September 17, 2008

In Today's Issue:


High Profile Produce Event
Gives Industry Unique Access to Policy Makers

Last week’s Washington Public Policy Conference (WPPC) drew a record 340 representatives of the fresh produce industry to the nation’s capital for three days of education, discussion, influence and camaraderie. Current and prospective United Fresh members interacted with produce industry leaders, FDA officials, legislators and administration officials, discussing key policy decisions, specialty crop and food safety issues and other industry topics.

The WPPC, which provides produce industry members a unique opportunity to reach influential policymakers on Capitol Hill, featured current and former Congressional and public-sector industry allies including Congressman Jim Costa (CA) and George Radanovich (CA), former congressmen Charles Stenholm (TX) and Bill Sarpalius (TX), USDA Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Lloyd Day, former Secretary of Agriculture John Block, Senate Conference Secretary Debbie Stabenow (MI), House Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Cardoza (CA), House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (CT), and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (GA) among many others.


On the forefront of nutrition and food safety for over a decade Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro takes the stage at 2008 WPPC.

Senator Debbie Stabenow thanks the produce industry for their support during the 2008 Farm Bill.

Senator Saxby Chambliss (GA) addresses a full house at the
Opening Keynote Breakfast at this year’s WPPC!

In a ceremony on Thursday, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Government Relations Robert Guenther honored Representative Cardoza with the United Fresh Congressional Leadership Award. During congressional visits on Capitol Hill that same day, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel also presented Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton with the Congressional Leadership Award for her support in the Senate.  The award, United Fresh’s highest honor for Members of Congress who have provided distinguished service, helps highlight the role of the elected official in promoting policies and programs that support a healthy fruit and vegetable industry.


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton holding apples from New York State accepts the United Fresh Congressional Leadership Award with constituents and association leadership.

Congressman Dennis Cardoza is presented his award from Robert Guenther of United Fresh.

Also on Thursday, American Vegetable Grower magazine presented this year’s Grower Achievement Award to Lewis Taylor Farms of Tifton, Georgia. The award, sponsored jointly by Syngenta Seeds/ROGERS Brand, honors growers who have taken production agriculture to new levels of innovation in food quality and safety, marketing and technological development.


Senator Saxby Chambliss (far left) congratulates Bill Brim a good friend and
constituent of Georgia on receiving this year’s Grower Achievement Award.

In addition, the annual March on Capitol Hill presented a special chance for United Fresh members to have direct contact with policymakers to communicate industry-critical views on important legislation. In a tactical sweep of both the House and Senate, over 30 industry teams met with more than 140 House and Senate offices in just under three hours.


California delegation of WPPC attendees visit Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) (far left)

Idaho delegation meets with Senator Mike Crapo (ID) seated at the head of the table

WPPC attendees from Colorado chat with Congressman John Salazar (CO) (far right) during a private meeting arranged by United Fresh

Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson (far left) and Saxby Chambliss (far right)
visit with WPPC attendees from their home state

Additionally, more than 120 produce industry members visited with government officials at a special United Fresh FDA Town Hall meeting. Quite possibly the first time that any industry has met with the FDA in such great numbers, the WPPC attendees asked tough and thorough questions and made their voices and concerns heard.


Vic Smith, president of Fresh Innovations and a United Fresh Board Member, asks a question of FDA officials during the town hall meeting

More than 120 WPPC attendees met with FDA officials (seated at the front of the room) at the FDA headquarters in Rockville, MD

This year’s Fresh Festival also drew impressive crowds – and a ten-foot-tall watermelon slice – to the Rayburn House Office Building. The festival featured 17 exhibitors providing samples of their products to nearly 700 legislators, congressional staff, administration officials and friends of the industry.

A special congratulations to Walter P. Rawl & Sons, Inc. of Pelion, South Carolina, who was awarded the United Fresh Produce Industry Advocate of the Year award for their outstanding efforts on behalf of the industry.


United Fresh President Tom Stenzel (left) presents the
United Fresh Industry Advocate of the Year Award to Charles Wingard (center) and Ashley Rawl (right)

And finally, a special thanks to Rep. Cardoza who hosted the United Fresh Board of Directors’ dinner at his home in Maryland.  A surprise visit by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, holder of the second-highest position in the U.S. House of Representatives capped off a memorable night and a record-setting 2008 WPPC.


