January 21, 2010

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh and River Ranch Fresh Foods Host California Town Hall

More than 30 industry members in California's Imperial Valley gathered last week at an impromptu town hall meeting in El Centro. Hosted by River Ranch Fresh Foods, the meeting gave attendees the opportunity to talk with Dr. David Gombas, United's senior vice president of food safety and technology, about multiple issues facing the industry today, including food safety legislation and the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative.

"Look for similarities between the House bill - the Food Safety Enhancement Act - and the Senate bill - the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act," Dr. Gombas told the group. "Common ground like mandatory produce requirements, food safety plans, traceability, facility re-registration and recall authority for FDA are very likely to be in the final law."

Speaking about GAPs harmonization, Dr. Gombas said, "There are already over 100 technical experts involved in harmonizing the multitude of existing GAP food safety standards into one standard, one audit.  We still need more growers to be at the table, to ensure that this standard, when finished, works for large and small operations, all different produce commodities, and all regions in North America."

For more on United's work on food safety and audit harmonization, visit www.unitedfresh.org.

More Tickets This Week from the United Fresh 2010 Show-A-Week Giveaway!

United Fresh congratulates Darden Restaurants' Susan Reimer-Sifford, the first winner in the United Fresh 2010 Show-A-Week Giveaway. Reimer-Sifford won a pair of tickets to Cirque Du Soleil’s Viva Elvis at the brand new Aria Resort & Casino.

Not to worry, though. Each Friday leading up to United Fresh 2010, all registered attendees have the unique opportunity to not only experience the best trade show in Las Vegas, but also enjoy the best entertainment in town as well! Las Vegas boasts world-class shows and entertainers and only United Fresh 2010 attendees can win top show tickets for FREE!

Register now for United Fresh 2010 and you'll be automatically entered for United's weekly Show-A-Week Giveaway. We're talking about world-class, fabulous Vegas entertainment - for FREE, courtesy of United Fresh 2010. We're so excited we can hardly stand it.

Here's the deal: Every Friday, United Fresh will draw one lucky winner from all United Fresh 2010 registered attendees to receive two tickets to a Las Vegas show during United Fresh 2010, April 20-23*. Each week the list will be updated with the most current registrants, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2010, the greater your chances to win! Show-A-Week Giveaway tickets will include: The Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, and more!

This week's Show-A-Week Giveaway: KÁ by Cirque du Soleil

Registered attendees must be paid in full to be eligible for the Show-A-Week Giveaway. Attendees may win only once. Tickets will be valid for shows on April 20 and April 21, 2010.

United Fresh 2010 is the most innovative, cost-effective and business-oriented event in the produce industry. We are back in Las Vegas with a new educational program and trade show format designed specifically to serve each segment of the produce industry. United Fresh 2010 will bring attendees face to face with the experts, tools and technologies, and new products needed to build a winning business at each stage of the produce supply chain. Register now to join the winners attending United Fresh 2010.

United Fresh 2010 Show-A-Week Giveaway is sponsored by:

Meetings Take Center Stage in Palm Springs

From left, UCLA's Dr. Wendy Slusser, United's Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, Alisal Union School District Superintendent Dr. Esperanza Zendejas and Mann Packing Co.'s Lorri Koster speak about the importance of school salad bars during this week’s Winter Leadership Meetings in Palm Springs, Calif.

All this week, the almost 200 members of United's Board of Directors, Market Segment Boards and Expert Advisory Councils are meeting in Palm Springs, Calif. for the United Fresh Winter Leadership Meetings.

Topics up for discussion this week include United's support of a salad bar in every school, progress on the Produce Traceability Initiative, updates on federal legislation affecting the produce industry and developments in the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative, as well as the inaugural meeting of United's newly-formed Nutrition and Health Council.

Check back with Inside United Fresh next week for a full recap of the week's events.

Coachella Field Tour Showcases Citrus, Strawberries and Peppers

DiMare Company General Manager Marco DiMare speaks to a tour of United Fresh leaders during this week's Winter Leadership Meetings in Palm Springs, Calif.

A group of attendees at this week’s Winter Leadership Meetings got an opportunity to see California production up close during a tour of three member facilities in the Coachella Valley area.

Starting at the DiMare Company's packing operation in Indio, General Manager Marco DiMare highlighted the company's citrus packing line and explained the advantages and challenges associated with production in the Coachella Valley.

After an appetizing lunch at Sun World's Coachella operation, (courtesy of Sun World's Mike Whalen and his team) the tour visited one of the company's nearby strawberry fields. Tour members learned from Sun World’s Stuart Musashi about harvest labor management and strawberry production.

The group's final stop was to see the hothouse pepper production facility at Prime Time International in Coachella, with an informative tour hosted by Mike Aiton. Of special interest was Prime Time's geothermal heating, which uses groundwater to help maintain glasshouse temperatures.

United Fresh thanks tour sponsors DiMare Company, Sun World and Prime Time Industries for their generous hospitality in making the valley tour possible.

USDA Announces $45 million for APHIS Program for Specialty Crops

On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, announced the availability $45 million in FY2010 funds for Section 10201 of the 2008 Farm Bill. Administered by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the 2008 Farm Bill's Horticulture Title, Section 10201, the section dedicated to Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention, funds projects to "build and preserve critical plant health safeguarding initiatives across America."

