August 26, 2010

In Today's Issue:


United Chairman Smith Participates in Salinas Tour for USDA Secretary Vilsack


United Fresh Chairman Steffanie Smith chats with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as Rep. Sam Farr looks on last week in Salinas.

Produce industry leaders from California's Salinas Valley joined Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) last weekend to host USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for a short visit to the area. Secretary Vilsack and Rep. Farr were also joined by Farr's House colleague, Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA).

The tour consisted of a Leafy Green Marketing Agreement field audit, a tour of conservation practices in the Salinas Valley and a roundtable discussion on produce food safety research.  United Fresh Chairman Steffanie Smith joined other Salinas Valley produce leaders for the tour.

"This was an important opportunity to showcase the produce industry in the Salinas area while focusing on several important issues such as food safety, conservation and research," said Smith, who was joined on the tour by leaders from the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Western Growers Association and the Center for Produce Safety.


PTI Calls for Working Group Volunteers as GS1 Joins Initiative

The Produce Traceability Initiative, designed to help the produce industry maximize traceback procedures and standardize its traceability practices, announced the formation of industry-led working groups this week that will guide its activities moving forward. Industry members from across the fresh produce supply chain are invited to volunteer their time and expertise to one or more of the newly formed working groups.

Meanwhile, GS1 US has joined Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh as a PTI-administering organization.

Volunteers are being sought to assist four working groups that will drive key elements of the PTI’s work moving forward:

  • Implementation Working Group: This volunteer group will guide and promote industry-wide adoption of GS1 standards at the foundation of the PTI, including developing best practices, identifying solutions to implementation issues, and tracking industry implementation.
  • Master Data Working Group: This volunteer group will address issues regarding identifying product attributes, and communicating that data between trading partners
  • Industry Communications Working Group: This volunteer group will ensure two-way communication between the initiative and industry
  • Technology Working Group: This volunteer group will provide a forum for technology providers to collaborate to support the initiative

In addition, volunteers are being sought to participate in PTI-designed pilot projects, or to work with PTI to develop case studies of pilot projects their companies have completed. These volunteers can be at any stage of implementation of PTI milestones.

Interested associations and organizations are also invited to join the PTI's new Industry Association Interest Group, which is being created to allow interested industry associations to participate in the initiative.

Volunteers must be members in good standing of CPMA, GS1 US, PMA and/or United Fresh. Every effort will be made to accommodate all volunteers. Interested persons should contact Marlo Bodinizzo of GS1 US by Sept. 27. Detailed descriptions of each working group’s area of focus can be found on the PTI website here.

All four working groups will report to a new PTI Leadership Council, which will replace the current Steering Committee structure.The PTI Leadership Council will include expanded involvement of leaders from across the produce supply chain, including retailers, foodservice operators and distributors, produce suppliers and wholesalers/terminal markets. It will also act as liaison to the GS1 US Foodservice Standards Initiative, a foodservice industry standardization initiative that is on a parallel track to the PTI, with respect to traceability. A graphic depiction of the PTI's new organizational structure can be found here.

"This new structure will establish the platform for every industry member to become more involved with the PTI initiative," said PTI Steering Committee Chair Cathy Green. "We believe this structure will create a more inclusive process that will benefit PTI and the industry alike."

Additionally, GS1 US has joined CPMA, PMA and United Fresh as an administering organization of the PTI, as well as an integral part of the new governance structure. GS1 US will be represented by Bob Carpenter, its CEO.  GS1 US will assist in administration and business of the new leadership council, working groups and pilot projects.

"GS1 US exists to help bring communities together to harness the power of standards to solve value chain problems, so supporting the PTI is a logical extension of our work in retail and more recently in the foodservice industry," said Sabina Saksena, GS1 US senior vice president of community insights and strategic partnerships. She also noted that "the PTI is being watched as the model to follow by the rest of the fresh food industry, and we are committed to its success."


Bakersfield Middle Schoolers Start Year with Two New Salad Bars


Sun World's Al Vangelos, left, and Pandol’s David Dever, center, join United's Jeff Oberman to dedicate a salad bar at Stonecreek Junior High School in Bakersfield, Calif. this week.

Kids at Stonecreek Junior High in Bakersfield, Calif. started the first day of school on a healthier note this year thanks to two new salad bars donated by growers Sun World International and Pandol Brothers to support United's A Salad Bar in Every School campaign. Sun World CEO Al Vangelos and Pandol Bros. CEO Dave Dever presented the salad bars Monday to Stonecreek Principal Darryl Johnson.

