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Chocolate Caramel Wafers

1 package (14 ounces) caramels

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 package (12 ounces) vanilla wafers

8 plain milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 ounces each), broken into squares

Chopped pecans, optional

Place caramels and milk in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave, uncovered, on high for 2 minutes or until melted.

Stir until smooth.

Spread over vanilla wafers; place on ungreased baking sheets.

Top each with a chocolate square.

Place in a 225° oven for 1-2 minutes or until chocolate is melted.

Spread with an icing knife.

Sprinkle with pecans if desired.

White Chip Peanut-Pretzel Clusters

2-2/3 cups white baking chips

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

3 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup lightly salted dry roasted peanuts

1/2 cup crushed pretzels

1/2 cup red and green milk chocolate M&M’s

In a large heavy saucepan, melt baking chips and peanut butter over medium-low heat; stir until smooth.

Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper; let stand until set.

Store in an airtight container.

No-Bake Cookie Butter Blossoms

1 cup Biscoff creamy cookie spread

1/2 cup corn syrup

3 cups Rice Krispies

32 milk chocolate kisses

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In a large saucepan, combine cookie spread and corn syrup.

Cook and stir over low heat until blended. Remove from heat; stir in Rice Krispies until coated.

Shape level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place on waxed paper.

Immediately press a kiss into center of each cookie.

Let stand until set.

Nutty Rice Krispie Cookies

1 package (10 to 12 ounces) white baking chips

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 cup Rice Krispies

1 cup salted peanuts

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt baking chips; stir until smooth.

Stir in peanut butter until blended.

Add marshmallows, Rice Krispies and peanuts. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined baking sheets.

Cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Mrs. Claus Cookie Pops

12 wooden pop sticks

12 double-stuffed Golden Oreo cookies

10 pink candy coating disks

2 packages (12 ounces each) white candy coating disks, divided

Popped popcorn

Black decorating icing

Assorted holiday sprinkles

Insert a pop stick into the filling of each cookie; place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet.

To secure sticks, freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

In a microwave, melt pink candy coating with 3 cups white candy coating, stirring until well blended.

Dip cookies in coating, allowing excess to drip off (reheat coating as necessary).

Attach popcorn for buns in Mrs. Claus’ hair; return to baking sheets.

Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.

Melt remaining white candy coating.

Dip popcorn and tops of cookies in white coating for hair; swirl with a small spatula to make curls.

Return to baking sheets.

Transfer black icing to a pastry bag fitted with a small round pastry tip; pipe eyes and eyeglasses onto faces.

Add decorations as desired, using melted coating to attach.

Let stand at room temperature until set.

No-Bake Christmas Wreath Treats

20 large marshmallows

2 tablespoons butter

Green food coloring

3 cups cornflakes

Red M&M’s minis (about 2 tablespoons)

Place marshmallows and butter in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave, uncovered, on high until butter is melted and marshmallows are puffed, about 45 seconds.

Tint with green food coloring.

Stir in cornflakes.

On a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, divide mixture into eight portions.

With buttered hands, working quickly, shape each portion into a 3-in. wreath.

Decorate immediately with M&M’s, pressing to adhere.

Let stand until set.

Nebraska receives $1M to provide more fresh produce for SNAP recipients

LINCOLN, Neb. — Since 2018, Open Harvest, a cooperative grocery store in Lincoln, has worked with Nebraska Extension to make it easier for SNAP recipients to buy fresh produce.

Open Harvest is one of three grocery stores and seven farmers markets in Nebraska that participate in extension’s Double Up Food Bucks program, which allows SNAP customers — those participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — to stretch their benefits. Consumers can earn up to $20 in additional benefits when they use SNAP to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. This is a big benefit to SNAP recipients, who may otherwise forgo fresh produce for more economical, less nutritious options, said Open Harvest general manager Amy Tabor. But the impact of the program extends beyond those who receive SNAP benefits, she said. It benefits the local farmers who sell their produce at Open Harvest, too.

