that farmer can keep his job and wonâ€™t have to worry about a bleak future. This also gives the U.S. an advantage when it comes to international trade. Some critics argue that U.S. agricultural subsidies disrupt the world economy, especially in the prospects of free trade. The U.S. government gets funding for these subsidies from tax dollars. According to Bloomberg: Personal Finance, taxpayers shelled out a record $14 billion in payouts and subsidies in 2012. How these subsidies are distributed depends on the type of crop in question, especially if it is a cash crop that will bring revenue for the U.S. government and keep the U.S. economy strong. More often than not, the more cash a crop can rake in, the more subsidies it will receive from the government. Agricultural lobbyists, especially the corn lobby and corn-growing states, also help keep the government money flowing into their agricultural businesses. Ultimately, it all boils down to keeping the subsidies and keeping the U.S. agricultural economy strong nationally and internationally or directing tax dollars elsewhere and have a better free trade environment in the world economy. The following is a bar graph of how U.S. agricultural subsidies are distributed between the top six recipients.
The U.S. has spent $292 billion in subsidies from 1995-2012.
Premiums last year accounted for no more than 10% of corn growersâ€™ average production 10% of all farms in costs of $349 per the U.S. collected 75% of all subsidies. acre. Images and graphics courtesy of (left to right): 1. clipartist.net 2. www.123rf.com 3. dreamstime.com 4. iconarchive.com 5. shutterstock.com 6. openclipart.org
Think For Yourself The truth behind GMOs and their real world effects. By: Dylan Baldridge
n Vietnam, a man scoops a small amount of moist white rice onto a plate in front of his son. One of his children has already died from a sickness that would have been easily staved off with a well-developed immune system. His wife never developed eyesight as a child. Both of these ailments could be solved by the implementation of Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice plant that produces Vitamin A. “Every year, hundreds of thousands of children die or go blind because they don’t have something as simple, as readily available as Vitamin A,” Jose Prado Ph.D., a scientist at Monsanto, a large genetically modified seed provider, said. Genetically modified crops are plants that have been modified to produce Wikipedia a protein, such as Vitamin A, that it wouldn’t normally. The sale and Golden rice (right) is a genetically modified rice crop that has vitamin A. It has not been approved for use yet. production of these crops is highly controversial, and yet 60 percent modification of plants is also safe.” Prado are still accusations that genetically of all processed food has ingredients said, “And there is a safety assessment modified food can cause various ailments derived from genetically modified plants. process including cancer. With allegations that these products which is cause various diseases on the rise, what very long, “About a year ago, behind the technology is fact, and what and very a scientific paper is fiction? expensive was written by and, there actual scientists, “As far as I can tell from evidence, I am are some It claimed that not worried about using GMOs in food. things that genetically We are always testing to double check must be modified corn that conclusion as well,” David Byrne done which causes cancer. Ph.D., a professor of plant breeding and have no We looked at genetics at Texas A&M, said. scientific this publication basis and and realized that These crops are evaluated through a are stupid this publication safety process, which is regulated in the but we is flawed,” Prado United States by the Food and Drug have to do it anyway.” said. “Ninety percent of the rats were Administration. fed genetically modified (corn) and Even though this safety process is other treatments. And only 10 percent “We have to make sure genetic rigorous Prado explained that there were fed conventional corn. Well, what’s
As far as I can tell from evidence, I am not worried about using GMOs in food. We are always testing to double check that conclusion as well. - David Byrne
The genetically modified strawberry has various resistances to pests and hurdles, such as insects, fungus and rotting. The GM strawberry is still undergoing safety testing.
the likelihood that you are going to get more cancer in a group that is nine times bigger than the other?” These allegations are the things that reach the media. GMOs have been used to help thousands upon thousands of people. Since the technology was invented there have been many medical revolutions using GM technology.
to lower the amount of sugar because you normally don’t produce insulin very well. Therefore you actually have to get an insulin shot, literally. Where do you think insulin comes from? It comes from a GMO.”
You can modify the plant so you can better protect that plant against pests that result in loss of productivity. - Jose Prado
“If you don’t have diabetes, then your body produces a molecule called insulin that lowers the level of sugar,” Prado said. “If you have diabetes, then you do not have the ability
Medical technologies are not the only way GMOs could help people, and because of some anti-GMO groups some of the most helpful technologies cannot reach the people who need them. Golden rice is one of these plants that cannot reach the people in dire need of to the vitamin that it produces.
