“Big Ag” is a term that has been turned into a pejorative by organic, environmental, and animal activists. With a broad bush, they paint anyone who sees food production differently as “big ag” and demonizes them as greedy, environmentally irresponsible, and cruel. The recent round of high profile mergers by large agricultural companies has caused some of these groups to have an apoplectic fit and has re-energized their calls for downsizing agriculture and food production. Even some farmers are asking if big ag is getting too big.Consolidation in agriculture is not new and is typically driven by technological innovation. There used to be thousands of little seed companies around the U.S. and several dozen tractor firms. In a box in my closet is a collection of hats from seed and chemical brands that no longer exist. All up and down the food chain, consolidation has been taking place from small farms being combined into large ones to small grocery chains being combined into large national chains. But, the proposed merger of Bayer and Monsanto would create the world’s largest seed, trait, and input company. The upcoming combination of Dow and DuPont would create the third largest such company. This is leading many farmers to worry that things are getting out of hand.The fear most producers express is higher prices and fewer products. Purdue agricultural economist Mike Gunderson shares farmer concerns and says this consolidation does have the potential to limit competition in the marketplace. But, he also points out that these firms are also heavily involved in research and development of new products and technology, which is very costly and risky. He added these firms are positioning themselves to compete in a global marketplace and, as a result, a large scale of operation and diverse product portfolio are needed.The force behind these big mergers is not the bottom line but the long term market strategy. If Bayer shells out $62 billion for Monsanto, they will not make their money back by laying people off and hiking the price of Roundup. According to top Bayer officials, their motivation for this deal is to drive R&D and to combine the Monsanto seed and trait technology with the Bayer chemical technology. Gunderson pointed out that farmers are demanding more integration between their seed, chemical, mechanical, and big data products. Companies who can do this will have a competitive advantage.Farmers will need to have a pipeline of innovation going forward to meet the demands of the world food market and of the changing environment. Only having a few big players can provide this innovation, yet it can also lead to the stifling of invasion. Just look at the oil market. A few big companies control the market and have actively slowed the growth of renewable fuels, which they see as a threat.Ironically, at the same time big ag is getting bigger, the local food movement is getting stronger. More and more consumers “say” they want more local foods, yet they also say they want oranges, strawberries, and fresh veggies year round. While billions of dollars are being invested in food production technology, a segment of consumers say they want food produced with little or no technology. Every year, however, millions of new middle-class consumers in China, India, Vietnam, and other nations are demanding more meat and processed food in their diets.This dichotomy will have to be resolved both in the marketplace and in the legislatures. The key to sorting this all out will be to keep big companies, big government, and activist extremists from exerting too much control over the process. Consolidation in agriculture has the potential for problems; it also has the potential for good. Locally-grown, organic farming cannot feed the world, but it should be a choice for those who want and can afford that kind of food. The key is to find a way for both systems to co-exist.By Gary Truitt Home Commentary How Bad is Big Ag By Gary Truitt – May 30, 2016 Facebook Twitter How Bad is Big Ag Previous articleLatest Ag Export Forecast LowerNext articleBoats can Use Fuel with Ethanol Gary Truitt SHARE SHARE Facebook Twitter
Print Advertisement Facebook Twitter WhatsApp NewsLimerick leads the wayBy Bernie English – March 31, 2016 939 LIMERICK is leading the way in an area fraught with difficulty for many families, that of how to deal with the cremated ashes of a loved one.Despite the growing popularity of cremation, many graveyards do not facilitate ash only interments. Urn Towers, a company set up by Limerick man Stephen Power provides a unique solution, allowing the interring of cremated remains in graveyards.Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter Sign Up Limerick City and County Council is the first local authority in the country to support this initiative by piloting a project to allow families inter a loved one’s remains in a new-style memorial called an Urn Tower. The urns holding the remains are placed inside the family Urn Tower. Two Limerick City graveyards – Killmurry and the extension at Mount St Lawrence cemetery – will be the first Irish facilities to offer this option.Once the trial period is completed, it is hoped that Urn Towers will be available at other Limerick graveyards and, eventually, throughout the country.Stephen Power of Urn Towers says that with space in city graveyards at a premium, cremation rates are increasing by up to 20 per cent every year.“A new grave can cost from €500 to €14,000. This does not cover the extras such as opening the grave, monument fees and headstone costs.A growing population and the influx of people to cities and towns is putting pressure on graveyards with many running out of space. Cremation offers some relief on these issues.“Some families scatter the ashes in places where the deceased person had some attachment. However, other families would prefer to have a permanent place to visit and remember a loved one who has chosen cremation.“Urn Towers offer a real solution for this very modern dilemma”, he said. Email Linkedin Previous articleLocal interests in The Voice of Ireland this weekendNext articleMunster poets take this year’s Éigse Michael Hartnett Bernie Englishhttp://www.limerickpost.ieBernie English has been working as a journalist in national and local media for more than thirty years. She worked as a staff journalist with the Irish Press and Evening Press before moving to Clare. She has worked as a freelance for all of the national newspaper titles and a staff journalist in Limerick, helping to launch the Limerick edition of The Evening Echo. Bernie was involved in the launch of The Clare People where she was responsible for business and industry news.