"The salad bar is a creative way to give our students choices at lunchtime that will increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables and will provide a platform for education about healthy eating," said Marilou Onaindia, Manager of Nutrition Services for the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District. 

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, excited students filled up their plates with green and black grapes, watermelon, dark green lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots and green peppers.

"This event was a great example of United Fresh members fully engaging in their communities to support A Salad Bar in Every School Sun World and Pandol Brothers are making a difference to improve child nutrition, and I urge more member companies to get involved in A Salad Bar in Every School," said Jeff Oberman, United Fresh Vice President of Membership. For more information about the campaign, please contact United's Vice President of Business Development Claudia Wenzing at 202-303-3400, ext. 415.


Pilot Program to Test Fruit and Vegetable Incentives in Food Stamp Program

Massachusetts has been selected to implement a new $20 million USDA Healthy Incentives Pilot program to test how incentives in the food stamp program (SNAP) could empower low-income Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. The pilot will provide financial incentives to 7,500 food stamp households, cutting the costs of fruits and vegetables by 30%.

For every dollar participants spend on fruits and vegetables using their SNAP Electronic Benefits Card, $.30 will be added back to their EBT card.  The pilot program was a major goal of United Fresh and Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance partners, and was passed in the 2008 Farm Bill.

"During the farm bill debate, we worked to build broad bipartisan support for this project to demonstrate the importance of helping low-income families increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. The results of this study will influence food stamp policy going forward," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president for nutrition and health.

For the official announcement, click here, and for more on the pilot, contact Dr. DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.


USDA Reopens and Extends Comment Period for 30 Days on Proposed PACA Rule

After receiving preliminary comments from United Fresh and other industry trade groups, USDA has signaled via an announcement published in Monday's Federal Register that it will reopen and extend for 30 days the comment period on the proposed rule addressing post-default agreements on PACA Trust Protection Eligibility. This issue has been the subject of recent court decisions and USDA is seeking industry comments. 

Now that the comment period is reopened, produce companies have an additional 30 days to explain and provide feedback about how the proposed rule will impact their business. Comments are due to USDA by September 22, and can be submitted on-line or through the mail. More information can be found in the announcement.

Last Wednesday, August 18, United Fresh organized a webinar to educate the industry about the proposed rule. The PowerPoint slides from the webinar are available on the United Fresh website. Also, available on the website are United's draft technical comments on the USDA proposed rule, a sample letter that industry members can use to draft their own comments, and general background information and a briefing paper on the proposed PACA Trust regulations.

After the original proposed rule was published on June 8, United Fresh's Government Relations Council approved the establishment of a PACA Trust Working Group to analyze the proposed rule and provide recommendations back to the industry. The Working Group is comprised of representatives from all sectors of the produce industry. In addition, United Fresh organized a letter from 19 allied produce organizations serving on United's Government Relations Council, asking for USDA to extend the comment period given the new rule’s potential to significantly impact businesses practices. USDA heeded this request, and the comment period has now been extended.

For additional information about the proposed rule, please contact Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy at 202-303-3400, ext. 409. 

Additional Materials:

United Fresh draft Technical Comments on Proposed Rule

Sample Industry draft Comments

United Fresh Briefing Paper on Proposed PACA Trust Regulations

USDA Proposed Rule on PACA Trust Protections

United Fresh and Allied Organizations Comments to USDA seeking extension of proposed rule


WPPC Session Aims to Bring Science Back into the Pesticide Residue Discussion

In light of the recent attention given to reports of detectable pesticide residues in fresh fruits and vegetables, and speculation on the effects of such residues, the United Fresh Produce Association's Grower-Shipper Market Segment Board will hold an educational session, Getting Back to Real Science on Pesticide Residues, on during next month's Washington Public Policy Conference.

Speakers on the panel include Larry Elworth, chief agricultural counselor to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, David Barney, business development manager for Bakkavor’s United Kingdom prepared foods operation and Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Berry Farms. The session will be moderated by Northwest Horticultural Council President Christian Schlect.

"Consumers and industry buyers are increasingly taking notice of news reports about pesticide residues on fresh produce and unfortunately, misinformation about pesticides can confuse consumers who are trying to increase produce consumption for better health," said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of communication."“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 into the picture? This discussion will tackle those challenging and frustrating questions, and provide real answers to a concerned industry."

"In the UK, pesticide residues are still an emotive subject," said Barney. "Despite the best efforts of producers and retailers, consumers don't understand the terminology used in quantifying residues - or the risks involved. As a result, we are very focused on minimizing the incidence of pesticide residues - however small."

