May 7, 2008

In Today's Issue:


Farm Bill Debate Continues this Week
The House and Senate continued to negotiate the Farm Bill this week. The Bill is expected to see floor action early next week before going to the President. "At this point in the debate, we have a show down between Congress and the Administration on the importance of this Bill," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh. Congress is working in a bipartisan fashion to develop a bill that will help a broad spectrum of agriculture commodities including fruits and vegetables, nutrition, and conservation priorities. The White House, on the other hand, is demanding increased reform in the major program commodities such as corn, cotton, rice, and wheat. At stake for the produce industry is a historic step to build a foundation of mandatory funding of at least $2.5 billion dollars for priorities including research, pest and disease, state block grants, and targeted nutrition funding. "We are encouraged by the progress that is being made but understand this may come down to overriding a presidential veto," said Robert. "We are prepared for that challenge and will use all of our resources through United Fresh and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance to see a bill become law that represents significant reform and addresses important priorities of our industry." For more information, contact Robert at 202-303-3409, rguenther@unitedfresh.org.

Las Vegas Welcomes United Fresh
United Fresh and the produce industry met in Las Vegas for one of the best attended United Fresh shows in the past ten years. "It has been 25 years since the produce industry has met in Las Vegas," said John Toner, who oversees The United Fresh expos. "Attendees rediscovered or experienced for the first time all that a convention in Las Vegas has to offer - the perfect combination between work and play." United Fresh, Las Vegas included multiple networking opportunities, educational workshops and two produce expositions. Synergies between United FreshTech and Fresh Marketplace showed the power of the combined industry event. Members walked the show floor, seeing the latest produce industry technology and innovation on one side of the show floor and the resulting value-added, fresh produce, merchandising and marketing on the other side of the floor. United Fresh attendees and exhibitors area already looking forward to the 2009 United Fresh convention April 22-24 at The Venetian Hotel and adjoining Sands Expo. "We’ve seen more than 70 percent onsite exhibitor sign up for 2009 and interest among new exhibitors is strong after seeing this year’s show," said John. Thanks to all or our attendees, exhibitors and sponsors in making this a successful event!


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Delivers Keynote Address at United Fresh
On Tuesday morning, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer delivered the keynote address at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Annual Meeting and General Breakfast Session in Las Vegas. During his keynote address, Secretary Schafer touched on a variety of issues impacting the produce industry, including the 2007 Farm Bill. Secretary Schafer applauded Congress for including mandatory funding in the farm bill for the specialty crop industry, a priority area that shared similar support by the Administration. While the Administration and the Congress agree on increased support for our industry, the Secretary cautioned that further reforms must be included in the farm bill before getting the President’s approval. "The President does not support providing additional dollars to wealthy farmers, especially when food and commodity prices are at an all time high," said Secretary Schafer. United Fresh President Tom Stenzel, in the session’s closing remarks, encouraged the Secretary and President Bush to sign a congressionally-supported Farm Bill. Following the breakfast and a press conference, the Secretary toured the United FreshTech and Fresh Marketplace expositions.


Safeway CEO Steve Burd Delivers Compelling Business Message
On Monday, May 5, Safeway Chairman, President and CEO Steven A. Burd spoke to a standing room only crowd at the United Fresh, Las Vegas 2008 breakfast general session. In his address, Burd, an authority on healthcare, shared how his company has cut healthcare costs by more than ten percent for both employees and the company. "You (the produce industry) are the medicine chest of the future," Burd told the produce show attendees during his address. Burd explained that Safeway’s plan is based on rewarding behaviors that can prevent or alleviate any of the four conditions that make up 74 percent of healthcare costs: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and conditions from being overweight or obese. For example, Safeway employees who exercise or quit smoking can receive lower health care premiums. Burd also explained that Safeway is also helping its customers live healthier lives with FoodFlex - an online nutritional database that compares what shoppers buy, based on their loyalty card, with their nutritional requirements.

Lemke Receives Packer Person of the Year Award at United Fresh
At the Monday morning general breakfast session at United Fresh Jim Lemke, senior vice president C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. in Eden Prairie, Minn. was named The Packer’s Person of The Year. Lance Jungmeyer, editor of The Packer, presented Lemke with the award. "Even though he has been accused of working twice as hard as he has to, Jim Lemke knows how to recognize opportunities that benefit the produce industry, as well as the company he works for," said Lance. Jim thanked the people who work for him, his wife and the industry for supporting him. "I look forward to being part of the industry for a very long time," he said.

