February 18, 2010

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Co-Organizes CDC Tour of Yuma Leafy Greens Operations

Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association tour the Taylor Farms operation in Yuma, Ariz. last week.

Leafy greens were on the educational menu last week in Yuma, Ariz., as ten officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, toured spinach and lettuce fields, a cooling operation and a processing facility.

United Fresh members NewStar Fresh Foods, Tanimura & Antle, Taylor Farms, Amigo Farms, Skyview Cooling and Dole Fresh Vegetables welcomed the CDC contingent during a full day of tours Thursday.

Taylor Farms' Drew McDonald leads a tour of representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association tour the Taylor Farms operation in Yuma, Ariz. last week.

"CDC is often on the front line during outbreak investigations, working with very little information to identify how consumers were exposed to pathogens," said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh. "We don't want CDC making decisions based on speculation and outdated practices about how fresh produce is grown and handled, and we certainly want them to know they can come to the industry for accurate and reliable information. This was just one step in developing better relations and mutual understanding with these and other public health officials."

The tour was organized jointly by United Fresh and PMA to improve relations with the CDC. In months to come, United Fresh and PMA will continue to provide CDC with tools to support their epidemiological and outbreak investigations. For more information, contact Dr. Gombas at 202-303-3411.

"We Can Make a Difference for Kids," United President Tells FPFC

United President and CEO Tom Stenzel told more than 240 members of the Fresh Produce and Floral Council yesterday how they can get involved in bringing salad bars to schools to increase children's consumption of fresh produce.

As guest speaker at the council’s first 2010 luncheon in Los Angeles, Stenzel told leaders of the Southern California produce industry that increasing the access and availability of fresh produce to children is the key to our future.

"Today's childhood obesity crisis means that today's kids may be the first generation with a life expectancy shorter than their parents," Stenzel said. "In the past 10 years, United Fresh has worked to drive more than $1 billion in new fresh produce consumption for children through the school fresh fruit and vegetable snack program and new free fruit and vegetable vouchers in the WIC program. Now, we're putting our full commitment behind bringing a salad bar to every school. Research has shown that kids increase their consumption as much as 25% when given a choice among a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. I'm so excited that our industry is making the commitment to donate salad bars to schools, and demonstrate the effectiveness of this strategy to drive government support for funding salad bars in some 100,000 schools across the country."

For more information on United's campaign for A Salad Bar in Every School, please click here.

Department of Labor Announces H-2A Stakeholder Meetings

The U.S. Department of Labor overturned previous H-2A regulations governing the employment of agricultural guest workers last week, a move to which the agriculture industry is firmly opposed.

"This wasn't simply a repeal of the previous reforms," said Kam Quarles, United Fresh vice president of government relations and legislative affairs. "Instead the Department of Labor eliminated the earlier improvements while increasing penalties on users. It serves to highlight how essential it is to pass AgJOBS immediately in order to secure the true reforms agriculture must have to stay competitive."

Secretary Vilsack also called on advocates to engage their members of Congress to demand a strong child nutrition bill.

The changes in the Final Rule will become effective on March 15, and over the next two weeks, the Department of Labor will hold meetings to discuss the recent changes. The meetings will take place February 23 in San Diego, Calif., February 25 in Dallas, Texas, and March 2 in Raleigh, N.C.

Registration for the meetings may be done online by clicking here.

FDA Seeks Industry Input on Produce Food Safety Rules

FDA officials are asking for industry input into new rules on Preventive Controls for Fresh Produce, according to a conference call with industry representatives today. Officials at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) announced an open docket period for public comments on how the agency should craft a mandatory rule for fresh produce. Officials said the notice will be published in Friday’s Federal Register, with a comment period of 90 days.

According to FDA, the rule would cover the growing and handling of raw agricultural commodities. It would not apply to processing or retail handling, as those are already covered by existing regulations.

The agency says the intent of this produce regulation is not to make requirements of the three draft commodity-specific guidance documents that were issued last year for tomatoes, melons and leafy greens.

"The scope of the rule and how it might be applied to diverse operations and conditions for growing and packing fresh produce is under discussion. We are providing an opportunity for input from all stakeholders to help inform these discussions," said FDA's Michelle Smith, who led the conference call.

CFSAN said it intends to publish a proposed rule by the end of 2010, with a final rule published by the end of 2011.

For more information about the FDA's proposed rule or how to provide comments, please contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology at 202-303-3400.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A copy of the Federal Register notice can be found here.

