November 5, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Special Report on The Shape of The New Congress
By Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President, Public Policy

President Elect Barack Obama Thanks to all of you who went to the polls yesterday to participate in the democratic process and help elect our nation’s leaders. Although the Presidential race is capturing most of the nation’s attention, the profile of the next Congress has begun to take shape.

As your advocate here in the Nation’s Capital, United Fresh looks forward to working with the next Congress and a new Administration as we focus on key issues that impact our industry including food safety, nutrition, federal agricultural policy, transportation, immigration and economic policy. Day in and day out we pride ourselves in the ability to work for you in a bipartisan manner on our industry’s unwavering public policy agenda, no matter which party or which candidates take office. I believe that this is one of the most important strengths we bring to our membership, so as we advance our industry’s issues in the 111th Congress and the Obama Administration, we look forward to working with both the new political leaders that will come to our nation’s capitol and our long-time allies in Congress that have supported us for many years.

House of Representatives
All 435 Members of the House were up for re-election and most analysts were in agreement that Democrats would build on their gains from the 2006 mid-term election.  The breakdown of the House during 2006–2008 was 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and 1 vacancy. On Tuesday, the Democrats were able to secure an additional 21 seats at press time.  With around 11 House races yet to be tallied, the current breakdown is 251 Democrats and 173 Republicans.  Looking nationally, Democrats defeated 12 GOP incumbents and won 9 open seats vacated by Republicans.  Democrats were able to expand gains in most regions of the country, particularly the Northeast in states like Connecticut and New York while also winning two open seats in New Mexico previously held by Republicans.  In extending their control of the House, Democrats will have the ability to expand their congressional agenda while working with an Administration from their own party.

Senate
Thirty-five U.S. Senate seats were contested, with Republicans holding 23 of those seats and Democrats holding 12.  Prior to last night, both the Democrats and Republicans each held 49 seats, with 2 seats held by Independents.  During the 110th Congress, both Independent Senators caucused with the Democrats, giving them majority control.  On Tuesday, the Democrats secured five additional seats to extend their majority.  With more than 95 percent of the vote counted, Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens clung to a narrow lead. In Georgia, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss held a substantial lead over Democrat Jim Martin, but it wasn’t clear whether Chambliss would clear 50 percent and thereby avoid a December runoff. And in Oregon, Republican Sen. Gordon Smith was two percentage points ahead of Democrat Jeff Merkley with three-fourths of the votes in.  

The Senate will also include two Independents — Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders.  During the 110th Congress these Senators played pivotal roles in legislative decisions and majority control for the Democrats.  However, with an expanded majority by the Democrats, it is unclear what role they will play come January.  It is expected that Senator Sanders will continue to work closely with the Democrats but Senator Lieberman may be on the outside given his strong support for Presidential runner-up and Arizona Sen. John McCain during the election. 

The Senate has struggled over the last two years to make progress with just a 51-vote majority, counting the two independents with the Democratic caucus. But with at least five more seats, Democrats are far better positioned now to build coalitions with moderate Republicans like Maine Sen. Susan Collins to get to the 60 votes to block a filibuster.  With this control, Democrats will have a greater influence on Presidential nominees to positions such as federal judgeships, Administration positions, and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Congress and The Produce Industry Outlook
In both the House and Senate, most members who have traditionally supported produce industry efforts seem to have faired well in their reelection bids, further strengthening our efforts in the respective chambers.  However, we are closely monitoring the Chambliss and Smith Senate races, as both incumbents have been very strong supporters of our legislative agenda.  That being said, during the last two years many of our initiatives were successfully considered by Congress and we want to build on that momentum during the 111th Congress by expanding our bipartisan coalitions, which will be an important tool over the next two years.  Agriculture in general is relatively non-partisan, and fruit and vegetable issues specifically have very little to do with party preferences.  While rural members of Congress from produce growing regions are certainly our friends, the most liberal members of Congress also strongly support increased fruit and vegetable consumption to meet the dire health needs of their constituents. 

Most importantly, with any new Congress, our industry needs to continue building strong relationships and developing new ones that are vital to our successes in enacting policy initiatives.  These will promote our ability to deliver the most nutritious and abundant food supply to the American consumer while ensuring a fair and level playing field for all businesses.

Congratulations to all the candidates who have committed to public service in the next Congress.  Write them a note today and thank them for their service, but don’t forget to remind them that you and your business will be counting on their efforts.  We all have a lot of work to do in the days and weeks to come.


Inspired by Dramatic Impact of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program
Lorelei DiSogra Lorelei enjoys a salad for lunch with students who "created" her salad from their school salad bar.

I wish all United Fresh members could have joined me last Thursday in California when I had the honor of visiting the Will Rogers Learning Community in Santa Monica. To see the immediate impact of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program was extremely uplifting.

