June 17, 2010

In Today's Issue:

Report Emphasizes Policy and Environmental Changes to Increase Fruits and Vegetables and Reduce Salt, Sugars and Fats

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's Report was released Tuesday after it was officially submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The 13-member Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has worked for the past two years to provide science-based advice for Americans to promote health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. The Committee's Report will form the basis of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which will be published by USDA and HHS at the end of 2010.

Noting that " … everything in this Report is presented through the filter of an [obese and unhealthy] environment in critical need of change," the report emphasizes eating more fruits and vegetables in three of its four main findings:

Reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity of the U.S. population by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity
Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, low-fat milk and lean meats

Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars, solid fats, sodium and refined grains

Meet physical activity guidelines

Recognizing - and expressing frustration - that several of its recommendations like increasing fruit and vegetable intake despite unchanging consumption patterns have been repeatedly made in prior reports, the Report's Call to Action recommends systems-wide policy, regulatory and environmental changes. The Committee also calls for an urgent need to focus on children to prevent childhood obesity, noting first the need to improve the foods sold and served in schools.

Written comments on the committee's report can be submitted electronically until July 15 at www.dietaryguidelines.gov and oral testimony is invited on July 8. For more information, please contact United's Dr. Lorelei DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.   

Kids Lobby Senate to Pass Child Nutrition

Child activists converge on Capitol Hill Wednesday to push for Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

Adorable fruits and vegetables greeted Senators and staffers Wednesday morning as they arrived to work at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. A group of children advocates wearing apple, banana, carrot and grape costumes handed out plates that read "Don't Leave Kids With an Empty Plate," and contained messaging detailing the consequences of Congress failing to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill this year.

The children were on Capitol Hill to tell Senators and staff that despite the many issues Congress has on its plate, passing Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln's (D-AR) child nutrition bill before the July recess must be a priority.

Sen. Lincoln was able to pass the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307) out of the Agriculture Committee in early May, but it has yet to be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote.  The bill, which is the Senate’s version of the child nutrition reauthorization legislation, provides $4.5 billion over ten years, and contains much-needed reforms that will enable children to have access to healthier foods at school.

"We need the Senate bill to move forward," said Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health. "It's paid for and has bipartisan support. We urge Senate leadership to find time on the calendar to bring it up for a vote."

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) introduced his child nutrition reauthorization bill last week and has indicated he wants the bill to be marked up this month.

"We need to keep the momentum moving forward," DiSogra continued. "The kids are right - Congress has a lot on their plate, but we can't let child nutrition get lost in the shuffle."

For more information, please contact DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.

United Fresh Chairman Urges EPA, USDA to Defend Science Behind Pesticide Regulations

United Fresh Chairman Steffanie Smith, center, meets with United Fresh President Tom Stenzel, left, and Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther, right, after Tuesday's meeting with USDA and EPA.

United Fresh Chairman of the Board Steffanie Smith, CEO of River Point Farms, urged EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a meeting Tuesday to defend the scientific basis of the government’s regulatory system when critics seek to raise fears about pesticide residues within levels that EPA has been determined to be safe.

Smith and United Fresh President Tom Stenzel participated in the meeting with producer Board members and staff of six other fruit and vegetable organizations.

"I believe it was helpful to EPA and USDA to listen to the challenges faced by growers of different commodities in different regions of the country," Smith said. "I also felt that they took our concerns seriously, and now it’s important to broaden this group dialogue to other stakeholders and engage with the staff at these agencies to address a number of environmental issues we discussed."

Political "Nostradamus" to Address Washington Public Policy Conference

Political consultant, pundit and pollster Frank Luntz will deliver the keynote address Thursday, September 16, at the Closing Luncheon of United's Washington Public Policy Conference. In his presentation, Luntz will provide conference attendees with an inside look at public opinion and perception and its role in the polling and campaign process, as well as insight into the upcoming elections in November.

A key player in the formation of the Republican Party’s 1994 Contract with America, Luntz has established himself as a master of the focus group, using small groups of potential voters to test the viability of candidates, issues and even specific words.  Through his work with his focus groups, Luntz is credited with the re-characterization of terms like "global warming" and "inheritance tax" into voter-friendly terms like "climate change," and "death tax," among many others. Dubbed "the Nostradamus of Pollsters" by the BBC’s Sir David Frost, Luntz's rhetorical and research abilities have garnered praise from the highest office in the nation.

"When Frank Luntz invites you to talk to his focus group," said President Barack Obama, "you talk to his focus group."

Luntz is a Fellow at Harvard University's prestigious Institute of Politics and the author of two books on the New York Times Best Sellers list, including Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear.

