January 29, 2009

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Celebrates Victory as Specialty Crop Funds Are Rescued

Monday United Fresh issued a media statement commenting on U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's announcement to rescind a decision by the previous administration that would have moved $3.2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant money to fund oversight and enforcement responsibilities for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL). 

In the statement Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh, said, "It is incomprehensible that the previous leadership at 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."

Last December, former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer's informed Congress that he would shift the funds from Specialty Crop Block Grant to COOL enforcement. Since that time, United Fresh worked with congressional leaders and the new Administration to protect the Specialty Crop Block Grants. For more on this resounding win, contact Robert at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

VilsackIn a letter today to new USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel asked for the Secretary's commitment to increasing availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to meet the nation’s health needs.

Tom outlined six key first-year priorities for the Secretary – national expansion of the School Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, implementing the new fruit and vegetable vouchers in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, building on the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, implementing current country of origin labeling rules, renewing the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, and growing USDA's support for growers and handlers in food safety.

"Secretary Vilsack has already shown his support for the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables to the nation," Tom said.  "I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years."

obesityDr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition, will provide oral testimony tomorrow at a meeting of the USDA's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Committee is considering revisions to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Committee will make recommendations to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services later in 2009, which will lead to the publication of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in the early part of that year.

Lorelei will focus her testimony on three priorities: Providing clear and strong advice to Americans about eating more fruits and vegetables; Providing an overarching behavioral directive to Americans that clearly illustrates how many fruits and vegetables to eat every day and  considering the new Administration and Congress's commitment to prevention in health reform and its policy implications.

United Fresh believes that the specific fruit and vegetable recommendations contained in the 2005 guidelines suggesting 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day based on gender and age should be maintained and that the Committee should provide stronger and clearer advice about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables every day. Click here for a full transcript of Lorelei's testimony. For more information, contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

GavelOn January 15th, a federal judge refused to block the outgoing Bush Administration's regulatory reform efforts to the H2A program.  Farm worker unions had asked U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina for a temporary restraining order to prevent implementation of the revisions.  However, the court refused to act on that request due to the Unions' failure to provide evidence of immediate harm.

"These regulatory reforms clearly fall short of the necessary legislative relief provided under the AgJOBS comprehensive package, but they are a step in the right direction for the limited number of organizations that can effectively utilize the H2A program," countered Kam Quarles, United Fresh vice president of government relations and legislative affairs.

Farm worker unions are concerned that the H2A reforms will negatively affect wage rates and make it easier to declare a lack of local labor supply thereby making it easier to allowing temporary workers into a particular area.

Despite the court's refusal to block implementation of the final rule, a lawsuit by the farm worker unions persists, and places the ultimate disposition of the reforms in doubt for several months.  "Though the plaintiffs failed to show the immediate harm that implementation would cause, the question of the adequacy of the final rule is still in doubt until the court completes its process," said Kam. For more information, contact Kam at 202-303-3400 ext. 427.  

Applications for the 15th class of the Produce Industry Leadership Program are now being accepted. With development, education and interaction planned for the program in Davis, Calif., Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Del., Las Vegas, Nev. and even Culiacan, Mexico, the program offers a world of professional development for up and coming industry leaders.

Made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, the program is a special opportunity for United Fresh members to advance their leadership skills and knowledge. It is the only ongoing, fully paid national leadership program for the produce industry, and United Fresh invites all eligible members to apply.  

The Program is developed around four fundamental goals: Leadership Development, Business Relationships, Government & Public Affairs and Media & Public Relations. United Fresh Board member and Leadership Class 6 graduate Mike Martin of Rio Queen Citrus, Inc., who will serve as the Chairman of the 2009 Advisory Committee said this of the program, "This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who is interested in building a strong, foundational knowledge of the broader produce industry and significantly enhancing their ability to be an effective leader. I encourage any interested applicants to apply today."

Candidates can download information and an application from the United Fresh website. The deadline for applications is March 2, 2009. For more information, contact Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services at 202-303-3400 ext. 408.

megphoneOn February 24 and 25, United Fresh will host a public forum for the analysis and critical review of the Food and Drug Administration's Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, also known as the GAPs Guide. Registration is now open for the meeting, which is in response to FDA's plan to revise the decade-old Guide.

A focal point of the meeting will be the opportunity for those responsible for the safety of fruits and vegetables to talk about today's Good Agricultural Practices – what works for them, what doesn't, what would make the GAPs better?  Comments will be collected and submitted to FDA for their consideration. Changes to the Guide will affect both growers and shippers of all fresh produce commodities, most of which have not been heard in comments to FDA.

