July 1, 2010

In Today's Issue:

Advocates Urge Senate to Pass Child Nutrition

This week, the Child Nutrition Initiative ran full-page advertisements in Washington's Roll Call magazine urging Senate and House leadership to pass strong child nutrition legislation by September 30. The ads, featuring a classroom setting and "Our Kids Can't Afford to Wait for Healthy School Meals," were sponsored by the Child Nutrition Initiative and funded by several public health foundations, and will run in Roll Call through the end of this month. Also as part of the campaign, cafeteria trays with similar messages will be delivered to Capitol Hill offices this week.

"Our goal is to get child nutrition passed and on President Obama's desk by the end of September," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health. "Both of these bills contain funding to increase the school lunch reimbursement rate which is directly tied to schools serving more fruits and vegetables."

Senate leadership is urged to schedule floor time to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307), a bipartisan bill that passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously in the Spring.

In the House, Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) is expected to mark-up his Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act bill following the July 4 recess. House leadership is urged to make child nutrition a priority to pass by September 30.

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

In Letter to Supreme Court Nominee, United Fresh Playfully Rejects Hypothetical "Eat Your Veggies Law" as Inadequate

In a letter to Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Senate Judiciary Committee Member Tom Coburn(R-OK), United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel jokingly signaled United's opposition to a federal law mandating that Americans consume three servings of fruits and vegetables a day, proposed by Coburn in Kagan's confirmation hearing Wednesday.

"With tongue firmly in cheek," said Stenzel in the letter, "the United Fresh Produce Association would oppose the idea of a national law mandating people eat three fruits and vegetables a day. Such a mandate would fall far short of what Americans should really be doing. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines calls on most Americans to literally double their consumption of fruits and vegetables. So Sen. Coburn, your hypothetical law would clearly be unconstitutional for not requiring sufficient consumption of fresh produce!"

The letter went on to encourage Congress to act on the childhood obesity epidemic facing the nation:

"But we do face a national crisis in the epidemic of childhood obesity and the healthcare expense draining our nation's resources to pay for diet-related diseases today and for decades to come.  And there is plenty we can do without mandating choices! We need salad bars, vending and snacking options in every school across the country to increase kids' access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables; we need to eliminate food deserts in urban and rural areas, and bring more fresh produce to Americans where they need it most; we need to transform government food assistance programs to truly deliver the half a plate of fruits and vegetables called for in the Dietary Guidelines; and, we have to empower parents, communities, worksites and more to make healthy choices available wherever and whenever foods are served."

United Fresh has also sent fruit and vegetable baskets to Ms. Kagan and Sen. Coburn to thank them for raising awareness about the importance of produce consumption, even if only as part of a hypothetical constitutional discussion.

For a full transcript of the letter, please contact United Fresh Communication Manager Patrick Delaney at 202-303-3400, ext. 417.

Food Safety, Locally–Grown, Pesticide Issues on the Agenda at Washington Public Policy Conference

Three of the hottest issues in the produce industry will be under the microscope this fall as United Fresh moves to understand and address the complex challenges of food safety, local and regional food systems and pesticide residues.

Continuing the customization of its educational programming, United Fresh will offer four Market Segment Breakout Sessions during its annual Washington Public Policy Conference in September. Each session will take place on September 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., and be moderated by a volunteer leader from United’s four Market Segment Boards: Grower-Shipper, Fresh-Cut Processor, Retail-Foodservice and Wholesaler-Distributor.

"This allows us to take the very tangible concerns that our members have about these issues and address them in a constructive, smaller-group setting," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "Starting with food safety, each of these issues is of extreme importance to our industry, yet each carries with it a somewhat nebulous definition. These breakout sessions give us the chance to educate the industry while at the same time clearing up any misconception."

The Market Segment Breakout Session titles and descriptions are as follows:

Grower-Shipper Board
Getting Back to Real Science on Pesticide Residues
Consumers and industry buyers are increasingly taking notice of news reports about pesticide residues on fresh produce. Unfortunately, misinformation about pesticides can confuse consumers who are trying to increase produce consumption for better health. When growers follow strict government standards with resulting residues below levels the EPA determines to be safe, why do fears persist? How will these concerns affect retail and foodservice buying? How can the industry and regulators work together to bring science back to the discussion? Hear from experts who will explore the science, regulatory and marketing aspects of this growing challenge.

Fresh-Cut Processor Board
The Image of Fresh-Cut and Legislative/Regulatory Ramifications
Fresh-cut produce provides consumers an array of fresh and healthy convenient options to increase produce consumption. Although food safety has always been the #1 priority of fresh-cut processors, some advocates are nevertheless arguing that commingled, cut produce may present greater risks than whole commodities. This debate sometimes pits industry members on opposite sides due to marketing interests. Perhaps the biggest risk of all is government intervention based on misinformation with little understanding of fresh-cut processing safety. Learn what legislators and regulators think about this issue and how the fresh-cut sector can address this challenge.

Wholesaler-Distributor Board
Wholesaler-Distributors as the Key to Regional Food Systems
The demand for locally grown produce no longer seems like a fad, but a growing business opportunity for companies that seize the initiative. Wholesalers and distributors are uniquely positioned to serve as buyers, aggregators and suppliers of local produce, connecting smaller farmers with larger buyers in the marketing chain.  Wholesalers and distributors can help maintain the cold chain, assist with food safety and traceability, and provide logistics support not available within small companies, providing growers a means to expand business far beyond farm markets. In this session, learn how government programs may provide incentives and assistance to terminal markets and off-market wholesaler-distributors in developing regional food systems.

