August 19, 2010

In Today's Issue:


Pulitzer Prize Winner, National Press Club President, 20-Year AP Veteran to Address Role of Consumer Media at WPPC

As part of the "Fresh Press" media roundtable, six of the nation's top journalists covering agriculture and related industries including a former Pulitzer Prize winner and the sitting president of the National Press Club will join attendees at this year's Washington Public Policy Conference on Thursday, September 16. The panel will discuss the value of open and transparent communication with the general consumer media in all phases of the produce industry.

"The public relations efforts of many produce companies are focused primarily on trade-only media, reaching out only to the general press in times of crisis" said Patrick Delaney, United Fresh communications manager. "From our progress on child nutrition and sustainability, to our work on labor and immigration, to our leadership in food safety matters, the produce industry has a lot to gain from conveying those good works to the public."

The panel will include National Public Radio Health Editor April Fulton, McClatchy Newspapers Regional Correspondent Michael Doyle and Reuters agriculture reporter Christopher Doering, as well as Des Moines Register food and agricultural policy correspondent and 20-year veteran of the Associated Press Philip Brasher, Bloomberg agricultural policy reporter and National Press Club President Alan Bjerga, and Tribune Company's Andrew Zajac, part of the reporting team at the Chicago Tribune that was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. The panel will be moderated Ray Gilmer, by United Fresh vice president of communications and former television and radio news producer.

For more information on the Fresh Press panel, contact Patrick Delaney at 202-303-3400, ext. 417, and for more information or to register for the Washington Public Policy Conference, click here.


DuPont, Capitol Hill Veteran Joins United Fresh Government Relations Team

United Fresh has named Julie Manes to the director of government relations position in the association's Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters beginning September 1, two weeks before United’s annual Washington Public Policy Conference.

"Julie has such strong credentials and will be fully prepared to hit the ground running next month," said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy. "We are extremely excited about the experience and energy that she will bring to our public policy efforts and the overall service we provide to our members."

Manes comes to United Fresh after 10 years as a federal affairs manger in DuPont’s Washington office. During her time at DuPont manes worked extensively on agriculture, nutrition and food safety issues with congress and the Bush and Obama Administrations. Manes also served as chair of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Government Relations Committee, and led the formation of DuPont Health Care Reform Task Force, which included the creation of an internal company health care reform website utilized by DuPont's 60,000 employees. Prior to her time with DuPont, Manes spent 13 years on Capitol Hill serving as legislative director for Congressman Jim Lightfoot (R-IA) and the chief agriculture aide for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).

As of September 1, Manes can be reached at 202-303-3400, ext. 404, or at jmanes@unitedfresh.org.


Traceability, Food Safety Top of Mind at Texas Produce Convention

United Fresh traded spring break for serious business last week as Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Dave Gombas and Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché traveled to South Padre Island, Texas for the annual convention of the Texas Produce Association.

Gombas and Vaché joined CropLife's Jeff Case and United Fresh Board Member Dan'l Mackey Almy of DMA Solutions for The Produce Safety Net: The Future is Now, a panel discussion moderated by Drew DeBerry, deputy commissioner of agriculture for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

"I found Drew to be extremely knowledgeable about the issues our industry faces not only impacting our members in Texas but on the national scale too," said Vaché, who presented an update of the Produce Traceability Initiative, including the continuing need to establish Whole Chain Traceability and the hidden benefits of a solid industry wide system.  Also covered was the next stage of PTI Governance structure with strong support from the retail segment. "The questions from the audience were absolutely spot on and showed how much the Texas produce industry is engaged and looking for continuing education and information as we deal with pending legislation issues that impact the industry. It is very clear Texas industry understands the need to stay focused on the concerns of the consumers and how the industry is perceived." 

Almy delivered a compelling message of how organizations should approach their marketing efforts in regard to food safety efforts, showcasing the importance of food safety as a basic and integral part of business for all points in the food chain, rather than as a marketing advantage.

"Food safety is not optional, but for now it is a customized business practice and the degree in which companies are implementing food safety protocols varies," Almy said. "This lack of standardization opens the door for companies to interpret acceptable levels of food safety practices and that is not a strategy that bodes well for our industry.  Food safety should not be a differentiator."

Gombas addressed food safety laws and regulations, providing attendees an overview of pending food safety legislation and the work being conducted regarding GAPs, audit harmonization the strong relationship United Fresh has in working directly with the FDA.