“Daily consumption of a very modest amount of Golden Rice – about a cup (or around 150 g uncooked weight) – could supply 50 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A for an adult,” Aileen Garcia, a worker at the International Rice Research Institute, said. Even with this technology available to help people it is still blocked and protested by various groups, such as Greenpeace. “Because of a lot of activist groups that are extremely misinformed but very vocal, (Golden Rice) is not available,” Prado said. While Golden Rice has not been allowed for sale, some of the GMOs that have
safety tests have helped revolutionize the farming industry and have helped feed the world. There are multiple ways that genetic modification has helped feed people. “Through biotech and genetic modification you can actually increase the productivity, the yield, of a specific crop. You can manipulate the crop, the specific plant, so that it gives you basically more food…The major way genetic modification helps this, is instead you can modify the plant so you can better protect that plant against pests that result in loss of productivity. The amount of food you get out of a plant…depends on the ability of the plant to make food, but also the ability of the plant to protect itself against an environment that makes it not produce as much food,” Prado Said. Not surprisingly, these benefits have made GM crops a desirable technology for farmers around the world. GMOs have been one of the most quickly adopted technologies in the field of farming.
Genetically modified crops are made in a lab by cutting a DNA sequence with restriction enzymes and splicing that into the cells of the intended crop.
“The reason it has been adopted so quickly is because it has a ton of benefits for the farmers, and it has chanced agriculture in many ways. Number one, it has decreased the amount of labor that farmers have to put for growing food. For example, in the past you would have to literally be in the field and plant again, I am using corn but that applies to any crop, whichever you want. You have a field of corn, and now you have to protect this field against insects and weeds. And what the farmer would have to do is spray the field a bunch of times throughout the growing season to protect that. Now when you create a plant, a crop, you don’t have to spend all of this time spraying. You just don’t do it. The plant is doing it itself. You are saving time. You are also saving money, a lot of money,” Prado said. Although there have been allegations
that GM crops could harm the environment, this increase in efficiency ensures that they are actually doing quite the opposite. “If you can increase the productivity of the food, mainly, if you can produce more food per acre of land, that means you have to use less land.” Prado said. “Another thing is reducing the amount of pesticides you have to add to your land which is good, because it keeps the water clean.” And even with these environmental benefits these crops need to go through environmental safety tests. Byrne explained these tests ensure that there is no safety concern. “Like other genetically modified (GM) crops, Golden Rice is undergoing rigorous safety evaluations by regulators throughout its development.” Garcia said. “For example, in the Philippines, all GM research and development under contained conditions are overseen by the Department of Science and Technology - National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines. The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) strictly monitors field trials, coordinates evaluation of biosafety information, and approves GM crops if appropriate.” But even with these tests there are still questions about the technology as a whole. “This is what I tell people when I talk to people about this. Question everything. You should question all of the crap you see about GMOs giving you cancer and giving you celiac disease and the other stuff. But to be fair, you should also question the things you’ve heard from me. You should,” Prado said. “Now I have these scientific credentials. But who knows if what I’m saying is true. Find out. Think for yourself. Questions what you hear. Question what you see. Question what you hear. That is really important?”
Genetically modified corn like the corn in this field can come in many varieties including herbicide and insect The Corvallis Advocate resistance.
Nature vs. Machinery How technology changed farming over a few decades By: Nicholas Manavi
farmer toils in the field to produce the crop that would feed his family and support himself. The hot summer sun beats down on him as he farms his cornfield as he takes a break to look over his crops. Rows upon rows of back-breaking labor stare back at him. Although much of this work was done by his own two hands, this could not have been made possible without the use of a machine. Technologies such as tractors, disc implementers and mowers make it possible to farm more land area with a smaller amount of labor. Machines can, however, cause devastating effects on the soil, the air and the water. The movement from livestock-driven plows to machines in agricultural practice has caused a boom in food production. But all boons have a bane, and the negative effects on the environment can cause problems on agriculture in the long-term. “If you intensively farm one plot of land with the same crop year after year after year and you want a really high yield, then you are going to degrade the quality of the soil,” Stormberg said.
Picutre by Wikimedia
This is a disc implement attatched to a tractor. It is churning the dirt into finer chunks to plant crops into.
slower and more labor-intensive and has a much lower impact.”
