December 18, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack Tapped as Secretary of Agriculture; United Fresh Reacts

Tom VilsackUnited Fresh learned late Tuesday that President-elect Barack Obama would nominate former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture this morning.

"The fruit and vegetable industry is pleased with President-Elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Governor Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture," said United Fresh president Tom Stenzel.  "Governor Vilsack has demonstrated he has a firm grasp on issues important to agriculture and rural communities across the country.  He has also demonstrated strong support for increased access to fruits and vegetables in nutrition programs during his tenure as governor.  We look forward to working with the new Administration on important issues facing our industry such as funding for nutrition, food safety, trade, and the implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill." 

Brendan Comito, COO of Capital City Fruit in Norwalk, Iowa, and vice chair of the United Fresh Wholesaler-Distributor board is equally optimistic about the Vilsack appointment. "Governor Vilsack will be a great representative for the agricultural industry.  During his time as governor, Tom helped diversify the Iowa economy and pushed to find new uses and technologies for Iowa's crops.  He's intelligent and thoughtful, and equipped with the critical ability to work on a bi-partisan basis as he had a Republican legislature during his entire tenure as Governor, steering the state through some difficult budget years.  On a personal note, I've come to know Governor Vilsack in our church in Des Moines the past few years and he is a very decent person.  He has a compelling life story and I believe that is why he is such a good leader."

Vilsack occupied the Iowa governor's mansion from 1998 to 2006, the first Democrat elected to the position in 32 years. During his two terms, Vilsack supported the expansion of the fruit and vegetable snack program in the 2004 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. As Governor, he focused on improving education, particularly in early childhood, expanding health care to the uninsured, making the state a national leader in renewable energy and creating a nationally recognized efficient and accountable state government. He also worked to make in investment in conservation, rural development and nutrition programs. Vilsack also established relationships among all levels of local, state and federal government and worked closely with Iowa-based or national companies involved in Iowa commerce, seeking to make Iowa the "Food Capital of the Country." He kept his commitment to serve only two terms as Governor, and ran as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination until announcing his withdrawal from the race in February 2007. Vilsack was most recently Of Counsel in the Des Moines-based Dorsey Trial Group.

Bush Administration Revises H2A Program
On December 11, the Bush Administration released two concurrent final rules from the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security that revise procedures for the H2A guest worker program.

Through these two final rules, the Administration attempts to make the H2A program more practical for employers by modifying the existing (and unreasonably stringent) timeframes involving the petition process, as well as the interim period that a guest worker can be out of work while remaining in the U.S. Additionally, the calculation for determining the appropriate employee wage rates will now involve specific information from over 500 localities, instead of the 18 regions that the program currently utilizes.

"Though these revisions do not address the fundamental comprehensive immigration reform that United Fresh has long advocated, their intent is a step in the right direction for the limited number of organizations that can effectively utilize the H2A program," said Kam Quarles, vice president of government relations and legislative affairs at United Fresh.

The H2A program has also been tightened in a variety of areas. Employers must notify authorities immediately when H2A workers fail to meet certain conditions of employment or are terminated. Also, only workers from certain approved countries can be hired under the program. Employers are also incentivized to use the E-Verify program. For workers that have exhausted their eligible time in the U.S., enhanced biographic and biometric information will be required at certain participating ports-of-entry when they depart the U.S. for their mandatory time out of country.

For more information on the rule changes, please contact Kam Quarles at 202-303-3400 ext. 427.

Local and Organic Produce on National Restaurant Association’s Top 20 Menu Trends for 2009

On Tuesday, the National Restaurant Association released its list of top food and beverage trends for 2009. The list, comprised of survey results from over 1600 chefs, shows some promising results for the produce industry.

