July 15, 2010

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Disappointed as House Committee Passes Child Nutrition Bill

Earlier today the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of 2010 (H.R. 5504) by a vote of 32 to 13.

"Although United Fresh previously supported the House bill," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health, "we are very disappointed with the inclusion of frozen and dried fruit in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program."

The bill now heads to the floor of the House for consideration. Currently, the passed version of the bill does not contain off-sets for the more that $8 billion over 10 years in spending.  Before the bill can move to the House floor it is required to be married with the offsets, the status of which is unclear at this point.

An amendment offered by Reps. David Wu (D-OR) and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) including frozen fruit in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program passed with a voice vote and no discussion.

"We aim to try to improve this legislation as it moves to the House and Senate floor," added DiSogra.

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

United Fresh to Donate Salad Bars to New Orleans Schools

Schools throughout New Orleans will be the beneficiaries this fall as United Fresh has announced that it will donate multiple salad bars to schools in the Crescent City as part of its A Salad Bar in Every School campaign. During this year's Washington Public Policy Conference, United Fresh will host a New Orleans-themed cruise Tuesday, September 14, aboard the Cherry Blossom, a 19th century-style Victorian sternwheeler, and will feature Dixieland jazz, dinner, drinks and a nighttime tour of the Washington, D.C. monuments by water.

"Healthy options in school are a must for kids nationwide, but in New Orleans, which continues to face so many challenges following Hurricane Katrina, the need is especially great," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "Through this special event, the Salad Bar in Every School campaign will receive the resources to donate salad bars full of fresh, healthy produce to New Orleans schools. As part of the Washington Public Policy Conference, we will take the message of nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables for children from this new event to Capitol Hill and beyond."

Proceeds from the event will go directly toward providing salad bars to New Orleans schools. Salad bars will be donated  during the United Fresh 2011 Convention and Expo, May 2-5 in New Orleans. Companies can demonstrate their support via several available sponsorship packages.  Individual tickets for the cruise  are $125 and can be purchased at the United Fresh website or by contacting United’s Vice President of Business Development Claudia Wenzing at 202-303-3400, ext. 415.

The cruise is part of United's annual Washington Public Policy Conference, September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel on the banks of the Potomac River. During the three-day conference, produce industry members will discuss the tremendous potential of salad bars in child nutrition, as well as other critical priorities, including food safety, farm labor, and the locally-grown trend. During the conference's March on Capitol Hill, industry members will have the unique opportunity to meet in-person with lawmakers and staff in congressional offices and 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 business development-focused Management Resource Center and the ever-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 join attendees in sampling the flavorful fruits and vegetables the produce industry has to offer.

Registration for the conference is open and more information may be found by visiting www.unitedfresh.org.

United, Allied Organizations Request USDA to provide a 30-Day Extension for Comment Period on PACA Trust proposed rule

This week United Fresh, along with the 19 allied organizations that serve on United Fresh's Government Relations Council, requested via letter that USDA extend the comment period for the proposed rule on PACA Trust protections.

In the letter, the organizations indicated that because of the extensive effects on business practices, the organizations wish to ensure that the proposal and any modifications that may be sought are thoroughly vetted by the industry.

"Because of the importance of this proposed rule and the impact it will have on the industry, we felt it was important to make sure the produce industry has adequate time to review this proposed rule," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy at United Fresh.

The USDA proposed rule which was published on June 8, 2010, is looking on clarifying certain provisions related to the PACA Trust protections that have been subject to court decisions over the next several years.

The USDA proposed rule which was published on June 8, 2010, is looking on clarifying certain provisions related to the PACA Trust protections that have been subject to court decisions over the next several years.

For a briefing on the proposed rule, click here, and for more information, contact Guenther at 202-303-3400, ext. 409.

United Fresh, Allied Associations Follow Up with Letter to EPA, USDA


In a follow-up to meetings held earlier this month, United Fresh Chairman Steffanie Smith and President Tom Stenzel as well as representatives from six other allied organizations sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week summarizing issues of concern to the produce industry about recent coverage of pesticide issues and potential negative effects on the specialty crop industry.

Included in the letter were recommendations for the formation of a national Office of Pest Management Policy, as well as the establishment of an EPA point of contact when reports arise challenging the safety of products based on their pesticide residue content.

A full transcript of the letter can be found here, and a video of Smith and Stenzel discussing the meeting and pesticide issues is available at www.unitedfresh.tv.

United Fresh Members Promote Nutrition Initiatives at USDA and Congressional Salinas Valley Tours and Events

United Fresh Board member Lorri Koster, lower left, speaks with Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA), second from left, and USDA's Dr. Janey Thornton during a tour of a lettuce operation in the Salinas Valley Tuesday.

Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and U.S. Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) visited with schools and businesses in the Salinas Valley last Thursday as part of a tour organized by past Grower-Shipper Association of Central California chair, Mann Packing Company co-chairman and United Fresh board member Lorri Koster. Dr. Thornton oversees the federal school meals programs, SNAP (food stamps), WIC and other federal nutrition programs.