"Whether Congress ultimately passes new food safety legislation or not," said Gombas, "FDA is already writing new regulations that will change the rules for fresh and fresh-cut operations. The produce industry must stay informed, and must get engaged in discussions on these emerging regulations at every opportunity."

For more information on the show, visit www.texasproduceassociation.com.


Neenan Tackles Carbon Footprints, Water Conservation in San Francisco

United Fresh Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability Rob Neenan traveled to San Francisco last week to discuss a wide array of topics related to sustainability, including carbon footprint metrics, water conservation, and crop protection materials at the annual Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships conference.

"What continues to be a concern for United Fresh, and was something that was echoed by many of the conference attendees is that growers will receive little or no compensation from buyers to cover the costs of formulating and implementing a comprehensive on-farm sustainability program," said Neenan. "Without any additional compensation, widespread adoption of sustainable practices by growers may not occur."

For more information on United's sustainability efforts, contact Neenan at 202-303-3400, ext 427.

 


Record Number of Sponsors Sign on for 2010 WPPC

More sponsors are on board for the 2010 Washington Public Policy Conference than ever before, said United's John Toner, vice president of convention and industry relations. A record 31 sponsors are will enable United Fresh to produce and provide additional and more in-depth programming at this year's conference.

"United Fresh is thrilled at the number of sponsors for this year's WPPC," said Toner. "Each one of these companies, as well as each person attending the WPPC, is helping to make a difference on key issues facing our industry and in our future as a whole."

Platinum
Amcor Flexibles
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
Chiquita Brands
Del Monte Fresh Foods
Grimmway Farms
Embassy of Mexico
Meister Media Worldwide
N2N Global
Produce Business
Tanimura & Antle

Gold
Desert Glory
Earthbound Farms
Four Seasons Produce
Fox Packaging
Frontera Produce
IFCO
Mann Packing Co.
Mastronardi Produce
The Packer
Rio Queen Citrus

Silver
Apio
Castellini Company
CHEP
Dole Food Company
Duda Farm Fresh Foods
Famous Software
Monsanto
Potandon Produce
The Produce News
Sunkist
Sun World International

"We hope that all of our attendees will thank these sponsors while in Washington, as we would be unable to put our industry's best face forward without their outstanding support," Toner added.

The Washington Public Policy Conference will run September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel on the banks of the Potomac River. For more information, please click here or call 202-303-3400.


United Draws Crowd for Webinar on USDA's PACA Trust Proposed Rule

From the more than 90 people in attendance on Wednesday's United Fresh webinar addressing USDA's proposed changes to provisions of the PACA Trust, it was clear many industry members were eager to determine how these potential changes could impact their business.

The proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register on June 8, deals with post-default agreements on trust protection eligibility, which has been the subject of recent court decisions. The original period in which to submit comments on this rule closed August 9, but United Fresh anticipates that USDA will soon re-open the proposed rule, providing an additional opportunity for the industry to submit comments.

The PowerPoint slides from Wednesday's webinar are now available on the United Fresh website. Also, available on this page are United's draft technical comments to USDA's Post Default Regulations proposed rule, sample comments that industry members can use to draft their own comments, and general background information and a briefing paper on the proposed PACA Trust regulations.

For additional information about the proposed rule, please contact Robert Guenther, United Fresh, senior vice president of public policy.


Finalists for the Grower Achievement Award Announced

Reprinted from the August 2010 American Vegetable Grower.

As you will find out after reading a little about the five operations presented here, the growers running these farming businesses give nothing less than 110%. A commitment to their operation in the areas of food safety, technology, and marketing, as well as a commitment to the industry, has led them to the pages of American Vegetable Grower (AVG) as a finalist for the 2010 Grower Achievement Award.

The Grower Achievement Award is sponsored by Syngenta in cooperation with United Fresh Produce Association. The award will be presented to the 2010 recipient at the United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on Sept. 16. Each year, a panel of judges meets to talk about the merits of each finalist. Again this year, we received numerous nominations, and there were many exemplary operations from which to choose. The information that follows on this year's five finalists was gleaned from the nominations.

Cedar Meadow Farm

Location: Holtwood, PA
Owner: Steve Groff
Vegetable Acres: 200
Crops: Sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, and tillage radish

Cedar Meadow Farm is a no-till vegetable farm in Lancaster County, PA. Owner Steve Groff has pioneered the permanent cover cropping system that includes cover crops and crop rotations designed to enhance soil and water quality and reduce the use of crop protectants. Said to be the first commercial vegetable farm in the U.S. that is 100% no-till, Groff also has developed tillage radish, a new cover crop that has piqued the interest of growers across the country.

