May 14, 2009

In Today's Issue:


White House Food Safety Listening Session Solicits United Fresh Voice

White House

United Fresh President Tom Stenzel was invited to provide the produce industry's views on food safety in a White House listening session Wednesday, hosted by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, co-chairs of President Obama's Food Safety Working Group.

A small group of stakeholders including leaders from government agencies such as FDA, CDC, and USDA, Congressional members and staff, state and local health officials, public health, industry and consumer groups was assembled to discuss potential recommendations to the President that the Working Group is considering.  The meeting featured an opening plenary session followed by breakout groups discussing issues ranging from preventive controls and risk-based inspection to enhanced surveillance systems and the need for better coordination among federal, state and local officials.

"I was honored to be invited, and this actually proved to be a very useful, open dialogue among Congressional staff, federal and state officials, consumer advocates, and industry in identifying core areas of agreement, as well as a few sticky wickets," Stenzel said.  "I really believe the Administration is going to have significant influence over the course of eventual Congressional legislation, and it's good to see them weighing into the discussion with both feet. Many of the folks we've been working with at FDA, CDC and USDA clearly understand the need for a risk-based, commodity specific approach to produce, and greater expertise and coordination in addressing outbreaks if they occur.  Their leadership in crafting a final bill that passes Congress is critical.”

The President's Working Group also launched a new website today, www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov, to provide information to the public and receive individual comments.  The group is expected to make formal recommendations for food safety reform to President Obama in the next several months.


Agriculture Committee to Look at Food Safety Again This Morning

At 10:00 this morning, the House Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture will hold a hearing reviewing food safety standards for horticulture, bringing together FDA and USDA officials and a number of growers from around the country.  United and allied partners have worked to help assemble a panel of growers who will testify about food safety standards and practices in their own operations, including Joe Pezzini, Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif.; Ron Ratto, Ratto Bros., Modesto, Calif.; Phil LoBue, LoBue Bros., Lindsay, Calif.; Nicholas Maravell, Nick's Organic Farm, Potomac, Md.; Steve Hirsch, Hirsch Fruit Farm, Chillicothe, Ohio; and Charles Wingard, Walter P. Rawl & Sons, Pelion, S.C.  The hearing will be broadcast live online at www.agriculture.house.gov/hearings/audio.html.


Feinstein Reintroduces AgJobs Bill

On Capitol Hill today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act of 2009 (AgJobs). Originally introduced in 2003, AgJobs was passed by the Senate as part of a comprehensive immigration bill in 2006, however leadership in the House failed to take the measure up before adjournment.

In a letter of support for the bill's reintroduction, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel said "...immigration reform is essential to stem this [farm worker] crisis. AgJobs is a widely-supported, comprehensive package of reforms intended to meet that objective. It includes reasonable measures to ensure a predictable, documented workforce, along with enhanced security and enforcement provisions."

For the full text of United's letter of support, click here.


Agriculture Weighs In To Educate Hill Staff on Card Check Impact

Card CheckThe Agricultural Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (ADW) joined with the broader business Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) Tuesday to host a briefing for Agriculture Committee staff on the potential negative impact of the Employee Free Choice Act, better known as "card-check" legislation.  United is a supporter of the ADW and member of the CDW steering committee.  Western Growers Chairman Kevin Andrew, Sun World International, and President Tom Nassif talked with Congressional staff about the impact of EFCA on ag packing house workers, processing plants and other business segments beyond field workers.

WG and other allied associations helped the ADW coalition to communicate that even though field workers are not covered by the National Labor Relations Board, agriculture stands broadly against the card check bill taking away workers' right to a secret ballot and requiring mandatory arbitration of contracts.  United Fresh has formed eight state grassroots networks to help coordinate opposition in key states where Senators may be undecided on the issue.  ADW will also hold a press conference Thursday afternoon with key Agriculture Committee members to highlight our concerns with the bill.


