|August 6, 2009
House Passes Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009
The U.S. House of Representativespassed the landmark Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) by a vote of 283 to 142. United Fresh welcomed and applauded the July 30 passage of the bill, of which the association was largely supportive.
"United Fresh is gratified by the House passage of this landmark food safety legislation, which contains several important provisions designed to improve our nation’s food safety and help bolster consumer confidence in the food supply," said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. "Over the past two years, United Fresh has supported congressional action on food safety and appreciates the opportunity to provide critical input to lawmakers in development of the bill."
The final version of the bill included several important improvements over the draft version, as advocated by United Fresh. These improvements included:
- Strengthening of the bill's commodity-specific approach to produce;
- Assurance that FDA would work with USDA, state departments of agriculture and other agencies in implementing all produce provisions;
- Maintenance of a mandate for traceability across all foods, but without prescriptive dictates that could have set back work on our current Produce Traceability Initiative;
- Exemption of produce from any duplicative requirements for country of origin labeling;
- Enhancement of the ability of fresh processors to develop individual HACCP programs without rigid one-size fits-all mandates;
- Assurance equal treatment of imported and domestic produce in food safety standards;
- Tighter control of potential FDA geographic quarantine authority, requiring an imminent threat to take such action and coordination with USDA; and,
- A cap on registration fees for both facilities and importers.
"While United is supportive of these improvements to H.R. 2749," added Stenzel, "there are still important issues that we will address with the Senate as it begins its work on food safety legislation later this year. We look forward to continued bipartisan support and industry cooperation to ensure passage of sound, scientific food safety legislation that can benefit all Americans."
FDA Releases Guidance for Melons, Leafy Greens and Tomatoes
The Food and Drug Administration has made public draft, commodity-specific, food safety guidance for tomatoes, melons and leafy greens available for download on the FDA website.
The guidance, released July 31, is intended to cover the entire supply chain, from production and harvest to processing, distribution and user handling at retail or foodservice. The release of the draft guidance meets a deadline announced by the Obama Administration on July 7.
"United Fresh Produce Association is very pleased that FDA has moved forward quickly in publishing its draft guidance documents," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "Our industry has worked hard since 2004 to develop commodity-specific guidance documents in each of these areas, and now strongly supports FDA taking these efforts to a new level. Although we consulted with FDA constantly in the development of past guidance, it has always been important that the government make its own independent judgment of the most appropriate food safety practices and provide its stamp of approval and endorsement on specific recommendations."
The draft guidance documents can be found at the following links:
FDA Draft Industry Guidance for Melons
FDA Draft Industry Guidance for Tomatoes
FDA Draft Industry Guidance for Leafy Greens
United Fresh will review the draft industry guidance and gather feedback from members for submitting comments to FDA. Members may submit their own comments within 90 days to FDA at this address: Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.& You may submit electronic comments to http://www.regulations.gov.
United Joins Secretaries Sebelius and Vilsack, Commissioner Hamburg at Capitol Hill Food Safety Event
United Fresh President Tom Stenzel (right) chats with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg (left) and Senior Advisor Mike Taylor (center).
In conjunction with the release of the FDA's Draft Industry Guidance for melons, leafy greens and tomatoes last week, United Fresh represented the produce industry during a news conference last Friday at the historic Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. The event was hosted by a panel that included Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Other speakers included consumer advocates and members of the public who expressed their support for enhanced food safety.
"Making prevention a priority is critical to reducing foodborne illness and one of the three food safety principles of President Obama's Food Safety Working Group." said Vilsack. "The [draft guidance documents] will result in safer food in our country, which means healthier children, longer lives and less costly healthcare."
Speaking at the news conference, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel underscored the importance of industry input into the new guidance and the food safety legislation.
"I don't think anyone can overstate the value and importance of industry and government working together on this critical food safety initiative," said Stenzel. "This cooperation has already resulted in significant progress in driving improvements in food safety for produce, and I'm confident this collaborative sprit will continue when the Senate takes up food safety later this year. This effort will yield practical and meaningful safety enhancements to our nation’s food supply."
Senate Appropriations Panel Urges Resolution of Mexican Trucking Crisis
Late last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a provision that urges a resolution in the ongoing dispute over Mexican trucks entering the U.S.
The provision, contained within the FY2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, cites "serious and legitimate" concerns over the safety of those Mexican carriers, but also recommends that the Obama Administration work to develop a proposal to establish a program that will "enhance the efficient movement of commerce."
Earlier this year, Congress voted to end a controversial safety program that allowed limited entry of Mexican trucks into the U.S. That action triggered retaliation by Mexico in the form of over $2 billion in tariffs against American goods including many fresh produce items. Previously, under the NAFTA dispute resolution process, Mexico had won a case that charged the U.S. with unfairly limiting access to these truckers in violation of that trade agreement.
United Fresh has advocated a rapid resolution to this crisis, due to the economic harm that it is causing the fresh produce industry. "If this language is passed by the both the House and Senate, it would signal a change in congressional intent regarding the safety program," said United's Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs Kam Quarles. "That would clear the way for the administration to work with the Mexican government to end the retaliatory tariffs."