This is a public meeting and all stakeholders are welcome. The meeting will be held at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport in Herndon, Va. The registration fee is $95 to cover costs. Registration and hotel information can be found here or by contacting Julie Jacocks at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Kam QuarlesCongratulations to Kam Quarles, United Fresh vice president of government relations and legislative affairs, who, earlier this month was named the incoming President of the Agribusiness Club of Washington, D.C. 

"I am honored by the appointment and look forward to the challenges and opportunities presented by my new post," said Quarles. "I feel that my involvement with the Agribusiness Club will bring a great deal of perspective and value to my role at United Fresh."

An organization formed from the merging of The Commodity Club and the Food Group, the Agribusiness Club brings together specialty crops, traditional program crops, livestock interests and food processors to interact with policymakers in Washington. The Club also serves as the leading professional development and networking organization for agriculture leaders and professionals in the nation’s capital.

"The Agribusiness Club presents a rare opportunity for each of our sectors to interact on an informal basis with our colleagues and public officials.  It provides a forum for developing relationships necessary to navigate the complicated networks of federal policymaking," said Quarles.

Incoming officers for 2009 include Quarles, Reece Langley of the USA Rice Federation and Ryan Weston of the American Sugarcane League.  Quarles replaces former United Fresh staffer Keira Franz of the National Association of Conservation Districts.

United Fresh 2009At United Fresh, our top priority is serving your needs, regardless of where you are along the supply chain. That's why United Fresh created four Market Segment Boards to address the unique needs of each sector of our industry, including Grower-Shipper, Wholesaler-Distributor, Fresh-cut Processor and Retailer-Foodservice. United Fresh Market Segment Boards ensure that every business segment in the supply chain has its own strong voice so that together, we can forge a united voice for us all. In order to facilitate your interaction with these important industry bodies, United Fresh is proud to present the 2009 Supply Chain Breakfasts and Super Sessions.

A key part of United Fresh 2009, the Supply Chain Breakfasts and Super Sessions are your chance to interact with the leaders and members of your United Fresh Market Segment Board. Join your elected representatives serving on each board on Thursday, April 23 for a networking breakfast, followed by customized educational sessions on issues relevant to each business sector. We’ll also feature a “Town Hall" meeting that will allow you to share ideas and talk directly with the members of your board about key issues, challenges and opportunities impacting your business.

For more information or to register for United Fresh 2009 and the Supply Chain Breakfasts and Super Sessions, log on to www.unitedfreshshows.com.

Freshconex Fruit Logistica

Join members of the United Fresh staff and your industry colleagues for a series of educational programs and networking events focused on the European fresh produce and fresh-cut convenience sectors.  Starting on Tuesday, February 5, United Fresh and Eurofruit Magazine have partnered to bring you the 2009 Freshconex Congress, a day-long educational program examining the latest trends in the international fresh-cut industry.  In addition, during the trade show from February 4-6, United Fresh and Eurofruit will present a number of daily Business Forums, held directly on the trade show floor.  If your plans lead you to Berlin, be sure to stop by the United Fresh Booth, in the FreshConex expo in Hall 2.1, Stand C-22.  On Thursday, February 5, we'll host a reception in our booth for our members around the world.  Special thanks to the Bayer Food Chain Partnership for sponsoring the reception.  We encourage you to stop by to learn more about United Fresh global activities and our upcoming convention, United Fresh 2009, in Las Vegas, Nev., April 21 – 24. For more information, contact United Fresh at 202-303-3400.

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
  • Dow AgroSciences, Indianapolis, Ind

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 202-303-3410.

New Member Welcome

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

  • BioIonix, Inc., McFarland, Wis.
  • Epic Roots, LLC, Salinas, Calif.
  • Fresh Results, LLC, Weston, Fla.
  • Hess Bros. Fruit Company, Leola, Pa.
  • New Era LLC, Miromar Lakes, Fla.
  • R & R Flaim Next Generation Produce, LLC, Vineland, N.J.
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 at 202-303-3400.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

News & Views


News and Views

Organic California farms unknowingly used synthetic fertilizer

Clemson researcher gets grant to study food safety

Baltimore-area grocers to label foods with nutritional information

USDA nears decision on food safety chief

Asian Citrus Psyllid moves closer to Yuma citrus


Greece paralyzed as farmers ratchet up protests

German grocer Aldi looks to U.S. for growth

Airmiles hurdle finally overcome for organic produce

In Japan, fresh produce flourishes as food safety rots

Food safety and irrigation water in South Africa

Tell a Friend About Inside United Fresh!