“Last fiscal year, we saw a small increase in our local produce sales, which is wonderful considering the disruption of COVID-19 on our overall shopping patterns,” Tabor said. “When we sell more produce, we buy more produce from these local farmers, which keeps the money circulating in our local food system.”

Now, a new $1 million, three-year grant will allow Nebraska Extension to expand the program to more grocery stores and farmers markets across the state, said Vanessa Wielenga, an assistant extension educator with Nebraska Extension and coordinator of the state’s Double Up Food Bucks program.

Extension’s partner, the Nebraska Community Foundation, will serve as the grant recipient and caretaker of the funds. The USDA’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program awarded $500,000 to the foundation for expansion of the program. Children’s Hospital, CHI Health, the foundation and the university pitched in to match the USDA’s $500,000, bringing the grant total to $1 million.

Currently, the program operates on a budget of about $70,000 a year. With the new funding, extension will be able to expand the program into rural communities, and after the three years, the program will be in more than twice as many grocery stores and farmers markets as it is now, Wielenga said. She hopes to add more locally owned grocery stores and farmers markets that serve the most vulnerable Nebraskans.

“Similar to metro communities, there is a significant number of rural Nebraskans who lack access to fresh produce,” said Jeff Yost, Nebraska Community Foundation president and CEO. “Our hope is that the expansion of this program will benefit not only Greater Nebraskans, but also local growers and local small businesses. This program has the potential to help the local food movement already happening in many of our Greater Nebraska communities become more inclusive to all.”

Fresh produce is the most perishable product on a grocery store shelf, Wielenga said. That makes programs such as Double up Food Bucks that incentivize the purchase of fruits and vegetables — which are more likely to end up going to waste — just as valuable for grocery stores as for the consumers who gain better access to nutritious foods.

“This program has a huge benefit to local economies and to local, healthy food access,” she said.

In the United States, one in 10 households struggles with food insecurity, meaning that more than 100 million low-income Americans cannot afford or have trouble affording nutritious food, according to the USDA. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program — formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program — is one of several USDA programs working to bridge this gap. The program aims to help low-income families participating in SNAP increase their ability to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, through CSAs and from traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores.

The program is authorized through the farm bill and provides grants on a competitive basis to projects that help low-income communities purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers.

Building connections between farmers and consumers is one of the most rewarding parts of the program, said Lori Allison, who coordinates the Double Up Food Bucks program at Open Harvest.

“This program gives folks more choices on where and how to get healthy fruits and veggies on their plates,” she said. “It goes back to drawing those connections between the individual consumers, local producers, farmers market and local retailers.”

For more information on Nebraska’s Double Up Food Bucks program, visit https://food.unl.edu/DoubleUp.

Kamterter receives Syngenta 2020 FarMore Vision Award

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Kamterter Products, L.L.C. has won the 2020 FarMore Vision Award for its dedication in providing essential support to the seed treatment industry.

The award is presented to companies that display excellence in their dedication to growers and their contributions to the seed treatment industry. Kamterter, an independently owned product development and seed enhancement service company based in Nebraska, brings a new generation of seed priming, seed lot refinement and seed coating technologies and services to the industry.

“Kamterter is honored to receive Syngenta’s FarMore Vision Award for 2020,” said Chris Petersen, president and director of research, Kamterter Products, L.L.C. “As a seed enhancement and coating service provider, Kamterter has a primary mission of helping those involved in the fruit and vegetable industry get the most value from their seeds.”

The company works with leading seed dealers and breeder producers throughout the fruit and vegetable industry. Flower, agronomic, turf and reclamation seed enhancement services are also available. One of the cornerstones of Kamterter’s offerings is its onion seed, treated with Syngenta’s FarMore FI500 Onion seed treatment.

“Kamterter is a strong supporter of FarMore Technology and a role model for Syngenta’s vision for grower support,” said Shawn Potter, head of marketing for Syngenta Seedcare. “Partnerships with companies like Kamterter help us deliver on our promise to bring innovative technology to the field.”