The first stop for Dr. Thornton and Rep. Farr was a breakfast meeting with United Fresh and Grower-Shipper Association members and foodservice distributors allowing members to share the message of the importance of increased fruit and vegetable consumption. During the breakfast at Rancho Cielo, a campus for troubled youth that participates in the summer feeding program, Salinas - area companies were able to share 'real world' examples of how the produce industry can adapt to school foodservice budget and portion challenges with new products as well as showcasing a distribution network that spans from major cities to rural populations.

After a field tour to a Salinas Valley whole-leaf processing center, Dr. Thornton, Rep. Farr and Koster continued on for lunch at Calabasas Elementary School in Watsonville, a new participant in the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program for 2010-2011. Throughout the school lunch and Food and Nutrition Policy Roundtable that followed, Rep. Farr shared the message of how programs like the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program and United’s new A Salad Bar in Every School campaign help children develop healthier eating habits.

United Fresh thanks Rep. Farr, Koster and the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, and all members who participated in this valuable event. For additional information on United’s child nutrition priorities, contact Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.

Field Production/Harvesting Section of Harmonization Standard Nears Completion

More than 50 members of the Produce GAPs Harmonization Technical Working Group gathered in San Jose this week for the eighth meeting of the industry initiative. Hosted by California Strawberry Commission, the meeting set a goal of developing the final harmonized draft standard that will be passed off to the initiative’s Steering Committee at the joint meeting September 13 in Washington. 

"The TWG completed its first draft standard at our May meeting in Rosemont, IL, and during the last two meetings we have been working to revise and edit the draft standard,” said McDonalds’ Suresh DeCosta, chairman of the Technical Working Group. “We are excited to report that we are on course to deliver the harmonized standard to the Steering Committee at the joint meeting in September."

After the completion of the first draft, the TWG decided to format the harmonized standard similar to the Tomato Food Safety Protocols, and were close to completing the Field Production/Harvesting section of the draft this week. 

For the first time at a TWG meeting, a web conference was made available, allowing small growers who were unable to attend the meeting join the discussion via web conferencing to see the work that was being accomplished by the TWG.

For additional information and interaction, the TWG has a blog where industry members can make comments and on the harmonized draft standard. Submitted comments will be addressed at the upcoming meeting, August 25-26 at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott. For other questions regarding the TWG, please contact United’s Erin Grether at 202-303-3400, ext. 402.

Allied Organizations Support Rep. John Salazar at United Fresh

Congressman John Salazar (D-CO), third from right, is joined by, from left, Ryan Krabill of the National Potato Council, Diane Kurrle of the U.S. Apple Association, United’s Robert Guenther, Nancy Foster of U.S. Apple, and Western Growers’ Ken Barbic during a breakfast this week in support of the congressman for his work on fruit and vegetable issues.

This week, United Fresh and several allied produce organizations met with Rep. John Salazar (D-CO) at United's headquarters for breakfast. The breakfast was in support of Rep. Salazar and the work he has done for fruits and vegetables during his time on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriation Committee.

"Congressman Salazar was one of the key players in our success during the 2008 Farm Bill debate and we are very pleased that we could support his reelection efforts in November," said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy.

Rep. Salazar represents Colorado's third congressional district, including Western Colorado and the towns of Pueblo, Grand Junction and Durango.

Croplife America and United Fresh Look to Coordinate Resources

In an effort to better coordinate resources and messaging with respect to media reports about pesticide residue on horticultural products, United Fresh staff met with counterparts from Croplife America last week. The meeting follows recent media coverage of studies portraying a distorted depiction of prevalence of pesticide residues on produce and the potential risks to consumers.

"We are particularly concerned that the public is not getting a complete and accurate understanding of this issue and that industry must respond to these reports in a timely and aggressive manner," said Rob Neenan, United Fresh vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability. "To achieve this goal, we will continue working with Croplife America to develop materials that can be used to brief the media on this topic and to coordinate efforts to urge EPA to explain and proactively defend its rigorous pesticide registration process."

As part of that continued cooperation, Neenan participated in Croplife's national policy conference this week focusing on the pivotal role that science and technology has played with respect to increased crop yields, enhanced food safety, and improved environmental protection by agriculture.

Conference speakers discussed why continued advancement in science and technology will be critical to meeting the rapidly expanding global demand for food.  However, they noted that some environmental and consumer groups oppose the use of crop protection materials and genetically modified organisms even though these technologies may be the basis for further improvements in crop yields. Most of the speakers stressed the importance of all sectors of agriculture explaining and defending modern production practices to reassure the public and policy makers about the inherent safety of the food supply.

For more information, contact Neenan at 202-303-3400, ext. 427.

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:

  • Stemilt Growers, Inc., Wenatchee, WA

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:

  • QMI-SAI Global, Cleveland, OH

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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