February 6, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Willkommen zu vereinigtem FreshConex in Berlin!
Welcome to United FreshConex in Berlin where this morning United Fresh President Tom Stenzel, and Board Members Alessandro Turatti, Chairman Emanuel Lazopolous, Chairman-Elect Tom Lovelace, David Barney and Alan Heinzen (see photo) kicked of the conference along with conference partner Euro Fruit Magazine.  More than 200 FreshConex attendees joined together today to drive fresh-cut innovation and learn about change in the global convenience and fresh-cut marketplace.

In addition, we received this message from United Fresh staff Jerry Welcome, Jeff Oberman and Leslie Howard: “Greetings from the Messe Berlin, Fruit Logistica trade show where we are busy setting up the United Fresh display at the Fruit Logistica/FreshConex – and yes, Las Vegas exhibitors – we feel your pain!  Our feet hurt, our backs are sore, and we spent hours waiting – but like you – we know exhibiting is worth the expense of time, energy and money.  Soon we will be making new contacts, demonstrating our services and solutions and welcoming members to our booth.  If you are in Berlin this week, be sure to stop by our FreshConex International Reception on Friday Feb. 8 at 5pm in the United Fresh Stand, Hall 7.2b/Stand A-05.  In fact, come by the booth anytime for a cup of coffee – we look forward to seeing you in person.”  

President’s 2009 Budget Proposes User Fees for COOL
In a major surprise to all stakeholders, President Bush’s FY2009 budget proposes that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service be allowed to collect up to $10 million in user fees to fund inspections under the Country of Origin labeling law due to go to into effect September 30, 2008. “It’s one thing for Congress to mandate country of origin labeling so consumers can have that information at point of sale; but it would be totally irresponsible to punish the produce industry by making our members pay for a regulatory program that is being imposed upon them,” said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. “It’s clear that USDA is sending a signal to Congress that inspections will cost money – so be it – but let’s make sure the Congress appropriates whatever it costs to pay for government’s role. Industry will already face major new costs and changes in our business systems without USDA piling on,” he said. “We’re going to work to make sure user fees for COOL inspections never take effect.” For more information, contact Autumn Veazey at 202-303-3427. To access the President’s Agriculture budget summary, visit: http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/fy09budsum.pdf.

Meet Your Staff: Angela Bezon, United Fresh
Periodically, we feature members of your United Fresh staff so you can get to know the people who work on your behalf everyday. At United Fresh we are proud to serve our members and the industry. Feel free to contact us anytime at 202-303-3400.  

United Fresh Policy & Grassroots Manager and Executive Assistant to the President Angela Bezon is from Elba, New York, the “Onion Capital of the World.”  Angela visits her family, who still lives in Elba, several times a year.  In fact, she often brings back to the office bags of onions, pictures of pole climbing at the country fair and stories involving pigs and tractors! She has yet to hand out the recipe to her mom’s delicious onion soup. 

Angela has worked as a full-time employee at United Fresh for three and a half years.  However, before that, in the spring of 2003, she was the first United Fresh government relations intern.  A typical day at the office for her involves wearing two hats: one in assisting our president Tom and the other, managing grassroots efforts for the government relations department.  For example, Angela is presently planning FreshPAC and Board of Directors events, while also getting a jump start on organizing the 2008 WPPC.  Because of her farming background, she finds it personally gratifying to connect with United Fresh members and understand the issues that strongly impact the produce industry. 

In Angela’s spare time, she likes to travel, particularly overseas.  She also takes full advantage of the local D.C. arts by attending shows with her boyfriend at the Kennedy Center.

Senate Farm Bill Conferees Include Produce Champion
Late Monday evening, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, announced members of the conference committee to merge the Senate farm bill with the House of Representatives' version, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), lead sponsor of the Specialty Crop Competition Act of 2007 and long-time champion of the produce industry. “It’s a testament to the leadership of Sen. Stabenow and the importance of our industry that she was included in a select group of Senators to negotiate the final bill,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president public policy. “We’ll be working very closely with Sen. Stabenow and the other conferees to drive a final Farm Bill to advance our industry.” Other Democratic conferees include Chairman of the Finance Committee Max Baucus (D-MT); Chairman of the Budget Committee Kent Conrad (D-ND); Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT); and Senate Agriculture Committee Member Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Republican conferees include former Agriculture Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Finance Committee Charles Grassley (R-IA); Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee Thad Cochran (R-MS); and Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS). For more information contact Robert, 202-303-3400.

Schafer to Be Sworn in as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Later today former North Dakota governor Ed Shafer will be sworn in as the 29th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I’m looking forward to congratulating Sec. Shafer personally on behalf of all of United Fresh’ members at his swearing in ceremony, said Autumn Veazey, director of legislative affairs and associate general counsel. “We are confident that with Secretary Schafer’s experience and background, he will be instrumental in working with Congress to push the farm bill along.” Schafer served as North Dakota's governor from 1992 to 2000 and worked to formalize trading relations with China and develop that nation as an export market for North Dakota farm products. He also led efforts to upgrade North Dakota's communications infrastructure and make high-speed voice and data networks available to farmers, ranchers and rural businesses. For more information, contact Autumn Veazey, 202-303-3400.