USDA ARS Researcher Wins FreshTech Poster Competition
In what the judges described as "one of the best poster sessions yet" fifteen scientists presented their research at the United FreshTech show in Las Vegas this week. Dr. Bassam Annous of the Food Safety Intervention Technologies Research Unit, USDA ARS ERRC, in Wyndmoor PA, presented the winning research poster in this year’s FreshTech poster competition. His research investigated the Comparison of Hot Water Surface Pasteurization and Chlorine Wash Treatments for Reducing Populations of Salmonella Poona on Inoculated Whole Cantaloupe Melons. Dr. Annous’ poster was one of fifteen research posters on quality, innovation and food safety research on fresh and fresh-cut produce. The competition prize was an All Access Pass to the 2009 United Fresh Show, April 22-24 in Las Vegas. Posters were judged by five members of the United Fresh Food Safety and Technology Council based on the ability to communicate the research and results, as well as on the research’s impact on the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry. This is the fifth year of the poster competition and, according to the poster judges, the research efforts and posters have continued to improve and several of this year’s posters were "exactly what we are looking for" in fresh produce research. Examples of other research posters that were strong contenders for this year’s prize, and happened to have a food safety focus, included Influence of Electron Beam Irradiation on Quality and Microbial Safety of Fresh-cut Cantaloupe at 5ºC, a collaborative project by Floyd Woods, Auburn University, and Aubrey Mendonca, Iowa State University, and Quality of Thirteen Fresh-cut Vegetables Irradiated with 1 KGy Gamma Rays, by Xuetong Fan, also from USDA ARS ERRC.

Golf Tournament Brings Industry Together, Raises Money for Foundation
On Sunday, May 4 more than 140 industry members participated in The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation’s annual golf tournament to raise money for the Foundation. The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation offers research and education programs to enhance the produce industry's effectiveness, develop leadership skills at all levels of the industry, advance produce safety and quality, and increase children's consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to our sponsors Amor and NEXT Generation and to everyone who made this a successful event. We could try to describe the fun and athletic prowess that was displayed on the course but pictures say it better...


Smith Credits Success to Hard Work, Family and Friends
Steffanie Smith, CEO of River Point Farms LLC in Hermiston, Oregon, was honored Monday night at the United Fresh annual Reception Honoring Women in Produce. The annual reception honors all women working in the fresh produce industry, and pays special tribute to one outstanding female industry leader, this year being Smith. In her remarks to a crowd of several hundred United Fresh show attendees, Smith offered these tips to success: never start anything you don’t plan on finishing, invest in people, and be as good a listener as you are a communicator. "So many people have nurtured me and helped me to grow throughout my career. It is both an honor and a humbling experience to be asked to speak to you tonight," Smith said. Smith thanked her husband Andy Smith for his support, love and understanding throughout her professional journey. In addition to Andy, Steffanie’s father, Steve Connors, was also in attendance to see her be honored.


United Fresh 2008 Attendees Prove Education is a Virtue
While the expo was buzzing, the educational workshops at this year’s convention were packed with attendees learning about everything from produce marketing to food safety. To appeal to the global audience, this year’s convention featured four workshop tracks to address critical issues affecting the produce supply chain. The Produce Marketing track covered a broad range of topics including selling produce to kids, new business channels for fresh produce, and major produce trends in foodservice and retail. The How-To workshop series featured a mix of practical hands-on training on leadership, business valuation, labor liabilities and web marketing. In the Food Safety track, attendees tackled big issues from traceability to commodity specific food safety issues. Wrapping up the series was the Packaging and Operations track that showcased new innovations in packaging technology, COOL, transportation and the world-wide buzz of sustainability. "Throughout the history of this convention, education has been a cornerstone of the event," said Victoria Backer, senior vice president of member services at United Fresh. "The practical, hands-on nature of the educational workshops gave attendees a real take-away value. The speakers were excellent and the panelists came to the table with information and insight that attendees couldn’t find anywhere else."


Bowling to Support Political Action on Capitol Hill
Sunday, May 4, after kicking off the United Fresh convention with the Viva Las Vegas Supplier Party, more than 100 produce attendees went bowling to raise money for the United Fresh Political Action Committee (FreshPAC). Many talented and fashion-conscious bowlers took the opportunity to demonstrate their bowling skills. Bob Morrissey of National Watermelon Association was the highest individual scorer with 179 points and Robert Eddy of Fruit Dynamics, Inc was the second highest individual scorer. The highest scoring team with 654 points was Basciani Mushroom Farms; and the second highest scoring team was AgriWorld Exchange. Berry Bling (Florida Strawberry Growers Association) and Spuddy Buddies (Idaho Grower Shippers Association, Inc.) were the best dressed teams, and the lowest individual scorer was Carolyn Vache (we won’t say how low her score was, but she wasn’t alone - several United Fresh staff competed fiercely for the award.) Thanks to everyone who joined us for an evening of fun and who helped raise funds for the United FreshPAC.


Stay Tuned…
The United Fresh, Las Vegas 2008 convention continues today with more of the expo floor, the Food Safety & Technical Seminar and industry tours. Stay tuned to see photos of these events and of last night’s Annual Award Banquet in next week’s Inside United Fresh.