June 4, 2009

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Suggests Changes, Offers Support for Food Safety Bill

Tom Stenzel
United Fresh President Tom Stenzel (right) talks with FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg (center) and Grocery Manufacturers Association President Pamela Bailey (left).

United Fresh President Tom Stenzel urged members of the House of Representatives Wednesday to clearly and unequivocally support science-based, commodity-specific standards in the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Representatives from United Fresh have been called to testify some 10 times since 2007, this time offering qualified support for the draft legislation introduced by Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) last week. Tom was joined by representatives from the Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Tennessee Department of Health on a panel to address the highly-publicized ills of the nation's food safety system.  

"Over the past two years, we have been able to build the consensus in Congress that recognizes that fresh produce demands a commodity-specific approach – one size does not fit all," Tom said. "Every major piece of food safety legislation introduced by the many players in Congress incorporates these principles that we've fought for, and now we must ensure that the final bill that comes out of the Energy and Commerce Committee is clear in its support for this approach."

Tom's testimony addressed the draft legislation through the lens of United's broad policy-guiding principles demanding a commodity-specific approach based on the best available science; consistent and equitable standards for domestic and imported produce commodities; and be federally mandated with sufficient federal oversight of compliance in order to be most credible to consumers.

Tom recommended in his testimony a number of areas where the draft bill needs to be enhanced to garner the industry's support, including commodity-specific produce safety standards, traceability requirements, fair treatment of domestic and imported foods, categorization of fresh processing facilities for FDA inspection, geographical quarantine authority, country-of-origin labeling, and facility registration fees.

"It is time to end the fears of food safety that have no place in the fresh produce department," Stenzel said. "We must all be able to trust the overall system of government oversight and industry responsibility, working together to produce the safest possible supply of fresh, healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables."

A full transcript of Stenzel's testimony may be found by clicking here.

Begala to Address 2009 Washington Public Policy Conference

Paul Begala
In a year when Americans saw much of the electoral map turn from Red to Blue, attendees at September's Washington Public Policy Conference will be treated to an afternoon of political insight and humor as popular CNN analyst, strategist and senior Clinton White House aide Paul Begala addresses the conference's closing luncheon.

Begala's address is part of a full three-day slate of events designed to enable and activate attendees to engage in the political process.

The 2009 Washington Public Policy Conference will focus on a number of key issues, including promotion of a sound, science-based food safety policy, unwavering opposition to eliminating the secret ballot in workplace elections, and promoting the availability of salad bars in our nation's schools.  "These are critical issues to our industry, and demand a strong total produce industry voice," Stenzel said.  "We're counting on the largest gathering ever of industry members across the supply chain to come together in Washington to make their individual voices heard, so that together we deliver a 'united' voice to our nation's leaders."

"Unlock the Future of Produce" is the theme for this year's conference, and as part of the program, attendees at this year's conference will take part in a busy three days of advocacy and networking.

Included in the schedule are visits to more than 140 Members of Congress and their staffs, a meeting with FDA officials, a briefing with key members of the Obama Administration, and the annual Fresh Festival, where lawmakers and officials will sample the best the industry has to offer.

The 2009 conference is co-chaired by representatives of the four United Fresh Market Segment Boards, including: Fred Williamson, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, Grower-Shipper Board; Jan Berk, San Miguel Produce, Inc., Fresh-Cut Processor Board; Brendan Comito, Capital City Fruit Company, Inc., Wholesaler-Distributor Board, and Mitch Smith, McDonald's Corporation, Retail-Foodservice Board.

"Whether you're a Capitol Hill veteran or a first-timer, a family business or a publicly-traded corporation, a small grower or a multinational, you belong to this produce team," said United Fresh Chairman Jim Lemke, C.H. Robinson Worldwide. "This conference unites us as an industry, and we invite all industry members to see how powerful we can be when we work together."