Continuously researching new cover crops, last year Groff tested 30 species, planted at different planting dates for a total of 75 plots. He hosted a field day, which brought in about 350 people to see the plots. He is very active in the industry and is a part of USDA's Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program as a sustainable farm educator. He also shares his research with growers at 12 to 15 speaking engagements each year. In addition, he travels to Canada, France, Germany, and Japan to learn about agricultural production in those countries. In February 2010, Groff was presented with the Pennsylvania Tomato Industry Award for his pioneering work with cover crops.

American Farms

Location: Salinas, CA
General Manager: Israel Morales
Vegetable Acres: 7,500
Crops: Broccoli, lettuce, Romaine, greens, rapinni, mache, cauliflower, and beets

Owned by David Gill and Mike Hitchcock, American Farms is managed by Israel Morales. The operation is known as one that is technologically savvy and has worked to implement the latest technology to create additional efficiencies. For example, American Farms was one of the very early grower-users of RTK GPS steering systems and still uses it today for listing, land leveling, and permanent bed farming. American Farms was also one of the first area growers to use the EcoDan cultivator guidance system for cultivation.

In addition, Morales invented a hoop system for growing mache, a salad green. The farm now grows about 270 acres of mache conventionally. About 60% of the crops produced on the farm, however, are grown organically.

Being in California, water is a precious resource that the farm works to conserve. Specifically, Morales' commitment to conserving water led him to get involved in a water management practices webinar that was held last December. Morales' participated in the presentation, discussing drought-proof and cost-saving on-farm water management practices.

L.H. Piggott & Girls Farm

Location: Benton Harbor, MI
Owner: George and Laurie McManus
Vegetable Acres: 700
Crops: Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, eggplant, bell pepper, corn and soybean.

Known for its farm market that has been deemed "the place to visit" in southwest Michigan, L.H. Piggott & Girls also has worked to not only create efficiencies but to become more sustainable. Because the farm is located near Lake Michigan, which is an area that experiences high winds, George McManus III reduces the impact of the wind by using rye strips and contour farming. His use of cover crops reduces crop protectant and fertilizer input, and bailing plastic mulch limits the farm’s impact on landfills. In addition, double cropping of plastic mulch helps to reduce the operation's environmental footprint.

Recently, McManus designed a new low tunnel that allows improving frost protection by an additional 5°F to 10°F compared to current standard systems. He combines polyethylene plastic row covers with an extra half layer of spunbond polyester material to trap more heat inside the row covers. With this added protection, crops can be planted as early as mid April. Supplying food to both its farm market and large grocery chains, L.H. Piggott takes food safety to heart. The farming operation and its packing facility are certified by a third-party auditor, PrimusLabs. 

In addition, the operation was the recipient of the Master Farmer Award from the Michigan Vegetable Council during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo in December 2009.

Alstede Farms LLC

Location: Chester, NJ
Owners: Kurt and Barbara Alstede Vegetable Acres: 500
Crops: 200 different fresh market vegetables, fruit, and flowers

Alstede Farms is one of the largest fresh market vegetable, fruit, and flower farms in northern New Jersey. After establishing his agricultural business primarily in grain and wholesale vegetable and fruit markets, Kurt Alstede developed a diversified retail marketing business to sell his fresh produce and flowers. In addition to a year-round market, Alstede Farms features pick-your-own, school tours, on-farm summer camps, hayrides, parties, and harvest festivals. The farm also retails its products via 25 seasonal farmers' markets throughout northern New Jersey.

New this year for the farm is its involvement in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture. In fact, as part of the CSA, the farm has partnered with two large corporations in the area to supply employees with fresh produce. In addition, Alstede Farms has added 10 acres to devote to organic production and is working to become certified.

Also working to be good stewards of the land, the operation grows its summer crops on plastic mulch with drip irrigation. No-till pumpkins and sweet corn are standard plantings.

Alstede began farming in 1982 and his contributions to New Jersey agriculture have been signifcant over the years. He has been a participant on numerous boards and committees since his farming career began. He has received numerous awards, most recently being named the 2008 Grower of the Year in New Jersey.

Wysocki Produce Farm

Location: Bancroft, WI
Owners: Wysocki Family Of Companies
Vegetable Acres: 13,000
Crops: Potatoes, peas, sweet corn, green beans, soybeans, field corn, and alfalfa.

