Hawaii Becomes First State to Ban Pesticide Found to Be Harmful to Children

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

More than a year after the Trump administration denied a petition to ban the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos, the state of Hawaii on June 13 became the first U.S. state to ban this widely used pesticide, found to be linked to severe developmental problems in children and other significant health risks.

Under Senate Bill 3095, signed into law by Gov. David Ige after it was unanimously approved by the state legislature, pesticides containing chlorpyrifos will be prohibited throughout Hawaii beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Businesses will be able to apply for a three-year extension to meet the new regulations, reported Huffington Post.

The new law also prohibits the spraying of pesticides within 100 feet of schools during normal school hours. According to The Garden Island, the law also provides $300,000 from the Pesticides Revolving Fund for staffing, education and outreach plus funding to monitor and study pesticide drift at three schools in the state.

“This was a law that was years in the making. Its time had come,” Hawaii state Sen. Russell Ruderman told The Garden State. “We have been guided by the belief that we must always put our keiki (Hawaiian word for children) first. On that we should all agree.”

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Sustainable Palm Oil Awareness Campaign, Set for September 2018, Brings Industry, Consumers Together to Celebrate the Positive Side of Palm Oil

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

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Mission-based educational platform Palm Done Right is enlisting industry and public support to help change the conversation about palm oil, and ultimately, how palm oil is produced, by launching the first annual National Palm Done Right Month in September 2018. 

Done right, palm oil can be grown sustainably in a way that positively supports people, communities and the environment, say the event organizers and brand partners supporting the Palm Done Right initiative. The choices manufacturers and consumers make can help drive more responsible practices in the conventional palm industry and grow the market for sustainably and organically sourced palm oil, helping to support smaller scale producers. 

Throughout the month of September, National Palm Done Right Month events and activities will galvanize the natural products industry, gain retail, manufacturer and consumer support, and build awareness around responsibly sourced palm, while also celebrating current partners supporting the Palm Done Right initiative. 

Retailer support is a critical aspect of spreading the Palm Done Right message and Palm Done Right Month is a call to action. “Retailers play a key role in the natural products industry as gatekeepers to a pathway for their customers who want to improve their lives through healthy food and lifestyle choices and gain a better understanding of where their food is coming from. Through their support as Palm Done Right partners, we will broaden our message and help highlight the brands that use responsible palm oil in their products,” says Neil Blomquist, organic industry pioneer and spokesperson for Palm Done Right.

Retailers and others can sign-up to receive a Palm Done Right Month tool kit, engage customers and activate change with the goal of creating an industry-wide movement at http://www.palmdoneright.com/en/become-a-retail-supporter/.

National Palm Done Right Month is organized by Natural Habitats USA, based in Boulder, CO, leading positive change in the palm oil industry by proving that palm oil can be grown for good. This approach demonstrates that palm oil grown organically, with third-party certifications, can preserve the environment and native species, bring positive economic support to local communities and create sustainable livelihoods for all stakeholders. The Palm Done Right initiative aims to connect the benefits of organic, responsible palm oil, with brands, suppliers, manufacturers, media and consumers, to change the conversation about palm oil and bring positive impact to scale. For more information, visit www.palmdoneright.com.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Industrial Hemp Derived CBD, Other Hemp-derived Products May Soon Become Legal throughout the U.S. Under the 2018 Farm Bill

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Industrial hemp and full spectrum extract products derived from hemp, popularly known as “CBDs,” referring to products rich in hemp-derived cannabinoid compounds, may become recognized as legal throughout the nation if the 2018 Farm Bill advances with the inclusion of the Hemp Farming Act sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a bi-partisan group of supporters including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

The Hemp Farming Act, which has now been attached to the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill - expected to become law this year - would permanently legalize hemp in the U.S. 

The Farm Bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 13 with a 20-1 vote, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) being the sole “no” vote after his amendment to exclude hemp extract products was not included in the proposed farm bill. The vote moves to the Senate floor, but hemp industry and CBD advocates warn that Sen. Grassley may yet attempt to negotiate elements of his amendment into the 2018 bill, and that the industrial hemp industry needs to remain vigilant.

Hemp industry watchdogs are concerned because the day before the Senate Agriculture Committee vote, Sen. Grassley filed an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill which seeks to redefine hemp to exclude “derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, from Cannabis Sativa L.” The purpose of the amendment as stated in the document is, “To modify the definition of the term ‘hemp’ and to require the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be a controlled substance and listed in a schedule under the Controlled Substances Act and to expand research on the cannabidiol and marihuana [sic].”

Currently, growing industrial hemp is legal on a federal scale only for research purposes or if it’s under a pilot program in select states that have legalized it. According to Jonathan Miller, the general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry advocacy group, the proposed Farm Bill includes the ‘Hemp Farming Act’ sponsored by Sen. McConnell and endorsed by 25 other senators.

According to Sen. McConnell, the Farm Bill is scheduled to be voted on by the end of June. From there, it must then go to the U.S. House of Representatives for further consideration. “The House may not pass it, and it might not include hemp in their bill, said Miller in a statement. But, if it passes with the current language, then, hemp-derived CBD would be legal from a federal perspective.”

However, observes Fresh Toast, a cannabis lifestyle publication, “This will only be the case if President Trump signs the bill into official law. In the past, President Trump hasn’t publicly expressed his views on hemp. Last week though, the President told various reporters that he supports ending the federal ban on marijuana. If President Trump stays true to his word, the move would be historic because it would result in removing the substance from its current Schedule I classification. Although the President has expressed his views to end the federal ban on marijuana, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions has quite the opposite view.”

One thing is certain: if industrial hemp becomes permanently legalized in the U.S. through passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, it will be a boon to farmers, natural products retailers and marketers, and consumers seeking more natural alternatives for health.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

USDA Drops Organic Checkoff Marketing Program

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Citing “uncertain industry support for and outstanding substantive issues with the proposed program,” USDA in May 2018 terminated a proposed organic checkoff national marketing program. The measure, backed by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), would have assessed producers to pay for the program, raising at least $30 million per year.

The organic checkoff program, called by OTA “GRO Organic (Generic Research Promotion Order for Organics), would have been under the supervision of USDA, as are research and promotion orders for other commodity crops and marketing programs such as “Got Milk.” 

Organic producers and handlers with sales over $250,000 would have had to pay one-tenth of one percent of their net organic sales into the marketing fund, according to the proposal. Importers also would have paid into the system, and smaller producers could opt in to take part. However, growers and handlers with gross revenue of less than $250,000 would have been exempt from contributing funds to the marketing program.

The announcement came as a surprise to the OTA, the organization that originally petitioned three years ago for the program. “It came as a complete surprise – the last we’d understood was, based on the precedent from previous checkoffs, we thought we’d cleared the threshold, OTA Executive Director and CEO Laura Batcha told FeedNavigator. “We were very, very surprised – it was incredibly unexpected,” she said.

“It is not lost on folks that the same week they terminated the organic program – they launched a proposal for GMO labeling that has a smiley face on it,” Batcha added. “At face value that does not appear like a level playing field – and USDA should be in the business of promoting choices for farmers, not in the business of picking winners and losers,” she said.

However, not all organic industry advocates supported the organic checkoff program. There have been questions regarding the effectiveness of other product checkoff programs and their benefit to small producers, along with questions about the way funding is managed, noted Mark Kastel, co-director of consumer advocacy group Cornucopia Institute.

“The proposed Organic Research and Promotion Program would have required all certified organic operations, even those exempt from the checkoff itself, to submit annual gross sales reports. All entities whose organic gross sales exceed $250,000 would have been mandated to pay 0.001% of their annual organic net sales,” said the Organic Farmers Association (OFA), based in Kutztown, PA. Jennifer Taylor, Vice President of OFA and a certified organic farmer in central Georgia added, “Organic farmers already fulfill a heavy load of annual paperwork for their organic certification. Additional federally mandated paperwork would have been overly burdensome, especially for the 75 percent of certified organic farmers estimated to be exempt from the checkoff,” she said.

OFA says it does agree with OTA and other organic industry stakeholder groups that organic research and promotion are necessary and needed by the whole community, and looks forward to finding creative solutions that serve all constituents in growing the market for organic foods.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Organic Food Sales Top $49 Billion in 2017; Accounts for 5.5 Percent of Overall U.S. Food Sales

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

When the Environmental Working Group reported in April 2018 that conventionally grown apples contain on average 4.4 toxic, synthetic pesticide residues, some at high concentrations that don’t wash off, more and more consumers are getting the clue that the old adage has changed: “It’s the organic apple a day that keeps the doctor away!”