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Harrington Produce Company, Dallas, TX
  • Vaughan Foods, Moore, OK

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman.

Wait List is Now Open for Executive Development Program
The United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program on March 9-14 at Cornell University’s Statler Hotel and Executive Conference is sold out, but interested attendees can put their name on a waiting list. This intensive weeklong program, created in partnership with Cornell is marked as an MBA-level course in produce, providing executives with the strategic, leadership and tactical skills to successfully navigate today’s business challenges.  If you are interested in attending the Program, we will be accepting two-three names for the waiting list and will notify you if a space becomes available.  For more information, click here or contact Beth Berman, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3405. 

United Fresh/USDA Produce Inspection Trains Company Teams
United Fresh and USDA hosted its first Produce Inspection Training Program of the year. This weeklong course trains industry members on the fundamentals of fresh produce inspection, including instruction on how to inspect a wide variety of produce commodities."Many United Fresh member companies realize the direct benefit of sending multiple employees to this course," said Beth Berman, United Fresh education manager. "This program is a great opportunity for a company's inspection team to learn the essentials of quality inspection together." The sold-out January course attracted attendees from a broad range of companies: Associated Wholesalers, BJ's Wholesale Club, C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Caito Foods Service, Coast Produce Company; Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A; Dillon Store, Fresh From Texas, Mastronardi Produce, Pero Vegetable Company, Prime Time International, Ready Pac Foods, Save-A-Lot, Target Corporation, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., The Kroger Company, US Foodservice and Wild Rocket Foods, LLC.  Two more training opportunities remain in 2008: June 2-6 and September 22-26. The programs are filling up fast; for more information about the program or to register, click here or contact Beth Berman, 202-303-3405.

United Fresh Foundation Welcomes New Board Member
The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of Gary Black to the Board of Directors. Black is the president and CEO of Condie's Foods, a fresh-cut produce processor and tomato re-packer, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Black recently served on the United Fresh Board, and prior to that was a member of the IFPA Board of Directors. He is joined on the Board by Chairman Stephen Griffin, Misionero Vegetables; Vice-Chairman Tim Fleming Sr., Strube Celery & Vegetable Company; Secretary/Treasurer, Karen Caplan, Frieda's; Rick Hanas, A. Duda & Sons; Joe Mercurio, Joseph Mercurio Produce Corp.; Steve Ottum, Potandon Produce; Dan Vaché, Sensitech; and Sheri Mierau, California Tree Fruit Agreement. The Foundation was established in 1998 and offers a variety of research and education programs to enhance the produce industry's effectiveness, develop leadership skills at all levels of the industry to better meet public needs, advance produce safety and quality, and increase children's consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. For more information about the Foundation, contact Victoria Backer.

Robert Guenther Speaks at FPFC 2008 Opening Luncheon
Today, Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh joined over 150 members of the Fresh Produce and Floral Council (FPFC) in Los Angeles to welcome incoming Council President Carissa Mase. Robert gave the keynote address at the 2008 inaugural luncheon and shared the produce industry’s prospects of negotiating the 2007 Farm Bill, continuing debate on immigration reform, and finalizing a country of origin labeling program by September 2008. Soon politics took over and Robert and the audience could not resist discussing the results of Super Tuesday and the impact this election could have on the produce industry. Robert’s final comment to the group was, “While the produce industry’s leadership in Washington is stronger than ever, greater power can be achieved by stimulating the personal involvement of thousands of produce industry members to interact directly with their elected leaders and to really focus on one of the most important elections of our lifetime.”

News & Views
Healthy Body/Healthy Planet
PR-USA.net brings light to IgnaFire’s healthful chocolates and packaging.

Increase in Workload, Not Funding
The Government Accountability Office’s report, finds the FDA needs to utilize its resources more efficiently, says Farm Futures.

Tougher Working Requirements

Farm workers in Yakima, Washington are suing a tree-fruit company for failure to disclose tougher work requirements in their employment contract, reports Yakima-Herald

More Entry Points
According to the Houston Business Journal, the USDA is giving more entry points to the Port of Houston Authority.

Food Safety System
Marketwire announces Global Food Technologies, Inc. Letter of Intent to operate its first food safety system for China in Hainan Province.

Sole Proprietor to Business
The Plain Dealer explains how hiring a few employees make a big difference in a sole proprietor’s business of marketing vegetables to salad manufacturers and assisting farmers.

According to Voice of America, the worst snow and sleet fall in 50 years causes the prices of fruits and vegetable go up.

The Britain Big Four
A study showing that British families are spending a smaller proportion of their income on food brings innovation and competition from the big four supermarkets, reports The Independent.

Urge to Respond
Business Week says the USDA is encouraging farmers and ranches to complete and return their census forms to the agency.