These elementary school students were - and are - so excited about trying new fresh fruits and vegetables and can easily tell you all about what they now like, what they want to have again and what they are asking their parents for at home. The dramatic impact of this program was highlighted over and over throughout my visit. Some things that really stood out for me were:

  • A mom who came up to me to tell me that her son – who wouldn’t touch a green vegetable – now loves broccoli and eats it every night for dinner.
  • A group of students who asked that green plums, Pineapple Pals®, pears, jicama and raspberries be served more often.
  • A handful of 5th graders who make salads for each lunchtime visitor to the school from a school salad bar that offered 13 different colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Irma Lyons, the school principal, who told me that the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program had changed the very spirit and atmosphere of the school!

Imagine all of this happening in the first 60 days of this program.  A very small investment, $50 per student per year, is not only transforming the lives of these elementary school students and a million other students in elementary schools across this country this school year, but is also feeding valuable revenue into our industry in a tough economic time.


Thank you banner"Everywhere we walked there were banners thanking us for their fresh fruit and vegetable snack program."

I encourage all United Fresh members to visit at least one Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program-participating school in their community to personally witness these children as they learn to love fruits and vegetables. Remember, these children are our present and future consumers.  Next Friday, I head to Rochester, N.Y. to visit North Rose Elementary School, so please join me if you are in the area. For more information, or for help finding a participating school in your area, please contact me at 202-303-3400.


Consumer Research Looks At How Issues Impact Produce Purchases
UF Issues Scan 2008

Vital to the success of our industry are the values and perceptions that our end consumer has on a wide range of issues. How do political, social and environmental issues affect produce shoppers’ opinions and purchasing behaviors? United Fresh members and industry partners can now gain a precious window into the consumer mind with United’s first annual installment of United Fresh Issues Scan. The report, jointly sponsored by 3M Microbiology and BASF, and containing research conducted by Harris Interactive, creates a basic understanding of issues related to food safety, sustainability, product origin and other areas. Issues Scan 2008 looks at U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors in five major areas that have garnered significant media coverage in recent years and explores each in depth. These areas of focus are: Food Safety; Environmental and Social Issues; Product Origin; Comparison of Different Forms of Fruits and Vegetables and Impact of Issues on Purchase Intent and Desire for Information.

United Fresh members may purchase a copy of Issues Scan 2008 online for $125 and non-members may do so for $195. For questions about Issues Scan 2008 or for additional information, contact United Fresh Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer at 202-303-3408.


United Fresh to Present Research on Sustainability at Southern Hemisphere Congress
Southern Hemisphere

United Fresh Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman will present the Association’s new Issues Scan 2008 research on consumer views on issues ranging from sustainability and social welfare to country of origin and food safety during this year’s Southern Hemisphere Congress in Santiago, Chile in December.  “Produce leaders around the world are grappling with the impact consumer attitudes about these social issues can have on actual marketplace behavior,” Jeff said.  “Our new research is the most comprehensive look at U.S. produce consumers and what they’re really thinking about these issues.”   The United Fresh Issues Scan 2008 report can be downloaded from United’s website.   Or, be sure to look up Jeff at the conference in Chile December 2-4 for more information.


United Fresh Urges Immediate Action by APHIS-PPQ on Asian Citrus Psyllid
Citrus Psyllid

Last week, United Fresh staff and a host of California Congressional offices pressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Service’ Plant Protection and Quarantine program (USDA-APHIS-PPQ) to implement a suppression program to stop the spread of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) into California. This pest has been found in Mexico and is the vector for Huanglongbing disease (citrus greening).  United Fresh urged APHIS-PPQ to work cooperatively with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and their counterparts in Mexico to immediately implement a comprehensive plan to deal with this pest on both sides of the border.  The ACP has reportedly been detected by Mexican authorities in Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali, Calexico and San Luis.  Given the highly destructive nature of the disease that this vector carries, it is urgent that all available resources be brought to bear in order to suppress ACP populations in those areas and halt its northward advance.


Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations Reviewed in 2010 Dietary Guidelines
USDALast week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services started the official process to update and revise the existing Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The last Dietary Guidelines, recommending 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day depending on age and gender, were published in January of 2005, and Congress mandates that every five years the Dietary Guidelines be reviewed for revisions based on new scientific knowledge.  The newly appointed Dietary Guidelines Committee, comprised of 13 nationally-recognized experts, met at USDA last Thursday and Friday and concluded that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a new set of guidelines. The Committee noted that Americans consume less than half of the fiber recommended for good health and if fruit and vegetable intake were increased to recommended amounts, it would increase overall fiber intake. United Fresh will testify at the Public Comment session planned for late January, and over the next year the Committee will review recent scientific literature and make their recommendations for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.   For more information, please contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400.

"An Ounce of Prevention..." is Truly the Case When Pandemic Influenza Happens
InfluenzaIn hopes that all businesses will prepare for the possibility of pandemic influenza, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and others teamed up to present a webinar entitled Food and Agricultural Sector Pandemic Influenza. "It is not a matter of if a pandemic flu hits the United States, it is a matter of when," said Dr. Steven Prior in his introductory remarks.  "Most crises directly impact business products or facilities.  If not anticipated, a pandemic flu will create a human resource crisis, causing a shortage of viable workers, which businesses need to stay operable." The webinar, which was recorded and can be viewed online, includes information on how to estimate the potential impact of the pandemic flu on your business, how to prepare for it, what to do to minimize the impact and where to find useful online resources. Amy Philpott, vice president of communications at United Fresh attended the webinar. "United Fresh wants to be prepared to help our members during any crisis, and that means educating ourselves and our members about potential threats and how to avoid or minimize them," she said.  You are welcome to view the recorded Webinar at any time. You will need Windows Media Player 9 or higher to view the presentation. For more information, go to www.pandemicflu.gov.