"The goal of United's Washington Public Policy Conference is to help business leaders make a difference by being involved in the public policy decisions that affect the produce industry every day. Critical to this effort is that each of our members has a broad understanding of how Washington works," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "As a communicator and Washington insider, nobody breaks down the political process like Frank Luntz."

Luntz's address comes on the final day of the Washington Public Policy Conference, September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center on the banks of the Potomac River. During the three-day conference, attendees will gather to discuss food safety, farm labor, nutrition and consumption, locally grown and other priority issues for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. During the annual March on Capitol Hill, industry members will have the unique opportunity to meet in person with lawmakers and staff in more than 140 congressional offices, discuss food safety policies with FDA officials, hear from key Cabinet officials and engage in face-to-face dialogue with President Obama’s executive team.

This year's conference will also include the popular Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill, a favorite among industry members and congressional staffers alike. During Fresh Festival, House and Senate lawmakers and their staff take time to sample the flavorful fruits and vegetables the produce industry has to offer. In addition, the conference includes a New Orleans-themed cruise up the Potomac River to benefit United's A Salad Bar in Every School campaign. As part of the build-up to the United Fresh 2011 convention and expo in New Orleans, guests will enjoy Dixieland jazz, dinner and waterfront views of Washington, D.C., all while raising funds to provide salad bars to schools in New Orleans and nationwide.

Registration is now open for the 2010 Washington Public Policy Conference. More information may be found by contacting United Fresh Political Affairs Manager Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400, ext 425 or, or by clicking here.

USDA Secretary, Deputy Share Views on Know Your Farmer Program

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan met with a group of agricultural stakeholders, including United Fresh President Tom Stenzel and Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther Wednesday to discuss the "Know Your Farmer: Know Your Food" program.

"Secretary Vilsack was adamant that this program is not designed to favor small farms over large, organic versus conventional, nor local versus more national producers," said Stenzel.  "The Secretary said his goal was to support rural communities and to help connect consumers today to where and how food is grown, especially with less than 1 percent of the population today working in agriculture. These are goals we can share, so long as they truly guide the program and support all fruit and vegetable growers equally."

United Fresh Pursues GAPs Harmonization Through GlobalGAP

Working with the GlobalGAP Fruit and Vegetable Sector Committee, Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, traveled to Cologne, Germany last week to review requests for changes to the fourth version of the GlobalGAP standard.

The committee, on which Gombas represents North America, is staffed by 18 volunteer grower and retailer representatives from around the world.

"GlobalGAP has developed a formula for harmonizing GAPs standards that has worked for years," said Gombas. "For the past year, GlobalGAP held stakeholder meetings around the world, soliciting recommendations from all stakeholders in an open and transparent process. The Sector Committee reviews all of those comments, and changes are made where the recommendations make sense for a global market."

Gombas is participating on the Fruit and Vegetable Sector Committee to facilitate alignment between the GlobalGAP standard and the North American produce industry's Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative.  GlobalGAP is similarly participating in the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative in an effort to develop a North American interpretation guideline for GlobalGAP audits.

For more information about GlobalGAP, please contact Gombas at 202-303-3400, ext. 411. For more information about the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative, please contact United's Erin Grether at 202-303-3400, ext. 402.

DiSogra Chats with Huffington Post on Salad Bars

In an interview published Tuesday in the Huffington Post, United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra discussed United's Salad Bar in Every School campaign with entrepreneur, author and activist Lynda Resnick.

Resnick: … For our readers, can you describe A Salad Bar in Every School, the program that United Fresh is initiating?

DiSogra: The goal of A Salad Bar in Every School is to increase children's consumption of fruits and vegetables. Kids eat less than half of the amount of fruits and vegetables that they should every day. We believe that there are a number of different strategies that need to be put in place so that schools become a model of healthy eating habits, and school salad bars are an effective strategy to increase kids' consumption.

There've been some research studies done at UCLA [in the early 2000s] by Dr. Wendy Slusser, and we at the National Cancer Institute [where I was at the time] saw her preliminary results and started to engage USDA in this effort around salad bars. There's a history to this whole effort. It's not something that just came about at United Fresh in the last couple of months.

To read the full article, please click here.

Leonardo Academy Works Toward Sustainability Certification

United's Rob Neenan, vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability met this week with representatives from The Leonardo Academy, one of several independent groups attempting to develop a sustainability certification standard for agricultural operations.