Produce Traceability Initiative Steering Committee Meets Tomorrow

United Chairman Jim Lemke of C.H. Robinson, President Tom Stenzel and Vice President Dan Vaché will join some 30 industry leaders in a meeting of the Produce Traceability Initiative Steering Committee (PTI) tomorrow in Dallas, Texas.

The steering committee will discuss challenges companies are finding in adopting case-level traceability that were identified in an industry survey earlier this year and work to address these concerns.

"It's important that all of our associations listen to our members and hear their concerns in adopting the PTI," Stenzel said. "At the same time, there's no way to abandon our industry’s commitment to traceability in electronic records as that's a cornerstone of reducing future product recalls. We need to make sure that all stakeholders are engaged in this discussion, and helping pave the way for the best possible solutions for the future."

United Fresh Enjoys Successful Outreach in Washington State Town Hall Meetings

United Fresh Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché answers member questions on the Produce Traceability Initiative during the Pasco town hall meeting this week.

Dan Vaché, United Fresh vice president of supply chain management and Jeff Oberman, vice president of membership welcomed 100 industry members to town hall meetings this week in Pasco, Yakima and Issaquah, Wash.

"Traveling through several growing regions and meeting with representatives from various industry market segments proved worthwhile. We had great discussions with members in each city," said Oberman.

Discussions focused on issues such as the Produce Traceability Initiative, legislative issues such as food safety, labor and capitalizing on nutrition gains in the WIC program, Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program and United’s new campaign for A Salad Bar in Every School. Attendees shared their interest to get involved within United Fresh programs and take advantage of member resources, as well as the upcoming United Fresh 2010.

“It was clear that members really understood the goals and challenges with PTI and were able to use these meetings to gain knowledge and let their voice be heard on how this impacts their operations” said Vaché.

United Fresh thanks hosts Costco Wholesale, River Point Farms, National Onion Association, Northwest Horticultural Council, Washington Potato Commission and the Yakima Valley Grower-Shipper Association. United’s next town hall meeting will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday, March 12.

For more information about these events, contact Oberman at 831-422-0940.

United Fresh Submits Comments to Georgia Department of Agriculture

United Fresh submitted comments this week to the Georgia Department of Agriculture in response to their January 8, Notice of Intent to adopt new regulations for the state’s food processing plants

These new rules, which have the potential to impact the fresh-cut segment of our industry, were included in legislation passed by the Georgia State Legislature and focus on testing requirements for processing food facilities including finished product testing.

United Fresh contends that such regulation could negatively impact fresh-cut processors and strongly encouraged the Georgia Department of Agriculture to provide the opportunity for more impacted stakeholders to respond, as well as an appropriate timeframe for which to ensure their adequate review.  To view the United Fresh comments in their entirety, click here.

For more information about this potential new regulation, contact Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy at 202-303-3400.

Members Continue Work on Creating Single Audit Standard

Nestled in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexican border, Weslaco, Texas played host this week to the third meeting of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Harmonization Technical Working Group (TWG) this week. The Texas A&M University AgriLife Research and Extension Center provided the venue for more than 30 members from across the produce industry to  continue their work toward creating a single audit standard for the industry, credible to a third party, acceptable to all buyers.

"Although this is only the third meeting," said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for United Fresh, "the process seems to be working. We have all members from across the produce industry supply chain at the table agreeing on these harmonized standards."

Dr. Juan Anciso of the AgriLife Extension hosted the meetings, the purpose of which was to bring together a wide variety of individuals from the produce industry supply chain to harmonize technical food safety standards. Although underway, the TWG remains open to all produce industry members who are able to contribute and participate in this harmonization process. 

The next GAP harmonization meeting will be hosted by Taco Bell’s Sean Picquelle, March 10-11 at the company's Irvine, Calif., headquarters.

For more information on past meetings, please click here. To become a part of the TWG, please contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.

Industry Leaders Converge on DC for Government Relations Council Meeting Next Week

On Tuesday, February 23, United's Government Relations Council will begin three days of meetings with congressional and administration officials on issues that are key to the industry's business.

"This political environment is unlike any that we have seen. There are a huge number of opportunities and challenges for our industry at the federal level.  It's essential that we increase the focus on providing solutions and reducing burdens for our industry," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy.

On tap will be discussions about food safety, immigration reform, child nutrition, antitrust threats, trade issues, the upcoming Farm Bill and a number of impending regulatory threats.

Check back with Inside United Fresh next week for a full recap of the event.

United Fresh Welcomes Rob Neenan as Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability

Beginning March 1, Rob Neenan will guide the recently-formed Center for Global Produce Sustainability as vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability at United Fresh. Joining United Fresh from the California League of Food Processors in Sacramento where he served as vice president of government affairs, Neenan will be based out of United's Washington, D.C. headquarters.

