PMA Chairman-Elect John Oxford highlighted industry efforts to deal with food waste at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. Invited by committee chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Oxford offered a producer’s perspective, showcasing members’ leadership and innovative efforts to combat this complex issue. Leaders from the non-governmental organization (NGO), academic, philanthropic and retailer communities also testified at the hearing.
“This was a wonderful experience for me,” Oxford said. “It is remarkable to see the innovations and solutions our members have developed to reduce produce waste. I was proud to be able to represent our members and my company on this important issue.”
Oxford, who is president of L&M Companies, which grows its own crops and markets crops for growers across the United States, Mexico, and Central America, told the committee:
- Producers look for multiple ways to minimize waste, including new uses, demand creation, donations, animal feeds, and industrial uses before sending product to a landfill as a last resort.
- A new product, baby carrots, was created decades ago, as a way to use misshapen carrots that were not suitable for market. (Oxford showed committee members baby carrots.)
- PMA grower, packer, retail, and foodservice members market imperfect or “ugly” fruits and vegetables.
- Apple pulp left after juicing is turned into pomace cakes for livestock feed. (Oxford showed committee members pomace cakes.)
- PMA member Gill’s Onions uses waste and byproducts to generate energy at its facility, diverting waste from landfills while lowering its energy costs.
- Waste is also reduced by increasing demand. The eat brighter!™ campaign, as well as FNV and Brighter Bites were given as examples where PMA member companies and their partners are improving diets, introducing fruits and vegetables to children at early ages, helping the underserved and helping to establish long-lasting, healthy eating habits.
- Companies throughout the supply chain contribute significant amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables to charity.
Members of the Agriculture Committee asked witnesses about what government actions could be useful to reduce food waste and what existing incentives are working or could be modified to make them more effective.
Legislation has been introduced in the House that would establish a new office at USDA focused on food recovery. The bill would also extend and expand current tax deductions for food donations. Additionally, food labeling laws would be amended so that “sell-by" dates must indicate the dates are only the manufacturer's suggestion and uniform language would be required. Companies that receive foodservice contracts with the federal government would be required to donate surplus food to nonprofit organizations that assist food-insecure people. It is unlikely that Congress will consider this legislation in 2016, but it could be considered for inclusion in future Farm Bill legislation.