March 11, 2010

In Today's Issue:

Healthcare Legislation Must Address Unique Nature of Ag Employers

In letters sent to the House and Senate leadership, United Fresh joined specialty crop allies and the American Farm Bureau Federation in telling Congress about the potential negative impact healthcare reform legislation could have on agricultural businesses employing temporary or seasonal workers.

"Any healthcare bill that would require agriculture employers to provide coverage for temporary workers, or disqualify produce companies for certain tax credits because they may temporarily exceed employment thresholds would be detrimental for produce grower operations," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh.

Often seasonal or temporary workers have multiple employers and questions about coverage availability and how insurance would be coordinated to avoid duplicate coverage and unnecessary expenses would likely create confusion among employers. 

Healthcare legislation that has already passed the Senate recognizes the special needs of companies employing temporary workers. It defines a seasonal worker as someone who is employed for 120 or fewer days during the calendar year and excludes seasonal workers from the count that determines a company’s eligibility for small business tax incentives, thereby increasing the number of farm and ranch employers eligible for help in purchasing insurance. The Senate legislation also excludes seasonal workers from the count of employees that triggers employer penalties, minimizing the number of impacted seasonal employees. Ultimately, it is these provisions that must be included in any final version of health care reform legislation.

For questions contact Robert Guenther at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

United Fresh Continues Successful Town Hall Program in Colorado

A lively discussion of key issues that impact the Colorado potato industry as well as other specialty crops in the region highlighted Monday’s Town Hall luncheon in Monte Vista, Colo.

Hosted by Amy Kunugi of Southern Colorado Farms and Jim Ehrlich of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee and led by United Fresh Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman, the meeting was the first United Fresh Town Hall to be held in Colorado.

"When it comes to my growing operations, I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to share the value of United Fresh with my colleagues from around the region," said Kunugi, also an alumna of United's Produce Industry Leadership Program. "Town Hall meetings like the one this week bring together attendees that represent the entire supply chain from seed development, growers, marketer-shippers and transportation suppliers to create an effective avenue for sharing successes and solving problems"

United's 2010 Town Hall program will continue on Friday as Oberman and United Fresh Director of Membership Miriam Miller head to the Cincinnati, Ohio area for a Town Hall meeting hosted by the Castellini Company. Attendees to Friday's Town Hall will have the opportunity to hear from United Fresh Chairman Jim Lemke of C.H. Robinson.

For more information contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.

United Fresh Recognized for WIC Leadership

The National WIC Association has recognized the ongoing effort to improve the healthfulness of WIC food packages by United Fresh and United’s Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra with their National WIC Leadership Award.

The award was presented Sunday during the association's annual Leadership Conference in Washington. The award recognized United's leadership and commitment over the last five years to one of the most significant policy changes in the program’s history: the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables to WIC food packages, benefitting 9.4 million mothers and their young children. It is expected that in 2010 the vouchers will result in $750 million in new produce sales.   

In accepting the award, Dr. DiSogra expressed her honor and noted, "We are not finished. We still need to fight to ensure that Congress increases the value of the children's fruit and vegetable voucher to $8 per month, as well as increases the value of the fruit and vegetable voucher for fully-breastfeeding mothers to $12 per month. I am committed to working together with you to accomplish this."

Dr. DiSogra also gave a special thanks to the state of California for its vision to pilot test WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers and prove their value and efficacy.

"United Fresh has worked for the past decade to change WIC policy to ensure that fresh fruits and vegetables are available to all WIC families," said Dr. DiSogra. "This award recognizes United’s dedication to accomplishing this policy goal that now benefits not only millions of WIC families, but the produce industry as well."     

Brazil Adds Further Trade Impediments to Fresh Produce

Several fresh produce commodities including pears, cherries and plums have made a list of U.S. products slated for Brazilian tariffs announced this week. The tariffs, slated to go into effect in the next 30 days, will affect over 100 U.S. manufacturing and agricultural products.

Brazil has initiated these tariffs as retaliation for what the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled last year to be U.S. failure to comply with a previous WTO ruling on the legality of U.S. cotton subsidies. Although cotton is at the heart of this trade dispute, the WTO ruling allows Brazil to establish tariffs on any U.S. products it chooses. The total value of the Brazilian tariffs is said to total close to $600 million on products imported from the U.S.

These actions by Brazil come in the same week that marks the one-year anniversary of a vote by Congress to discontinue the Mexican Cross-Border Trucking Pilot Program. The program, established under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and since delayed because of pressures from some lawmakers, the Teamsters Union and concerns over truck safety, allows Mexican trucks to operate on U.S. highways. However, once Congress cut off funding last year, violating provisions of NAFTA, Mexico responded by levying substantial retaliatory tariffs on variety of U.S. exports, totaling $2.4 billion. The tariff list included a number of fresh produce commodities, hitting those in the grape, cherry, pear and potato industries especially hard.

"United is working closely with many in the business and agriculture community to find a resolution to these trade sanctions," said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. "Ultimately, it is now up to the administration to find a proper solution that will not allow U.S. exports including fresh produce to be hampered by inaction."

