February 25, 2010

In Today's Issue:

Government Relations Council Reaffirms Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance

Council member Julie Morris of Earthbound Farms during this week's meeting of the United Fresh Government Relations Council.

The members of the United Fresh Government Relations Council have reaffirmed their commitment to the structure of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance for the 2012 bill.

"Given the tremendous success that we had with this structure during the last Farm Bill, it makes sense to continue the momentum as Congress begins to write the new bill," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh.

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos speaks before this week’s meeting of the United Fresh Government Relations Council

The reaffirmation came as more than 40 council members and guests attended the council's two-day meeting this week in Washington, focusing on the major policy and regulatory issues impacting the produce industry this year, as well as the emerging and longer-term issues expected to come up in the future. Responsible for debating current government related issues and helping to develop our yearly public policy priorities, the Government Relations Council plays an integral role in guiding United’s work with legislators on Capitol Hill and the Obama Administration. 

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), center, United Fresh Government Relations Council Chair Barry Bedwell of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, left, and member Charles Wingard of Walter P. Rawl & Sons, right, during this week's meeting of the United Fresh Government Relations Council.

Led by Government Relations Council Chairman Barry Bedwell of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, participants also heard from key congressional and administration leaders pressing the case on immigration, food safety, child nutrition and school salad bars and a host of other priorities for the fresh produce sector in 2010.

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) addressed the group at a dinner in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday night and discussed his views on a variety of issues including food safety legislation and immigration reform.  Also during dinner, the council was joined by Karen Ross, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s new chief of staff.

On Thursday, council members attended meetings on Capitol Hill with the committees involved in writing two key pieces of legislation affecting our industry likely to be debated this year: the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Children's Fruit and Vegetable Act.

Meetings were held with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and staff from the Committee on Education and Labor.  On the Senate side of the Hill, Council members met with key staff from the Senate HELP and Agriculture Committees.  

Also at the meeting, there were lengthy discussions about the current USDA policy surrounding their new "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, the varied definitions of the term “local”, and how our industry plans to address our concerns with the administration. 

For more information about the Government Relations Council, contact Robert Guenther at 202-303-3400.

Secretary Vilsack Highlights Role of Fruits and Vegetables in Child Nutrition

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has unveiled a plan to improve the health and well-being of America's children starting in the school cafeteria. In a speech before the National Press Club Tuesday in Washington, Secretary Vilsack outlined his plan, which relies heavily on strategies for increasing the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables at school.

In the speech, the secretary highlighted tactics in an overall strategy to revamp USDA's child nutrition efforts. Included in these tactics was a call for Congress to increase the reimbursement rate for the National School Lunch Program, contingent upon the use of the increase to pay for an improvement in quality and in nutritional value in school meals. This tactic comes with the simultaneous expectation that school meals will improve with new USDA requirements emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

Secretary Vilsack also called for additional investments in cafeteria equipment, stating that many schools simply do not have the equipment in place to improve food selections.

"The reauthorization," the secretary said, "should...include funding to improve school kitchens so they can provide meals that meet the Dietary Guidelines and offer fresh fruits and vegetables."

Finally, the secretary spoke to the importance of putting healthy fruits and vegetables in front of kids in the cafeteria.

"We also need to be smarter about how we serve food," Vilsack said. "Steps as simple as putting the fresh fruit in a more prominent place in the cafeteria can help kids improve their eating habits."

On hand for the speech was a contingent from United Fresh that included Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health, Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications and Communications Manager Patrick Delaney.

"The secretary is saying all the right things," said Gilmer. "He clearly has a good understanding of the challenges associated with changing the nutrition patterns of young people in our schools. More fruits and vegetables in school meals will have lasting impact on childhood obesity and overall health.  It will require funding and proven strategies, such as our salad bar initiative, to change behaviors in any meaningful way."

Click here for a transcript or video of the secretary's address and for more on United’s child nutrition efforts, including the Salad Bar in Every School initiative, please click here.

Leadership Class 15 Learns the Meaning of Pura Vida

From right, Leadership Class 15 members Tracie Levin of M. Levin and Co., Jason Hollinger of Earth Source Trading, Inc., and Greg Mixon of SunnyRidge Farm, Inc., listen to a presentation given by COMEX’s Esteban Aguero, left, during last week’s Leadership Class trip to Costa Rica.

