Some of the more controversial elements of the Farm Bill, including the creation of a permanent disaster assistance program, are expected to fuel spirited debate on the Senate floor.
This week though, it wasn't farmers but suburbanites putting out the S.O.S., as wildfires devastated southern California. The flames blackened nearly half-a-million acres and are blamed for at least 10 deaths and the destruction of 1,800 homes. Firefighters were gaining the upper hand on the blazes by week's end but more than 20,000 homes remain threatened by the inferno and damages are projected to exceed $1 billion.
The impact of the wildfires on agriculture remains to be seen, but for the nation's food industry, the fires are just the latest crisis in a year that has had more than its share of issues. National recalls have been publicized for everything from peanut butter to pet food, culminating in last month's cull of 21 million pounds of ground beef -- which proved to be the 2nd largest meat recall in history.
This week, food safety was on the agenda of a major trade show, where vendors unveiled the latest in processing technology.
Over 1,000 companies in the food and beverage industry showed off their product lines in Chicago this week, at the Worldwide Food Expo. Co-sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association and the American Meat Institute, the expo covered 23 acres and was billed as, "the year's largest food and beverage processing and packaging event in the world."
Scott Scriven, Pres. & CEO Weber Inc.: "It's really probably our most important venue. Over 80% of our business is in the meat industry and 20% in cheese. So we really have both gathered here in one place to bring our product together."
It's estimated that over 25 thousand people attended the expo from 100 different countries. With vendors from all over the world, the Worldwide Food Expo showcased global trends within the food industry.
Charles Jing, UTVChina: "We basically [are] trying to promote Chinese packaging for people who are interested in Chinese manufacturing who [are] making the packaging material for [the] meat industry."
Those attending the event could sample food, see the latest in food technologies, and attend nearly 50 educational workshops. This year's expo featured a number of sessions covering food safety issues, which proved to be quite timely in the wake of the second-largest meat recall in history last month.
Janet Riley, American Meat Institute: It's always been one of the foremost issues for our industry, but this year, absolutely. We're really fortunate in the United States. Our food is regulated inspected and produced in truly amazing ways. We've seen technologies that we've never seen before deployed in our plants to ensure safety, so we're very fortunate to have the food supply that we do.