Last year, a bipartisan group of members of Congress, many of whom were known for their support of free trade, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, asking him to seek an end to the Mexican tariff dispute, but to date nothing has yet to be resolved.

Technical Working Group Continues Progress Toward Audit Harmonization

The Irvine, Calif., headquarters of Taco Bell played host this week to the fourth meeting of the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative Technical Working Group (TWG), which continued its progress toward creating a single audit standard for the industry.

"At 50 participants, we saw a significant increase in involvement for this meeting," said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology. "We especially saw an increase in grower representation, which is exactly what we need to ensure the harmonized standard will be applicable to a wide range of operations."

"We have had consistent participation from many parts of the produce industry and continue to see new industry members joining the meetings," added TWG Chairman Suresh DeCosta of McDonald's.

The group addressed several audit categories in this month’s meeting, including self-audits, worker education and training, agricultural water, review period, traceability and recall programs, and corrective actions. 

Although underway, the TWG remains open to all produce industry members who are able to contribute and participate in this harmonization process. The next TWG meeting will be held April 7-8 at the Darden Restaurants headquarters in Orlando, Fla., and hosted by Darden's John Gurrisi.

For more information on past meetings, please click here. To become a part of the TWG, please contact United Fresh Government Relations Assistant Erin Grether at 202-303-3400 ext. 402.

Inside United Fresh 2010: Learning Center to Focus on Managing Farm Workers and Your Reputation on Labor Issues

Over the next six weeks, Inside United Fresh will give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the innovative programming you can expect at United Fresh 2010.

Someday, a reporter may come to your door asking questions about your labor force. Would you know what to do? How will your customers react?

Agricultural employers face serious challenges when managing a diverse and often migratory workforce. And for grower-shippers operating in multiple field or packing locations, keeping a close eye on worker management can be especially difficult. What’s worse, farm labor situations can end up in news reports, which frequently result in damaged relations with customers and the public.

At United Fresh 2010, join the Grower-Shipper Learning Center session titled "Managing Labor Issues Through Good Times and Crisis" to hear expert advice on best practices for farm employers. Jim Bogart, president and general counsel of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, will share important guidelines for meeting the stringent state and federal labor laws of farm employment, minimizing costs and ensuring a steady workforce.   

There are dozens of ways that agricultural employers can get into trouble with labor laws, sometimes resulting in fines or jail time," says Bogart.  "There are simple things that grower-shippers can do to help ensure they stay legal and efficient in their hiring and labor management."

Also, hear advice from Ray Gilmer, United's vice president of communications, for keeping your company out of the farm labor headlines. Ray will share his list of the “Top Five Things to Never Do When Talking to Reporters.” He’ll also show examples of good and bad television interviews from actual produce industry stories and share basic tips for managing a farm labor crisis when a reporter and camera crew shows up at your door.

"Your buyers are watching the news and reading the papers, and they don't want to see your name or theirs mentioned in farm labor stories," says Gilmer. "There's no silver bullet for making a reporter disappear, but there are fundamental things we can all do to get the most balanced coverage and minimize reputational damage." 

Visit to see details on the entire convention schedule. Early registration discounts end March 22, so be sure to register today for United Fresh 2010, April 20-23, in Las Vegas.

New Faces on the Show Floor at United Fresh 2010

This April in Las Vegas, more than 50 companies will take part in the annual United Fresh expo and convention for the first time as exhibitors, bringing a wide range of new faces and new products to United Fresh 2010.

"New exhibitors bring new ideas and new solutions to today's challenges," said John Toner, United Fresh vice president of convention and industry relations. “United Fresh is extremely pleased in the current economy to be welcoming over 50 new exhibitors to the show floor. There are certainly multiple options here for every buyer in the supply chain."

New exhibitors at United Fresh 2010 include (as of 3/10):

AgCode, Inc.
AgSolutions Inc.
AnTerra Group Inc.
Boss Packaging Inc
Calavo Growers, Inc.
Classic Salads, LLD
Daymark Safety Systems
Deloitte Consulting LLP
Deltatrak, Inc.
Diagraph, An ITW Company
Edible Software
Eillert B.V.
eProduce Sales, Inc.
Everett Bros. Engineering
Fresh Appeal USA, Inc.
Guardian Ozone
Hansen-Rice, Inc.
Hyland Software
In-Store Advanced Automation Inc.
JPS Foods
KES Science & Technology, Inc.
KMT Waterjet Systems
Label Technology, Inc.
Megaplast S.A.

Avery Dennison
Avocados from Mexico
bioMerieux, Inc.
Bizerba USA
Orion Packaging Systems
Pack-in-MAP Technology
PerfoTec® BV/ Robbie
Pro Pack Systems, Inc.
PWP Industries
Rutgers Food Innovation Center
Schoneman Inc.
Splawn Belting, Inc.
Sun Belle Inc.
Target Corporation
Thunderbird Plasics
Triangle Package Machinery Company
Tropical Nut and Fruit
University of Illinois Extension
UPS Logistics Technologies
USA Fresh, LLC
VideoJet Technologies
Village Farms
Westmoreland Sales
Yerecic Label Co., Inc.
Zumasys, Inc.