"As a grower-shipper we are absolutely focused on working with our buyer partners in ensuring our consumers are confident in our products," said Jewell. "We also expect regulatory agencies to establish tolerances on pesticides and other crop protection tools based on scientific research, and to defend the science and regulations in places when challenged."

The educational session is one of the multiple development opportunities at the conference, September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel on the banks of the Potomac River. During the three-day event, 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. Attendees will hear from USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), as well as political strategist and wordsmith Frank Luntz. During the annual March on Capitol Hill, industry members will have the unique opportunity to meet in person with lawmakers and staff, 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. Additionally, top national journalists will discuss important policy issues and the value of relationships with the consumer media during the Fresh Press media roundtable.

This year's conference will also include the return of the Management Resource Center, where attendees can research and explore new solutions and technology providers, and 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 join attendees to sample the various fruits and vegetables the produce industry has to offer. In addition to Fresh Festival, the conference will also 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 and more information may be found by contacting United Fresh Political Affairs Manager Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400, ext. 416 or, or by visiting http://www.unitedfresh.org.


Free Webinar Will Help WPPC Attendees Understand Key Issues, Prepare for Critical Meetings

In three weeks, hundreds of Washington Public Policy Conference attendees will gather in our nation's capital to talk face-to-face with congressional, regulatory and administration officials. This is the produce industry's most important opportunity to talk with leaders in Washington about the essential priorities for our businesses.

"Put it simply," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther, "we need as many well-informed produce industry advocates as we can get out here to make our voice stronger and louder."

To better understand the critical issues affecting our industry, all registered WPPC attendees can take advantage of a free webinar to learn the latest information on these critical issues, including food safety, nutrition and consumption, immigration reform, locally grown and more.

The webinar will take place next Tuesday, August 31 from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. Registration and more information is available by clicking here.


United Fresh in the News

This week, United Fresh has made its presence felt in the news on two key issues: food safety and child nutrition. On Tuesday, United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther sat down with National Public Radio Health Editor April Fulton to talk about food safety and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) currently awaiting debate in the Senate. The feature, which aired on NPR's Morning Edition Wednesday, remains one of the most commented-on stories on NPR.org. Audio of the story can be found here.


United's Robert Guenther chats with NPR Health Editor April Fulton on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act this week.

Also on Wednesday, United Fresh Vice President of Communications Ray Gilmer spoke with Cox Television Washington Bureau Correspondent Carol Han about the Senate food safety bill. In recent weeks, there has been a renewed focus on S. 510 as a result of the commitment by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) to bring the legislation to the floor in the coming months, and has intensified in the wake of the recent outbreak of Salmonella in raw eggs.


United Fresh Vice President of Communications Ray Gilmer talks to Cox Television Washington Correspondent Carol Han in Downtown Washington this week.

This weekend, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel will appear on TODAY Show Food Editor Phil Lempert and co-host Doug Stephan's weekly radio show, Good Day Supermarket Guru, Saturday morning at 8:15 Eastern to talk about child nutrition, salad bars and United's A Salad Bar in Every School campaign. More information on the show can be found at www.supermarketguru.com and www.dougstephan.com.


Conservation Reserve Program General Sign-up Ends on Friday

Landowners, farmers and ranchers have until the close of business tomorrow, August 27, to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), according to a reminder sent out by USDA's Farm Service Agency this week. Producers who want to offer eligible land for CRP's competitive general sign-up can enroll at the FSA county office where their farm records are maintained.

CRP is a voluntary program that assists farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to protect environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolling in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers in exchange for rental payments, cost-share, and technical assistance. CRP protects millions of acres of topsoil from erosion and is designed to improve the nation's natural resources base. Participants voluntarily remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production by entering into long-term contracts for 10 to 15 years. In exchange, participants receive annual rental payments and a payment of up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing conservation practices.

By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP also protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to wildlife population increases in many parts of the country. As a result, CRP has provided significant opportunities for hunting and fishing on private lands.

For more information on the general CRP sign-up, or continuous CRP sign-ups, producers should contact their local FSA county office, or visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.


New Member Welcome

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

  • Central New York Regional Market Authority, Syracuse, NY
  • Food Technology Centre & TOP B.V., Wageningen, Netherlands
  • Harvill’s Produce, Orlando, FL
  • Royal Oak Farms, Royal Oaks, CA
  • Symbolon Group, Indian Hills, CO
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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