So many consumers are buying into organic these days, in fact, that overall sales of organic foods will soon top $50 billion. According to the latest data released in May 2018 from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), sales of organic products totaled $49.4 billion in 2017, reflecting an increase of 6.4 percent and new sales of nearly $3.5 billion over the previous year. 

Sales of organic foods grew the same – 6.4 percent – to $45.2 billion, and sales of organically produced non-food products increased 7.4 percent to $4.2 billion.

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The growth rate for organic food sales was short of the 9 percent growth recorded in 2016, “impacted by markedly slowed growth in the big organic dairy and egg category,” said the OTA in a release. However, organic food sales were well above that of the overall food market, which barely grew at 1.1 percent. “Organic continued to increase its penetration into the total food market, and now accounts for 5.5 percent of the food sold in retail channels in the U.S.” OTA said.

This year’s annual survey marks the 20th year OTA has released data tracking the organic industry’s growth. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive look at the retail organic sector in America, the survey first measured organic sales in 1997. That year, organic food sales were pegged at $3.4 billion; 2017’s sales of over $45 billion reflect a growth of nearly 15 times. In the last decade alone, the U.S. organic market has more than doubled in size, reports OTA.

Fresh fruit and vegetables continued to be the largest organic food category, posting $16.5 billion in sales and 5.3 percent growth over 2016 sales. Another category standout was organic beverages, with fresh juices driving 10.5 percent growth to sales of $5.9 billion in 2017. Nonfood items grew significantly, including organic fashion and fiber, which grew 11 percent to $1.6 billion, and organic dietary supplements, the sales of which increased 9 percent in 2017. 

“Organic has arrived. And everyone is paying attention,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Our survey shows there are now certified organic products in the marketplace representing all stages of the life cycle of a product or a company—from industry veterans to start-ups that are pioneering leading edge innovation and benefits and getting shelf space for the first time. Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store.”

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Whole Foods Market Delays GMO Labeling Deadline for Suppliers

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

In an email sent to suppliers in May 2018 from Whole Foods Market President and COO A.C. Gallo, Global VP of Merchandising Don Clark and Global VP of Procurement for Perishables Karen Christensen, the world’s largest natural products retailer announced the company has decided to postpone the rollout of its GMO Labeling Policy.

The company’s leaders cited concerns from suppliers about complying with both Whole Foods Market’s upcoming policy deadline, originally set for Sept. 1, 2018, and the USDA’s proposed GMO labeling rules just introduced this past month, dubbed the federal Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, as the reason for the delay.

In 2013, Whole Foods announced it would require all food producers who wished to sell products in its stores to include labeling that discloses the presence of any GMO ingredients. Whole Foods had previously announced that it would require suppliers to label products that contain genetically modified (GMO) risk ingredients and were not third-party verified as non-GMO or organic.

“While the proposed [USDA] rule speaks to requirements for disclosing a bioengineered food, it is silent on requirements for making an on-label non-GMO claim,” the email said. “Given the uncertain details of the federal regulation, we do not expect the verification of non-GMO claims on existing branded products by the previously communicated September 1, 2018, deadline.” Whole Foods’ executives further stated, “Once there is a better understanding of the final federal regulation, we will be able to provide further updates and timelines.”

In a May 22, 2018, statement to Food & Wine Magazine clarifying its position, Whole Foods added, "As the USDA finalizes the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and the food industry assesses the impact, we have decided to pause on our September 1, 2018, deadline for our GMO Labeling Policy. We remain committed to providing our customers with the level of transparency they want and expect from us and will continue to require suppliers to obtain third-party verification for non-GMO claims."

In a separate document, Whole Foods noted that it will continue to require suppliers in all categories to acquire third-party verification by a Whole Foods-approved program for “non-GMO” claims on their package labels. Approved vendors include The Non-GMO Project, NSF Non-GMO True North or the USDA Organic program, reported Project Nosh.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

USDA’s Proposed “Bioengineered” Labels, featuring Nature and a Smiling Sun, Give Impression that GMOs are Healthy, Environmentally Friendly

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

USDA in May issued a proposed rule to implement legislation requiring some form of GMO ingredient label disclosure on food packaging. 

Officially named the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS), the 106-page proposed rule provides definitions on what is considered a bioengineered ingredient, suggestions on how to disclose those ingredients and the scope of exemptions available under the law. For example, food products produced from an animal that ate GMO – or what USDA now refers to as “bioengineered” – feed do not require label disclosure. Food service establishments and very small food manufacturers are also exempt, reports legal firm Keller and Heckman. Foods certified under USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) also are not subject to GMO or “BE” disclosure.

Comments on the proposed rule are being accepted through July 3, 2018, and should be submitted as directed in the Federal Register document, published on May 4, 2018.

In addition, USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service announced an informational webinar to provide an overview of the background, provisions and potential impacts of the proposed bioengineered food standard, available on AMS’s website.

  USDA’s proposed GMO or “Bioengineered (BE) symbols include scenes of nature and a smiling sun, intimating that GMOs are healthy and environmentally friendly.

USDA’s proposed GMO or “Bioengineered (BE) symbols include scenes of nature and a smiling sun, intimating that GMOs are healthy and environmentally friendly.

USDA’s proposed rule addresses federal legislation passed in 2016 to create a national GMO labeling standard in an effort to prevent individual states from passing their own GMO labeling regulations. As a result of the federal legislation, Vermont’s law to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered ingredients, which took effect in 2016 for a brief period of time, was overturned in favor of the national law.

USDA’s proposed standard defines “bioengineered” food as food “(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

According to organic industry observer Max Goldberg, publisher of Organic Insider, “This does not give us any clarity about whether GMO 2.0 technologies, such as gene-editing, synthetic biology and RNAi, will be covered under this rule. Second, a GMO-disclosure rule should make it clear and easy for consumers to know whether a food is genetically modified or not. The truth is that most people have no idea what ‘bioengineered’ means, and using this seldom-used, scientific term is confusing to consumers. Even the USDA itself was content to use the term ‘GMO labeling’ on its own website up until a few months ago,” he said.

Foods that need to be labeled are broken down into two proposed lists:

  • Bioengineered foods commercially available in the U.S. "with a high adoption rate,” i.e., genetically modified varieties are planted or produced more than 85% of the time. This would include such foods as canola, corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beet, and can be labeled as "Bioengineered food” or “Contains a bioengineered food ingredient.”
     
  • Bioengineered foods commercially currently available in the U.S. "with a low adoption rate,” including such foods as apples (non browning), papayas, potatoes and squash (summer varieties). These can be labeled as “May be a bioengineered food,” “Contains a bioengineered food ingredient,” or “May contain a bioengineered food ingredient.”

According to Goldberg, companies will have three options to disclose the presence of bioengineered foods: text, symbol or QR codes. However, he says, QR codes are inherently discriminatory since nearly 100 million Americans do not own a smartphone. Plus, USDA’s proposed bioengineered symbols, “which are supposed to be neutral, give off the impression that bioengineered foods are healthy,” he says.

Additionally, Goldberg warns, under the proposed rule, “Organic foods can be labeled as ‘Non-GMO’ or ‘Not BE.’ This is very problematic and poses an enormous risk for organic. While genetic modification is prohibited in organic production, this does not mean that organic foods are free from GMO contamination.”

Comments Talking Points
Comments on the proposed GMO labeling rule are being accepted through July 3, 2018, and can be submitted via regulations.gov. Goldberg recommends including the following talking points among your comments:

  • The term "bioengineered" should not be used. It is both misleading and confusing to consumers. "GMO", "GE" or "Genetic Engineering" should be used instead. These are terms consumers are familiar with and understand.
  • All forms of genetic engineering should be disclosed, including gene-editing, synthetic biology and RNAi.
  • All highly processed foods, such as genetically engineered oils, syrups and sugars, should not be excluded from labeling.
  • Any symbol that represents "bioengineered" should be neutral and not contain a smiley face or a sun, or a nature scene.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Worth the Retreat: One Week At Finca Luna Nueva

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Perspective by Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

Eco-resort and certified Biodynamic farm Finca Luna Nueva, situated at the base of 250,000 acres of pristine rainforest surrounding the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, provides visitors an ideal setting for corporate retreats, vacation, and reconnecting with the natural world.