John Stormberg is a LASA physics teacher and former farmboy who said he would work strenuously with his father to take care of his corn field. His father saw the industrialization of agriculture coming before it started with the sudden boom of agricultural aids like fertilizers in the ‘70s, leaving the farming business before the arrival of “high-stakes farming.”
So when I grew up, science and technology was thought to be the way to be out of the ghetto. You know, out of the ‘farm ghetto.’ -Stormberg
“It was a high-stakes farming because you put a lot of money into it and get a lot of yield out of it,” Stormberg said. “And it’s against nature because you’re ramping everything up that much faster and that much bigger. Organic farming is much
Although Stormberg believes this, he also experienced benefits of industrialization in agriculture. Even when he was young, he used technologies on his tractor called a “disc-implement.”
“A plow leaves big chunks, and a disc will break it up into finer chunks and kind of level it out and make it easier,” Stormberg said. “You have to have the ground broken up and leveled before planting all over it within the planter.” Even during his childhood, his peers pondered the wonders of what technology could do for farming. They marveled at the machines that are taken for granted today. “So when I grew up, science and technology was thought to be the way to be out of the ghetto,” Stormberg said. “You know, out of the ‘farm ghetto’” Susie Marshall is the president of the Texas Organic Farmers and Farmers Association, an organization promoting
those who farm using agricultural methods. Raised as a city girl, she acknowledges the benefits of machine use today. “I think that at a certain scale, you have to have some sort of machinery,” Marshall said. “But I think that machinery is a good thing in a lot of ways as long as you’re not doing more harm to the land by running machines over it. Marshall promotes those who farm organically because large-scale farmers recently turned to be more like businessmen than dependable food producers. “When you’re buying from a small farm, typically the money that you’re paying for that food will be more,” Marshall said. “But it’s going directly back to that farmer, so you’re helping that farmer earn a living. Whereas in an industrialscale production, you’ve got workers that are working at sometimes lower than minimum-wage--they’re not paid well-and a lot of the costs are externalized. We don’t think about the transportation costs because oil and gas is so comparatively cheap. And so we have a skewed view for how much food costs. So when you
pay more for organic, in certain settings it will be more expensive because there is a surcharge for it--because people will pay more for it-- but in other settings you’re paying more for it because you’re supporting a family farm that’s paying livable wages.” Marshall also says industrial-scale agriculture can not be avoided.
Less than 2% of our population is involved in producing...And at that time, back in 1915... more than 50% of the U.S. population was involved. -Searcy
“I think that we will never completely get away from large-scale industrial agriculture. But large-scale industrial
agriculture tends to be about the production and about the money,” Marshall said. “And not so much about the earth and the actual food production as a real part of our life here on earth.” Stephen Searcy is a professor at Texas A&M University who received a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering in 1980. He was a farmer who grew fond of agricultural engineering while he was growing up. After joining the faculty at A&M, his personal farming has been limited to vegetable gardens, but he has also been performing research on A&M’s experimental farms, studying the drastic change in the farming population over the years. “So, less than 2 percent of our population is involved in producing the food, fibers and crops that we grow and consume,” Searcy said. “At that time, back in 1915... more than 50 percent of the U.S. population was involved.” Searcy has studied the history and evolution of agriculture. In the past, machines were used as a cheaper way to farm with little physical labor. “If you go prior to the advent of the chemical weed control, that was done
Picture by Wonderlane at Flickr
Massive farms like this require a lot of effort to till. It would be almost impossible to tend to this land without the agricultural technologies like the tractor.
mechanically,” Searcy said. “Now, some of that was handing. If you had some family and some young children, you could give them each a hoe and send them out into the field. And they could spend their day with their hoe killing weeds. If you didn’t have that capability, then you probably used a tractor with a cultivator. That cultivator would at least remove all weeds that were in the space between the rows of your desired plants. And so, if you look at typical practices and organic production, they do tend to rely more heavily than non-organic production on mechanized systems.” Even though modern farming machines have boosted the farming capability of a person drastically, the future of agriculture is still being worked on. “That’s a big part of what is going on in agriculture today,” Searcy said. “It is the effort to try to enhance the sustainability
Local farmers with smaller amounts of land can tend to their crops with more care, making better foods.