"As this shapes up to be one of the busiest legislative years for the produce industry in recent memory, it's more important than ever to empower and enable our members to get involved in the process of advancing policy in Washington," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.

Registration for the three-day conference is available online at www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc, and more information can be found by calling United Fresh at (202) 303-3400.

Head-Scratching Follows Suspension of H-2A Regulations

H-2ALast week's suspension of key reforms made to H-2A regulations in the waning days of the Bush Administration has contributed to increasing confusion over the legality of certain farm worker hiring practices.

In an announcement made Friday, May 29 the Department of Labor suspended reforms made to the H-2A regulations by the Bush Administration in December 2008 for a period of nine months, at which point the Department will either make the suspension permanent, or lift the suspension altogether.

"Friday's notification is the third modification of the H-2A program since December, and is only serving to exacerbate growing uncertainty over the availability of farm labor," said United Fresh vice president of government relations and legislative affairs Kam Quarles.

The regulations suspended pertain to the temporary employment and wage rates of H-2A-classified nonimmigrant workers in agricultural and logging capacities in the United States. This notification follows through on the Department's previous notification of intent to suspend those regulations on March 17 of this year. After the Department's initial notice, United Fresh filed comments that strongly opposed suspending these rules.

In making its ruling, the Department of Labor indicated that they received over 800 substantive comments on the previous notice of suspension. Due to the issues raised and the volume of comments, they previously announced in April that employers with "dates of need" through the end of 2009 would be afforded a transition period under the Bush Administration's reforms.

In addition to the H-2A revisions, the Obama Administration concurrently announced modifications to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate.

United Fresh will continue to push for a more functional and pragmatic solution to labor issues so that the entire produce industry may count on a reliable and steady workforce. For more information, please contact us at 202-303-3400, or click here.

Toner Named to Produce Business’ 40 Under 40

John TonerEarlier this month, vice president of convention and industry relations John Toner was recognized for that dedication by the editors of Produce Business as one of the magazine's "40 Under 40," highlighting the accomplishments of 40 members of the produce industry making great strides before the age of 40.

In ten years with United Fresh, John has established himself not only as the dedicated face of United's annual convention and expo, but also as a key leader in the effort to both optimize and modernize the marketing and communication efforts of United's 1,500 member companies.

"As an association, our job is to find ways to help our member companies and the industry as a whole succeed in every facet of the business," said John. "While our annual convention is the most public face of that mission, we work very hard year-round to make sure that our membership and our industry is served at the highest level."

John is the third United Fresh staff member to be honored by the 40 Under 40 program, joining Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman and Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer.

United Members On the Hot Seat in Salinas Valley

Pablo Valdés, Director of Quality Assurance and Food Safety for Dulcinea Farms, steps in front of the camera.

After more than 40 industry representatives learned how to handle the fundamentals of a product recall in Salinas last week, a select group of industry leaders chose to stick around and brave the hot lights, pressing microphones and unforgiving camera lenses of United’s recall media training.

The course demonstrated how to work effectively with the media during a recall situation, focusing on basic interview techniques to advanced messaging points as part of United's the popular Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire course.

Each participant had the opportunity to be "grilled" on camera as a part of a mock-recall interview scenario.

"Regardless of the scenario, being questioned on camera can be nerve-racking for even the most seasoned spokesperson" said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of communications. "But in the midst of a crisis, keeping composure while staying on message can seem almost impossible. Practice is key and this course is a great opportunity for any company spokesperson to learn the right messages and tools to weather the storm."

Presented through a generous sponsorship by Syngenta, the next Training for a Recall course will take place October 28-30 in West Palm Beach, Fla. Space is limited, and interested parties may register online or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405 for additional information.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Bosch Packaging Technology, New Richmond, Wisc.
  • Hermann Ultrasonics, Inc., Bartlett, Ill.
  • Matrix Packaging Machinery, Inc., Saukville, Wisc.
  • National Watermelon Promotion Board, Orlando, Fla.
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

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