San Isidro, Costa Rica (April 27, 2019) – Walking on a solo hike through the rainforest at Finca Luna Nueva, a magical, “rustic luxury” eco-resort and certified Biodynamic farm at the foot of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest near San Isidro, Costa Rica, listening to the primal scream of the Howler monkeys and the loud calls of the Oropendola birds in the tall trees above me, I am reminded of the innate intelligence of Mother Earth.

Of how everything is connected. The cycles of life, death, decay and rebirth and the abundance of nature – how it all works together to foster new life all around us. Nature is a community we are a part of, not just a commodity for us to selfishly exploit without any consideration for other life or the environment. All of this is clearly visible every which way you look in the lush rainforest surrounding the farm and resort.

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It can be seen in the tropical saplings growing quickly through the stumps of fallen trees that came before. In how the leaf cutter ants recycle organic matter and build soil fertility by harvesting bits of foliage throughout the jungle to feed a fungus they cultivate in their underground nests to farm their own food.

A delicate balance of natural resource and nutrient usage. Plants and animals taking advantage of a new niche when a giant tree falls, leaving a gap of light in the dense forest canopy that quickly fills in with eager new growth. The myriad, complex defense mechanisms the jungle’s living creatures create for survival. A mother three-toed sloth watching carefully as she begins to train her baby to fend for itself in a tree for a few moments before cradling it again in the comfort of her lap. How the tall Cecropia tree, with its dangling seed pods, draws different species of birds including colorful toucans at different times of day to eat and spread the tree’s seeds in the forest. How the tiny red poison dart frog has to eat certain species of ants that in turn have to eat certain species of plants in order for the frog to manufacture its particular brand of poison with which it defends itself.

You begin to see how it's all connected, and how life has evolved so that it's all dependent on each other and on the Earth itself. Mother Nature abhors a monoculture; that's evident in the cacophony of rich biodiversity represented at Finca Luna Nueva.

It’s all connected, and if you tug on one thread, like we humans are doing with the environment, there is a great risk that it all unravels.

  Three-toed sloth and baby, regular residents at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica.

Three-toed sloth and baby, regular residents at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica.

A Vortex of Biodiversity

Finca Luna Nueva is located at the base of 250,000 acres of primary and secondary rainforest, with the still-active Arenal Volcano looming over all. One of its owners, and my host for the week, Tom Newmark, Co-founder of the Carbon Underground and former Co-owner of New Chapter Vitamins, explains it like this:

“Here we are in the very middle of Central America, at the nexus point of a narrow land bridge connecting the immense continents of North America and South America. In addition, we are at a central location with the Atlantic Ocean immediately to the east, and the Pacific Ocean

immediately to the west. It is a critical corridor of biodiversity. This ‘vortex’ has created one of the most biodiverse regions in one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet – and Finca Luna Nueva, with its 224 acres of rainforest and regenerative “food forest,” is smack dab in the middle of all that. We’ve been told this is one of the most biodiverse farms on the planet!”

  Trail at Finca Luna Nueva.

Trail at Finca Luna Nueva.

"Rustic Luxury" Retreat Center

I came to Finca Luna Nueva as the guest of Tom and his wife Terry Newmark, and Co-founder and farm manager Steven Farrell, as Compass Natural has the great fortune of helping with marketing and PR for this incredible place. The resort’s mission is to raise awareness of environmental issues and regenerative and Biodynamic agriculture, and provide a memorable corporate retreat and conference center for mission-based companies and organizations in natural, organic, regenerative and related products and services.

With its open air meeting center, a soon to be completed poolside restaurant and bar constructed with bamboo and other natural building materials, spa, hot tub, rooms and individual cabins, organic food grown on the farm and served in its restaurant – and an amazingly kind, courteous and muy amable staff – I highly recommend Finca Luna Nueva to reconnect with your company’s mission, your people, Mother Nature ... and yourself.

Natural Building Highlighted

An unexpected highlight of my trip was arriving at Finca Luna Nueva right at the start of a natural building workshop that was being conducted on the farm by Dome Gaia, an organization founded by Hajjar Gibran, grand nephew of late author and poet Kahlil Gibran.

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Led by instructors Rafael “Rafa” Bravo and Gabriel De La Cruz, the workshop attracted nearly 30 people from all over the world to learn to build affordable, sustainable dome buildings made from “AirCrete.” Made with cement and the foam of dish detergent (the instructors specifically use Seventh Generation dish detergent, due to its particular formulation!), the lightweight AirCrete blocks are meant to help people the world over to build low-cost, eco-friendly dome buildings and homes. The group embraced me warmly into the fold and I witnessed and photographed the dome getting built in just 10 days. You never know when you’re going to learn something new ... and meet great people!

My journey to Finca Luna Nueva was a meaningful one for me, as it marked the 40th anniversary of my first entering the Peace Corps in 1978 at the age of 22 and a return to this rich Central American country. While I was eventually assigned to serve in Honduras, I lived for three months with a wonderful Costa Rican family while receiving immersive training in tropical agriculture and Spanish language and culture at the Peace Corps’ training center in La Guacima Alajuela, near the capital of San Jose.

Natural building, natural food, natural world. Thank you, Tom, Terry, Steven and everyone at Finca Luna Nueva. While I’ve returned to my home in beautiful Boulder, CO, a piece of mi corazón will always remain in Costa Rica, and, “si Dios quiere,” I look forward to a return visit to my beloved Finca Luna Nueva. As the Costa Ricans say, Pura Vida, everyone!

Corporate Retreats Available

If you’re interested in exploring corporate and organizational meetings, workshops and retreats at Finca Luna Nueva, contact us at Compass Natural and we’ll be pleased to share more information and connect you with the very professional team at Finca Luna Nueva. Our associate Evan Tompros will be pleased to be of assistance. Contact evan@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Resources
Finca Luna Nueva
Brave Earth
Dome Gaia
Ecological Building Network
Tom Newmark’s vanilla blog

 From left: Terry and Tom Newmark, co-owners of Finca Luna Nueva.

From left: Terry and Tom Newmark, co-owners of Finca Luna Nueva.

Photos by Steven Hoffman

CBD Products Next Big Thing at Expo West

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, April 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Despite an uncertain regulatory environment, products containing agricultural hemp extract rich in CBD, or cannabinoid compounds, were featured throughout the exhibit halls at Natural Products Expo West, appearing in botanical supplements, body care products, in foods – and in new product offerings from leading national brands.

In addition, if you came late to Expo West’s first-ever CBD Summit, a half-day workshop held the day before the exhibit halls opened, you were out of luck. Attendance was standing room only and people were listening from outside the door.

“This is the hottest product in the history of natural products, and there’s an opportunity for retailers to really sink their teeth into this whole hemp category,” Josh Hendrix, director of business development for Las Vegas-based extract company CV Sciences Inc., told the approximately 500 people attending the CBD summit.

Josh’s statement may be an exaggeration, however, industrial hemp sales totaled $688 million in 2016, according to Hemp Business Journal, and are projected to grow to nearly $2 billion in sales by 2020, led by hemp food, textiles, body care, and CBD products. Independent natural products retailers are leading that growth, with sales of CBD consumer products up over 1,700%, according to 2017 SPINS data. Sales of CBD products in the U.S. are projected to reach $646 million by 2022, according to Hemp Business Journal, with 28 percent of those sales occurring in the natural and specialty channel.

In addition, nearly three-dozen states have passed legislation in recent years allowing research or commercial production of agricultural or industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin to marijuana.

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Bodycare brand leaders ShiKai and Andalou Naturals were among exhibitors introducing CBD products at Natural Products Expo West.

“It’s like anything that’s innovative and on-trend and disruptive — it tends to start in health foods stores, whether it’s pomegranate or plant protein or almond milk or CBD,” Todd Runestad, Ingredients and Supplements Editor for New Hope Network, told Alicia Wallace of the Cannabist in response to the sold-out CBD Summit at Expo West.

Complicating sales of hemp-derived CBD products is the fact that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has taken the position that CBD is illegal. The DEA created confusion in December 2016 when it filed a rule notice for the creation of a Controlled Substances Code Number for “marihuana extracts.” As the rule was finalized a month later, it met opposition by the industrial hemp industry, which filed a petition in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The hemp industry’s lawyers, citing a 2004 circuit court ruling on agricultural hemp and the 2014 Farm Bill, have asserted that the DEA made a scheduling action against hemp and hemp-derived extracts and created a rule that has resulted in illegal seizures of hemp products. The court is not expected to rule on that case until later this year, the Cannabist reported.

