July 30, 2009

In Today's Issue:

Food Safety Bill Fails to Pass House; Second Attempt Today


The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749) failed to pass the House yesterday, despite receiving an overwhelmingly positive vote of 280-150.  Even with a 130 vote margin, the bill failed to get 2/3rds of the House vote, a requirement sometimes used for passing non-controversial bills on an accelerated schedule.  Following that vote, the House Rule Committee decided to bring the bill back to the floor today under what is called "regular order," meaning that it will be debated further and then only require a simple majority to pass.

"Unfortunately, the process yesterday led to the strange outcome in which a unanimously supported bipartisan bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee turned into a partisan fight on the House floor," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.  "Many Republicans off the Energy and Commerce Committee opposed the process as limiting the time in which they had to review and debate the bill, and thus voted against the bill as a statement of principle, rather than on its merits."

"While we recognize that this bill is not perfect, it clearly contains the most important principles United has worked toward over the past several years," said Stenzel.  "We support the bill moving forward at this time while continuing to work on improvements in the Senate version."

United Fresh will distribute a member alert later today if final action is taken on the House food safety bill.

United Fresh Member Testifies for Small Business at House Subcommittee

Mark Williams
Flavor 1st's Mark Williams testifies before a House subcommittee Thursday.

United Fresh member Mark Williams, chief financial officer of Flavor 1st Growers and Packers in Horse Shoe, N.C., testified today at a hearing of the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade.

Williams spoke on the unique challenges faced by small produce businesses, including issues relating to food safety, crop insurance and more.  He also talked about ways small produce growers can thrive in the overall produce chain of commerce, selling produce not only in direct farm markets, but working with wholesalers and distributors.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Heath Shuler represents the congressional district where Flavor 1st Growers and Packers is located, and organized the hearing, "The Future of Specialty Crops for Small Family Farmers," in order to help the House gain a better understanding of the unique needs of small businesses within the produce industry.

"The 2008 Farm Bill recognized that produce plays an important role in a healthy diet. Importantly, it expanded the USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program," said Shuler. "That initiative - designed to improve nutrition and decrease childhood obesity - now reaches over one million kids nationwide. It also opens up a world of opportunity for American farmers. When combined with efforts to increase production and promote specialty crops, the snack program means new business for small farms." 

"Small businesses play a huge role in the success of our industry, and we are excited to have Mark testify today on behalf of that important industry sector," said United Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs Kam Quarles. "Any time the House reaches out to industry for feedback, we have a golden opportunity for our members to tell their story in front of legislators."

For a full transcript of Williams' testimony, please click here.

House Subcommittee Hearing Disparages Industry; United Fresh Pushes Back
Dennis Kucinich Jim Jordan
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) Jim Jordan (R-OH)

The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, chaired by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH),  held a hearing Wednesday clearly designed to slow the potential implementation of a national leafy greens marketing agreement, similar to the California Leafy Green Product Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) now in place.

"Regardless of one's views on a marketing agreement, Chairman Kucinich did a huge disservice to public health in this hearing by attacking the safety of fresh-cut leafy greens such as bagged salads," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.  Both congressmen spent the majority of their time attacking the LGMA as inadequate to address risks associated with fresh processing, rather than farm practices.

"The inaccurate and false claims about the safety of processed product were an obvious ploy to shift the focus from farm-level food safety responsibilities, when everyone in the chain must be equally committed to doing their part," Stenzel said.  "Fresh-cut processors adhere to extraordinary safety standards established through formal regulations, and contribute significantly to public health with these frees and convenient items."

"We are now reaching out to Chairman Kucinich and members of his committee to educate them on exactly how the fresh-cut leafy green industry operates, and will invite him to tour facilities in his own state of Ohio for a better appreciation of the strong safety practices of our industry," said Stenzel.

Scott Horsfall, CEO of the LGMA, was the only produce industry representative invited to testify at the hearing. "We want to thank Scott for a great job in this hearing working to educating the panel on the important food safety work being done by the leafy green industry," Stenzel concluded. 

UFPA Staff Discusses Agricultural Policies with Canada and Chile

Canada Chile

Last week United Fresh staff Kam Quarles, vice president for government relations and legislative affairs and Melissa Speed, director of international member services met with the Canadian First Secretary for Agriculture Chris Leggett and Chilean Agricultural Counselor Gonzalo Ibañez Rissetti to discuss numerous important industry issues, including September's Washington Public Policy Conference.

During both meetings, the representatives stressed the importance of food safety efforts to ensure consumer trust in fresh fruits and vegetables.  In addition, the representatives discussed traceability, sustainability, especially issues of climate change, and trade. 

"The meeting provided us the opportunity to discuss food safety, certification of imported commodities, audit harmonization, and traceability, allowing us to understand these important issues from the Canadian and Chilean perspectives," said Speed.

For more information on the WPPC, please contact Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400 ext 416 or click here to register.

Only Two Weeks Remain for Discounted Housing at WPPC

WPPCThere are only two weeks left for industry members to capitalize on discounted housing rates for the Washington Public Policy Conference, September 9-11 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Attendees who book rooms before August 12 will save more than seven percent over regular housing fees.

At the conference, attendees will take part in three busy days of advocacy and networking, hearing from several key speakers including USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, CNN analyst Paul Begala and others.

"Each attendee is crucial to our success in driving policy at this fall gathering," said United President Tom Stenzel. "We hope that attendees will take advantage of early discounted rates and make the trip out here to join us."

For more information on the conference, contact Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400 ext. 416.

What United Fresh Members Are Saying about WPPC

Charles Wingard
Wingard (right) with Walter P. Rawl & Sons' Ashley Rawl (center) and Amcor Flexibles' Mike Mallon (left).

Charles Wingard
Director of Field Operations
Walter P. Rawl & Sons
Pelion, S.C.

"The biggest benefit I receive from the Washington Public Policy Conference is being able to go to Washington and tell my own story," says Charles.

"I like that I am able to visit with my elected officials in their offices because as a constituent I get a face-to-face audience with lawmakers and they get to hear directly from me.

"United does a great job of prepping us with background information and data in preparation for our meetings on the Hill, and when we get to the offices we are able to lay it all out on the table; presenting our issues and how they affect our businesses.

"Having this opportunity to tell our representatives what works and what doesn't is vital to the future of the produce industry, leading to support for so many of our industry's initiatives, including the securing of specialty crop funds, salad bars in every school, produce in WIC, the school fruit and vegetable program and others."

Unlock the Future of Produce. Join us at the Washington Public Policy Conference, September 9-11. Click here to learn more and register.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Willoughby Farms, Watsonville, Calif.
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

Washington growers await word on food safety bill

Small farms worried about food safety bill

Virginia Tech scientists research ways to make fruit and vegetables safer

How Salinas, Calif. leads the nation in well-paying jobs

California kiwifruit grower Monroe Phillips dies


Yunnan, China's organic food industry

High insecticide residue in some New Zealand vegetables

China takes measures to ensure food safety on national day

Dubai group launches food supply unit

Better food safety urged in Thailand

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