Retail-Foodservice Board
The Role of Buyers in Assuring Small Farm Food Safety
Retail and foodservice companies know that the produce they buy and sell to consumers must be safe, no matter what the source. But what role do buyers have in assuring that small, local or seasonal farms meet the same essential food safety standards as large commercial growers? Join this session for an engaging discussion of how government and industry are looking to buyers to help ensure the safest products available year round.

The Breakout Sessions come on the second 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 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, one of Washington's most popular and flavorful events. During Fresh Festival, House and Senate lawmakers and their staff sample a wide variety of fruits and vegetables the produce industry has to offer. In addition to Fresh Festival, the conference will include 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.

Wegmans' Corsi to Lead GAPs Harmonization Operations Committee

The Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative has tapped United Fresh member and Wegmans Food Markets Vice President for Produce Dave Corsi to lead the Operations Committee of the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative. The Operations Committee was commissioned by the Steering Committee, under Chairman and United Fresh Board Member Brian Kocher, to develop a business plan to manage and maintain the GAPs harmonized standard when it is completed later this year.

"We're Very lucky to have a business leader like Dave from a company that is as food safety conscious as Wegmans to lead the Operations Committee," said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology. "A harmonized food safety standard will reduce costs for growers and their customers and will help focus food safety resources by reducing confusion about what growers are expected to have in place to be food safety compliant. Under Dave's leadership, the Operations Committee will develop the policies and procedures to ensure the standard is sustainable, that it remains freely accessible to any and all stakeholders, and that it will be managed to prevent misunderstanding and misinterpretation."

The initial meeting of the Operations Committee will be later this month. For more information on the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative, please contact United Fresh Government Relations Assistant Erin Grether at 202-303-3400, ext. 402 or click here.

Political Events Foster Bond Between Association, Lawmakers

Critical to United's day-to-day work in Washington is the interaction with congressional members through political events. This Tuesday, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther sat down with two key members of Congress to discuss important policy issues for the fresh produce industry.

"First, Guenther joined Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R) of Ohio for lunch. Rep. Schmidt is the ranking member of the House Horticulture Subcommittee, an important policy committee for the industry as it has responsibility over state block grants and USDA's Agricultural Marketing Services activities. Most recently, Rep. Schmidt joined United Fresh, Chiquita and Democratic counterpart Steve Driehaus last month for the donation of salad bars to the Academy of World Languages in Cincinnati as part of United's A Salad Bar in Every School campaign.

Later that day, United Fresh co-hosted a dinner along with Western Growers, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, California Farm Bureau and Blue Diamond Almond Growers for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). At the dinner, industry leaders discussed important issues for the produce industry, including immigration, water, and environmental issues.

"These events are an important part of our day to day interaction with political leaders," said Guenther. "They provide us the opportunity to build a strong personal bond with legislators."

Tours Bring Retail Experience to Fresh Convenience Congress Attendees

Visitors to last week's Fresh Convenience Congress in were treated to tours of three wholesale and retail produce operations in the London area.

Tour participants first visited the New Covent Garden Market, the largest wholesale fruit & vegetable market in the UK. The market is home to more than 200 companies, including 30 produce wholesalers, whose customers include leading chefs and florists, restaurants and hotels, and schools and hospitals. Attendees observed traditional produce wholesale vendors in a terminal market setting and met with fresh-cut processors and catering operators.

Attendees then visited Sainsbury's, one of the UK's longest-standing major food retailing chains. During the store tour, attendees were able to see how whole produce and fresh convenience items are being displayed and marketed at the consumer level.

The final stop on the study tour was a Costco UK location in Watford. Attendees met with members of the Costco produce team to learn about how the Costco concept is being received by the UK market, as well as how the UK division benefits from Costco's global sourcing programs. Costco UK staff then led the attendees on a guided tour of the produce department.

"The study tour was an extremely educational experience," said Miriam Miller, United's director of membership. "Our attendees appreciated the opportunity to see how UK wholesale and retail outlets are marketing produce, as well as some of the newest innovations in the fresh convenience sector."

The Congress was established in partnership with Market Intelligence, publishers of Eurofruit Magazine, and provided attendees with educational sessions exploring foodservice, retail and mass catering opportunities at mainstream venues such as sporting events and concerts, which represent new channel development and increased consumption on a global scale.

For more information about the Fresh Convenience Congress, visit www.freshconveniencecongress.com or contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.  

It's a Girl ... and a Boy!

The pitter-patter of little feet will soon fill the office, as United Fresh welcomes two new additions to the family this month.

United's Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer and husband Nick welcomed baby Eden Amelia Backer on June 19th, and Director of Meetings and Events Leslie Howard and husband Justin announced the arrival of Maxwell Kingsbury Howard on June 30.

Congratulations to the Backer and Howard families on Baby Eden and Baby Max!

New Member Welcome

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

  • Backyard Farms, Portland, ME
  • Cut Fresh LLC, Milwaukee, WI (ED. NOTE: Last week, Cut Fresh was incorrectly listed as a Chairman’s Roundtable donor. We apologize for the inconvenience)
  • Grower's Best, Los Angeles, CA

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.

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:

  • Westlake Produce Company, Los Angeles, CA (ED. NOTE: Last week, Westlake Produce Company was incorrectly listed as a new member. We apologize for the inconvenience)
  • Mann Packing Company, Salinas, CA
  • Rainier Fruit Company, Selah, WA
  • Sun World International, LLC, Bakersfield, CA

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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