The DEA rule temporarily shook the confidence of retailers, manufacturers and Expo West organizers in CBD products, said Runestad. However, after the Hemp Industries Association’s case against the DEA in 2017 and last year’s decision by natural and specialty retailer Lucky’s Market to carry lines of hemp extracts nationwide, Expo West trade show officials allowed hemp-derived extracts to be exhibited at the show, he told the Cannabist.

“That opened the floodgates,” Runestad said.

Among two dozen hemp extract companies exhibiting at Expo West, including CV Sciences and Ananda Hemp, other hemp/CBD product highlights included the introduction of Weller Snacks, a Boulder-based startup launching the first snack food line infused with CBD-rich hemp extract; Colorado Hemp Honey, a CBD rich honey; ShiKai CBD creams and lotions; and a new line of Hemp Stem Cell personal care products from Andalou Naturals.

When the smoke clears in the regulatory arena, given the rapidly growing popularity of CBD products, we should soon see the introduction of CBD product offerings from other major dietary supplement and wellness brands, as well.

Learn about the world of agricultural and industrial hemp at the 5th Annual NoCo Hemp Expo, April 6-7, 2018, in Loveland, CO. Colorado has become an epicenter of the hemp industry, and NoCo5 will draw 5,000 – 7,000 visitors and feature nearly 150 exhibits, making it the world’s largest trade show dedicated to industrial hemp. Learn more: www.nocohempexpo.com. 

Local Economies Benefit in Organic Agriculture “Hotspots”

While supporting local and organically grown has been on the rise, researchers at Penn State University set out to assess whether or not organic agriculture has a positive impact on local economies across the U.S.

Their findings, “Economic Impact of Organic Agriculture Hotspots in the U.S.,” published in the February 2018 issue of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems by Cambridge University Press, concluded that organic agricultural hotspots, e.g., clusters of counties with positively correlated high numbers of organic operations, lead to lower county-level poverty rates and a higher median household income. The effect, say the study’s authors, appears to be specifically due to clusters of organic operations (whether farming/producing, processing, wholesaling, etc.), since the same effect is not seen with general agricultural hotspots. In other words, the researchers found that the countywide economic benefits are due to organic agriculture in particular, and not agriculture in general.

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Organic Operations Hotspots: Red: Hotspot; Blue: Coldspot; Grey: Not Significant. Source:  Economic Impact of Organic Agriculture Hotspots in the U.S., February 2018.

Using spatial statistics to identify hotspots across the U.S. of organic operations, the researchers compared economic indicators to general agricultural hotspots “to confirm that the benefits associated with organic production hotspots were, in fact, due to the organic component,” said the study’s authors, Julia Marasteanu and Edward Jaenicke of Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education.

“Our results show that organic hotspot membership leads to a lower county-level poverty rate and a higher median household income. A similar result is not found when investigating the impact of general agriculture hotspots,” said the researchers.

“These results provide strong motivation for considering hotspots of organic handling operations, which refers to middlemen such as processors, wholesalers and brokers, and hotspots of organic production to be local economic development tools, and may be of interest to policymakers whose objective is to promote rural development,” the authors concluded.

“Our results may incentivize policymakers to specifically focus on organic development, rather than the more general development of agriculture, as a means to promote economic growth in rural areas, and may further point them in the direction of not only encouraging the presence of organic operations, but of fostering the development of clusters or hotspots of these operations,” they added.

Download a .pdf of the report here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323151836_Economic_impact_of_organic_agriculture_hotspots_in_the_United_States

General Mills is Transitioning 53 Square Miles of South Dakota Farmland to Organic

General Mills announced in early March it is converting 34,000 acres – more than 53 square miles – in central South Dakota to certified organic to supply the organic wheat it needs for its popular Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese line. The multinational food company is creating South Dakota’s largest organic crop farm to help ensure enough organic ingredients to meet the growing consumer demand for organic worldwide.

With only 1 percent of all U.S. farmland dedicated to certified organic production, this is a big deal, and part of a trend where food companies are taking a more direct interest in farming to help secure organic ingredient supplies as demand continues to exceed production. General Mills is partnering with Midwestern BioAg, a firm that helps conventional farmers transition to organic, to convert Gunsmoke Farms, a 34,000-acre wheat farm in Pierre, SD, in fertile lands near the Missouri River.

“The Gunsmoke project is an opportunity to use our scale to help convert large areas of acreage to organic as one of our tools to create a more stable supply chain. We also see it as a way to support our growing portfolio of organic businesses,” Beth Robertson-Martin, organic sourcing lead at General Mills, told The New Food Economy.

General Mills, the third largest producer of organic and natural foods, reported on March 21 that its natural and organic products portfolio was a bright spot amid otherwise disappointing third quarter results. General Mills reported net sales of $15.6 billion in FY2017. The company’s natural and organic brands include Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking, Liberté, Mountain High, Good Natured Soup and EPIC Provisions. General Mills hopes to reach $1.5 billion in sales in 2020 for its natural and organic brands. Since 2005, General Mills’ natural and organic category has grown an average of 10 percent per year, reports Sustainable Food News.

Companies including Nature’s Path Foods, one of North America’s largest family held organic brands, and Pacific Foods also have invested in or purchased organic farmland in order to ensure supplies. Nature’s Path sources much of its organic grains including oats, wheat, heritage grains, hemp, legumes and flax from the Canadian Prairie and the U.S. Midwest, where in the past few years it has purchased thousands of acres of pristine organic farmland.

“We started growing [organic] butternut squash because of availability, Chuck Eggert, founder of Pacific Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA in 2016. “We’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, and back then, even if you wanted to do an organic product there [weren’t] enough supplies around. So we started growing our own and then we started encouraging others to do it.” Campbell Soup purchased Pacific Foods in 2017 for $700 million in cash.

“As an independent, family-run company, we have the freedom to put our money where our heart is, in support of sustainable agriculture – beyond just making organic products, Arran Stephens, co-founder and co-CEO of Nature’s Path, told FoodNavigator-USA. “We live by the mantra of ‘always leave the earth better than you found it.’”

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Survey Says: 80 Percent of Shoppers Prefer Independent Stores to Online

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For Presence Marketing Newsletter, March 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Independent grocers remain well positioned to compete with larger chains and online grocery alternatives in today’s price sensitive retail environment, according to the 2018 National Grocery Shoppers Survey conducted by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

According to the survey published in February 2018, 64 percent of independent shoppers are very or extremely satisfied with their local supermarket, and 80 percent of shoppers prefer their local store to an online alternative. Additionally, independent grocers are strongly associated with friendly employees, quality meats and produce, and easy-to-navigate layout, NGA reported.

“There’s no doubt that the supermarket industry is rapidly changing, either because of the growth of e-commerce or the explosion of new formats, along with shifting consumer trends. However, independent grocers are nimble enough to quickly overcome obstacles and with strong ties to their communities, they know what consumers want and need,” said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA in a release.

The National Survey of Grocery Shoppers was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of NGA among 3,008 adults, 18 and over between November 13 and December 8, 2017, using a sample from The Harris Poll Panel who self identified themselves as independent shoppers. Additional analytics were derived from Nielsen’s panel-based Independent Grocer shopper database of 44,000 consumers. Loyal independent shoppers are those that spend 50% or more of their reported shopping at an independent grocery store.

“In today’s omni-channel retail environment, independent grocers maintain a unique and strong connection with their shoppers,” said Jeanne Danubio, EVP of Retail Lead Markets at Nielsen. “Complementing the findings of this year’s survey, Nielsen’s new independent buyer group panel data shows that a loyal independent grocery shopper spends more than 40% more in grocery than the average shopper. It will be critical for independent grocers to maintain the quality and personal connections that keep these valuable consumers coming back to the independent store,” Danubio added.

“While there has always been an element of whistling-past-the-graveyard reverence to industry pronouncements about independents, it will always be true that a strong, well-run, well-merchandised and technically savvy local operator can effectively compete with big chains and online giants. Supermarket chains and online merchants may seek to replicate personalization using their loyalty program data and algorithms, but independent grocers offer the real thing,” note the editors of Food Dive.