Section 10201 provides funding to more than 50 specialty crop stakeholders, including state departments of agriculture, universities, nonprofit organizations and USDA agencies, and this year, will fund over 200 state, regional and national projects directed at enhancing early plant pest detection and surveillance, threat identification and mitigation and safeguarding nursery production. 

The announcement of these funds represents another significant achievement for the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA), the national coalition of more than 120 specialty crop organizations representing 350 specialty crops, who organized in support of mutual priorities being included in the 2008 Farm Bill

According to Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy, and the ecretary of the SCFBA, "Key members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance were consistently engaged with APHIS since the Farm Bill became law in 2008 to ensure USDA released funding for section 10201 in a timely manner, and also to ensure funds addressed our industry's plant pest and disease priorities. All-in-all, this is truly an important accomplishment, due in large part to SCFBA efforts."

For more information about Sec.10201 or the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, click here, or contact Robert Guenther at 202-303-3409.

Just a Month Left to Register for United's Popular Inspection Training Course

In February, United Fresh will present the next installment of the industry's only USDA-sponsored inspection training program. United's popular Produce Inspection Training Program will take place February 22-26 at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors’ Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, Va. The program remains the only opportunity for members of the produce industry to train under USDA inspectors and learn the metrics by which USDA inspects and grades fresh produce.

"The Fresh Products Branch is pleased to continue training the produce industry through this customized course," said Robert Keeney, Deputy Administrator, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, USDA-AMS. "Not only does this program enable our inspectors to work directly and share knowledge with members of the fresh produce industry, it also allows us to better understand the questions and challenges that face the private sector in their daily business."

These hands-on training sessions are designed to help produce industry receivers, handlers, buyers, shippers and sellers understand the fundamentals of the produce inspection process. Developed by United Fresh in partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS), other editions of the program will be held June 7-11 and September 20-24.

"This program provides a comprehensive overview of key USDA inspection procedures and standards," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services. "It combines a number of mediums for training such as lab work, classroom lectures, and discussion sessions, which allows participants to become fully engaged on these real-world topics."

The program is taught by expert USDA trainers and offered in two specialized course, Fundamentals of Produce Inspection and Commodity Labs. Upon completion of both courses, attendees receive a certificate of recognition from United Fresh and USDA.

The first of the two courses, Fundamentals of Produce Inspection is a prerequisite of the Commodity Labs course and focuses on topics such as inspection essentials, PACA, sampling procedures, and general market principles. The three-day Commodity Labs course takes place in the lab and applies the principals learned in the fundamentals course to real product inspections.  Each Commodity Labs course will include the five most commonly requested commodities: grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes, and will be customized with additional commodities based on the attendees’ most common preferences (up to 12 total).

Class size is limited and on a first-come, first-served registration basis. Attendees may register for the training seminars on the United Fresh website at www.unitedfresh.org or by contacting Julie Jacocks, education coordinator, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

HACCP Course Returns to University of Georgia for 2010

Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for United Fresh will speak as part of the education programming at the University of Georgia's accredited HACCP certification course GAPs and GMPs for HACCP-Based Food Safety for the Fresh Produce Industry. The course will run March 2-4 at the university’s Extension Food Science Training Facility in Athens, Ga. United Fresh has again partnered with UGA to offer the course, which is designed to teach safe produce handling practices.

The three-day course will teach participants how to develop and document Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Sanitary Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) and Good Management Practices (GMPs) for farm and field operations, packing facilities, cold storage operations and produce shippers. Specific break-out sessions will use HACCP principles to teach participants to identify and prevent food safety hazards, set preventive/control measures and control limits, develop control and monitoring procedures, document and verify the results of their efforts, as established by the International HACCP Alliance.

United Fresh members will receive discounted registration for the course. For more information or to register, please call 706-542-2574 or email efs@uga.edu.

Red Cross, World Food Programme and Other Charities Provide Critical Aid in Aftermath of Haiti Earthquake

United Fresh members looking to provide assistance to those affected by last week's earthquake in Haiti may do so by giving monetary donations to the United Nations' World Food Programme (www.wfp.org/how-to-help) or to the Red Cross (www.redcross.org) Additionally, members may donate $10 the Red Cross automatically by texting the word "Haiti" to 90999.

Domestically, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (www.foodbankcentralflorida.org) is providing meals and services to nearly 45,000 displaced Haitians in Central Florida.

The thoughts and prayers of all of the United Fresh family go out to those affected by this disaster.

Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2010 Supporters

United Fresh's Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the 2010 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • Domino's Pizza LLC, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support.  For more information on the Chairman's Roundtable, please contact Director of Membership Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400 ext. 410.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Domino's Pizza LLC, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • In-Store Advanced Automation, Vaughn, Ont.

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 at 831-422-0940 or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

News & Views


News and Views

U.S. to vigorously defend COOL (Capital Press)

Rep. DeLauro calls for panel to review FSIS (Food Safety News)

Pressure's on to fill 'food czar' USDA undersecretary job (USA Today)

Migrant group calls for emergency aid for Florida farmworkers (Treasure Coast Palm)

Florida growers lost hundreds of millions in freeze (Jacksonville Observer)


In India, an increase in fruit and vegetable processing (FNB News)

Obama envoys head to Afghanistan to tout ag reform (High Plains Journal)

U.S. tells Afghans to grow grapes not opium poppy (New York Times)

A good trade balance in Tunisia, but citrus needs a boost (GreenMed Journal)

Arab states' food gap soars above $155 billion in nine years (Emirates Business)

Tell a Friend About Inside United Fresh, or tell us how we can make it better.