House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (far right) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (second from left)
discuss the produce industry with United Fresh President/CEO Tom Stenzel (far left) and
Al Vangelos (center), chairman of the newly formed United Fresh Grower-Shipper Board.


Produce Reception Creates Casual, Fun Networking With Members of Congress

Last Wednesday night, 17 member organizations – and one giant watermelon slice – transformed the Rayburn House Office Building Cafeteria into a Congressional produce department. One of the crown jewels of this year’s Washington Public Policy Conference, the Fresh Festival provided legislators, administration officials and congressional staffers the opportunity to meet with United Fresh members from across the country, and sample products from each. From a mashed potato bar to a Shiitake mushroom log, and even a ten-foot inflatable plastic watermelon wedge, United Fresh member organizations showcased their unique products and gained valuable face time with Congressional members and their staff. Overseeing the Fresh Festival exhibits was Andrew Marshall, government relations assistant. “We’re extremely happy with this year’s turnout and equally excited about the opportunities that the Fresh Festival presents for our membership.” With increasing need for action on the Farm Bill and other industry-critical policy measures, this year’s Fresh Festival gave United Fresh members the chance to raise concerns and voice opinions to many of their representatives in person in a collegial and informal atmosphere. A special thanks to all of our WPPC sponsors and Fresh Festival Exhibitors.


Policy Conference is Platform for Business Development and Education

While this year’s Washington Public Policy Conference joined over 340 industry professionals in one hotel conference room, United Fresh members in attendance gained worldly experience and perspective, voiced opinion and concern on issues affecting the global produce supply chain – and even found time to read a few Croatian newspapers. United Fresh programs have long been at the forefront of education and development in the fresh produce industry, and this installment of the WPPC was no exception. During the conference, United Fresh sent member envoys to the Australian and Mexican embassies as well as the Delegation of the European Commission (EU) to discuss vital contributions made by each body to the overall success of the fresh produce industry. Three separate business forums offered members the chance to explore key principles in the upcoming inclusion of fresh produce in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the September implementation of Country of Origin Labeling standards (COOL) and funding options pertaining to the 2008 Farm Bill. “We feel that continuing education and development is one of the cornerstones of our industry and we are proud to include these programs in this year’s conference” said Angela Bezon, the lead organizer of this year’s WPPC program. United Fresh members also had the chance to visit one of Washington’s newest treasures, the Newseum – a unique museum and learning center devoted to the worldwide news cycle and housing an extensive collection of domestic and international newspapers.


United Fresh Goes to Hong Kong and Talks to Growing Fresh-Cut Industry

While United Fresh members and policy pros were hard at work during the Washington Public Policy conference last week, United Fresh Vice President of Convention & Industry Relations John Toner and Convention Services Manager Hector Ranero were half a world away representing United Fresh at the 2008 Asia Fruit Logistica event. “We had the opportunity to meet with many companies including Asian industry giants Metro Group and A.S. Watson, and we look forward to collaborating as they grow their fresh convenience produce sections in each store” John said.  “We also spoke with several companies interested in starting fresh-cut operations, which is of interest to many of our associate members.” An added benefit of the United Fresh presence at Asia Fruit Logistica is the re-connection that the association has made and continues to make with international organizations and companies.  New United Fresh International Members Services Director Melissa Speed will begin to leverage that connection in the coming months.


More than 75% of fresh fruits and vegetables in Hong Kong are still sold at “wet markets” or outdoor markets such as the one shown here


Industry Advisory Committee Supports More Produce in Schools This Year

Last Monday, USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee met in Crystal City, Virginia to discuss a variety of topics including Farm Bill implementation, crop insurance, pesticide residues, PACA, market news reporting of organically grown fruits and vegetables and the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization.  In its second year and administered by the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), the 24 member advisory committee includes many sectors of the produce industry.  Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh, serves as a resource for the Committee’s Child Nutrition Working Group, which is chaired by Becky Wilson of Tom Lange. The Working Group is actively engaged with AMS’s pilot program to purchase fresh-cut apple slices for schools. United Fresh and the Working Group support national expansion of commodity purchases of fresh-cut apple slices by the second half of this school year, and expansion to other fresh-cut fruits and vegetables by the start of the 2009-2010 school year. Schools are excited to receive these new fresh cut items which are expected to increase student’s overall fruit and vegetable consumption. For more information please contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400 ext. 403.


