April 16, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Agricultural Secretary to Give Keynote Address at Annual Meeting in Las Vegas
United Fresh Produce Association announced today that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer will deliver the keynote address at the United Fresh Annual Meeting & Breakfast General Session to be held Tuesday May 6, 7:30am – 9:00am at the Bally’s Hotel, during the United Fresh, Las Vegas 2008 convention.  “We are delighted that Secretary Schafer will be able to meet our produce industry’s leaders at the convention,” said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel.  “Since coming to Washington, DC in January, Secretary Schafer has led the Administration’s efforts to complete work on the most important Farm Bill ever for fruits and vegetables.  With two weeks to go before the convention, we still believe it is possible for the Congress and Administration to agree on a final Farm Bill, and we are hopeful to join the Secretary in a celebration of this accomplishment,” he said.   The Secretary’s visit to the convention marks his first visit to a major produce industry event since he was sworn in as the 29th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 28, 2008. 

Formal Negotiations Begin on Farm Bill
United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther and Director of Legislative Affairs Autumn Veazey spent much of the week in Farm Bill meetings on Capitol Hill.  As Farm Bill negotiators began formal negotiations through a House and Senate Conference Committee, Robert and Autumn worked to have included more than $1.3 billion in mandatory resources to fund key initiatives that would benefit the produce industry.  Those initiatives include state block grants, dedicated research funding, pest and disease resources, and national expansion of the fruit and vegetable snack program.  Without completion of the farm bill conference or a short term extension of current law, Current farm programs a set to expire April 18.  “We are at a critical point today in the debate as to whether historic investments in funding for fruit and vegetable priorities will be realized,” said Robert.  “For the first time in the 70 year history of farm policy in this country, fruit and vegetables are playing a key role in crafting this massive farm bill which will manage farm policy in this country over the next 5 years.”



Progress made thus far on the Farm Bill can be directly linked to the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which includes a diverse group of 120 organizations from across country representing fruits and vegetables, wine grape growers, tree nuts, and nursery operations.  This week the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance sent letters to the House and Senate Leadership demanding action on the Farm Bill and indicating a year long extension of the current farm bill is unacceptable.  The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is led by leaders from Western Growers, National Potato, Florida Fruit and Vegetable and United Fresh.  United Fresh fulfills the coordination and management roles of this important farm bill coalition.  Read about the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance’s work in U.S. News and World Report and the Wall Street Journal.  For more information, contact Robert at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

Food Lion Exec, Produce Associations to Report on Traceability Initiative
The Produce Traceability Initiative spearheaded by United Fresh, PMA, and CPMA will give a progress report to the industry in a Monday morning workshop May 5 at the upcoming convention.  Chairperson of the Traceability Steering Committee Cathy Green, Chief Operating Officer for Food Lion, will open the session with highlights of the committee’s work since last fall.  Joining Cathy to focus on important milestones and recommendations will be key staff from the three association partners – Gary Fleming, PMA; Jane Proctor, CPMA; and Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh.  “This traceability initiative is one of the most important priorities for our industry to better align our whole supply chain,” said Dr. Gombas.  “We encourage industry members to bring lots of questions so we can have a real dialogue about the work ahead.”  For more information, please contact David at dgombas@unitedfresh.org.

United Fresh Submits Comments on Proposed H-2A Regulations
This week, United Fresh submitted comments prepared by our own H-2A Working Group on the proposed changes to the H-2A regulations released February 13, 2008, by US Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).   "The working group spent several weeks weeding through the 200 plus pages of regulations,” said Autumn Veazey, United Fresh director of legislative affairs.  “The group addressed those proposed changes that would have a substantial financial and economic impact on the program."  In its comments, United Fresh, a member of the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), also referenced the comments submitted by the NCAE, whose comments were comprehensive.  United Fresh H-2A Working Group is an ad hoc working group that consists of members from different regions of the country.  It was formed specifically to address the significant rewrite of the proposed regulations to the H-2A guest worker program. United Fresh comments to the DOL and to the DHS are available online, as well as the NCAE comments.  To read background documents and all comments received, go to the Federal e-Rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov.   

Stenzel and DiSogra Attend PBH Board Meeting
The Produce for Better Health Foundation’s Annual Board meeting will take place this Friday and Saturday in Monterey, California. Bringing together produce and retail industry leaders from all over the country this year’s meeting will focus on the success of the Fruits & Veggies More Matters Campaign and what each of us can do to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Both United Fresh President Tom Stenzel and Vice President for Nutrition & Health Lorelei DiSogra will participate in the meetings. Retail strategies to increase fruit and vegetable consumption will be discussed at the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance Steering Committee meeting on Saturday afternoon. United Fresh is an active leader in the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance Steering Committee and Tom Stenzel serves on PBH’s executive Committee. For more information, please contact Lorelei DiSogra at ldisogra@unitedfresh.org.

