The USDA recently announced that it has made $11.9 million in organic certification assistance available across several state departments of agriculture with the aim of making organic certification more affordable for farmers across the country. This funding will be provided on a cost-share basis through two programs, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program. The USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements totaling over $6 million in 2014.

Blake’s All Natural Foods, Concord, NH, has been acquired by ConAgra Foods. In a statement, ConAgra Foods CEO Sean Connolly said the company’s roughly 60 staff members will continue to operate out of Concord, with CEO Chris Licata remaining at the helm.

A recent study from Packaged Facts says that sales for both dairy and dairy alternative beverages have reached an approximate $24 billion in 2014, a 4% increase from last year. Almond milk was the primary force behind this, with sales increasing nearly 40% by unit from 2013 to 2014 and coconut milk making double-digit increases as well. Hemp milk, cashew milk and other alternatives are beginning to sprout based on this trend. Organic dairy milk is also increasing in sales, and the report says some retailers report having to double their shelf space to accomodate additional sales.

Applegate Farms, Bridgewater, NJ, has been acquired by Hormel Foods for $775 million. In an official statement, Hormel chief executive Jeffery Ettinger acknowledged that “A growing number of consumers are choosing natural and organic products,” and explained that Applegate has been a leader in that marketplace. Applegate Farms will remain a standalone subsidiary.

Extra virgin olive oil manufacturer Gaea, Hollywood, FL, has won three awards in three international olive oil competitions with their products; Gold at the New York Olive Oil competition, Silver at Olive Oil Japan in Tokyo and Bronze at the International Olive Oil Competition in Los Angeles.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2015 (online 6/11/2015)