March 19, 2009

In Today's Issue:


Department of Labor Suspends H2A Regulation

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed to reverse a final rule issued on December 18, 2008 by President Bush that provided regulatory reforms for the H2A guest worker program.  "This unfortunate decision will serve to add confusion and expense to producers who were diligently working within the final guidelines," said Kam Quarles, Vice President of Government Relations/Legislative Affairs.

The final rule attempted to make the H2A program more practical for employers.  This is accomplished through modification of existing 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, a new calculation for determining the appropriate wage rates for the employees is being implemented.  This will involve specific information from over 500 localities, instead of the 18 regions that the program currently utilizes.  In April of 2008, United Fresh submitted to comments to the Department of Labor outlining our views on reforming the current H2-A guest worker program.  "Though these revisions, finalized in December, do not address the fundamental comprehensive immigration reform that United Fresh has long advocated, they are a step in the right direction for growers that can effectively utilize the H2A program," said Quarles.

In making the suspension, the Department of Labor indicated it was concerned about pending legal action against the final rule, that it lacked the resources necessary to effectively implement the program and also has policy disagreements with the previous Administration over the reforms.  The Department of Labor is seeking to suspend the H2A reforms for nine months, and will be accepting public comments on their suspension notice.  Those comments are due Friday, March 28th.  United Fresh will be preparing its own comments based on feedback from the membership. 

For more information, contact Kam Quarles at (202) 303-3427. 


Improving Child Nutrition Focus of Meeting with Administration

Kids eating produceUnited Fresh Vice President for Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, along with several nutrition advocates, met with senior staff at the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) to discuss priorities for the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization.  As the White House and USDA review specific priorities for the increased $1B that funding President Obama has requested for child nutrition programs, this meeting provided an opportunity to emphasize the importance of improving the quality of school meals, including incorporating more fruits and vegetables. 

In his FY'10 budget outline, President Obama emphasized program reforms aimed at improving program access, enhancing the nutritional quality of school meals, expanding research and improving program oversight.  For more information, contact Lorelei.


Produce Traceability Demo Center to Unveil in Las Vegas

barcodeUnited Fresh has announced plans to showcase a new Produce Traceability Demo Center directly on the United Fresh 2009 convention show floor. This new destination center is designed to answer industry members' questions about the industrywide Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), including details about how to get started, steps each company needs to take to meet the PTIs milestones, and resources available to help individual companies incorporate whole-chain traceability standards.

The center will feature an 8,000 sq.ft. display area including exhibits, private meeting rooms, and a roundtable discussion area with 100% focus on produce traceability. Center visitors will meet professionals and get answers to their most pressing questions on traceability and find solutions to their traceability challenges. The center is hosted by the United Fresh Supply Chain Logistics and Technology Council as a service to industry members, and will be staffed by Dan Vaché, Vice President of Supply Chain Management, to help industry members throughout the show. 

"With clear milestones and timelines established for total supply chain traceability by 2012, thousands of companies across the supply chain are now turning their attention to the real practical questions - where do I start and what are the next steps," said Vaché. "We're excited to be working with so many sponsors and other companies to put together a real destination center on the trade show floor to answer these questions."

Executives currently scheduled to share their traceability experiences during the roundtables include Reggie Griffin, Corporate Vice President, Produce & Floral Merchandising and Procurement, The Kroger Co.; Larry Nottingham, Manager of Information Systems & Technology, Pandol Brothers; Jim Corby, Vice President Produce, Food Lion LLC; and Steve Grinstead, President/CEO, PRO*ACT.

The following companies are presently sponsoring displays in the Traceability Demo Center -- FoodLogiQ, Ramsay Highlander, RedLine, YottaMark, TraceGains, KPG Solutions, Inc., and GS1 US.  To have your company included in the Traceability Demo Center or for more information, contact Dan at 425-629-6271.


United Fresh Releases Fresh Facts on Retail for Q4 2008

Fresh Facts on RetailThis week, United Fresh released its quarterly research report, Fresh Facts on Retail, for the fourth quarter of 2008.  The report recaps retail sales trends for the top 10 fruits and vegetables, value-added and convenience produce items, emerging market opportunities such as fresh meals and salads sold in delis, and organic produce.  In addition, the year-end report includes analysis of the impact current economic conditions may be having on the produce market.  United Fresh members can download a copy of this report here for free.

Fresh Facts on Retail is sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce and produced in partnership with the Perishables Group which tracks and provides analysis of retails sales data. 

"The economy is clearly having an impact on these Q4 volume declines," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president for member services. "But this won't be the end of the story, as produce companies and retailers are adapting to ways to move more produce even in these difficult times.  We’re pleased that senior executives of the Perishables Group will be discussing these findings and additional research on ways to promote produce in the current economy during our upcoming United Fresh 2009 convention in Las Vegas."

Fresh Facts on Retail can be downloaded here free to all United Fresh members and for $50 to non-members. For more information, contact Victoria Backer.


Produce Executives Convene on Cornell Campus

Cornell participantsIndustry executives from as far as Bangladesh took part in United Fresh's third annual Produce Executive Development Program last week on the Ivy League campus of Cornell University.  During the five day program, participants engaged in discussions on issues ranging from conflict resolution to retail and foodservice trends to work-life balance.

