Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

 

Doug Perry and Ryan Mortenson represented UDAF at the SBA Rural Road Show in Brigham City and Logan this week. The event equips entrepreneurs with information and resources that will help them launch or move their small businesses forward.

Some of the attendees have products and services related to agriculture and food and so it gives UDAF an opportunity to talk about marketing, training, and networking opportunities associated with the Utah's Own brand and international trade efforts the Department has been making in recent years.

It also creates a connection for potential partnerships and resource sharing with other small business service providers and non-profits. Along with the event sponsor, the Small Business Administration, UDAF was joined by the likes of the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development Division, US Department of Commerce, Governor's Office of Economic Development, Utah Small Business Development Centers Network, Women's Business Center of Utah, SCORE Mentors, Utah Microloan Fund, World Trade Center Utah, USTAR, Utah CDC, and handful of banks and credit unions.

During the Summer, SBA organized a similar tour in the southern end of the state and there are plans to conduct yet another in 2019.

Africa is a vast continent of untapped potential, containing around 15 percent of the world's population. However, many agribusinesses still treat it with a sense of trepidation. South Africa, a country on the southern tip of the continent, serves as the perfect entry point to doing business in the Sub-Saharan African region. Southern Africa is one of the fastest growing regions for U.S. agricultural exports, driven by a strong economic outlook, a growing middle class and surging demand for consumer-oriented foods.

In the words of Lew Cramer, former president of World Trade Center Utah, “the most important distance you can go in international trade is the final three feet to shake a hand and begin speaking to someone.” Therefore, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) chose to go those final three feet in Southern Africa by participating on a trade mission organized by the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) and led by the U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Ted McKinney.

Our mission focused on expanding export opportunities for our farmers, ranchers and other food producers by encouraging free, fair, and reciprocal trade. We visited Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa. We met with businesses from not only South Africa but also Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in Johannesburg. In Pretoria we interacted with South African national government officials and trade organizations in the agriculture and food sector as well as in international trade and business development. In Cape Town we visited with provincial leaders in agriculture and saw first hand what consumers are purchasing at their local grocery stores.

In this time of trade uncertainty around the world, Utah businesses must look to diversify. Southern Africa presents Utah agriculture and food producers with exciting possibilities to do just that. South Africa alone imported $7.0 billion in agricultural and food products in 2016. In 2017, Utah exported over $1.7 million in misc. edible food prep products to South Africa.

English is spoken in much of the region, so communication is not an issue when doing business in much of Southern Africa. In fact, over 500 U.S. companies are already doing business in South Africa alone.

Opportunities abound for Utah’s agriculture and food businesses to compete and increase the seven percent market share that the U.S. currently has in South Africa. The European Union has a free trade agreement with South Africa, which gives them preferential tariff treatment. So, it comes as no surprise that our largest competitors are the Europeans with the Chinese close behind.

Don’t let competition deter you from entering the market though, because consumer demand for high quality Americans products is significant. The ever-growing middle class in South Africa is placing an increasingly high value on choice, and U.S. products are highly regarded. At the same time, consumers are becoming more health conscious. Utah’s specialty foods and high-end retail products could do quite well amongst the wealthy in Cape Town and Johannesburg. As in much of the world, U.S. branded goods enjoy a strong reputation in the region. Additionally, Utah’s food prep companies, meat producers, livestock genetics businesses and animal feed and fodder farmers could excel in the region.

The U.S. is late to the game on the African continent, but there is still ample opportunity for Utah’s agribusinesses to meet the demands of the growing consumer base in southern Africa, particularly South Africa.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities for your agribusiness in South Africa contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food today. Together we can explore potential opportunities for your business and help connect you with FAS staff in the region.

 

3-2-1 crunch! At approximately 10:20 am on Oct. 17, 2018 it is estimated that more than 100,000 Utah children and adults bit into an apple at the same time. If the old adage is true a lot of doctors were able to take the day off. The simultaneous Apple Crunch, as it was called was organized by the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), with assistance from the Utah Department of Health and UDAF as a fun way to celebrate National Farm to School Month. However, the fun activity underscores a more serious issue that state legislative, school, health and agriculture officials want to address: the lack of local food in Utah schools. 

"We don't do a lot of farm to school in Utah schools right now," said Kate Wheeler, child nutrition and farm to school specialist, USBE. There are several reasons for the lack of local farm fresh food in local schools, including cost and procurement system issues. While the challenges are great, the Utah Farm to Fork Task Force, organized by USBE, the Local Food Advisory Council, led by Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton) and Sen. Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake City), the Utah Farm Bureau, and the Utah's Own program at UDAF are all working on creative solutions to increase the amount of local food in schools. "It's something we like to call a triple win. Kids win, farmers win and communities win. So kids get access to really nutritious food, combined with agriculture education it makes them more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.," Wheeler added.