Among the survey’s key findings:

E-Commerce:  Of those who shop for groceries online, 68 percent do it in addition to shopping in stores, with 75 percent of their purchases made at the store. NGA said convenience is the main impetus for shopping for groceries online, while the biggest obstacles to online grocery shopping are the consumers' need to see the actual physical items and their concerns about freshness. In addition, only 11 percent of those surveyed shop online, and they prefer home delivery to store pickup by a wide margin, 76 percent to 39 percent. Of products bought online, packaged food products are the most commonly purchased. General merchandise and health and beauty care items rank second, followed by cleaning products. Also, 27 percent of shoppers surveyed said they would increase their online grocery shopping over the next five years.

Health and Wellness:  According to the NGA survey, 63 percent of independent grocery shoppers expect grocery stores to support their healthier lifestyles, and provide more help with cooking instructions, reading nutritional labels, and guidance on foods with good nutritional value. When considering where to shop, these shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and locally grown produce. Shoppers were almost split on where healthy foods should be displayed, with 58 percent saying that healthy food alternatives should be shelved alongside other food items, compared to 42 percent who think healthy food should be in its own section, separate from main aisles.

Areas Shoppers Value Most:  When considering where to shop for groceries, independent shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and offering locally grown produce and other packaged goods. Almost 7 in 10 shoppers (67%) have no plans to switch from their independent store.

Areas of Needed Improvement:  The survey noted that independent supermarket operators need to upgrade their technology offerings, including improving their website usability, with consistent pricing online and offline, the same products online and in-store, and providing an easy-to-use smart phone app.

Food Waste Goes Bananas

Worldwide, a staggering 50% of all food that is produced goes uneaten and wasted, and the world’s most popular fruit, the banana, is also the world’s most wasted fruit, says a new study conducted by Karlstad University in Sweden. In all, seven fruits and vegetables – bananas, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, pears and grapes – represented nearly half of the total fresh produce waste measured.

While consumers are behind most of the waste, as it occurs after food is brought home, grocery stores, too, throw away huge amounts, especially bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. As such, the researchers directly measured the amount of waste in the produce sections of three major supermarkets in Sweden. They also extrapolated the climate impact and financial cost of the wastage.

Consumers throughout the world prefer to eat bananas fresh and raw, and customers generally prefer a firmer banana—either completely yellow or with a tinge of green, reports Modern Farmer, meaning that perfectly edible bananas that don’t meet these standards are continuously thrown away by supermarkets that can’t sell them. According to the Swedish study, the banana provides the most food waste in terms of weight and environmental impact.

The researchers also looked specifically at the economic value of supermarket waste—not just what’s thrown out in terms of sheer weight. In terms of money lost by the business due to food waste, the leading culprits are cut greens, which go bad quickly – specifically, lettuces and fresh herbs. Lettuce alone amounted to 17 percent of the costs of wasted fruit and vegetables, the researchers found.

The researchers suggest that a focus on these seven products can help reduce economic losses in supermarkets. 

“Fruit, vegetables and bread are the biggest problem items regarding food waste in stores. These products are not so easy to redistribute because they have to get out to people while they are fresh,” Anne Marie Schrøder, chief spokeswoman for Matvett, a Norwegian nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing food waste, told ScienceNordic’s Norwegian partner forskning.no in response to the report. “Fortunately, efforts to reduce waste are in the interests of the environment and the stores. I am absolutely convinced it’s feasible to turn things around,” she added.

“There are three reasons for why we need to reduce food waste. It is not profitable for the grocery sector or for society. Nor is it environmentally or climate friendly. And we could feed the starving people of the world with the food wasted globally. All food has a value and a sensible utilization of the resources is essential,” Schrøder said.

Resources for Jobs and Careers in Natural, Organic and Sustainable Products

At Compass Natural, a lot of folks ask us about resources for finding senior-level jobs and career opportunities in the natural, organic, and eco-friendly products market. As such, we compiled a blog of resources for finding jobs and careers in this rapidly growing market, in no particular order. However, we welcome your comments and suggestions to add to the list. Happy green job hunting!

·      Green Dream Jobs. You can search by level and region. Awesome resource presented by our friends at SustainableBusiness.com. www.sustainablebusiness.com/jobs/

·      Luke's Circle is a great resource for sales, marketing, management and executive level jobs in the Denver/Boulder region, created by our friend and colleague Luke Vernon. www.lukescircle.com

·      GreenBiz has a great sustainable jobs board. http://jobs.greenbiz.com

·      TreeHugger has green job listings. http://jobs.treehugger.com

·      Sustainable Industries posts green jobs across the country. http://sustainableindustries.com/jobs

·      Just Means job listings have a social mission and NGO focus. http://www.justmeans.com/alljobs

·      Natural and Organic Industry Careers and Resources. A good compendium of industry resources and job opportunities. http://www.naturalindustryjobs.com

·      Food Force posts career opportunities with natural, organic, specialty and conventional food companies and brand leaders. http://www.foodforce.com

·      The Green Jobs Network "empowers people seeking careers in sustainability and environmental responsibility to find jobs, career resources, and build their professional network." http://www.greenjobs.net

·      Naturally Boulder is another resource for job listings in the Boulder/Denver region. http://www.naturallyboulderproducts.com/news/#jobs

·      World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wanting a Peace Corps-like volunteer experience, but on an organic farm somewhere around the world where you can learn about organic agriculture? Feeling young and adventurous? Check out WWOOF. http://www.wwoof.org

·      Green Career Guide job thread. http://greencareerguide.jobthread.com

·      California Certified Organic Farmers, an excellent organization for organic producers, posts job listings. http://www.ccof.org/classifieds.php#emp

·      ReWork:  Founded in 2011 by alumni of the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, ReWork helps people find careers in values-based, socially responsible and sustainable businesses. http://rework.jobs/talent

·      Project NOSH: Project NOSH covers the world of entrepreneurial food companies and services that are expanding rapidly due to interest in Natural, Organic, Sustainable, and Healthy (NOSH) products and businesses. Project NOSH helps food and beverage companies to find the right employees, and develop business success. http://www.projectnosh.com/jobs

·      VeganJobs.com is a free global vegan job and resume hub operated by vegans for vegans and plant-based/vegan-oriented businesses and organizations. www.veganjobs.com

·      Food+Tech Jobs:  Search for tech, business, design, sales, marketing, operations and PR jobs at leading food companies. https://jobs.foodtechconnect.com/

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

 

 

 

 

Survey Says: 80 Percent of Shoppers Prefer Independent Stores to Online

Source: For Presence Marketing Newsletter, March 2018
Author: Steven Hoffman

Independent grocers remain well positioned to compete with larger chains and online grocery alternatives in today’s price sensitive retail environment, according to the 2018 National Grocery Shoppers Survey conducted by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

According to the survey published in February 2018, 64 percent of independent shoppers are very or extremely satisfied with their local supermarket, and 80 percent of shoppers prefer their local store to an online alternative. Additionally, independent grocers are strongly associated with friendly employees, quality meats and produce, and easy-to-navigate layout, NGA reported.

“There’s no doubt that the supermarket industry is rapidly changing, either because of the growth of e-commerce or the explosion of new formats, along with shifting consumer trends. However, independent grocers are nimble enough to quickly overcome obstacles and with strong ties to their communities, they know what consumers want and need,” said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA in a release.

The National Survey of Grocery Shoppers was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of NGA among 3,008 adults, 18 and over between November 13 and December 8, 2017, using a sample from The Harris Poll Panel who self identified themselves as independent shoppers. Additional analytics were derived from Nielsen’s panel-based Independent Grocer shopper database of 44,000 consumers. Loyal independent shoppers are those that spend 50% or more of their reported shopping at an independent grocery store.

“In today’s omni-channel retail environment, independent grocers maintain a unique and strong connection with their shoppers,” said Jeanne Danubio, EVP of Retail Lead Markets at Nielsen. Complementing the findings of this year’s survey, Nielsen’s new independent buyer group panel data shows that a loyal independent grocery shopper spends more than 40% more in grocery than the average shopper. It will be critical for independent grocers to maintain the quality and personal connections that keep these valuable consumers coming back to the independent store,” Danubio added.

“While there has always been an element of whistling-past-the-graveyard reverence to industry pronouncements about independents, it will always be true that a strong, well-run, well-merchandised and technically savvy local operator can effectively compete with big chains and online giants. Supermarket chains and online merchants may seek to replicate personalization using their loyalty program data and algorithms, but independent grocers offer the real thing,” note the editors of Food Dive.