United Chairman, President Participate in Canadian Produce Convention

CMPANew United Fresh Chairman Jim Lemke, C.H. Robinson, and President Tom Stenzel pledged strong cooperation across national borders in meetings with Canadian produce industry leaders at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) convention in Toronto last week. During a workshop on doing business in the United States, Tom spoke about potential changes in U.S. food safety law now being considered by Congress, emphasizing that while some rules and regulations will likely change, United is working to ensure that consistent, fair and transparent standards apply to both domestic and imported produce. He also participated in a meeting of the North American Trade Task Force, with Canadian, U.S. and Mexican representatives working together to minimize cross border inequities and trade irritants. United Chairman Lemke also congratulated his counterpart, incoming CPMA chairman Adrian Abbott, B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd., as they reinforced the two associations’ mutual commitment to cooperation. 


USDA Visits Baby Carrot Facilities

USDA Tour
David Tuckwiller, Michelle Warren and Diana Blackwell from USDA/AMS's Fruit and Vegetable Program visit Grimmway Farms baby carrot fields

Last week senior staff from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) visited Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Farms' baby carrot facilities in Bakersfield, California to discuss details related to a possible purchase of baby carrots for schools in the fall. USDA started a pilot purchase of fresh-cut sliced apples earlier this year, and has indicated that it is also interested in purchasing individual packages of baby carrots for the school lunch program next year.

With the goal of offering more fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables to schools as part of its commodity purchasing program, USDA is expected to issue another invitation to bid for fresh-cut sliced apples and an initial invitation to bid for baby carrots by the end of the summer. United Fresh has worked closely with the industry and with AMS on this initiative for the last 2 years and hopes that fresh-cut apples and baby carrots will become nationally available to schools thru USDA's commodity purchases next school year.

For more information, please contact Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health at 202-303-3400


Does Your Company Have the Tools to Weather the Storm?

RecallIn an era that demands accountability in food safety matters, your company's preparedness for a recall could mean the difference between the long-term success or the immediate failure of your business.

United Fresh, in conjunction with Syngenta, invites you to arm your business with the tools necessary to weather any recall storm while staying open, honest and accessible to the media, customers and consumers with Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire, May 27-29 in Salinas, Calif.

SyngentaThe two-day training program focuses on helping you understand the fundamentals of a product recall, including your responsibilities, the role of the FDA, how to limit your liability and manage customer expectations. In addition, take an in-depth look at how to build a customized communication plan in the event of a recall, and how to effectively communicate to the industry, customers, consumers and the media.

In addition to the two-day training course, United Fresh is offering a customized media training session that follows the recall training (separate registration required). This media training course prepares you for the stresses of a real-life interview, so you know what to expect when it really happens. Our communication experts will teach you how to deliver your messages while being aggressively interviewed under the heat of the camera lights.

For more information or to register, contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh Education Coordinator at 202-303-3400 ext. 425.


United Holds First Annual Guacamole "Dip-Off"

Guacamole Dip-Off

Last week, with a shipment of fresh Mexican avocados in hand and the office kitchen at their disposal, United Fresh staffers set out to see whose guacamole reigned supreme at the first annual United Fresh Guacamole Dip-Off.

Armed with tortilla chips, judges voted based on flavor, spice, consistency and overall taste, and in the end, declared Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer the winner of the inaugural competition. Policy and Grassroots coordinator Andrew Marshall and Director of Meetings and Events Leslie Howard were runners-up.

A special thank you to Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. for providing the avocados for this year's event.


New Member Welcome

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

  • AFC Partners, Oaktown, Ind.
  • AgCode, Inc., Glenwood, Minn.
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

Maryland WIC adds fruits, veggies to shopping list

Union ad targets Specter on card check

Clemson scientists gets $222,000 to reduce risk from food grown with compost

Sioux Falls school joins snack program

New rules aim to keep salmonella out of food

INTERNATIONAL NEWS:

Grape exports to Europe fall by 6%

After Pottsville immigration raid, Guatemalan town is hurting

Kyrgyz fruit and nut trees still endangered

China and Peru sign free trade agreement

First New Zealand fruit hits port of Wilmington


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