May 21, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Chairman Lovelace Seeks Volunteers for New Leadership Boards
In a letter to the membership this week, United Fresh Chairman of the Board Tom Lovelace, McEntire Produce, outlined plans for the implementation of the new volunteer leadership structure for the association, featuring the formation of four new horizontal boards representing different market segments of the produce supply chain: Grower-Shipper Board; Fresh-Cut Processor Board; Wholesale-Distributor Board; and Retail-Foodservice Board.  Each board will be empowered to identify, discuss and advance issues of importance within their sector to ensure that United Fresh is meeting their specific business needs, addressing critical issues, and implementing programs that deliver member value to each market segment.  In his letter, Chairman Lovelace invited members to volunteer to be nominated for one of these new boards.  Each market segment board will have about 20 representatives predominately representing companies in their respective business sectors.  All volunteers will be submitted to the Nominating Committee for consideration and a full slate of nominees for each board will be submitted to the membership for election in the coming months.  If you or a representative from your company is interested in being considered by the Nominating Committee, please contact Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400 ext. 408. Nominations must be received by May 31, 2008.

President Vetoes Farm Bill, Congress Set to Override
The President vetoed the Farm Bill Conference Report today setting the stage for a House and Senate vote to override the presidential veto.  This is the tenth presidential veto by the President since he has been in office.  “We are obviously disappointed that the President disapproves of this bill.  Although this legislation is not perfect, failure to enact a new Farm Bill would represent a missed opportunity to make federal farm policy more equitable for the fruit and vegetable industry,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh.  The House is expected to vote on the override this afternoon with Senate action shortly thereafter.  For more information, contact Robert at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

United Fresh President Meets with Dutch Minister of Agriculture
United Fresh President Tom Stenzel met with The Netherlands Minister of Agriculture Gerritje Verburg, Ambassador to the U.S. Christian Kröner, and a visiting delegation of officials at the Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Friday. “I was pleased to enjoy some fine fruits and vegetables for breakfast with the Minister, while we talked about the recently passed U.S. Farm Bill,’ Tom said. “She and her team were most interested in our industry’s efforts in the Farm Bill to promote investment in increased produce consumption for children, and investment in industry competitiveness without direct subsidies to farmers. She was also pleased to learn that Dr. Lorelei DiSogra from our team would be traveling to France next week where she will brief European officials and continue our support for a school fruit and vegetable snack program in the European Union,” he said.

FDA Considers Third Party Certification Programs
“We believe there may be potential benefits to FDA, the industry and consumers by use of certain 3rd party certifiers under specific conditions.  However the process must overcome many obstacles we see in implementation of such programs today, as well as ensure a consistent, science-based, and credible certification system in the future that garners the widespread confidence of consumers, industry and government.” These were the opening comments by United Fresh on the potential for FDA to recognize and accept certain Third-Party Certification Programs for Foods and Feeds.  The United Fresh comments were developed by a working group of the United Fresh Food Safety & Technology Council, which includes over 65 technical experts from across the United Fresh membership.  For more information about the United Fresh comments or about the Food Safety & Technology Council, please contact Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president food safety and technology at United Fresh, at 202-303-3400 ext. 411.

Leadership Raffle Raises Funds -- and Awareness -- for Foundation
We'd like to extend a special thanks to everyone who bought a ticket for this year's "Salute to Leadership" Raffle and made it a great success.  Spearheaded by the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Alumni Organization, all raffle proceeds benefit the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation.  During the Annual Awards Banquet at the convention in Las Vegas, Chairman of the United Fresh Foundation, Stephen Griffin, Misionero Vegetables and California Tree Fruit Agreement's Sheri Mierau, Chairman of the Leadership Alumni Organization Board, pulled the winning tickets.  Benjamin Deutsch, Mercury Plastics, won two round trip airline tickets to Las Vegas; Bob Morrissey, National Watermelon Association, took home the $1,000 gift card to Best Buy; and Frank Padilla, Costco Wholesale, won the Grand prize of $25,000!  The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation is a not-for-profit organization offering 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 raffle, contact Beth Berman, United Fresh education manager at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Only One Produce Inspection Course Remains for 2008
Companies interested in training their staff on the fundamentals of produce inspection have only one more opportunity to do so in 2008. The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation will hold its last 2008 produce inspection training course September 22-26.  The Produce Inspection Training Program offers a week of intensive education with USDA’s top inspection instructors.  Participants become proficient in topics such as general market inspection principles, grading, quality vs. condition, interpretation of standards and tolerances, appeal procedures, PACA and sampling procedures.  The program also includes three days of customized, hands-on commodity lab demonstrations.   

