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NEWBERRY ‒ It was a good day in Newberry as the UF/IFAS extension complex officially opened with a ribbon cutting on Nov. 30 —two days after an inaugural event was held. The Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce invited Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried to address the group about agriculture issues in Alachua County.

By 2050, experts estimate that the world's population will grow to 9.5 billion people. However, current agricultural production is inadequate to provide enough food to sustain that many people. Fried discussed improving production and technology to make agriculture more productive to meet future needs.

Fried praised the new extension site, located in Newberry, saying that it will help train future farmers and ranchers to meet the challenges of a growing population. She also discussed the need to be environmentally sustainable in farming methods as the population grows and development takes more land. Fried said that the new extension site will serve as a hub for individuals in Alachua County to receive training and specializations in the agriculture field, as well as practical knowledge for gardening, pesticide use, and irrigation.

Fried also held a press conference to promote a new initiative to reduce Styrofoam use in businesses across the state.” Using alternative packaging can actually be good for business and drive new innovation and opportunity,” Fried said. “As both the consumer protection agency and our food safety agency for the State of Florida, we want to seize the opportunity to help consumers and companies make this responsible proactive change.”

Polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is a plastic material commonly used in food packaging. Lately, it has come under fire for possible links to health issues such as cancer, birth defects, and liver and kidney damage, according to a department press release. Fried has made this a top-priority in recent months.

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