Picture by wikimedia
Plants on an individual scale are’t being cared for as well as they used to. Today, machines can harvest crops in a fraction of the time it would take by hand.
of our production of food and fiber. And that leads to techniques that will provide cleaner water and less pollution.” Searcy is a firm believer in mechanization, and it is necessary for machines to aid farmers to be able to produce enough to feed the population. “If you are going to just grow a small area, then you can manage that by going out and just physically hoeing out the weeds and handling everything with just simply human labor,” Searcy said. “But if you are trying to grow enough to create a business, you know, provide for an income for a family or a sustainable business, then typically mechanization is going to be used because of the need to farm larger areas.” Picture by Wikimedia
But with the use of modern farming techniques, there are always going to be some negative effects on the
environment. “A lot of rural communities can’t drink the water anymore because there are so many sulfates in the water because of fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural use,” Stormberg said. “And it wasn’t like that when I was a kid.” The use of mechanical farming equipment can harm the environment in a number of ways, but that does not mean nature and machine can’t coexist. Currently, engineers are developing ways to make farming more efficient and eco-friendly. “When we talk about ‘what are some of the topics in mechanization today?’ said Stormberg. “It’s not necessarily about the newer or bigger or more powerful tractor, it’s about how to put intelligence into machines so that they can help the farmer with the overall sustainability of the land.”
Picture by Santiago Nicolau at Flickr
Pesticides were spread by large airplanes high in the air. Now, aircrafts are restricted to flying low when spraying pesticides to lower the damage to the environment.
Behind the Produce How much do the people know? Story and photos by: Stephenson Gokingco
Big, bright-colored signs saying “organic” and “low prices” are eye-catchers to get customers to buy produce and have nothing else on their minds while browsing.
t was another busy day at the Slaughter Lane HEB. Crowds of shoppers, the sounds of items being scanned in, the rolling of shopping cart wheels, the different smells of the different food departments filled the store’s atmosphere. However, today, there was a mass number of people looking through the produce department with all its fruits and vegetables, thinking about what to purchase. “The appearance is what first catches my attention, and some positive things that I look for is whether it is natural or organic,” Angela Duhon, a regular costumer at this HEB location, said. It seems like produce is being labeled as a positive food item to buy due to nutrition experts labeling it as such. People consume produce on a daily basis and usually don’t stop to think about the process in which the produce takes to get to the stands. “When I go to the grocery to buy produce, we see the appearance of the produce, the price and maybe some labels such as ‘organic,’” Duhon said. “There is very little information right in front of me at the time, and I do not seek information outside of the grocery. So unfortunately, I cannot say that I know much about what I am really buying.”
Additionally, many fruits and vegetables in the produce section had no labels, nor did they have labels denoting exactly where they came from or the process they had to go through in order to get to the HEB. “They [grocery stores] know the consumers would buy the product anyway,” Duhon said. “Besides, there is the risk of ‘TMI’ or ‘too much information’. Why should they add information if the only thing it would do would be to possibly dissuade someone from buying it?” According to Duhon, although grocery stores are convenient and save time, customers, like her, are uneducated about the background processes behind the produce that they eat on a daily basis. Eric Govea, a product transportations expert of the same HEB may have some information that could fill this knowledge gap. “We order product manually and through a computer system,” Govea said. “Our transportation system is done by truck and once they arrive at our store daily, we unload and make sure we have every pallet that our invoice says we should have. We are on an honor system, which means we assume the amount of product received is correct compared to our invoice. Yes there
When I go to the grocery to buy produce, we see the appearance of the produce, the price and maybe some labels such as ‘organic.’ There is very little information right in front of me at the time, and I do not seek information outside of the grocery. So unfortunately, I cannot say that I know much about what I am really buying. - Duhon
are some mistakes, but they are negligible.” According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) agency within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), vehicles should be designed and built to make locking and sealing easy, protect the cargo against extremes of heat and cold, and prevent infestation by pests.
Not much information about these pears are given to the customers via labels.
and in the store. Pallets of product can be dangerous when not built correctly. Food needs to be kept at correct temperatures lest we get someone sick.” However, no system is ever perfect, and there is always room for problems to occur every day. “Our delivery system depends on traffic and weather, which is out of our control,” Govea said. “When problems arise, our central transportation department communicates this to the store. As I see it, our system works perfectly when everyone is communicating.”
“Safety is always our biggest focus,” Govea said. “On the road,
Items and produce on this refrigerating aisle are the types of goods that need to be kept at correct temperatures during transportation from place to place for safety.
Not much information or facts is given about these peppers A sign at the top of this stand says “Pick a Pepper!” and that’s about it; it gets customers to buy quickly.
