Food Waste: Pretty Produce Dumping

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August 12, 2016

Prepare to see red. It’s not just ugly veg getting tossed. Food waste in the United States includes dumping tons of pretty produce on the farm. The most recent revelation – by order of the USDA and crop marketing groups.  Perfect, beautiful foods destroyed. There’s nothing wrong with the harvest.

Two weeks ago, a Michigan cherry farmer caused viral outrage when his Facebook post about having to dump 40,000 pounds of pie cherries. Enough to make over 30,000 pies! The post says he wasn’t allowed to sell or give them away, because doing so is illegal. They were ordered to be destroyed to allow 200 million pounds of tart cherries imported from Turkey to enjoy a waiting market.

Why do we need to import fruit from another country if we’re throwing 14% of the resources used to grow our own away? What idiot made it illegal to give that fruit to people in need?

The whole story wasn’t related on Facebook. Still, Marc Santucci from Santucci Farms in Traverse City got the reaction he was looking for. In 14 days those 8 sentences and the image of fresh sour cherries dumped on the ground got over 65,000 shares. The tire tracks through the pile really drive home the point. All that time and effort invested, and it’s just garbage. Awareness is ricocheting from social media to news sites.

There are those who are quick to say he hasn’t told the truth, that he could have donated that 20 tons of cherries without doing anything illegal. Well, sure, if it wasn’t such a perishable crop. They’re not eating cherries. They’re only good for things like jams, juices, pies, and other processed desserts. If the cherries aren’t at the processing facility in two days – they’re wasted anyway.

No food bank is prepared to preserve 40,000 pounds of tart cherries! The farmer certainly doesn’t have such a facility. He’s a grower. A processing company is the next step in the system. And the entire debacle is more the fault of the food processor in this case. But that doesn’t mean that the USDA and the Cherry Industry Advisory Board don’t have their hands in this messed up scenario.

If it was a less perishable crop like apples, Santucci would gladly have donated them. But it’s not what he grows, and there are plenty of farms in the US that grow things that must be processed fast or they’ll rot. Lots of people would have driven to his farm and[/column]

bought the cherries for home consumption, but he isn’t allowed to do that. We can’t have a particular food flooding the market in a bumper crop year. That wouldn’t allow price control. You have to have scarcity to keep farms profitable. AND you have to get rid of the overage to make way for exports from countries we trade with.

Other members of the cherry board say that Santucci doesn’t understand how it works; that he’s just as much in control of the guidelines for selling his crop as the next cherry grower. But not really. The majority rules. If the processor says dump 14% of the harvest, so be it. It keeps price per pound lucrative in years when the climate does’t allow for a surplus. So, there are just too many cherry growers in the world. They describe this price control as a measure of stabilizing it. But more people would be able to afford to buy cherries if the price was lower, so who are they fooling here, other than themselves?

Santucci Farm would rather sell everything picked at a lower price per pound than see such disregard for the food he has grown. At least he understands that this system is beyond screwed up. Exactly how much food was treated like garbage in this single pretty produce dumping event? The USDA forecast 309 million tons of tart cherries would be harvested in 2016 nationwide. If every grower had to leave 14% to rot – that’s 43.26 million tons of food waste!

In case you’re wondering… the food processor actually visits each farm they buy from. The company demands visual proof that the right amount of the harvest has been left to rot. Yes, Big Food is highly concerned about how they’re going to feed the world in 2020.

Outraged? More anal food waste details:

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton

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