United, CPMA to Co-Host Educational Event at Canadian Embassy
United Fresh, in partnership with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) will host a special educational session on Friday, September 11 at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
As one of three concurrent field educational sessions during this year's Washington Public Policy Conference, the embassy visit will give attendees the opportunity to meet with Canadian agricultural officials and discuss trade matters between the two countries. CPMA Chairman Adrian Abbott of BC Treefruit will welcome attendees and moderate the event.
"We appreciate CPMA joining us to host this event," said Robert Guenther, United's senior vice president of public policy. "This briefing will offer our US members who are either conducting business in Canada or who may be considering exporting products to Canada a better understanding of the Canadian standards and processes. The event will also offer them tips and ideas to ensure that the process is easier, as well as provide a point-of-contact and someone that they can ask specific questions."
"The produce trade between Canada and the United States is important to both countries," said Jane Proctor, CPMA vice president of policy and issue management. "We share many common interests from ensuring consistent government rules on matters such as food safety and inspections, to facilitating standardized best practices in the marketplace."
CPMA members will receive the United Fresh member rate for registration to the WPPC, which is already set to include a busy schedule of events, including a keynote address from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the annual Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill with honorary co-hosts Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Reps. Colin Peterson (D-MN), John Lucas (R-OK), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and Adam Putnam (R-FL), as well as a luncheon general session featuring CNN analyst and pundit Paul Begala.
For more information on the Washington Public Policy Conference, please contact Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400 ext. 416.
Management Resource Center Adds Exhibitors, Continues to Grow
A total of 26 companies have signed on to take part in the upcoming Management Resource Center at the Washington Public Policy Conference. Participating companies include solutions providers in the fields of traceability, food safety, sustainability, and multiple other areas currently being shaped by public policy.
"These participating companies and government agencies are offering solutions and resources to help guide the way many these complex issues," said John Toner, United's vice president of convention and industry relations. "Our goal is for companies to find this new focus area of the WPPC to be a perfect setting to discuss solutions to today's challenges."
Current Management Resource Center exhibitors include:
- Accu-Label Inc.
- AgWorks Solutions LLC.
- Bayer CropScience
- Blue Book/Produce Reporter Co
- Delta Technology & Software LLC
- DuPont Qualicon
- GS1 US
- Hyland Software
- IFCO Systems
- International Paper
- John Deere Agri Services
- Lowry Computer Products
- KPG Solutions, Inc
- Moss Adams LLP
- Produce Careers Inc.
- RedLine Solutions, Inc.
- Spokane Software Systems, Inc.
- University of Illinois - MarketMaker Program
- USDA, AMS, Fruit & Vegetable Programs
- USDA – APHIS
- VideoJet Technologies
"As the Management Resource Center continues to grow," added Toner, "there is more business value at Washington Public Policy Conference than ever before. The companies participating are leading the industry in providing solutions, and United Fresh would like to thank these companies for taking an active role in leading the way through today's management challenges."
For more information about the Management Resource Center and how your company can get involved please call John Toner at 202-303-3400 ext. 424.
Secretary Vilsack, Cookie Monster Team Up to Promote Healthy Eating
USDA Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan unveiled a public service announcement July 31 promoting healthy eating habits to children and families. The PSA, produced in conjunction with Sesame Workshop, features Cookie Monster, Broccoli and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack (who will deliver the keynote address at September’s Washington Public Policy Conference) discussing the importance of eating a variety of healthy foods – especially fruits and vegetables – everyday.
"We must lead by example and teach our children how to live a healthier lifestyle. This is critical in our fight to stop the childhood obesity epidemic," said Merrigan. "USDA is working with organizations like the Sesame Workshop, as well as children, parents and teachers to encourage America's children to consume a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet and lead active lifestyles."
The PSA is part of USDA's wide-ranging effort to reach out to children to combat the childhood obesity epidemic. Sesame Workshop also has undertaken several efforts to encourage children to develop lifelong healthy eating habits including a recent partnership with the National WIC Association to help children and their families have healthier options and encourage them to make healthier food choices as part of their daily routines.
For more information and to view the PSA click here.
Only One Week Remains for Discounted Housing at WPPC
Time is running out 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 Members Are Saying About WPPC
Director of Global Affairs
"The WPPC is an important event because many in our industry can be overwhelmed by Washington. It can be intimidating to people who haven’t experienced it, so for first timers the experience is like nothing else," says Bruce.
"The event has gotten bigger over the years, and that's good because, as I tell people, congressmen are just people like you and me. They are very approachable. I've been in some of these meetings where there's almost been shouting. That's how direct the communication is. You have to avoid the emotion, just get in there, make your point, and have some fun with it.
"In order to accomplish our goals, I find that we bring them new information that they didn't have. So many times I've had to remind Florida delegates that Florida citrus is a $9 billion industry. You can't assume that they understand. You have to be understanding of their situation; they can't possibly know everything about our industry. But it's a lot of fun. You don't have time to socialize much, because these meetings are quick, and you have to have your information ready. Deliver your message and get out."
Upcoming United Fresh Events
- Washington Public Policy Conference
September 9-11, Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.
- United Fresh Management Resource Center
September 10-11, Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.
- Produce Inspection Training Program
September 21-25, USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors'
Training and Development Center, Fredericksburg, Va.
- Training For a Recall, Communicating Under Fire
October 27-29, Hilton Palm Beach Airport, West Palm Beach, Fla.
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