Industry-in-Brief: Paine & Partners Exits Icicle Seafoods, Insight Hires from Hassad, more

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Paine & Partners Sells Icicle Seafoods to Cooke Aquaculture

Cooke Aquaculture is set to acquire Icicle Seafoods, a processor of seafood products located in Seattle, Washington, from agribusiness private equity company Paine & Partners. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale follows an earlier attempt to sell the company to Convergence Holdings, the Southeast Asian canning business, and fishing company Dominion Catchers, a deal that was canceled last September. Cooke is a family-owned aquaculture business located in Saint George, New Brunswick. The company believes the deal will position it as the leading of salmon farming company in the US and a major player in the Alaskan salmon fishing industry. As part of the purchase, Icicle plans to acquire capital to update its platform, increase market access, and expand its product offerings. Icicle has been a portfolio company of Paine & Partners since September 2007.

Insight Investment Hires New Head of Portfolio from Hassad

Global farmland fund manager Insight Investments has hired a new head of portfolio oversight. Tom McKeon joins the UK firm from Hassad Australia, the ag investment arm of Qatar Investment Authority where he was CEO. John McKillop, an Australian who ran AgCAP, the farmland fund manager, was a board member of agencies Meat & Livestock Australia and Dairy Australia, and was general manager of one of Australia’s largest cattle companies Stanbroke Pastoral Company, is now CEO of Hassad. There has been quite a bit of movement at Insight Investment in recent months after ex-head of farmland Martin Davies left to join Westchester Europe in September 2014. The company hired Shankar Athreya from Olam as head of farmland investments last April.

Bittman Steps Down as Purple Carrot CIO After 6 Months

Former New York Times food columnist and author Mark Bittman is stepping down as chief innovation officer of vegan food delivery service Purple Carrot after only six months. Bittman told a reporter at Politico: “In a phone conversation, he wouldn’t say much about his reasons for leaving. “I wish the company nothing but the best,” he said. “I did everything I could do to help with its recent West Coast expansion, and now I’m ready for something new.” Bittman told me he’s still mulling what his next project will be.” He will retain his stake in the company.

AHI Criticizes FDA’s Final Rule on Antibiotic Sales Data

The FDA has released its final rule that will require drug companies to provide detailed information regarding the sales of antibiotics used in livestock production according to each species of animal. The announcement garnered mixed reviews. According to the FDA, the rule, which will take effect in July, is intended to further bolster government-backed efforts to understand more about how antibiotics are used in livestock production and to ensure that medically important antibiotics are administered responsibly on farms. One of the opponents of the new rule, the American Health Institute, described the regulation as cultivating misleading and inaccurate data of sales. 

A Greener World Launches New Non-GE Food Label

A Greener World (AGW), which provides sustainability certifications to farms, has launched a new label: “Certified Non-GE by AGW.” This label will guarantee that a food product is produced without the use of genetically engineered (GE) feed, supplements or ingredients and that the product comes from animals raised according to the highest animal welfare standards using sustainable agriculture methods. With guidance from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), AGW developed the label in response to significant demand from retailers, farmers, and consumers for a verified non-GE label claim for meat, dairy products, and eggs they could trust. As all products approved as Certified Non-GE by AGW must also come from livestock approved under the Certified AWA farm standard. The certification process costs $300 for the first year plus auditing expenses, which can be further minimized by grouping audits, and $500 for subsequent years.

New Study Suggests Americans Overwhelmingly Support Farmers

A public opinion poll commissioned by the National Crop Insurance Services concluded that nearly 90 percent of Americans have a favorable view of farmers, and 92 percent said it was important to provide farmers with federal funding, i.e. crop insurance. The positivity cuts across the party lines, with the results showing that members of both parties support a strong farm policy. More than 70 percent of the voters also said they believe that farmers should help fund part of their own safety net. According to NCIS, farmers pay an estimated average of 25 percent of crop losses through their deductibles. Survey participants also mostly agreed that private companies are best-suited to deliver crop insurance services over the government.

Shoppers Want Greater Transparency in Food

Consumer Reports has released the findings of a new survey concluding that most consumers want more information about where their food is grown and would like to see stricter requirements from the government regarding the claims that companies can make on product labels. Among the 1,001 adults included in the survey, the majority were more willing to purchase products labeled as natural (73%) over products labeled as organic (58%). The primary driver for this preference? Cost. The survey, which covered a wide variety of food issues like GMO salmon and Country-of-Origin-Labeling for meat, was published on the same day that the FDA is closing down acceptance of public comments regarding the use and meaning of the term ‘natural’ in food packaging.

USDA Reports a 44 Percent Loss in Bee Colonies During 2015

The Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture, released its annual report on honey bee losses in the United States. Beekeepers reported losing 44 percent of their total number of colonies managed over the last year — close to the highest annual loss in the past six years. These losses are considered too high to be sustainable for US agriculture and the beekeeping industry.

In April 2015, the EPA announced a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonicotinoids while it evaluates the risks posed to pollinators. In January 2016, the EPA released its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and found it poses risks to honey bees. The EPA is primarily relying on states and tribes to develop pollinator protection plans to address pesticide use, which was an initiative started by the Pollinator Health Task Force, a group established by President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum on pollinators. In 2015, an investigative piece in The Washington Post alleged that the USDA, a which serves as a co-chair of the Pollinator Health Task Force, was allegedly suppressing and silencing its own scientists for speaking to the harms of neonicotinoids and glyphosate, commonly known as Monsanto’s Roundup.

USDA, DoE Team Up to Invest $10m in Biofuels Research

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) are making a joint investment of $10 million towards research that will drive more efficient biofuels production and agricultural feedstock improvements. These awards were made through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, and are part of the Obama Administration’s All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy to enhance US energy security, reduce America’s reliance on imported oil and leverage our domestic energy supply while also supporting rural economies. “Advancements in bioenergy research will help protect our national energy security, reduce pollution, and bolster our energy supply,” said Cathie Woteki, Under Secretary for USDA’s Research, Education & Economics mission area. “Producing more renewable and bio-based energy can also revitalize rural communities with a new economic market and provide farmers a profitable and sustainable investment through on-farm energy resources.”

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

– Hawaii is helping farmers seek organic certifications. Read more at Valley News.

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