June 25, 2009

In Today's Issue:

United Urges Industry Members to Make Their Voices Heard on Food Safety Legislation

Be Heard!

United Fresh is underscoring the importance of industry feedback and involvement as the congressional give-and-take over the landmark Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 shifts from the House to the Senate.

“Now more than ever, we need industry members to make their voices heard as we work to shape this legislation that will assuredly affect us all as business owners and consumers,” said United Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther.

"No other issue touches every aspect of our industry more than food safety. I cannot think of a better reason for our industry to come to Washington and let our elected leaders and administration officials know how their actions will affect the ability of the produce industry to deliver healthy, safe and affordable produce to every congressional district across the country," he said.

Guenther offered September’s Washington Public Policy Conference as the perfect opportunity for the produce industry to get engaged on food safety legislation to ensure that Congress enacts effective and fair food safety standards.

The conference will give attendees the opportunity to interact face-to-face with members of Congress and their staffs, as well as provide a venue for in-depth dialogue on food safety during a town hall meeting with officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“There is no substitute for the interaction between policymakers and representatives from the produce industry,” said Guenther. “That personal contact creates a real opportunity for change. As Congress continues work on this critical food safety legislation, it is imperative that all members of our industry take advantage of opportunities to make their voices heard, and we feel the Washington Public Policy Conference is the perfect venue.”

The conference will also highlight upcoming milestones under the Produce Traceability Initiative, as well as host a meeting of United’s Food Safety and Technology Council, made up of the leading United Fresh member minds in the field of food safety.

For additional information, or to register, please visit the United Fresh click here or contact Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400 ext. 416.

First Quarter Retail Report Showcases Trends, Examines Impact of Economy on Consumer Purchases

Q1 2009 Fresh Facts on Retail

The first quarter edition of United’s 2009 Fresh Facts on Retail is now available and free to United Fresh members.

Results from the report show a range of sales, price and volume shifts, with the average retail prices of fruits and vegetables increasing 1.5% compared to Q1 2008. Additional statistics show that three of the top ten fresh fruits - berries, grapes and avocados - increased in volume, and that sales and volume of organic fruit jumped around 10%.

In addition to tracking produce sales and trends, this quarter's Category Spotlight focuses on the impact of the economy on consumer purchases at retail. With a shift toward more conservative spending, consumers are showing signs of trading down and out of certain categories.

The spotlight examines this shift by comparing fresh tomato sales to canned, and bulk lettuce compared to pre-packaged.

Fresh Facts on Retail, produced in partnership with the Perishables Group and sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce, measures retail price and sales volume trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories. The report can be downloaded here free of charge to all United Fresh members ($50 for non-members).

New Equivalency Agreement on Organics Means Easier Trade between Canada and U.S.


Representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed last week to ease restrictions on the trade of organic products between the United States and Canada.

Under the new agreement, organic products that carry the USDA Organic or the Canada Organic Biologique seals may pass freely between the two countries, meaning that producers certified to each country’s respective organic standards will not have to re-certify in order to export to the other.

“This agreement not only sets the stage for standards equivalency for organic shippers in the U.S. and Canada, but also simplifies marketing messaging for consumers,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh.

For more on the agreement, please visit the USDA-AMS website at http://ams.usda.gov.

Santa Maria Hosts Town Hall Lunch, Leadership Class

Town Hall
United Fresh President Tom Stenzel addresses attendees at
Monday's town hall meeting in Santa Maria, Calif.

Santa Maria, Calif., was the first stop for the 15th class of United’s Produce Industry Leadership Program and the latest in a series of town hall meetings conducted by United Fresh. The group joined local growers, shippers and industry suppliers in the gathering on Monday, June 22.

United President Tom Stenzel spoke with the group about opportunities for increasing produce consumption through the fresh fruit and vegetable school snack program and new fruit and vegetable vouchers in the WIC program for pregnant and nursing women and their children.  The group then discussed food safety, traceability, and labor challenges facing the industry, both on the local and national levels.  Apio CEO and Chairman of United’s Fresh-Cut Processor Board Ron Midyett encouraged Santa Maria members to get involved with the market segment boards at United serving their sector of the business.