United Fresh sits on the initiative's Steering Committee, which, during the meetings, discussed a potential standard that will include metrics for assessing a number of economic, environmental, and social factors and will encourage farmers to engage in a systematic continuous improvement process for each of those factors. These metrics may be the basis for formal a standards that would be issued by the American National Standards institute (ANSI).

The Steering Committee is benefits from its makeup of diverse group of stakeholders representing producers, retailers, environmentalists, and other interested parties, however, Neenan is somewhat apprehensive about the demands placed on growers by the potential standard.

"Progress towards development of a set of general principles for the standard has been limited due to difficulty in reaching an agreement regarding some key environmental and economic issues," said Neenan. "We're particularly concerned that the process may result in a standard that many growers are expected to meet, but few can achieve."

The Leonardo Academy plans to have a final standard ready for ANSI review by mid-2012 and United Fresh will continue to closely monitor any developments.

Traceability on Tap During GS1 U Connect 2010

United Fresh Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché and Frontera Produce's Amy Gates talked traceability last week with members from all walks of the fresh produce industry at GS1 U Connect 2010 in San Antonio.

Speaking to an audience of more than 1100 attendees, Dan spoke on the newly-reaffirmed Produce Traceability Initiative in the session titled "Product Tracing for Produce," updating the retailers, suppliers, wholesalers and foodservice distributors gathered at the conference on the status of the PTI and how the industry continues to move forward in developing whole chain traceability.

Also discussed was the new alignment of PTI Milestones 4, 5 and 6 with several in the audience voicing approval of the new structure and communication efforts by the industry associations. Attendees applauded the produce industry for taking the lead on fresh fruit and vegetable traceability and being in front of pending legislation.

"Amy's real world experience with produce traceability proved to be a great and well-received message here in San Antonio," said Vaché. "Having a flesh-and-blood case study on how traceability has enhanced a company's business operations gives these business leaders something to point to when they return to their offices and continue the push for whole-chain traceability."

For more on the PTI, visit www.producetraceability.org.

Gombas Tours Fresh Produce Supply Chain in Netherlands

Holland's Albert Heijn hosted United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas last week on a tour of the Dutch retailer’s strawberry and asparagus growing and packinghouse operations, large scale tomato and other greenhouse operations, repacking operations, and produce distribution and display operations.

Albert Heijn is the originating company of multinational retailer Ahold and represents more than 30% of the fresh produce retail market in Netherlands.

"Albert Heijn has a remarkably efficient distribution system," said Gombas. "They source internationally and produce moves from harvest to store shelf in 18 hours," observed Gombas. "The production systems I saw were quite different from typical U.S. operations, with their own advantages and challenges. Clearly, there are many opportunities to learn from each other."

One such opportunity will come at next week's Fresh Convenience in London, where attendees will have the chance to explore the fresh convenience sector in Europe and learn more about European fresh and fresh-cut operations.

United Wraps Second of Three Inspection Courses Scheduled for 2010

Participants representing companies from all ends of the fresh produce spectrum gathered last week for United's second Produce Inspection Training Program of 2010 at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors' Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA.

Presented by United Fresh in cooperation with USDA, the week-long program combines a classroom-based curriculum that focuses on inspection fundamentals such as grading, standards, tolerances, PACA and sampling procedures, with three days of hands-on commodity inspections in the lab tailored to the preferences of the class.

"This program not only provides new employees with an excellent opportunity to learn about the basics of produce inspection, but is also an excellent tool for experienced managers to better understand the intricacies of the inspection process - or just brush up on the basics," said Julie Jacocks, education coordinator at United Fresh.

The June course is the second of three inspection courses scheduled for 2010. Spots are still available for the final Produce Inspection Training course of 2010, September 20-24. To learn more about the course, click here or contact Jacocks at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.

FSA Program Aims to Provide Improved Services to Farmers

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will hold a public meeting in Washington later this month to kick off its effort to improve customer service through the use of updated technology. The project, known as "Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems" (MIDAS) is an effort to update the farm program delivery system and provide better service to farmers and ranchers through Web-based technologies.

"The Obama Administration is working to improve farm program effectiveness and better meet the needs of rural producers, and this new technology will be a major step to help achieve that goal," said Vilsack. "This upgrade will arm FSA employees with the tools, information and training they need to make it easier for those eligible for FSA programs to receive prompt, first-rate service."

The updated technology will be deployed in FSA county offices, and is expected to transform the way FSA field staff delivers farm programs and benefits to producers served by more than 2,200 offices throughout the United States.

For more information on the MIDAS program, or the public meeting, please 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:

  • H. Brooks and Company LLC, New Brighton, MN
  • Market Fresh Produce, Nixa, MO

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.

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