As a modest Midwest journalist, I suppose it surprises me to think that there are really people that read what I write. It is the opposite ego trip to the notion - which I am susceptible to as well - that simply everyone hangs on each word I pen in rapt wonder. Both ideas are silly.

Anyway, it was nice to hear from a reader by e-mail to say they do check in on Fresh Talk. Thanks for that, if you are reading these words - all 7 billion of you!

Every day I check the web for interesting tidbits. I don’t always have time to process them and communicate them to readers. Perhaps this short-form approach may help.

Here are a few today.

 Under the heading of lost causes, UK Supermarket Waitrose is offering a 1 kilogram pack of less than perfect tomatoes in what the online publication The Guardian calls a “supermarket first.” The pack consists of round, cherry and baby plum tomatoes that are misshaped. The concept of marketing ugly produce has been attempted by Waitrose in the past, the coverage says, with blemished apples, odd looking strawberries and other items. Food waste has become more of a consumer issue after the Waste and Resources Action Programe reported that British families threw away about $100 per month in food per household. Will consumers really snap this up?

I was surprised that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack came out as strong as he did against potatoes in a recent teleconference. When a reported suggested that potatoes were being forced upon WIC by the House and the Senate, Vilsack didn’t equivocate on the USDA’s position.

From my coverage this week:

Vilsack also said the USDA remains opposed to adding potatoes to the Women, Infants and Children fruit and vegetable voucher, despite language in both the House and Senate appropriations bills instructing the USDA to do so. “Medical experts tell us that youngsters don’t consume enough dark green, orange, red vegetables, and the WIC program supplements and provides moms the opportunity to purchase those vegetables they might not purchase to complement the potatoes that are already part of that family’s diet,” he said. The USDA doesn’t think the inclusion of potatoes is necessary or consistent with the experts, he said. “Pediatricians know more about children’s health than politicians do,” he said. “This shouldn’t be driven by economics of an industry, it should be driven by the health care of our children,” he said.

While he appreciates that potato growers are capable of producing more potatoes, Americans sill consume about 84 pounds per person on average. “I think the key here for potato growers is for us to continue to be doing what we are doing in terms of expanding export markets so that potatoes are available to folks that could use them, but not in the WIC program.”

 Wow. Both the USDA and the potato industry are engaged in a holy war over potatoes in WIC. And, amazingly, it does not seem to be over yet. Years hence, the potatoes in WIC should be a great case study in public relations, for better and worse.

 The PMA’s Field to Fork blog notes the group’s comment on high risk food regulation by the FDA.  To put a fine point on it, the agency’s approach is too simplistic, says Jim Gorny of PMA. Read more at the blog and on PMA’s website.

 Forget North by Northwest. The Census Bureau said U.S. population growth is all south and southwest. Austin, especially, shows well in the latest growth statistics, with nearby San Marcos, Cedar Park and Georgetown all rating among the 10 fastest growing cities with 50,000 or more.

 Perhaps there is hope for the online grocer yet. The latest Census Bureau report shows rapid growth in electronic shopping, with the number of establishments growing 27.4% between 2011 and 2012. Census Bureau, retail edition, provides an interactive map to show location of electronic and mail order houses.

The federal marketing order for Florida citrus relaxed late season minimum regulations for valencias and other late oranges shipped from May 15 through Aug. 31. The move is expected to maximize fresh shipments this summer and will continue to be in effect in future years.

 The Senate appropriations bill includes funding for the restoration of fruit and vegetable in-season reports, restoration of the chemical use survey. The Senate appropriations documents supports the USDA’s intent to raise user fees quarantine and inspections services.

 The barcode was first scanned in a sales transaction on a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum on June 26, 1974. It’s in the Smithsonian today; get this and other geeky facts on this website that is “celebration” of the barcode. Yeehaw! Remember President H.W. Bush scanner moment? 

USDA FAS reports a big decline in Argentina’s grapes, apple and pear production in 2014. Late frosts, rains will contribute most to the production decline.

Soul searching article of the day: Career or Life