USDA’s New Database Helps Identify Import Requirements
USDAOn October 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the launch of the new Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements (FAVIR) database to determine general import requirements for fruits and vegetables.  Industry members can now use the searchable FAVIR database to search fruit and vegetable import requirements by commodity or country.  The database will also provide emergency pest notifications to quickly alert users to any changes in the import status of a commodity or country.  The database also allows agricultural inspectors from the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection and APHIS officials to quickly determine general requirements for importation, as well as, determining if a commodity is authorized to enter the United States.  To learn more or to access the system, please click here.


United Fresh Meets With Global Leaders on Fruit Logistica Partner Events
Fruit LogisticaFresh Conex

New United Fresh Director of International Member Services Melissa Speed and President Tom Stenzel are meeting this week with United's European member leaders to confirm plans for the FreshConex education program and business workshops in conjunction with February's Fruit Logistica show in Berlin. The workshops, presented in cooperation with Eurofruit Magazine, focus on fresh-cut, value-added produce.  United's Global Advisory Council Chairman David Barney of Bakkavör is hosting Melissa and Tom today at the company's Peterborough, UK facilities following meetings with Eurofruit managing director Chris White in London earlier this week.  "In addition to our planning meetings, we really appreciate other members of the industry here in the U.K. providing their input on how United's growing international education programs can help their businesses," Melissa said.  Yesterday, the United Fresh team met with Mack Multiples' Andrew Sharp, touring their pack facilities and retail customer stores to better understand industry and consumer trends in the U.K.  For more information or to register for the FreshConex Congress, including your ticket to Fruit Logistica, please click here.


USDA Launches New COOL Listserv
COOLOn Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) unveiled a Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) listserv. The listserv will notify subscribers of significant additions to the USDA/AMS COOL website. Interested parties can sign up for this automatic notification service here. COOL regulations became effective Sept. 30 and require country of origin labeling for muscle cut and ground beef (including veal), pork, lamb, goat, chicken, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and ginseng covered commodities sold by designated retailers. Offering detailed information for both industry and consumers, the website includes an assortment of resources, such as an extensive question and answer section, a Power Point presentation on the COOL Interim Final Rule and links to current and historical legislative information. Visitors also will find documents associated with the fish and shellfish rule, U.S. Customs and Border Protection rulings relative to COOL and more. The new COOL listserv will provide the benefit of reaching out to subscribers with immediate updates and help retailers to more easily achieve compliance with COOL requirements in a cost-effective manner. For produce specific questions, you can also contact United Fresh at 202-303-3400 or visit our website.

Don't Miss United's Dr. David Gombas in Upcoming Food Safety and Traceability Webcast!
DC IFTIn a live webcast presented by the Washington, D.C. section of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) on November 17th, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas will discuss the 2008 tomato/pepper Salmonella outbreak, the subsequent misinformed alerts and their overall effect on our industry. David will be joined by Dr. Robert V. Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, and Dr. Stephen Sundlof of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The webcast will be moderated by IFT member Dr. Maureen Storey of the American Beverage Association, and will also include an update on the Food and Drug Administration’s Traceability Activities and Programs. This webcast is open to industry professionals of all levels of experience, and the fee per website download is $95 and registration is required.

Now is the Time to Take Your Already-Soaring Career EvDC IFTen Higher!
Professional development is at the heart of career advancement and top-flight industry executives are showing that they want to take crucial steps to separate themselves from other leaders in their respective fields. Presented in partnership with Cornell University, the Produce Executive Development Program is the premier destination for produce industry executives to sharpen their business skills. The 2009 course is designed for mid- to senior-level executives interested in gaining a competitive edge in tackling the key challenges and opportunities facing today's produce industry. The program has sold out two years in a row, and is on pace to do the same in 2009. Register online or contact Beth Berman, United Fresh education manager at 202-303-3405.

New Member Welcome
Welcome New MembersEach week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Agricultural Trade Center New York, Great Neck, NY
  • Walsma and Lyons Inc., Byron Center, MI
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 or Miriam Miller.

News & Views

News and ViewsPennsylvania Agriculture and Health Secretaries kick off statewide food safety tour

WHO calls for 'farm-to-table' checks in China

Expert says irradiated lettuce is safe and beneficial

Canadian scientist's 'eureka' moment leads to bovine vaccination for E. coli

Philippines to host 5th Asian Conference on Food and Nutrition Safety

East Salinas farmer's market opens, accepts WIC coupons

Green Parties in Australia and New Zealand make coordinated push for labeling

E. coli the subject of upcoming food safety teleconference

New EU pesticide rules could double the price of vegetables, according to Britain's National Farmers Union