The pandemic continues to drive short-term discussions about workplace safety in many aspects of food production, while some of the most influential voices in food and agriculture convened to plan further ahead.

  • Leaders convened to Honor the Harvest.
  • Companies followed up with policy changes.
  • Industry groups considered vaccination logistics.

“There is no culture without agriculture.”

Anonymous, Honor the Harvest forum

Honoring the Harvest

More than 175+ prominent voices from across the food supply chain convened online at the Honor the Harvest forum, hosted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action (USFRA). Bader Rutter’s Chief Growth Officer David Jordan participated in important discussions about the tough challenges for food production over the next decade.

“One immediate accomplishment of the forum was to prepare USFRA leadership to represent U.S. food production in the U.N. Food System Summit,” reflected Jordan, speaking about the event next week in New York that will launch bold directives for a healthier, more sustainable and equitable global food system.

The event brought together big thinkers to articulate a four-point vision for climate-smart, sustainable agriculture:

  • Recharge our environment through agriculture that regenerates natural resources
  • Revitalize our collective societal appreciation of agriculture
  • Invest in the next generation of agriculture systems
  • Strengthen the social and economic fabric of America through agriculture

Working in small groups, participants from organizations including Corteva Agriscience, the United Soybean Board, Culver’s, ConAgra, the National FFA Organization, and many others discussed topics like leveraging technology, driving transformative investment, and strengthening the power of collaboration.

The event closed by premiering a powerful docudrama, The Carbon Neutral Pig, about Marlowe Ivey, a farmer and single mother who challenges herself to turn her business carbon-neutral by saying “change has gotta start somewhere.”

Race to the Summit

Ahead of the U.N. Food Systems Summit, which will take place on September 23 in New York City, food companies shared progress reports on sustainability goals and outlined areas for future growth and improvement to mitigate climate change.

  • National Chicken Council published its inaugural sustainability report, showing nearly a 20% decrease in the industry’s carbon footprint per pound of poultry over 10 years.
  • Triple Pundit shared Bayer’s commitment to “a carbon zero future for agriculture” achieved by working with growers to reduce GHG emissions and generate revenue from CO2 sequestration.
  • PepsiCo framed its latest sustainability initiative through pep+ (pronounced “pep positive”), which “will guide how PepsiCo will transform its business operations.”
  • Food Business News highlighted regenerative agriculture, describing how Cargill is enrolling farmers in RegenConnect, the company’s voluntary regenerative agriculture program. Additionally, Nestlé is investing “approximately $1.3 billion over the next five years to help its farmers and suppliers transition to using regenerative agriculture practices.”

Sticking Points

On September 9, President Biden directed OSHA to require all companies with more than 100 employees to obtain proof of vaccination or weekly COVID tests from workers. Naturally, this prompted questions and trepidation from industry groups as OSHA develops final rules.

  • FMI, the food industry association, exemplified industry concerns, saying the rule raised “more questions than answers.”
  • Consumer Brands Association endorsed vaccines, but worried, “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government has often failed to implement well-intentioned policy. … As with other mandates, the devil is in the details.”
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association President Brian Dodge added, “Requiring large employers to mandate vaccination of all employees or produce a negative test is a colossal undertaking.”
  • Labor group Fight for $15 retweeted The Nation writer Bryce Covert: “Equally important is the requirement that employers give employees paid time off to get the vaccine.”
  • Meanwhile, local governments continue to set policies. The Los Angeles Times reported that Los Angeles County will require proof of vaccination for entry at bars, but not restaurants, starting October 7.
  • Eater checked in on New York City restaurants now that the city is enforcing its vaccination requirements.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Don’t Read This if You’re Hungry

Just in time to shake up your fall cooking, Eater shared its list of the 17 best cookbooks for fall. Whether you’re a weeknight warrior, a baking enthusiast or a full-on foodie, the list has a little something for everyone. Take yourself on a culinary adventure without traveling, with options like Korean, vegan and Ghanaian food. You can stick with the classics, or find your next weekend project. May we suggest fluffy Chinese milk bread or buttery Southern biscuits?

Sweetgreen’s Not so Sweet CEO

The Atlantic reported that Jonathan Neman, CEO and co-founder of fast-casual salad restaurant Sweetgreen, is receiving backlash after “he lamented that Americans are simply too fat to survive COVID-19, a reality that he says could be addressed with ‘health mandates'” in a now-deleted LinkedIn post. While he apologized to Sweetgreen’s staff, he defended the intent of the proposal.

Sonny’s Food Box … a Retrospective

Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle summarized the Government Accounting Office’s recap of the USDA Harvest Box, USDA’s attempt to deliver surplus agricultural products directly to consumers under then-secretary Sonny Perdue. The GAO report proved several of Nestle’s earlier points criticizing “the enormous expense, the complicated and burdensome logistics, the burden on food banks, most of the money going to distributors rather than small farmers, the lack of choice for recipients and the unsustainable focus on charity.”

Protecting Pollinators

Friends of the Earth created a retailer report card in a bid to spur change and encourage major companies to move “toward less-toxic practices and create a healthier food system for pollinators and other critical biodiversity…” The report card ranked the 25 largest U.S. grocery stores on pesticides in their supply chains, organic offerings and promoting pollinator health. Out of the 25, only four received passing grades.

Trick or Squeeze

The Takeout covered some forward-thinking marketing from the HV Food Products company: Hidden Valley Ranch for trick-or-treaters: “With its Treat-Sized Ranch Packets, Hidden Valley is advocating for a new Halloween tradition altogether, one that’s creamy and goes well with pizza.” Also: Hidden Valley Crocs feat. Saweetie (Footwear News).