Show off Your Bowling Skills! Enjoy the Fun!
Join us for Striking it Rich in Vegas, a bowling tournament like no other! Sunday May 4 from 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm, we’ve reserved the entire Las Vegas Lucky Strike Lanes bowling alley for a bowling show down among produce friends.  Sign up as an individual and we’ll assign you to a team, or your can put together your own team.  We already have teams registered from the National Watermelon Association and the Watermelon Queens, Leadership Class 8 and 9, Westlake Produce Company and the United Fresh Board of Directors and their spouses!  Enjoy some friendly competition or come to simply enjoy the camaraderie, music and fun.  Tickets cost $100 per person and include food and drinks, music, pool tables, hourly give-a ways and the bowling tournament. Tickets can be purchased in advance by contacting Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400 ext. 416.  Proceeds go to the United Fresh Political Action Committee - your support will go a long way in raising funds to support congressional candidates who are addressing key policy issues that face the produce industry.  For more information, contact Angela Bezon.

North Carolina Chapter Honors Industry Veteran
Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining members of the United Fresh North Carolina Chapter in Wilmington, North Carolina for their annual meeting.  The activities included an educational program on food safety, golf tournament and networking events…and for those who didn’t golf (like me) there was an azalea festival in town.  The weekend was dedicated to Leonard Small of Virginia Fork Produce Company in Edenton, NC, a long time member of United Fresh and supporter of the NC Chapter, who passed away earlier this year.  During the closing banquet, family members and industry members shared personal stories about Leonard's lifelong passion for the industry.  It was a great reminder that this industry is built on strong character and commitment.  A personal thanks to all the North Carolina members for making me feel so welcome.  And a special thanks to Jimmy Burch, Chapter president, Larry Otto, vice president, and Don Williamson, secretary-treasurer, for organizing this year's event. – Victoria Backer is the senior vice president of member services at United Fresh.

Meet Your United Fresh Staff: Beth Berman
Education Program Manager Beth Berman has lived in St. Louis, Chicago and small towns in Virginia, but she calls Nashville, Tennessee “home” because this is where her family lives. Beth joined United Fresh nearly three years ago.  As education program manager, she is the go-to person for training and education registrations and materials. She also helps organize the educational workshops for the annual convention and plan trips for the Produce Industry Leadership Program. “I really love the opportunities that I’ve had to visit our members’ fields, packing houses, processing plants, and retail stores,” she says.  “I love seeing first-hand what our members do to make the food supply chain fast and safe for the consumers.”  And her favorite fruit or vegetable?  “I could eat a fresh salad everyday of the week, but I crave crisp Fuji apples!”  When not at the office, Beth coaches volleyball at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia; she is now in her seventeenth year of playing competitive volleyball. 

Do You Post to a Wiki, Use a Twitter, Blog or Vlog?
Maybe you have heard these terms before, but do you know what they really mean?  In today's changing industry, cutting edge businesses need to keep up on the latest trends in web technology and understand how to make Web 2.0 work for their business.  We'll explore how to harness the potential of these new web communication tools at the "How to…Use Web Technology to Enhance Your Business Outreach" workshop at the upcoming United Fresh Las Vegas Show.  On Tuesday morning, Lorrie Thomas, owner of Web Marketing, LLC in Santa Barbara, California and a self proclaimed web marketing geek, will explain practical applications for these web based tools that will help you reduce costs and increase the return on your marketing investment.  To attend this workshop and others at the United Fresh Las Vegas Show, register for an All Access Pass when you visit www.unitedfreshshows.com.  

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry: 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, joberman@unitedfresh.org

News & Views
The Merger
In an opinion piece, redandblack.com poses, “what if the U.S. and Mexico merge to become one country?"

While foodborne illnesses have declined since the late 1996, there has been on significant improvement since 2004, says CBS news of the Center for Disease Control’s Report.

Produce Safety & Security
FOXBusiness assists Produce Safety and Security International in announcing an efficient solution to ever-changing food safety and traceability requirements for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry.   

One-Week Extension
The House passed a one-week extension today, hoping to give Congress more time to finish the farm bill law, which is still being disputed over tax breaks, reports Time Magazine.

Type Cranberry
Beaches Leader suggests that cranberries are the Type-A personality of fruit.

Self-Sufficient by Sugar
Bloomberg.com states that Peru’s increase in sugar output this year will help the nation reach self-sufficiency by 2009.

Satisfaction Guaranteed
Growers and packers who produce peaches, plums and nectarines for the Ripe 'N Ready label this summer will, for the first time, buy back any piece of fruit if a shopper is not pleased with its taste, says The Fresno Bee.