As a member of the Grower-Shipper Board, local member Mitch Ardantz, vice president of sales and marketing at Bonipak, offered to share the views of the Santa Maria growing community with United’s leadership throughout the year.

“This week’s town hall gave us a great chance to take the pulse of many of our California members,” said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. “We want to make sure that we’re on top of the questions and concerns that our members have, and the feedback from these types of meetings is a great way to ensure that we’ve got it covered.”

United will soon announce the locations and dates of its upcoming town hall meetings.

Local Tours Highlight Leadership Class Experience

Babe Farms
Babe Farms Vice President and General Manager Jeff Lundberg
shows members of Leadership Class 15 a baby yellow cauliflower

United’s Produce Industry Leadership Program Class 15 kicked off its curriculum this week with visits to United Fresh member companies in California.

The visits drive home one of the key objectives of the leadership experience – learning about business challenges facing different sectors of the produce industry.

Bonipak Supervisor Frank Ruiz explains the company's
extensive shipping process

“Unlike a typical customer tour highlighting only the attributes of a company, we’re fortunate that so many industry leaders share their biggest challenges so candidly with the participants in this program, who come from such a wide range of market sectors and backgrounds,” said Victoria Backer, senior vice president of member services.  “It’s a different experience for produce buyers in the group to hear openly about grower challenges without being at the end of a sales pitch.”

Sun World
Sun World Grape Breeder Michael Striem discusses the
company's grape research and breeding process

Backer also made special note of the cooperation and camaraderie that the program engenders.

“Growers and professionals from different regions and different commodities talk together as colleagues, rather than competitors,” she said. “This sharing across the many sectors of our industry is one of the most important aspects of the program.”

Members of Leadership Class 15 sample different
strawberry varieties at Driscolls

United thanks the following companies for opening their facilities and sharing their views with the leadership class this week in California – Apio, Babe Farms, Bonipak, Driscoll’s, Sun World, Grimmway Farms, Paramount Farms, Pandol Bros., Fowler Packing, and the DiMare Company.

2008 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award Still Resonates with Diners at Elephant Bar

Elephant Bar
Members of Leadership Class 15 with United Fresh and
Elephant Bar staff at Elephant Bar, Bakersfield, Calif.

When the Leadership Class bus pulled into Bakersfield, Calif., Monday night, dinner near the hotel made a lot of sense.  With an attractive unit of the Elephant Bar restaurant chain nearby, United’s Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer scheduled a personal look at the menu of Chef Reinhard Dorhuber, a recipient of the 2008 United Fresh Excellence in Foodservice Awards, sponsored by Pro*Act.

“Everyone thought the menu looked great when we sat down to order, and then I heard someone say, ‘Omigosh – that’s us!’  Sure enough, there on the menu was the announcement that Chef Reinhard had won the United Fresh Produce Association award last year.  Hundreds of thousands of patrons at Elephant Bar restaurants are now reading about our association and the importance of produce on the menu, thanks to the vision of Pro*Act in creating this new awards program,” said Backer.

The group enjoyed an evening of fellowship and team-building and many in the class wanted photographs with the team at the restaurant. The event also sparked discussion of visiting other winners of United’s Foodservice Award, including Chef George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Victoria’s response?

“I’m not sure this year’s budget includes a trip to Honolulu.”


New Member Welcome

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

  • Classic Salads, Watsonville, Calif.
  • Macro Plastics, Fairfield, Calif.
  • Spring Acres Sales, Spring Hope, N.C.
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

Legislation needed to secure immigrant labor on farms

Card check legislation leaves ‘ugly choice’ for Specter

Ohio Department of Ag looking for specialty crop proposals

Improving foodborne outbreak investigations on a budget

Producers hope to grow on grocers

International News

Food safety drive tough on smaller companies

Vietnamese food safety at ‘alarmingly’ low levels

UK publishes new food packaging guide

Brazilian citrus production to fall

Countries’ concerns over banana deal

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