USBE tracked purchases of apples by schools and daycare facilities for the Apple Crunch Day and estimates about $30,000 was spent on local Utah apples for the day. Imagine if all those schools were buying apples, other produce, meat, dairy and other Utah foods daily. It would be a great financial benefit to local farms and the Utah economy. 

"it's one of the top issues we are looking to address in the Local Food Advisory Council," said Rep. Handy. He took a few minutes out of his busy day during monthly Interim Committee meetings to join 85 kindergarten students who descended on the Capitol Rotunda to eat and learn about apples. After the crunch the children got to participate in farm themed activities, and, of course, finish eating those yummy apples supplied by Mountainland Apples. 

 

At least one Sanpete County rancher is reporting a revenue dip of two-thirds of his average, due to this year’s severe drought conditions. And at least 15 total ranchers in Utah have applied for emergency livestock watering assistance.

With 99.5% of the state experiencing some form drought, and a little less than half categorized as “exceptional” or “severe,” the problem is pretty widespread. Utah’s streambeds are dry and many reservoirs depleted, following record low snow packs, the second hottest Summer ever, and driest year in history since records began in 1895.

In response, and under the recommendation of the Utah Drought Review and Reporting Committee, Governor Gary Herbert issued an executive order declaring this year’s conditions a state of emergency. Earlier this year, six individual counties declared drought emergencies, including San Juan, Carbon, Emery, Grand, Box Elder, and Wayne. 

The Governor’s declaration allows for farmers and ranchers to apply for much-needed financial relief. This is mainly through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) that oversees emergency assistance.

One of the main assistance programs is called Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). This program aids eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish. This includes losses due to an eligible adverse weather condition, as determined by the Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Earlier this year, ELAP totaled $34 million in support, helping agriculture producers through 2017 natural disasters in Florida, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Island, and through parts of the South, Southwest, and Great Plains.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed earlier this year, signaled an increase in assistance through ELAP. The Act amended the 2014 Farm Bill to enable USDA’s FSA to help producers without an annual funding cap. It also enabled FSA to pay ELAP applications as they are filed for 2018 and subsequent program years.

Prior to the Act, there was a combined program year payment limitation of $125,000 for ELAP, Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) per person or legal entity. Under the updated program, as amended by the Act, growers are eligible to be partly reimbursed for losses on up to 1,000 acres per program year, double the previous acreage limit of 500 acres.

The LFP assistance provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to a qualifying drought condition. While the LIP funding provides benefits to livestock owners or contract growers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by conditions that include weather.

FSA also has an Emergency Loan Program (EM) that provides loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, or other natural disasters.

Finally, many farmers and ranchers purchase insurance on their own, or through FSA’s Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). The latter provides insurance for non-insured crops to protect against natural disasters that result in low-yields or crop losses.

Growers set up the insurance through a local agent that is on the Approved Insurance Providerlist. Because the program is federally overseen, rates are the same regardless of the agent.

Producers with operations impacted by natural disasters and diseases in 2018 are encouraged to contact their local USDA service centerto apply for assistance through ELAP, LIP, LFP, EM, and NAP.

State egg producers, graders, inspectors and other officials from the FDA, Health Department, USDA/APHIS/VS, Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, an outside Veterinary Poultry Consultant and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) came together October 17 for the Annual Utah Egg Quality Assurance Plan Training, held at the UDAF office.

“This training is required by our plan and is an important part of our efforts to ensure our poultry in the State remain disease free and  provides assurance that consumers are getting safe, wholesome, quality eggs, egg products, and poultry,” said Dr. Robert Erickson, field veterinarian for the UDAF Division of Animal Industries. “This and other trainings ease our job of enforcing uniformity and compliance to match industry standards.”

Utah’s egg industry consists of 3.6 million egg-laying chickens that produce one billion eggs annually. That represents nearly $150 million in revenue and nine percent of Utah’s agricultural industry.

Topics covered in the training included poultry rodent control, disease and foodborne outbreak prevention, biosecurity, food safety, assessment guidelines and updates to those guidelines. 

In May, UDAF’s Egg and Poultry Grading team received Governor Herbert’s Award of Excellence at a special ceremony at the Capitol. The recognition was given for consistently demonstrating outstanding contributions to consumers of Utah, seven days a week and including holidays.