Although problems can occur for trucks while on the road, the other end of business, the providers’ warehouses, may also contain its share of problems as well.
deliveries department’s problems and setbacks. In an ordered process like this, if a problem occurs at the top of the chain, it’s bound to trickle down to the last link: the consumers.
“Every order has warehouse out of stock, which is product that we do not have in our warehouse,” Govea said. “This can be caused by many different reasons and we have to figure out if we can substitute items we do have or wait until the item gets back in stock. We get no Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) on these items, which causes customer frustration.”
“Delivery time is not always consistent, which causes the department to fall behind most of the day,” Govea said. “Also, if we get shorted product we do not know until that delivery arrives, which can cause problems when building displays and how the department looks.”
Regular HEB customers are sometimes affected by the
Despite all these problems, there are always people like Govea to deal with and help HEB customers in any way they can. “Dealing with customers is the easiest part of my job,” Govea said. “Every customer when upset just needs to vent, and they want to know that you will take care of them and the issue they are bringing to your attention. The other side is they want to thank you for running a great store. Keeping our customers happy is the most important. HEB customers are very vocal and will let us know when they are happy/unhappy.”
These HEB trucks deliver goods daily for the store’s inventory at certain times.
Overall, status quo is kept, which is evident in the mass number of people coming in and out of the store every day. However, there is still a story to be told that neither the customers nor Govea know about, and that is the backend process of the USDA’s involvement in general produce for the consumers. John Lund, a staff member at the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) agency within the USDA knows a thing or to when it comes to the USDA’s involvement in the modern produce market.
“The first thing a buyer should look for when buying from a farm is whether or not they have a food safety plan and if that food safety plan was audited by an independent third party,” Lund said. “The role of the USDA in that regard is USDA offers a food safety verification audit as a service to the industry and there are fees for that service as other auditing firms also charge a fee.” Although the USDA isn’t directly involved with the contracts of produce marketing businesses, it does step in when the buyers and the sellers have a conflict. Either the buyers or the sellers will call up the USDA to perform an inspection. Based on that inspection, the two parties hopefully will make an agreement as to how that produce should be handled or what the resolution will be on price. “The services that we offer are a voluntary service,” Lund said. “If the buyer and seller are having a dispute or if the buyer believes that the shipment of produce that he has received is not meeting the contract’s specifications, he calls USDA to come and arbitrate the situation by performing an inspection… We’re only there as a service.” The contract that both the buyers and the sellers agree upon is not a contract drafted up from scratch with no rules. The United States itself has certain guidelines that the contract needs to follow in order for the business deals to be even legal. According to Lund, there aren’t any quality and condition regulations in the produce industry; however, the USDA develops U.S. standards that all produce industry contracts have to implement. “There are U.S. standards, and those U.S. standards are developed by USDA,” Lund said. “And those standards are very relevant in today’s market, and when they become not irrelevant, but when they need updating, we work with the industry to update so they meet what is going on in today’s market.” Additionally, according to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), the produce farmers themselves have to follow a certain set of rules and regulations stated in the act in order to legally participate in today’s market and industry. “The PACA, they are the ones that if there is a non-payment for one party or another in the industry or if there’s a dispute and
I think the majority of consumers are ill-informed about food safety, about what is good quality and what is adequate quality and what is the real condition that they already find their produce. I find that there is a huge educational gap in that area. - Lund
one party is found to owe another party money and that money is not paid, their regulations will govern whether that company stays in business or not,” Lund said. “So every company, and that’s farmers, but those who buy or sell produce in quantities of 2000 pounds or more in any given day are subject to be licensed by the group PACA. And they are the regulators as far as making sure that the industry is practicing in accordance with the act.”
The modern agricultural world is ever-changing, and the USDA and its agencies are not static in what they do. The USDA has to grow and adapt to the new changes that come into society for the years to come. For example, according to Lund, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is coming out with some new regulations that should be added 2015 in the form of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). This act will contain new rules and regulations for growers, warehouses and anyone who handles food other than meat, poultry and liquid egg. Ultimately, much of today’s information about the modern methods associated with the produce market has not made it to the general population. Many people remain uneducated about the produce they buy from the grocery store in their everyday lives. “I think the majority of consumers are ill-informed about food safety, about what is good quality and what is adequate quality and what is the real condition that they already find their produce,” Lund said. “I find that there is a huge educational gap in that area.”
According to Lund, apples like these are following U.S. standards in quality and a contract between the buyers and the sellers in the agricultural market.
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