Market Segment Boards Convene for Inaugural Meetings

The members of the new United Fresh Market Segment Boards met last week in Washington, D.C. for their first official board meetings.  The four new boards--Grower-Shipper, Fresh-Cut Processor, Wholesaler-Distributor and Retail-Foodservice, were established this summer to identify issues of importance within their sectors and to help ensure that United Fresh is meeting business needs, addressing critical issues, and implementing programs that deliver member value to each of their respective market segments.  Following an orientation session, board members got down to business addressing key challenges facing their specific industry sectors.  "These first meetings provided a great foundation for us to examine the diverse issues facing our members at all stages of the supply chain," said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel.  "We recognize that one size doesn't necessarily fit all in the produce industry, and these boards are going to provide invaluable insight into how issues impact sectors differently and how we can help our members tackle these challenges."  The market segment boards will meet again in January 2009.  For a complete roster of the United Fresh Market Segment Board members, click here.


Just a Few Spaces Remain in Last 2008 Recall Training Course

Your last chance in 2008 to learn the skills and knowledge you need in order to handle a product recall effectively and efficiently is October 1-2, 2008 at the next "Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire" course to be held at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, conveniently located by Los Angeles International Airport. Taught by communications and public affairs specialists, this course will teach participants the fundamentals of working with the media within a real crisis scenario, and how to deliver accurate and targeted messages under the pressure of a real-life interview.  Due to the highly interactive nature of the program, registrations at past Recall Courses have sold-out in just days and there are only a few spaces left for the Los Angeles edition, so be sure to register today! For additional registration and housing information, contact United Fresh Education Manager, Beth Berman, at bberman@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3405.


United Fresh Hosts Partnership for Food Safety Education Meeting

On Tuesday, United Fresh welcomed the board of directors and members of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) to its headquarters office in Washington, D.C. “As a supporter of the Partnership, we were delighted to host this important meeting.  United Fresh works on food safety issues from various perspectives including technical and regulatory, and consumer education is just another area that we believe is important to our members and vital to consumers,” said Amy Philpott, vice president of communications. PFSE oversees the Fight Bac! and Be Food Safe campaigns, which educate consumers of all ages about safe handling and storage of fresh foods.


New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:

  • Eakin Fruit Company, Union Gap, WA

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the entire 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 and Views

Following Listeria Outbreak, Food Safety Becomes Key Issue In Canadian Election
As the election campaign revs up, so has the lobbying. In the wake of the listeria outbreak that has claimed 18 lives, public service unions launched a national campaign yesterday asking federal candidates across the country to commit to food safety.

In The Wake Of Unfair Scrutiny, Tomatoes Experience A Culinary Resurgence
It's the peak of tomato season in the Bay Area -- mid-August through September -- and the Berkeley Farmers' Market is full of favorites, from bright yellow cherry tomatoes to odd-shaped heirlooms to big juicy beefsteaks. Another perennial fixture: chef Paul Canales…

Connecticut Nonprofit Highlights Importance Of Fresh, Local Produce In Social Programs
Local Connecticut is in the midst of a revolution, Jennifer McTiernan said yesterday at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea. An agricultural revolution, that is.

Florida Tomato Growers And Consumers Optimistic About COOL
Starting Sept. 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will require all retail stores to show a country of origin label that shows where produce comes from following a salmonella scare this past summer.

Wisconsin Farmers Head To Capital Hill In Support Of The Farm Bill
Twelve Wisconsin Farmers Union members joined more than 150 farmers and ranchers from across the country in Washington, D.C., this week for National Farmers Union’s legislative fly-in.

Retailer A Key Part Of Syracuse Melting Pot
New Gear and Lombardi’s Fruits and Imports represent the new and old, the hopes and ambitions, failures and frustrations of an entire community in the midst of change brought about by past and recent immigration.

Former Secretary Of Agriculture And Nebraska Death Tax Opponent Receives Key Endorsement In Senate Race
Mike Johanns, candidate for U.S. Senate, received the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation PAC designation as a "Friend of Agriculture," the sole endorsement of the state's largest voluntary agriculture organization.

Secretary Gutierrez Urges Congress To Approve Pending Free Trade Agreement
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez issued a statement today, saying “Record exports continue to drive America’s economic growth… One of the best ways to expand our exports is through free trade agreements with our allies who are committed to openness and fair, two-way trade.”