A detailed list of all exhibitors as well as registration information can be found at

"United Fresh has worked hard to deliver more qualified decision-makers per square foot than any other produce event, to ensure a winning experience for each company at the show," added Toner.

For more information on exhibiting at United Fresh 2010, contact United Fresh Convention Services Coordinator Jill Grigg at 202-303-3400 ext. 420.

World-Class Entertainment for Free? Why Haven’t You Registered Yet?

Congratulations to Mike Scuderi of Costa Fruit & Produce, winner of last week's United Fresh Show-A-Week Giveaway. Mike won a pair of tickets to Jersey Boys at the Palazzo.

Each Friday from now until United Fresh 2010, we'll draw one lucky winner from all registered attendees and send them to see an evening of fantastic Las Vegas entertainment completely free!

This week's Show-A-Week Giveaway: KÀ by Crque du Soleil

Register now for United Fresh 2010 to be automatically entered for your chance to win two tickets to a Las Vegas show during United Fresh 2010, April 20-23. We update the list each week with new registrants, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2010, the greater your chances to win!

Attendees must be paid in full to be eligible and may win only once. Tickets will be valid for shows on April 20 and April 21, 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
Becky Baker, Potandon Produce - Blue Man Group
Steven Karr, Pride Pak Canada – Criss Angel: Believe

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

Next Produce Inspection Training Program Slated for June

This June, United Fresh will present the next installment of the industry's only USDA-led inspection training program. The popular Produce Inspection Training Program will take place June 7-11 at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors’ Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, Va.

Developed by United Fresh in partnership with USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), this hands-on training program is designed to help produce industry receivers, handlers, buyers, shippers and sellers understand the fundamentals of the produce inspection process.

"This program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the produce industry to train under USDA inspectors and learn the metrics by which USDA inspects and grades fresh produce," said Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator. "Participants will benefit from lab work, classroom lectures and discussion sessions in the USDA’s own training facility, allowing them to become fully engaged on these real-world topics." 

The program is offered in two specialized courses, Fundamentals of Produce Inspection and Commodity Labs. Upon completion of both courses, attendees receive a certificate of recognition from United Fresh and USDA. The 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 applies the fundamental principals 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 June course by clicking here or by contacting Jacocks at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

United Fresh Contingent Gets Some Southern Exposure

United's Dr. Lorelei DiSogra speaks before the annual gathering of the Southeast Produce Council in Tampa, Fla., last week.

The business opportunities created by recent United Fresh policy victories was the topic in Tampa last week as United's Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra spoke at the Marketing and Merchandising Trends Town Hall meeting during Southern Exposure 2010, the annual convention and conference of the Southeast Produce Council.

Her presentation, "Policy Wins Create New Opportunities for Produce," focused on three initiatives in which United Fresh is actively immersed - WIC, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack program and United’s most recent Salad Bar in Every School initiative.

Citing the impact of the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in WIC food packages, Lorelei noted that WIC families will buy $750 million in produce in 2010. Anthony Barbieri, director of produce for Acme Markets, and Kent Kuwata, category manager at Smart and Final Stores, joined in the conversation and noted that they have seen the benefits of the new WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers in their stores, advising their retail colleagues to pay special attention to the potential of programs like WIC to maximize produce sales opportunities.

In addition to Dr. DiSogra's presentation, John Toner, vice president of convention and industry relations, and Membership Director Miriam Miller represented United Fresh at the annual event's trade show and exposition. While on the show floor, Toner and Miller fielded questions about United Fresh 2010, as well as United Fresh's membership benefits, programs and services.

"We always welcome any opportunity to meet face to face with our membership and the broader produce industry," said Miller.  "We received a great deal of positive interest in our upcoming programs, and we look forward to seeing our current and new industry colleagues in Las Vegas next month!"

Nominations Open for 2010 Grower Achievement Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2010 Grower Achievement Award. Given by the editors of American Vegetable Grower and sponsored by United Fresh and Syngenta, the annual award is presented at United's Washington Public Policy Conference in September.

The Grower Achievement Award 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.

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:

  • Freshway Foods, Sidney, Ohio
  • Pro*Act, LLC, Monterey, Calif.

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:

  • Baroda Farms, Lompoc, Calif.
  • Dawson’s Orchards, Enon Valley, Pa.
  • Direct Advantage, Santa Maria, Calif.
  • One Media Group, Sacramento, Calif.
  • Tom Grether Farms, Somis, 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 at 831-422-0940 or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events


News & Views


News and Views

UFW, California growers push for path to citizenship for undocumented workers – Bakersfield Californian

FDA's mobile lab tests safety in the field – Ozarks First

House panel rejects Obama cuts in farm supports – Reuters

New York farms, unions battle over controversial workers' rights bill – Binghamton Press

Some fret about push for smaller farm sizes – Des Moines Register


Schools across Spain will have guidelines to develop healthy menus starting in April – Barcelona Reporter

Food safety reforms proposed in China – China Daily

Unlocking retail’s potential in India – The Business-Standard

British scientists devise global food alert – Kingston University

Australian fruitfly road block nabs 22 – ABC News

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