The value of companies such as Kamterter cannot be overestimated, Potter said. Together, Kamterter and Syngenta are able to provide the high quality seed treatment and customer service that are foundational for grower success.

“Seed treatment decisions are a critical piece in creating value for the fruit and vegetable grower,” Petersen said. “Syngenta’s FarMore seed treatment packages have proven essential in creating value for the grower and this is reflected in the rapid growth of Kamterter’s FarMore treatment program. We appreciate Syngenta as a crop protection treatment partner and look forward to continuing to work with them to serve crop protection needs in the fruit and vegetable industry.”

For more information about FarMore FI500 Onion seed treatment, visit http://www.syngenta-us.com/seed-treatment/farmore-fi500-onion. Join the conversation online – connect with Syngenta at Syngenta-us.com/social.


USDA expands hemp insurance

The Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency announced today it is expanding the pilot Multi-Peril Crop Insurance plan for hemp.

The expansion, as well as other improvements to the plan, will begin in the 2021 crop year.

“We are pleased to expand the hemp program and make other improvements for hemp producers,” said Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre. “Hemp offers exciting economic opportunities for our nation’s farmers, and we are listening and responding to their risk management needs.”

The changes include:

▪ Expanding the program — New states included with select counties in Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada and Texas;

— Thirteen new counties in states with existing coverage: In Colorado, Conejos, La Plata, Moffat, Routt, and San Miguel counties; in Kentucky, Kenton and Whitley counties; in New Mexico, San Miguel and Valencia counties; Houghton County, Mich.; Granite County, Mont.; Scott County, Tenn.; Alleghany, Va.

▪ Allowing broker contracts for hemp grain

▪ Adjusting program, reporting and billing dates — Sales closing, cancellation, production reporting and termination dates adjusted to match dates of similar crops

— Acreage Reporting Dates adjusted based on regional final planting dates

— Premium billing dates for all states changed to Aug. 15

EPA fails to meet deadline for 2021 renewable volume obligations

The Environmental Protection Agency made no announcement about the 2021 renewable volume obligations (RVOS) under the Renewable Fuel Standard today, apparently missing the annual statutory deadline for the release of the RVOs.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that EPA is missing its statutory deadline for publishing the final rule for 2021 RVOs, given that we still haven’t even seen a proposed rule.“

“And even if a proposed rule was released today, it would be next to impossible to have a final rule done by the end of the calendar year, or even by inauguration day.

“At this point, it likely makes more sense to let the new administration handle the 2021 RVO rulemaking process entirely. President-elect Biden has correctly noted that the RFS waivers granted by the current EPA have ‘severely cut ethanol production, costing farmers income and ethanol plant workers their jobs.’

“Thus, we are confident that the new EPA administrator, whoever that may end up being, will stop doing secret favors for oil refiners and ensure the RFS is implemented in a way that is consistent with the law and Congressional intent. We know it may take a few months for the new administration to get a final 2021 RVO rule done, but in the meantime, the statute is crystal clear that refiners must blend at least 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuel in 2021.

“So, while there may be some uncertainty around where the final advanced and cellulosic volume requirements may end up, the marketplace should be able to enter 2021 with some level of confidence around the conventional renewable fuel and biomass-based diesel requirements.”

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew added, “By punting a decision on 2021’s RVOS to the next administration, EPA is introducing yet more uncertainty to the biofuels industry — uncertainty that most farmers and biofuels producers can’t afford right now.”

“Despite promising again and again to uphold RFS, the Trump administration has consistently undermined the program with its misappropriation of small refinery exemptions, preferential treatment of oil corporations, and disregard for its legal responsibility to restore lost demand, all of which has cost America’s farmers and biofuel producers dearly. To add insult to injury, fuel use — and, consequently, ethanol use — has dropped significantly during the pandemic, cutting deeply into profits.

“Trump’s EPA has almost invariably fallen short in its handling of biofuels, and today’s decision, or lack thereof, is no different. We sincerely hope Biden’s EPA learns from their mistakes and takes biofuels policy in a much more promising direction.”