Highlights from the overall trend list include:

  • Locally grown produce (#1)
  • Organic produce (#3)
  • Fruit and vegetable kids side items (#6)
  • Superfruits (#7)
  • Exotic fruits (#15)
  • Micro-vegetables/Micro-greens (#17)
Produce items also appeared on category-specific top trend lists, including Appetizers/Starters, Sides/Starches, Breakfast/Brunch, and Kid’s Meals.

United Fresh Vice President of Communications Amy Philpott hailed the results of the NRA survey. "We know that restaurants make up one of the key outlets for our industry, and leading chefs set the trends that allow for our success. The NRA survey shows some very promising information for the produce business, and we're all excited to see what 2009 holds." The survey results come just weeks after United Fresh announced the opening of nominations for the 2009 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards, honoring chefs and companies at the forefront of such trends. For information about the award program, contact Amy at 202-303-3400 ext. 425.

United Fresh Policy Team Meets to Discuss 2009 Priorities

Gov't Relations Staff and consultantsLast week, United Fresh government relations staff and consultants met to discuss policy priorities and strategies in preparation for the arrival of the new Administration and the newly elected 111th Congress, scheduled to convene in early January. Topics of discussion included the anticipated priorities for the new Administration, developments regarding food safety legislation, labor and supply chain issues, as well as nutrition policy priorities for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, set to be addressed by Congress in 2009. Also discussed were avenues to increase communication and outreach opportunities. United Fresh is committed to greater interaction with local, regional and national media as well as the development of ways to greater leverage our grassroots networks in order to get more United Fresh members face time and interaction with their elected officials. We all look forward to 2009, and beginning our work with the new Administration and new Congress. If you are interested in learning more about United Fresh's efforts both on the Hill and off, contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

'Tis the Season to Honor Your Favorite Chef

ChefWe aren't talking about your mother, in-law or spouse. We're talking about honoring your other favorite chef – the one at your favorite restaurant, college dining hall, hotel or healthcare facility. Nominations are now being accepted for the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards. Presented by the United Fresh Research and Education Foundation, the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards recognize companies and chefs for incorporating fresh produce into menu development, using protocols for correct storage and handling of produce and building an overall positive dining experience featuring fresh produce.

Winners will be honored in each of five business categories: Fine Dining Restaurants, Casual and Family Dining Restaurants, Quick Serve Restaurants, Business in Industry/Colleges and Hotels/Healthcare Operations. Either individual chefs or companies are eligible for the awards and nominations must be submitted before February 15, 2009. Click here to download a nomination form.

The winning chefs and their corporate executives will receive complimentary airfare, two nights hotel accommodations and registrations to the United Fresh show, April 21-24 in Las Vegas. The winners will receive their awards at the Annual Awards Banquet Thursday, April 23. The Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards are proudly sponsored by Pro*Act, LLC.

For more information the award program, please contact Vice President, Communications Amy Philpott at 202-303-3400 ext. 425.

New 2009 Chairman's Roundtable Supporters

United Fresh's Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the Chairman’s Roundtable in 2009:

Chairman's Roundtable
  • CHEP, Orlando, Fla.
  • Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Dole Food Company, Westlake Village, Calif.
  • Ready Pac Foods, Inc., Irwindale, Calif.
  • Salyer American Fresh Foods, Monterey, Calif.

The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United’s strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of the Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support.

For more information on the Chairman’s Roundtable, please contact Director of Membership Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400 ext. 410.

New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • The James Brooks Company, Inc., Fresno, Calif
  • University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif.
For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

News & Views


News and Views

Obama selects Tom Vilsack for top Ag job

National Academies' Institute of Medicine Releases Review of National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program Meal Patterns and Nutrient Standards

Obamas "Secretary of Food?"

Top food stories of the year

FDA commissioner von Eschenbach to resign


Australia pledges to cut emissions by 15%

Retailers will pay more for groceries under Australian carbon scheme

Price of fresh food rises again in the U.K.

Relations improve with opening of China-Taiwan direct shipping links

Georgian farmers look to comply with EU market standards

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