December 31, 2008

In Today's Issue:


Constancy in the Face of Change

Tom StenzelTom Stenzel
President and CEO

As 2008 comes to a close, the produce industry is preparing for a new day interacting with the incoming Obama Administration. Whether you believe this ushers in "change we can believe in," or "change that scares the heck out of you," the implications for our industry are huge. But one thing is certain – you can continue to depend upon United Fresh Produce Association as your voice in Washington, D.C.

In the past few weeks, I've been reminded often that no other organization offers you the direct input, personal and professional credibility, and skilled advocacy team to deliver the produce industry’s views to government. In December alone, the Obama Transition Team has called on United for three separate briefings on key issues on the new President’s agenda.

Our Senior Vice President Robert Guenther represented United at a meeting of all major ag commodity groups with the USDA transition team, as the only fruit/vegetable or specialty crop organization at this meeting. Robert encouraged the Obama team to maintain funding and provide strong support for new research for specialty crops, plant protection from pests and disease, state specialty crop block grants to boost industry competitiveness, and national expansion of the school snack program. He also asked that USDA play a stronger role in the immigration debate to help create a better understanding of the critical needs in agriculture.

Then, Obama Transition Team members met with Vice President Dr. Lorelei DiSogra and a small group of allied public health and nutrition groups. As the only industry member present of any kind, Lorelei focused on 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, the Institute of Medicine’s new report being prepared on quality of school meals, implementation of WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers, and the school snack program. She also had a good discussion on the political importance of these nutrition programs, and the opportunities for the White House and President to be directly involved.

Last, our Senior Vice President Dr. David Gombas, Robert and I met privately with the FDA/HHS transition team to share our recommendations for food safety policy, changes and improvements at FDA, and the importance of a new model between HHS, CDC and FDA in foodborne disease outbreak management. This was a unique private meeting in which we were able to be mutually candid about the challenges within FDA and CDC, and focus on the need for change. The FDA transition team asked for our specific recommendations on what could/should be accomplished within the first 100 days of the Administration, and what issues should be addressed over the longer-term.

But our team doesn't stop there – I can say unequivocally that United has the strongest outside team of legal and legislative experts on your behalf with our General Counsel Marshall Matz of Olsson Frank and Weeda, who served as Agricultural Coordinator for the Obama campaign; and Randy Russell, Lesher, Russell and Barron, who worked closely with the McCain team. I had to laugh when Congressional Quarterly reported right before the election on candidates that might be considered for Secretary of Agriculture depending upon which candidate won. Randy was in the top 3 on CQ's projection for McCain, while Marshall was in the top 3 for Obama. Not many associations in any industry can boast that kind of credibility and respect whether Republican or Democrat.

So, it's a new year tomorrow. But one constant you can count on – United Fresh Produce will be there for you, fighting for your interests just as we have for the past 104 years. Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Tom Stenzel


United Fresh Submits Formal Comments to FDA on Revision to GAPs Document

FDA LogoAfter many months of work by its Food Safety & Technology Council, United Fresh submitted formal comments today on FDA's request for potential changes to its Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, better known as the GAPs Guide. Comments prepared by a working group of the Council focused on 12 questions posed by FDA, ranging from prioritizing risks and written food safety plans to environmental issues and regulatory requirements that may conflict with recommendations in the GAPs Guide. "While these were important questions, we believe that changes to the GAPs Guide should not be considered lightly," said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology. United Fresh filed a request for FDA to extend its December 31, 2008 deadline for comments to allow broader analysis and discussion among different industry sectors. The association is putting together additional working groups to meet with FDA and other stakeholders to continue the dialogue on how the GAPs Guide can be improved.


Does the Shipment You Just Received/Delivered Meet USDA Quality Standards?

ProduceYou need to know when product sent or received meets USDA quality standards – your contracts depend on it, your reputation depends on it. United Fresh and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have partnered once again to instruct industry members on the requirements and intricacies of USDA fresh produce inspections with the 2009 Produce Inspection Training Program. The course is divided into two segments: First is the two-day Introductory Produce Inspection reviews inspection fundamentals, general market principles, PACA and an introduction to the FV 300 Inspection Certificate. Next, the three-day Advanced Produce Inspection focuses on the different types of inspections (quality, condition, size, etc.,) sampling procedures, marketing orders and import requirements, and commodity-specific instruction. Class size is limited and on a first-come, first-served registration basis. REGISTER TODAY for our next course January 26-30. For more information contact Amy Philpott at 202-303-3400 ext. 425.


USDA Proposes Raiding Specialty Crop Program to Fund COOL Enforcement

ProduceUnited Fresh has learned that Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer has informed House and Senate agricultural leaders that he intends to move $3.2 million from the recently enacted Specialty Crop Block Grant program to fund oversight and enforcement responsibilities for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL). "United strongly opposes this blatant attempt to raid mandatory funds devoted to specialty crops, and is quickly working to engage all members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance to join in opposing this action," said United President Tom Stenzel. "While the Secretary has some discretionary authority to move funds between different programs, this is simply bad public policy all the way around. It is incomprehensible that USDA would place the entire burden of funding COOL enforcement on our sector, when COOL applies to meat and seafood as well. If USDA believes additional funding is required for COOL enforcement, we strongly believe Congress should appropriate funding solely for that purpose," he said.


United Fresh Opens Nominations for Retail Produce Manager Awards

Produce displayUnited Fresh is now accepting applications for its annual Retail Produce Manager Awards Program. Now in its fifth year, the program will honor 25 retail produce managers at the store level and include their corporate produce directors in formal recognition at the United Fresh, Las Vegas 2009 show, April 21-24. The award winners and their corporate produce directors will receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations, and registrations to the United Fresh show.  The winners will be honored at the Chairman's Reception & Awards Banquet on Thursday, April 23 where five grand prize winners will be announced as recipients of an additional $1,000 cash prize.

All United Fresh member companies are eligible to submit applications.  Nominations for the 2009 Retail Produce Manager Award are due by February 27, 2009 and forms are available online. Visit www.unitedfresh.org for a copy of the selection criteria and a list of past winners. Ready Pac Foods, Inc. is the proud sponsor the Retail Produce Manager Awards Program.


They Came. They Saw. They Cooked.

ChefA feature on today's And Now U Know, the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards are being talked up in all corners of the culinary and produce worlds. Nominations are now being accepted and it is easier than you think to honor your favorite chef or company. Just complete the nomination form and submit it to United Fresh by February 15, 2009. Winners will be selected 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. 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.

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. The Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards are proudly sponsored by Pro*Act, LLC. For more information about the award program, contact Amy Philpott at 202-303-3400 ext. 425.


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News & Views

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