AM Live Ag Report

FRESNO, Calif.

Virginia Gray is a frequent shopper at this downtown Sacramento farmer's market.

"I usually go by smell."

She says she shops here because she doesn't like the quality she sees on store shelves.

"It would be nice to have that flavor back into all the fruit that use to be there," said Gray.

Well, thanks to a $6-million grant from the USDA for a project at U.C. Davis and the University of Florida, her taste buds may soon be happy.

U.C. Davis Professor Beth Mitcham explains, "The purpose of our project is to improve the flavor quality of fruits and vegetables that are available to consumers. With the ultimate goal of getting people to eat more.

"What we want to do with these pears is we want to understand a bit more about their ripening biology. How they change from green to this lovely yellow, ripe, flavorful product."

Headed by the Director of The Post Harvest Technology Center, Beth Mitcham and her team of researchers are taking a look at the challenges growers, packers and shippers face in getting crops from the field to the market in a condition shoppers will buy. Things like slowing their ripening process, changing handling procedures and determining how produce flavor is affected by harvest.

"We're actually doing interviews and focus groups with consumers to try and get a better understanding of what consumers want in produce; what is there current experience, and whether they might buy more and eat more if it tasted better."

And so far shoppers like Virginia Gray support the study. "I think everybody would like to eat vegetables more."

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Raw almond producers are poised for a federal court battle they hope will allow them to resume production of the nut without using chemical pesticides or steam.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires farmers to use either of those methods after salmonella outbreaks in raw almonds in 2001 and 2004.

But raw food enthusiasts and some public health experts say the rules are unfair. They say the rules penalize small organic farmers who produce above-average, safe nuts without imposing similar requirements on foreign almond producers.

A decision from a Federal Appeals Court in Washington D.C. last week will allow nine farmers and three retailers to challenge the government's right to impose the regulations.

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Farmers, plant nursery operators and gardeners are facing restrictions when it comes to moving crops and plants due to invasive pests.

In San Diego County, some farmers participated in a program to certify their farms as pest-free in advance of potential quarantine. Now, the county could face restrictions from an infestation of light brown apple moths.

Officials declared a fruit fly quarantine in parts of Los Angeles County this week.

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