September 22-23, 2008
September 24-26, 2008

Introduction to Produce Inspection (2 days)
Advanced Produce Inspection Training (3 days)

Online registration
is open and limited space is available. United Fresh members receive special discounts.  For additional information, contact Beth Berman, education manager, 202-303-3405.

Industry Benefits From HACCP Course
More than two dozen growers, processors, buyers and others responsible for food safety participated in the annual Hands-On HACCP for the Fresh-Cut Produce Industry course, co-sponsored by United Fresh and offered by the University of Georgia Extension Outreach Program.  United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety & Technology Dr. David Gombas was the first speaker in a three-day line up of subject experts. “Several food safety laws being considered by Congress today include provisions for food companies to assess their risks using HACCP principles.  HACCP is a logical, systematic approach to identifying your real risks and what you can do to minimize them,” said David.  “All fresh produce packers and processors should have a hazard analysis for their portion of the supply chain and, where that analysis shows a need, a functional HACCP program to demonstrate control.”  The University of Georgia (UGA) course, lead by Dr. Bill Hurst, is the only accredited HACCP course specially focused on fresh and fresh-cut produce operations.  For more information about future HACCP courses at UGA, please contact Dr. Bill Hurst.

Industry Tours Offer First-Hand Perspectives
On Wednesday May 7, after the United Fresh Las Vegas expo, dozens of attendees stayed for the concurrent industry tours.  United Fresh teamed up with industry leaders to provide first-hand perspectives in the areas of retail, foodservice and fresh-cut processing.  It took us a few days to get the photos, but now you can see why these post-show industry tours were such a hit!

The retail tours visited local Whole Foods Market®., Costco Wholesale and Smith’s Food & Drug stores where they met with the produce managers of each store and learned about their merchandising, storage, handling, and promotion programs.

Get Fresh Companies hosted the fresh-cut processing tour.  Attendees saw the Get Fresh state-of-the-art fresh-cut processing facilities, cold chain management and warehousing facilities, including food safety and testing measures.

During the MGM Grand Hotel, "Back of the House, Foodservice Tour,” participants learned first-hand how logistics, storage, technology and purchasing habits affect the MGM’s bottom line.  In fact, one chef shared with the group a catalog of all fresh-cut options (different sizes, shapes and varieties of fruits and vegetables) that he compiled “so that other chefs could order by product number from the catalog.”

A special thanks to Whole Foods Market®, Costco Wholesale, Smith’s Food & Drug Center, the MGM Hotel and Get Fresh Companies for hosting these tours and to everyone who attended them.

News & Views
For the First Time
Fruit and vegetable growers could realize an important advancement through historic investment in specialty crops, announces the Associated Press.

Not All to Blame
The Washington Post explores the struggle between banning and balance, in the attempt of schools and parents to curb child obesity.

Employment Effort
Two leading immigrant-industries and leading congresswomen are pushing employment of foreign workers, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

All Grown Organically

The Houston Chronicle reveals political, moral and ethical reasons why consumers are altering their shopping habits.
Scientists On Call
A team of scientists at the Grocer Manufacturers of America works to solve food safety questions, not place blame, says The Washington Post.

Remember to Eat Your Celery
Bloomberg states a chemical in celery reduced brain inflammation linked to Alzheimer's disease in a study of mice.