A bakery shortlisted for a restaurant and bar design competition? That’s a first! That bakery is the deliciously-camply monikered Outsider Tart a name inspired by partners and co-founders David Lesniak and serial entrepreneur David Muniz’s love of outsider art. The Chiswick-based US-style emporium is the only bakery to make the finals of the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2010 (to be held in June). What’s more, they managed the shop fit with a mere £36,000 spend.Lesniak an established New York architect set out to create a small-batch American-style bake shop in everything from portions to sizes and ingredients, with all recipes created from scratch and made on-site. In the six months since opening, they’ve generated a word-of-mouth buzz via Twitter, Facebook, a mailing list and PR, that has left the national press salivating.The story behind sourcing its site at one of the busiest intersections in Chiswick is perhaps less chichi than appearances in glossy mags Vogue and Glamour might suggest they spotted it while stuck in traffic. Thinking they’d never be able to afford it, but with nothing to lose, they contacted the agents and, within two days, they had made a commitment.Lesniak then set about designing the shop. “I knew what I didn’t want,” he remembers. “Slowly but surely, I figured out what I did want. Because of my background, when we would go into any café or bake shop around London, I would be constantly editing in my head and thinking, ’If I had this space, what would I do?’.”Not that that process was without its skirmishes, as the Davids’ bickering banter suggests. For example, on the shelving:Lesniak: “One of the last-minute edits in our shop was the shelving, because I had a different approach at the beginning…”Muniz: “…which I liked better…”Lesniak: “…which I now couldn’t be happier with. I think it looks fabulous.”…and on the flooring:Lesniak: “One of the things that added time to the fit was the decision to replace the flooring…”Muniz: “…I liked the original flooring better…”…and the concept:Muniz: “The whole business has evolved through what is and and isn’t working…”Lesniak: “…That has always been your approach and my background has always been ’solve the problem, execute the solution’. You’re more like, ’I’m not sure what the problem is, but here’s a piece of the puzzle’…”Muniz: “…It doesn’t sound like it, but it does work well!”However, underlying these squabbles over the detail was a solidly thought-through concept, to which they have remainedtrue. “We’re completely clear on our vision and what we want to do,” says Lesniak. “If you look around, it’s our personality, no-one else’s.”There’s no doubt the pair are from the “business models suck” school. “The misconception is you have to have your business model. You have to have all the planning in place. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be much more incremental,” says Lesniak. “I think we benefited from it truly evolving, as opposed to coming in with a really slick concept, turning off your head and executing that concept.”Adds Muniz: “The biggest mistake people make is in saying, ’This is my business plan, nothing is going to deviate from this’. It’s better to say ’these are my concepts, and if that doesn’t work, jettison it and make more branches and revenue streams off what does work’.”The evolutionary approach also typifies the products, which are changed daily. “Some people compliment us on the evolution. ’Every time I come in here there’s something different I love that’” says Lesniak. “Others are conversely rattled by that. ’Where’s the cheesecake that I always like?!’ Having people growing with the business does create a lot of loyalty, because people get caught up with the fun of what we’re doing. We’re making cakes that sell well. We’re not churning out the same items every day we’re experimenting and trying new things.” That, and the tight margins on no-compromise premium ingredients, influenced their decision not to do wholesale.The community didn’t react well to the lack of outside café seating, admits Lesniak a delay caused by the council. “The lack of seating sent unconscious signals to a lot of people that it’s not viable,” he says. Thankfully, with spring approaching, the Tarts have just got approval for café terrace seating. “The shop environment is very social and communal,” adds Muniz. “A lot of people didn’t like to feel they had to be involved in the conversation, or feel that they were bringing down the conversation by not participating, which is fair.”Instead, customers wanted that option to sit and read the paper or use their laptop something they will take into account when planning their next two shops the first of which should open this year.Nevertheless, Lesniak