A second-generation family farm, Wysocki Produce Farm is part of the family-owned Wysocki Family of companies. It began in the late 1950s when three brothers partnered together and started the potato farm known today as Wysocki Produce Farm. Wysocki Produce Farm's Healthy Grown potatoes have received accreditation from Protected Harvest, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing and certifying the use of environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural practices by developing stringent and quantifiable standards, incentive-based eco-labeling, and public education.

In addition to accreditation from Protected Harvest, the farm is GAP-certified. Its partner company, Paragon Potato Farms, requires GAP audit compliance from all of its potato growers, too.

The farm and its partner companies have made strides to be good stewards of energy consumption. By implementing computerized irrigation systems, controlled timers trigger the irrigation systems to turn off during peak energy consumption periods and run during off-peak times.

Wysocki Produce Farm also gives back to the community by being involved with the Portage County United Way. This year, the organization and its employees raised $20,000 to support United Way's agencies.


This is Your Captain Speaking ...

A message from United Fresh Chairman-Elect Reggie Griffin

I'm writing to personally invite all you land lubbers to join me for a night of fun, food and entertainment on the New Orleans Cruise for Salad Bars in Schools. This historic voyage will depart from the dock at the Gaylord National Hotel, site of the United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference. You and other produce industry leaders will shove off Tuesday, September 14 at 7 p.m. aboard The Cherry Blossom, a seaworthy 19th century-style sternwheeler of which I am proud (and surprised) to be honorary captain for the evening.

On the cruise, I will safely pilot our fine ship several nautical miles on the Potomac River, offering passengers spectacular views of Old Town Alexandria and Washington. Along the way, you can enjoy ship's rations of the finest gastronomic fare and beverage concoctions available on any riverboat. Best yet, to get everyone in the spirit for United's convention in New Orleans, Chief Petty Officer Stenzel has commissioned a Dixieland jazz band for your dancing enjoyment on the poop deck! Most important, this cruise benefits the United Fresh Foundation's Salad Bar in Every School campaign, which is moving full-steam-ahead for increasing access to fruits and vegetables by placing salad bars in schools across the country - and leaving childhood obesity in its wake.

But there are no stowaways on my boat, so you'd best secure your passage by purchasing tickets for yourself and other seafaring friends at this website address: www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc/boat or by calling United Fresh at 202-303-3400.

Better still, you can demonstrate your company's support of the Salad Bar in Every School campaign by becoming a sponsor. See the United Fresh website for details.

So get your bearings and come aboard for a fun and memorable night aboard the New Orleans Cruise for Salad Bars in Schools.

Sincerely yours,

Captain Reggie Griffin
Chairman-Elect
United Fresh Produce Association

P.S. As an added benefit, I'll be exercising my full powers as captain by performing marriages during the cruise ... for the right price.


Chicago Schools Want Salad Bars!


From left, Chiquita's Andrew Ciafardini and Lorelei DiSogra of United Fresh meet with Rochelle Davis, Chicago Healthy Schools Campaign, Audrey Rowe, USDA Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs and Louise Esaian, Chicago Public Schools, to discuss school salad bars.

Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United's vice president of nutrition and health, and Andrew Ciafardini, corporate communications and investor relations official for Chiquita Brands International, traveled to Chicago this week to discuss a plan by Chicago Public Schools to place salad bars in more than 60 schools this fall.

As part of its contribution to United's A Salad Bar in Every School Campaign, Chiquita will be donating salad bars to 10 elementary schools across the Second City by the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

"Chicago Public Schools has made a major commitment to improving the healthfulness of school meals and serving more fresh fruits and vegetables to students," said DiSogra. "CPS' ultimate goal is to have salad bars in hundreds of schools over the next five years, and we are honored to help them accomplish that objective. Chicago's 400,000 students will benefit by having increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables everyday."

DiSogra and Ciafardini met with CPS Logistics Officer Louise Esaian, and Chartwells/Thompson Hospitality Vice President Bob Bloomer to discuss details of the salad bar donation and participated in the "Go for the Gold" luncheon to announce Chicago's goal of having 100 public schools receive Gold recognition from the Healthier US Schools Challenge in the next three years.

For more information on how you can support A Salad Bar in Every School, please contact DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.     


New Member Welcome

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

  • Locus Traxx, Jupiter, FL
  • másLabor, Lovingston, VA
  • TripleH Produce, Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico
Welcome

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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