The 15th class of United's Produce Industry Leadership Program visited Costa Rica last week to learn more about the country’s extensive agricultural production.  From meetings with trade experts to field tours of tropical produce, the class trekked across the country and gained a better understanding of the role this small but dynamic country plays within the global produce industry.

Grimmway Farms' Phil Gruszka, left, and Allen Davis of Dole Fresh Vegetables tour a Dole banana facility in Costa Rica last week.

During the visit, the class members met in San Jose with the director of the American-Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce, Sra. Lynda Solar, as well as the Minister of Foreign Trade for Costa Rica, Sr. Marco Ruiz, COMEX, and executive staff from the Foreign Trade Corporation of Costa Rica to discuss trade and produce business relations.

Collin Street Bakery & Corsicana Farm General Manager Dennis Gaughen speaks to Leadership Class 15 about pineapples during last week’s trip to Costa Rica.

In addition to business meetings, the class got their shoes muddy with visits to Fruittimangas, a mango farm in Orotina, as well as banana harvesting and production at Dole’s Rio Frio plantation and a pineapple tour at Corsicana/Collin Street Bakery, an organic grower for Dole.  Friday evening, the class enjoyed a special dinner and discussion about the fresh produce business in Costa Rica hosted by Del Monte.  The class wrapped up the trip with outdoor excursions and a tour of Doka Estate to learn about the process of producing coffee from seed to cup.

Ready Pac's Neil Merritt, right, and Dole Fresh Vegetables' Allen Davis inspect product at Mas X Menos market during last week's class trip to Costa Rica.

The Produce Industry Leadership Program is presented through the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation's Center for Leadership Development and is made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, sponsor of the program since its inception in 1995.

Applications for Class 16 of the program are now being accepted through March 5, 2010.  Click here for more information or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator, at 202-303-3405.

United Fresh Hosts North American Trade Committee

Representatives of the produce industry from Canada, Mexico and the United States, as well as government officials from all three countries to discuss cross-border issues gathered Tuesday as United Fresh hosted a meeting of the North American Trade Committee of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.

"It is very valuable when the industry can present a uniform position on certain issues to all three federal governments within the NAFTA trading bloc," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh.

The committee looks at ways to enhance information sharing and, to the extent possible, harmonize federal requirements in order to increase the efficiency of the fresh produce trade. At the meeting, the committee considered issues including food safety, pesticide registration, traceability and border inspection activities.

Federal representatives at the meeting included speakers from USDA, EPA and Customs/Border Protection to explain regulatory programs that are underway or in the process of implementation.

For more information on international trade issues, contact United Fresh at 202-303-3400.

Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Council to Meet Next Month

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service announced Tuesday that the agency will hold a Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 30 and Wednesday March 31 to examine issues faced by produce businesses and how USDA can tailor its programs to meet the needs of the fruit and vegetable industry.

Several United Fresh members serve on the committee, including immediate past Chairman Tom Lovelace of McEntire Produce. The meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn Capitol in Washington D.C. 

"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."

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

Congratulations to Becky Baker of Potandon Produce, winner of last week's United Fresh Show-A-Week Giveaway. Becky won a pair of tickets to Blue Man Group 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: Criss Angel: Believe

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:

New Member Welcome

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

  • ATGI, Wenatchee, Wash.
  • Ho Farms LLC, Kahuku, Hawaii
  • Paris Produce Company, Inc., Pleasantville, N.J.
  • Winnemucca Farms, Inc., Winnemucca, 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.

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News & Views


News and Views

H-2A rule changes create another hurdle for farmers - Buffalo News

Texas Department of Agriculture seeks applications for specialty crop grants - Rusk Cherokeean Herald

ICE audit in Washington spreads worry in state's ag industry - Yakima Herald-Republic

Colorado bill mandates more use of locally-grown goods for school meals - Colorado Statesman

In Arizona, bagged salad rules encouraged - Yuma Sun


BBC film claims farm migrants vital in east England - BBC

Canadian premiers press U.S. to keep the border open - Charlottetown Guardian

Will Russia be able to feed itself? - Pravda

China’s Hainan Province to boost food safety monitoring after toxic cowpeas discovered - People's Daily Online

Fruit flies found in Australia - ABC

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