"I was not only impressed with the high caliber of executives that took part in this program, but also at how well our diverse class gelled and engaged in thought-provoking discussions - both in the classroom and after hours," said Claudia Wenzing, United Fresh vice president of business development.  "This course is a must-attend for any industry executive looking to build a deeper understanding of their own executive ability, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing the larger industry."

During the week, attendees heard presentations from Cornell professors, instructors and guest speakers including Bruce Knobeloch, Knobeloch Jenkins Associates LLC, Bruce Peterson, and Jim Prevor, President & Editor-In-Chief, Produce Business.

For information about the program, please contact Claudia.


United Fresh Hosts St. Patrick's Day Town Hall Meeting in Chicago

chicago townhallUnited Fresh Chairman-elect Jim Lemke, senior vice president of C.H. Robinson and Leadership Program Alumnus, Lisa Strube, director of finance & administration for the Strube Celery & Vegetable Company, hosted 40 industry members at the Strube facility in Chicago on Tuesday, March 17. Participants included a cross-section of the entire supply chain including wholesalers on the market, growers and shippers from around the region, transportation and equipment providers, as well as retailers and foodservice distributors.

chicago townhallJim and Lisa, along with Jeff Oberman, United Fresh vice president of membership, discussed current issues such as new sales opportunities through government programs including the WIC purchasing program and the school-based Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Snack program.  In addition to "helping member companies learn how to capitalize on these new sales opportunities," Oberman shared that “we also touched on critical issues such as food safety regulations, the new Produce Traceability Initiative, and labor."

chicago townhall"This was a great opportunity to hear the latest from United Fresh on current issues facing our region," said Lisa. "I enjoyed sharing my personal experience with United Fresh member services, like food safety consultation and crisis communications assistance and training in the wake of last summer's tomato salmonella crisis."

United Fresh will hold its next town hall meeting on March 31 in Visalia, California.  For more information on town hall meetings or United Fresh membership, please contact Miriam Miller.


DiSogra Urges Nutrition Leaders to Engage in Advocacy

Lorelei DiSograLast week Dr. Lorelei Disogra spoke at the national conference of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which helps low-income families adopt healthier eating habits, including eating more fruits and vegetables.  Dr. DiSogra presented the current "state-of-play" in nutrition policy and urged national nutrition leaders to become engaged in local, state and national policy initiatives to increase children's fruit and vegetable consumption.  From helping local schools apply for funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, salad bars and refrigerators, to advocating on Capitol Hill for more fruits and vegetables in school lunches, she encouraged all nutrition educators to play an active role in helping to maximize these new policy opportunities.  For more information, contact Lorelei at 202-303-3403.


You Can Strike It Rich In Vegas!

BowlingNext month United Fresh members will be taking on the city of Las Vegas in more ways than one!  During the United Fresh 2009 convention in Las Vegas, the United Fresh Political Action Committee,United FreshPAC, will host "Striking it Rich in Vegas."  This exciting event will be held on Tuesday, April 21, immediately following the Viva Las Vegas Opening Party, at the famous Las Vegas Lucky Strike Lanes in the Rio Hotel and Casino.

For just $100, participants will enjoy a fully catered event, premium open bar, bowling, pool tables and exclusive gambling tables.  All proceeds from the event support United FreshPAC – our way of supporting Members of Congress who address the needs of the fresh produce industry!  Come for the fun! Come for the friends! Come for the food! But most of all, come to support this special cause.  

Register as an individual or consider registering a team of your colleagues as a great networking opportunity.  For more information, contact Angela Bezon at 202-303-3416, sign up online, or complete and fax this registration form to (202) 303-33433.  


First Lady Champions Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

WhitehouseA recent New York Times article revealed that the First Family has a penchant for healthy eating.  First Lady Michelle Obama has given a renewed focus on fresh produce in the White House kitchen and beyond.  

According to the Times, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford brings in fresh fruits and vegetables from farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the First Family is pleased to allow the American public to learn about their healthy eating habits via press release updates and the planting of a national vegetable garden.  

Mrs. Obama's promotion of vegetables goes beyond the family quarters.  She has professed herself to be a proponent of increased access to fruits and vegetables for all Americans in order to combat high obesity and heart disease rates.  When Mrs. Obama volunteered at DC non-profit Miriam's Kitchen, which serves meals to the DC homeless community, she brought along eight boxes of fresh fruit donated by White House employees.  Mrs. Obama has also championed the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in multiple public appearances and speeches.

"We commend Mrs. Obama for her commitment to her family's health and work to raise the profile of our industry and expand the consumption of fresh produce nation wide," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh.   


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New Member Welcome

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

  • Clifford Produce Sales, Ruthven, Ont.
  • Lowry Computer Products, Brighton, Mich.
  • Oshita Sales and Marketing, Palm Springs, Calif.
  • Premier Produce Services, LLC, Fort Worth, Tex.
  • Taylor Made Labels, Lake Oswego, Ore.
Welcome
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

U.S. NEWS:

News and Views

Fresh Produce Can Help Stretch Dollar

Hawaii Celebrates National Agriculture Week

Obama Seeks to Improve Food Safety

Oklahoma State University Endorses Fresh Foods

Produce Departments Benefit from Eat at Home Trends

San Mateo County Begins Local Grower Campaign

Extension Programs Brace for Cuts, Reduced Funds

INTERNATIONAL NEWS:

Tariffs could crush U.S. exports to Mexico

EU open to banana deal agreement

Meal tickets to include fruit and veg (France)

Ready-to-use veg sales rise in Italy


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