Among the survey’s key findings:

E-Commerce:  Of those who shop for groceries online, 68 percent do it in addition to shopping in stores, with 75 percent of their purchases made at the store. NGA said convenience is the main impetus for shopping for groceries online, while the biggest obstacles to online grocery shopping are the consumers' need to see the actual physical items and their concerns about freshness. In addition, only 11 percent of those surveyed shop online, and they prefer home delivery to store pickup by a wide margin, 76 percent to 39 percent. Of products bought online, packaged food products are the most commonly purchased. General merchandise and health and beauty care items rank second, followed by cleaning products. Also, 27 percent of shoppers surveyed said they would increase their online grocery shopping over the next five years.

Health and Wellness:  According to the NGA survey, 63 percent of independent grocery shoppers expect grocery stores to support their healthier lifestyles, and provide more help with cooking instructions, reading nutritional labels, and guidance on foods with good nutritional value. When considering where to shop, these shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and locally grown produce. Shoppers were almost split on where healthy foods should be displayed, with 58 percent saying that healthy food alternatives should be shelved alongside other food items, compared to 42 percent who think healthy food should be in its own section, separate from main aisles.

Areas Shoppers Value Most:  When considering where to shop for groceries, independent shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and offering locally grown produce and other packaged goods. Almost 7 in 10 shoppers (67%) have no plans to switch from their independent store.

Areas of Needed Improvement:  The survey noted that independent supermarket operators need to upgrade their technology offerings, including improving their website usability, with consistent pricing online and offline, the same products online and in-store, and providing an easy-to-use smart phone app.

Food Waste Goes Bananas

Worldwide, a staggering 50% of all food that is produced goes uneaten and wasted, and the world’s most popular fruit, the banana, is also the world’s most wasted fruit, says a new study conducted by Karlstad University in Sweden. In all, seven fruits and vegetables – bananas, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, pears and grapes – represented nearly half of the total fresh produce waste measured.

While consumers are behind most of the waste, as it occurs after food is brought home, grocery stores, too, throw away huge amounts, especially bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. As such, the researchers directly measured the amount of waste in the produce sections of three major supermarkets in Sweden. They also extrapolated the climate impact and financial cost of the wastage.

Consumers throughout the world prefer to eat bananas fresh and raw, and customers generally prefer a firmer banana—either completely yellow or with a tinge of green, reports Modern Farmer, meaning that perfectly edible bananas that don’t meet these standards are continuously thrown away by supermarkets that can’t sell them. According to the Swedish study, the banana provides the most food waste in terms of weight and environmental impact.

The researchers also looked specifically at the economic value of supermarket waste—not just what’s thrown out in terms of sheer weight. In terms of money lost by the business due to food waste, the leading culprits are cut greens, which go bad quickly – specifically, lettuces and fresh herbs. Lettuce alone amounted to 17 percent of the costs of wasted fruit and vegetables, the researchers found.

The researchers suggest that a focus on these seven products can help reduce economic losses in supermarkets. 

“Fruit, vegetables and bread are the biggest problem items regarding food waste in stores. These products are not so easy to redistribute because they have to get out to people while they are fresh,” Anne Marie Schrøder, chief spokeswoman for Matvett, a Norwegian nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing food waste, told ScienceNordic’s Norwegian partner forskning.no in response to the report. “Fortunately, efforts to reduce waste are in the interests of the environment and the stores. I am absolutely convinced it’s feasible to turn things around,” she added.

“There are three reasons for why we need to reduce food waste. It is not profitable for the grocery sector or for society. Nor is it environmentally or climate friendly. And we could feed the starving people of the world with the food wasted globally. All food has a value and a sensible utilization of the resources is essential,” Schrøder said.

World's Oceans Rise to Highest Temperatures Ever Recorded

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Source: For Presence Marketing Newsletter, February 2018
Author: Steven Hoffman

We all know what’s happening and no amount of denial or the squelching of science can alter the facts. Climate change is real, and it is either being caused by or exacerbated by the activities of humankind. Through our extraction and consumption of energy, housing and transportation, manufacturing practices, and how we produce our food and fiber, we are releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, where it is heating the land…and the oceans.

We are certainly seeing the results on land, with increasing occurrences of major storms, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and mudslides, and a rash of other extreme weather events that are having its costs in human lives and in billions of dollars.

Now, a team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics found that the upper 2,000 meters of the world’s oceans were far warmer in 2017 than the previous hottest year ever recorded in 2015. Analyzing ocean data collected over the past 50 years, a clear trend is emerging, say the researchers. All the world’s oceans are getting steadily warmer, with 2017 recorded as the hottest yet. And while the atmospheric temperature is more susceptible to year-to-year fluctuations, the ocean data shows the consistency with which planet Earth is heating up, the researchers claim.

The findings come on the heels of research conducted by the Global Carbon Project, a group of 76 scientists in 15 countries. Their findings, presented to the United Nations in November 2017, showed that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have also risen to a record high in 2017, and they are still rising.

“The long-term warming trend driven by human activities continued unabated. The high ocean temperatures in recent years have occurred as greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have also risen, reaching record highs in 2017,” said the Chinese researchers in a report published in the upcoming March 2018 edition of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

“The ocean heat records are so impressive because they’re absolutely on a steady warming trend,” Robert Anderson, a geochemist at Columbia University, told VICE News. “People who point to pauses in global warming haven’t looked at the warming of the oceans.”

The Soil Solution

To cool the oceans, we must regenerate the earth, and in particular, the way we produce our food and fiber.

In addition to the disturbing ocean warming trends, industrial agriculture practices are contaminating our oceans with synthetic pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer runoff, leading to expanding dead zones. On top of that, unabated carbon emissions in the atmosphere are acidifying earth’s oceans, which threatens coral reefs, as well as the ocean’s phytoplankton populations – microscopic but critically important species that provide two-thirds of the planet’s oxygen, says John Roulac, founder of Nutiva and an outspoken advocate of regenerative agriculture, in a January 2017 EcoWatch commentary titled “Spaceship Earth, Your Main Oxygen Systems Are Collapsing.”

“At the current trajectory, in just a few decades there won't be much left alive in our oceans as the phytoplankton dies—all because of how we grow our food,” said Roulac. “If we don't immediately deal with the number one ‘enviro’ issue of the day, ocean acidification, humanity will not be around in 2100 to observe rising temperatures or oceans lapping over Wall Street and Silicon Valley. The good news is that we can cool both the planet and the seawater, while removing excess carbon from the sea, by regenerative agriculture—a solution literally under our feet!” Roulac added.

According to research from the Rodale Institute and others, the benefit of regenerative agriculture – where the focus is on building healthy, biologically active soils through the use of cover crops, multispecies livestock, crop diversity, and no-till or low-till agriculture, is that it can effectively draw carbon out of the atmosphere and put it back where it belongs: in healthy organic soils.

In fact, says Rodale, which has conducted more than 30 years of ongoing field research, regenerative, organic farming practices and improved forestry, pasture and land management can move agriculture from one of today’s primary sources of global warming and carbon pollution to a potential carbon sink powerful enough to sequester 100 percent of the world’s current annual CO2 emissions.

Yes, you read that correctly: “100 percent of the world’s current annual CO2 emissions.”

"Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term 'regenerative organic agriculture,'" Rodale’s research team reported. These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect."

Or, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “Organic practices could counteract the world's yearly carbon dioxide output while producing the same amount of food as conventional farming.”

The natural and organic products industry has always been at the vanguard of sustainable food and agriculture innovation and environmental and social responsibility. Now, we can take our leadership one step further and in a very meaningful way. We have the opportunity to change not just food but business. Today we must not only sustain, we must repair and regenerate to slow and reverse climate change, a very real and existential threat to humanity and all our four-legged, winged, finned and otherwise living relatives. We owe it to the world to take the lead.
 

Learn More About Regenerative Food and Agriculture

·      Regeneration International, an excellent and comprehensive clearinghouse of news, research, resources and information focused on regenerative food and agriculture, www.regenerationinternational.org

·      Rodale Institute, the leading on-farm research and education organization, based in Emmaus, PA, www.rodaleinstitute.org

·      Regenerative Organic Certified Label, established in 2017 by leading brands including Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s and others and administered by NSF International, the Regenerative Organic Certified label builds on the standards set by the USDA organic label with an emphasis on soil quality and social fairness, https://rodaleinstitute.org/regenerativeorganic/

·      Climate Collaborative, leveraging the power of the natural products industry to reverse climate change, http://www.climatecollaborative.com

·      Natural Products Expo West Climate Day, March 7, 2018, join industry leaders for Climate Day 2018 at Natural Products Expo West.