"Rob will be an excellent leader to help develop and grow our Foundation's new Center for Global Produce Sustainability, which was established last year through a founding grant from Bayer CropScience," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "Rob shares our vision of sustainability as a tool to help growers and the entire produce supply chain reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Sustainability is most often defined as the intersection of environmental responsibility, social acceptability and economic viability. As companies work to reduce energy use, ensure wise use of natural resources such as water, increase recycling and reuse of materials, and ensure a positive and equitable workplace and community, they're also working to make their companies more economically sustainable."

Neenan brings a wide range experience to United Fresh, including previous service as director of trade services at the California Grape and Tree Fruit League in Fresno and as an economist with USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service in Washington. He holds a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University, as well as a master's degree in Agricultural Business from California State University, Fresno.

Neenan will help lead the association's first Global Conference on Produce Sustainability on April 23, immediately following United Fresh 2010, April 20-22 in Las Vegas.  For more information about the Global Conference or United Fresh 2010, please visit www.unitedfresh2010.org.

TSA Holds Webinar on Air Cargo Screening

Next week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is holding another in a series of webinars on the impending 100% screening rule for air cargo. This requirement goes into effect in August for all cargo flying on passenger aircraft.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, February 25th at 1:00 p.m. EST and will focus on package integrity. Click here to register.

Auditor Training for Tomato Operations in March

Auditor orientation sessions for the guidance set forth in December's Food Safety Programs and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain will take place March 30-April 1 in Maitland, Fla.

"The protocols were completed late last year, so the next step is to train auditors on how to use what we developed," said United’s Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas.

The sessions will be split into halves, the first on the protocol’s first two modules; Open Field Production, Harvest and Field Packing and Greenhouse; and the second on the remaining two modules: Packinghouse and Repacking and Distribution. The modules and their respective checklists are available to download from United Fresh by clicking here.

The orientation sessions, which are the only such events scheduled for 2010, will be conducted free of charge thanks to the generosity of the Florida Tomato Exchange in Maitland.

For more information on the sessions, please contact United Fresh Government Relations Assistant Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.

Nominations Open for 2010 Grower Achievement Awards

The editors of American Vegetable Grower, along with United Fresh and Syngenta, have opened the nominations for the 2010 Grower Achievement Award.

The annual award, presented each year at United’s Washington Public Policy Conference, honors leading fruit and vegetable growers based on marketing, innovation, food quality and safety, and industry leadership, recognizing the honorees in a way that creates good news for the entire industry.

For more information on the award and to nominate an outstanding grower, click here.

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

Congratulations to Mike Aiton of Prime Time International, winner of last week's United Fresh Show-A-Week Giveaway. Mike won a pair of tickets to Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian

Not to worry, though. Each Friday leading up to United Fresh 2010, all registered attendees have the 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 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.

Every Friday, United Fresh draws 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: Blue Man Group

Registered attendees must be paid in full to be eligible for 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.

Previous Winners:

Susan Reimer-Sifford, Darden Restaurants - Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil
Emily Fragoso, Coast Produce - KÁ by Cirque du Soleil
Greg Kurkjian, Mann Packing Company - Jersey Boys
Hillary Brick, The Giumarra Companies – Mystére by Cirque du Soleil
Mike Aiton, Prime Time International – Phantom of the Opera

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

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:

  • Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, Calif.
  • Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., Miami, Fla.
  • Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif.
  • Walter P. Rawl & Sons, Inc., Pelion, S.C.

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:

  • Agroamerica Fruit Company, Guatemala City, Guatemala
  • GreenGate Fresh, LLLP, Salinas, Calif.
  • The Kunkel Company, Eden Prairie, Minn.
  • Pro Pack Systems, Inc. Salinas, Calif.
  • Van Groningen & Sons, Inc., Manteca, Calif.
  • Western Watermelon Association, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
  • WorldPak Flexible Packaging, Reno, Nev.

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

Politicians fighting hunger and obesity in Los Angeles County - Los Angeles Times

Recession takes an uneven toll in Nebraska and California - USA Today

FDA budget draws cries of 'not enough.' - Los Angeles Times

Pennsylvania zoo animals offer lessons on nutrition - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Florida tomato growers OK pay raise compromise to benefit migrant workers - Lakeland Ledger


Young farm families becoming scarce in Alberta - Okotoks Western Wheel

UK Food Standards Agency report says labeling may miss the mark - North Queensland Register

Dubai will not intervene in pricing of perishables - Khaleej Times

British MP wants better food labeling - Politics.co.uk

Fijian council tells consumers to be vigilant - Fiji Times

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