urges anyone starting out to stick to their guns. “For anyone opening a shop, you owe it to yourself to see your vision through. It’s very easy to fall victim to comments you cannot appeal to everybody; not everyone who walks through your door is your customer. The moment you start answering to all those requests and criticisms, everything will unravel.” The execution The look was “found objects, put together with purpose”. Antique circus arrows have been wired as lights and the centerpiece of the bakery is a striking custom-made counter made from Corian a plastic with the durability of marble. The shelving offers long-term flexibility with a rustic charm. The floor was chosen to emulate unearthed rustic floor boards and the walls are painted a deep dark chocolate brown. The signage letters appear as if sourced at random, with a giant beater insignia. Lessons learned 1. “That Chiswick reads The Times, not The Guardian!” exclaims Muniz, after appearing in both papers, with zero pick-up in trade after the latter. “The response we’ve had since we appeared in The Times (in January) was shocking. I’ve started up a bunch of businesses and it’s critical to spend money where you know it’s going to work. The best way to get into the minds of the people who you know are your customers is to be validated by something they trust, whether it be a magazine, TV, radio or getting a blogger excited about what you’re doing.”2. “It’s guaranteed that, in the first three years of your business, you’re not going to have a life other than eating, breathing and sleeping that business,” says Muniz. “Everybody, including the people closest to you, will tell you it won’t work. You have to ignore that. It will feel like every vendor, every client, everything is trying to drive you insane. It is a slow road to convince everyone that what you’re doing makes sense and is fun, good, and worth having a business for.” At a glance Products: Chocolate brownies with a hint of cinnamon are the biggest seller (£2.50); recently-introduced savoury breakfasts include bacon, egg, potato and cheese omelette in a potato crust (£2.50); quiche such as potato, mushroom, leek (£3.50); apple & fennel/veggie nut/cajun sausage rolls or chicken rolls (£2.50); raisin bran muffins with walnuts (£2.50); oatmeal, apple & raisin loaf slice made with a twice-cooked apple compôte (£2.50); whoopie pies such as chocolate, strawberry cream (£3); sourdough bread is sourced from a local supplierRevenue: Private and online orders are the biggest revenue stream, with made-to-order cakes starting from £45, pies from £25 and tarts from £22.50; shop sales are 80% take-away, 20% eat in; they also trade at farmers’ markets around LondonAdd-ons: Classes and evening events help to generate word-of-mouth interest and loyalty; hard-to-find American groceries are offered in-store, accounting for up to 20% of revenueOpening hours: 8am to 6pm, seven days a week; at weekends they’re filled to the rafters, with peaks at pre-work, post-work and around lunch. Muniz: “Mothers with strollers we love them. They fill in the gaps!”www.outsidertart.com
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Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi has been banned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after his controversial performance in Wednesday’s African Nations Cup semi-final between Burkina Faso and Ghana.“CAF was not happy with the standard of refereeing in the match,” general secretary Hicham El Amrani told a media briefing on Thursday.“We know they can make mistakes but we expected a better level of refereeing. They are graded on each performance and based on his marks the referee from Tunisia is now suspended for a period of time still to be determined.”Among the contentious issues during Wednesday’s match in Nelspruit was the red card given to Burkina Faso forward Jonathan Pitroipa that could mean he will miss Sunday’s final against Nigeria.Pitroipa received his second booking of the game, for simulation, in extra time after going down in the penalty area.The organising committee will decide on Friday whether the player can take part in the final. Burkina Faso have launched an appeal but El Amrani said the only way Pitroipa could avoid an automatic one-match ban will be if Jdidi acknowledges he made a mistake in his referee’s report.“The organising committee does not have the power to change a referee’s decision,” El Amrani explained.“If the referee has admitted a mistake in his report the committee will consider it and make any decision if necessary. But that report … is final.”Jdidi also awarded a soft spot kick to Ghana in a display which threatened to overshadow an exciting encounter that Burkina Faso eventually won 3-2 on penalties.