·      Soil Not Oil, international agro-ecological and environmental conference, Sept. 9-11, 2018, San Francisco, CA, http://soilnotoilcoalition.org

·      Regenerative Earth Summit, the premier gathering of leaders in regenerative food, farming and fashion for climate action, Dec. 4-6, 2018, Boulder, CO, www.regenerativeearthsummit.org

Hemp Note:

Nearly three-dozen states have passed legislation in recent years allowing research or commercial production of industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin to marijuana. From “CBD” herbal extract products now being sold in a growing number of natural products stores to food, fiber, cosmetics, textiles, paper, animal feed and construction materials, industrial hemp sales totaled $688 million in 2016, led by hemp food, body care and CBD products. Learn about the world of industrial hemp at the 5th Annual NoCo Hemp Expo, April 6-7, 2018, in Loveland, CO. Colorado has become an epicenter of the industry hemp industry, and NoCo5 will draw 5,000 – 7,000 visitors and nearly 150 exhibits, making it literally the world’s largest trade show dedicated to industrial hemp. Disclosure: yours truly is involved in promoting NoCo5, but I will tell you, it is an exciting, emerging market, and it looks to the natural products industrial as a model for its aspirations for success. Learn more at www.nocohempexpo.com.

EcoFarm Note:

I am freshly back from EcoFarm, one of the most refreshing gatherings of organic producers held annually at the incredibly scenic Asilomar State Park in Pacific Grove, CA. Drawing more than 1,000 attendees, the focus of the 38th annual EcoFarm conference was on regenerative agriculture and building healthy soils. Take note it is a farmer’s conference, but with a focus on the issues and how to grow organic, it provides a wealth of information among a community well rooted in building healthy soils and supplying America’s fruits, vegetables, meat dairy, grains and other crops. The Monterey Herald gave it a great review. With concerns about the aging of America’s farmers, I can tell you where the young farmers are. They are dedicated to organic and drawn to EcoFarm. Check it out next year, if only to regenerate yourself. Visit www.eco-farm.org.

Photo: Sunset, Pacific Grove, CA; Steven Hoffman

What the Flock? USDA Seeks to Kill Organic Animal Welfare Rule

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Source: Presence Marketing Newsletter, January 2018
Author: Steven Hoffman

December 21, 2017

After repeatedly delaying implementation of an Obama-era rule that would have required organic egg producers to provide actual outdoor access for their hens, USDA announced in mid-December it plans to withdraw the new organic animal welfare rule altogether.

Originally approved in January 2017 by President Obama in his final days in office, the organic animal welfare standards, known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule (OLPP), would have prohibited enclosed “porches” in large-scale organic poultry houses in favor of real outdoor access for the birds. The new rule would have established minimum indoor space for the birds, as well.

USDA acted under pressure from large-scale pork and other livestock producers, who are threatened by any federal regulations regarding animal welfare, as well as a small handful of “industrial scale” organic egg producers. According to the USDA, at least 50 percent of the eggs currently sold as organic come from industrial-scale producers like Mississippi-based Cal-Maine, which houses up to 200,000 hens in a single, multistory aviary with porches, reported AgWeek in November 2016.

The fact that half of all certified organic eggs sold come from industrial-sized poultry houses with no real outdoor access for the hens is a situation that angers hundreds of other organic egg producers that do provide outdoor access for their birds. George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, requires its egg producers to provide outdoor space for its hens, saying it’s what consumers want and that it is a fundamental part of organic agriculture. “It needs to be a whole system that features the bird’s basic needs, and there’s no doubt that a hen wants to be outside scratching in the ground,” he told National Public Radio in support of the rule.

One organic activist group, the Cornucopia Institute, has even put together an "Organic Egg Scorecard" that rates different organic suppliers based on how closely they're aligned with Cornucopia's vision of humane, pasture-based organic egg production.

USDA: “Not Our Job”

In an announcement published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2017, USDA claimed the rule in question “would exceed USDA’s statutory authority,” which it says is limited to health care practices. “Withdrawal of the OLPP also is independently justified based upon USDA’s revised assessments of its benefits and burdens and USDA’s view of sound regulatory policy,” a department spokesperson said in a statement.

Dismayed by USDA’s decision, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) said in a statement, “This groundless step by USDA is being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic businesses, and consumers for the fully vetted rules that USDA has now rejected. It is against this overwhelming public input that USDA ignores growing consumer demands for food transparency. Consumers trust that the Organic seal stands for a meaningful difference in production practices. It makes no sense that the Trump Administration would pursue actions that could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative, creating jobs, and improving the economies of our rural areas. Most striking is the administration’s continued confusion that organic standards are mandatory rather than voluntary. Farmers, ranchers and businesses choose to be in the organic marketplace, and Congress intended that industry and consumers work together to develop organic standards. This action undermines that goal.”

OTA originally filed a lawsuit against USDA in September 2017 to force implementation of the animal welfare rule. After learning of USDA’s decision to withdraw the rule, it took again to the courts to uphold organic standards. “In anticipation of the USDA’s continued attempts to kill this regulation, the Organic Trade Association last Friday filed an amended complaint in Federal Court. We will continue our fight to uphold organic standards, that this Administration continues to willfully ignore by repeatedly delaying this fully vetted and final voluntary organic standard, and now proposing to withdraw it. We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector, OTA said."

Could OTA’s Lawsuit Backfire?

Max Goldberg, publisher of Organic Insider, cautions, however, that OTA’s lawsuit could backfire. If the lawsuit fails, “USDA might feel that is has strong legal ground to rescind previously enacted organic regulations, which has the potential to completely dismantle the entire organic industry,” Goldberg warned. “This all comes down to how an administration wants to interpret OFPA (the Organic Food Production Act). Does it want to interpret OFPA literally and not create any new regulations? Or does it want to interpret OFPA broadly and use it to create regulations that move the organic industry forward? With the Trump administration, it is definitely the former, not the latter,” he wrote.

The organic industry’s success reflects consumers’ increasing demand for transparency in how their food is produced and their support of humane treatment of farm animals, said a coalition of animal welfare groups in an August 2017 report. "A national survey conducted in 2016 found that the vast majority of consumers (77 percent) are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food. In research conducted by the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, two-thirds of the company’s customers stated that they are more likely to shop at a retailer that improves the treatment of livestock," the report stated, adding that support for humane animal treatment was even stronger among consumers who buy organic foods.

“Consumers expect the USDA Organic seal to represent high standards for animal welfare. If consumers come to believe that organic regulations do not align with their expectations or their values, the long-term success of the organic program will be threatened. For the benefit of animals, farmers, and consumers, the USDA should act immediately to implement the OLPP rule. The future of the organic marketplace depends on it,” the report concluded.

Public Comments Encouraged

USDA is seeking public comments regarding its announcement to withdrawal the OLLP rule. Deadline for comment is January 18, 2018. To comment and for more information, visit https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic-livestock-and-poultry-practices.

More than 75% of U.S. Adults Take Supplements; Millennials Turning to Probiotics

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Source: Presence Marketing News, November 2017
Author: Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

Multivitamins, Vitamin D and Vitamin C are the most popular dietary supplements among U.S. adults, says a new consumer survey conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition and published on October 19. The survey found that overall, 87% of U.S. adults have confidence in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements. According to CRN, 76% of U.S. adults use dietary supplements, an increase of 5% over 2016 values.

In related research, Millennials are driving sales in probiotics and functional foods. According to Packaged Facts, Millennials aged 18-34 have relatively higher interest in probiotic foods and beverages compared to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Overall, approximately 25% of U.S. adults seek out foods and beverages with high amounts of probiotics or prebiotics, according to Packaged Facts’ 2017 National Consumer Survey.

With the increased focus on their health and wellness potential in recent years, probiotics have emerged as one of the biggest trends today in the food and beverage industry, says Packaged Facts. Products range from the familiar (i.e., yogurt, kefir, kombucha and infant nutrition) to the cutting edge (probiotics in soda, coffee, tea, soups, beer and more).

“Probiotics have emerged as a driving trend in the industry,” said David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts Research Director. “And given the core importance of gut health, this suggests continued potential for growth of probiotic- and prebiotic-containing foods, as consumers continue to learn more about them and next-generation products make their case in the market.”

Packaged Facts’ survey also found even higher interest in probiotics among those who shop for food in the natural channel, which “retains its role as the most significant retail sector for food and nutritional trends,” it said.

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Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.

Regenerative Organic Certification and Seal Announced

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Source: Presence Marketing Newsletter, December 2017
Author: Steven Hoffman

In related news, Rodale Institute in cooperation with Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s and a coalition of farmers, ranchers, scientists, nonprofits and other sustainably minded companies recently launched a new Regenerative Organic Certification program, based on three pillars:  soil health, social fairness and animal welfare.

“The goals of Regenerative Organic Certification are to increase soil organic matter over time, improve animal welfare, provide economic stability and fairness for farmers, ranchers, and workers, and create resilient regional ecosystems and communities” Rodale Institute announced.

“The need is clear,” Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, said in a statement. ‘Conventional agriculture’ is harming the planet, exposing people to toxic chemicals, and causing unnecessary suffering to animals that support the system. Just as alarming is the fact that the earth’s topsoil is degrading and eroding at an alarming rate: Scientists predict that current industrial farming practices and deforestation will eliminate topsoil within 60 years. As grim as this picture looks, the promise of regenerative organic agriculture is not only a process that can rebuild critically needed topsoil, but also one that potentially sequesters carbon at the same time.”

Marcario pointed to research by Rodale Institute conducted in 2014 that estimated that if current crop acreage and pastureland shifted to regenerative organic practices, 100% of annual global CO2 emissions could be sequestered in the soil.

“Regenerative Organic Certification does not aim to compete with—or negate—current organic standards. It builds upon the standards set forth by USDA Organic and similar programs internationally, particularly in the areas of animal welfare and farmer and worker fairness. With additional emphasis on the regenerative organic practices aimed at increasing soil health and potentially sequestering carbon, we could mitigate the damage conventional agriculture has done to our shared planet,” Marcario said.

Learn more:

- Regenerative Organic Certified, https://rodaleinstitute.org/regenerativeorganic/

The Original Organic: Biodynamic Food and Farming on the Rise

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Source: Presence Marketing Newsletter, December 2017
Author: Steven Hoffman

What’s old is new again. Biodynamic agriculture, the predecessor to organic farming
developed in 1924 and based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf
Steiner, is growing in popularity among farmers who want to reduce their input costs, build
the health of their soil, and also follow organic farming principles.
The biodynamic label, too, is appearing on more products as discerning consumers demand
organic food that’s been grown in the soil using regenerative agriculture methods that help
sequester carbon out of the atmosphere, as concern for finding solutions to climate change
rises with the temperature.


The number of biodynamic farms in the U.S. is growing rapidly, Elizabeth Candelario, co-
director of Demeter USA, the nonprofit certifier of biodynamic farms and consumer products
in the U.S., told The Guardian. According to Demeter, there are approximately 250
biodynamic farms and wineries in the U.S. and total U.S. acreage under biodynamic
production increased 16% in the last year, totaling 21,791 acres. It is estimated that 350,000
acres worldwide are farmed using biodynamic methods in 47 countries.


“Biodynamic farmers manage their farms—including fields, woods, wetlands, plants, animals
and people—as a self-contained, self-sustaining organism. They don’t use GMOs, synthetic
chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides,” reported Whole Foods Market in its blog (the retailer is
offering a growing number of biodynamic certified products).


“We’re talking about crop rotation and the value of manures and soil fertility; and biodiversity
and how that provides habitat for predators that eat the bad insects,” said Jim Fullmer, co-
director of Demeter USA, the only biodynamic as well as organic certifier in the country.
“The biodynamic system is just the original idea of an organic system. That is what it was
supposed to be. Not a list of materials that are allowed or prohibited, [which] is what organic
has become,” Fullmer said in the Boulder Weekly.


Integrating livestock into the farming operation is essential in biodynamic agriculture,
Fullmer told the Boulder Weekly. “When you do that you’re addressing a lot of input
concerns. You’re generating fertility out of the manures, but also the pasture and the crop
rotations and everything that comes out of the presence of animals. When that starts
happening, you’re building soil humus and when you do that, the farm is able to hold onto
water, it’s able to hold onto crop nutrients and provide them in a living, balanced way, which
leads to pest control because you have healthy resilient crops,” he said.


Boulder, CO, restaurateur and certified biodynamic farmer Eric Skokan, owner of the Black
Cat Bistro
and Bramble & Hare Restaurant, grows over 250 different vegetables and raise
sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese on 130 acres spread between three different plots
of land in Boulder County. At the lowest point of production in March, about 65% of the
Bistro’s menu comes directly from the farm, Skokan told the Boulder Weekly. At the height
in the fall, it hovers around 95%. Skokan recently became the first certified biodynamic farm
to table restaurant in the country, the Boulder Weekly reported.

While linked to some “spiritual” or astrological practices, biodynamic is a system of
agriculture in essence. According to Candelario, this is not required for Demeter
certification. “I’m so happy I’m not in the business of certifying people’s spirituality,”
Candelario said. “What we certify is people’s farming to this beautiful agronomic standard.
Learn more:
- Demeter USA, www.demeter-usa.org
- Biodynamic Association, www.biodynamics.com

How to Help Farms and Wineries Damaged in the Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Fires

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Source: Presence Marketing News, November 2017
Author: Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

For those looking to help organic farmers and producers who suffered significant damage in the fires that swept through large parts of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties in northern California, here are some resources where you can help and learn more:

North Bay Just & Resilient Futures Funds

Resources from this fund, established by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) along with a coalition of community based organizations, will be provided to victims of fires, especially those suffering losses not covered by insurance or traditional relief services, and to support initiatives that build more just, healthy, and resilient communities.

California Certified Organic Farmers

CCOF is extending all organic compliance deadlines for operations in the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, recognizing that power outages and fire damage will affect immediate business operations for some days, weeks, or longer. CCOF lists a number of organizations and ways industry members can help – visit CCOF’s Northern California Fire Relief Efforts page here.

California Wine Strong

Funds collected on this YouCaring.com website set up by California Wine Strong will be distributed to individuals, businesses and communities affected by the wildfires through Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund, the Community Foundation of Sonoma County’s Resilience Fund, and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County Disaster Fund of Mendocino County.

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Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.

PMA Predicts Future Growth of Organic Market

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Source: Presence Marketing News, November 2017
Author: Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

“Once merely a specialty item favored by the ‘uber health-conscious,’ organic food has widened its distribution channel, especially in retail formats, and has now become a staple in supermarkets around the world. The more accessible it becomes, the more its popularity rises.” So says the Produce Marketing Institute in an October 5, 2017, commentary. Organic achieved mainstream status due to consumer demand for transparency, especially about topics including food safety, chemical preservatives, genetically modified ingredients and pesticides, along with health concerns around diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more, which have affected food buying choices, said PMA.

“Consumers now expect to know the story behind their food before they’ll buy it. Is it locally sourced or imported from an international market? Is it produced in an ethical manner or does it come from a factory farm? If a food item doesn’t have a positive backstory, even if it’s cheaper, many consumers consider looking elsewhere. And some important components of a positive backstory include ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘locally sourced,’ which can be major selling points despite the added costs. That shift helped transform organic produce from a niche underdog into a produce industry powerhouse, and it’s not slowing down,” said PMA.

Foods with organic and natural claims remain popular among households with children in the U.S., and organic strongly resonates with Hispanics, particularly Millennials and especially those with children. In fact, said PMA, parents in general are far more likely to embrace the positive reputation of organic. 

However, PMA cautioned that households with children are on the decline. Meanwhile, the number of consumers that lack trust in the organic label remains steady, it said. Older consumers are the most likely to be unconvinced of the value of organic and are hesitant to spend more for organic products. Younger shoppers, PMA points out, while open to the benefits of organics, often can’t afford them.

PMA reported that the global organic food market was $110.25 billion in 2016, according to management consulting firm TechSci Research. Global organic food sales are expected to reach $262.85 billion by 2022. While Europe and North America make up the strongest demand for organic food, PMA suggested that intense competition in those regions means companies must also look elsewhere to gain a foothold.

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Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.