February 17, 2011

In Today's Issue:

Government Relations Council Makes Headway During Annual Washington Meetings

The members of United's Government Relations Council converged on Washington this week for the group's annual meeting, complete with discussions on industry priorities and face-time with congressional leaders and federal officials.

Leading off the two-day meetings, held at Washington's Renaissance Dupont Circle Hotel, was a Tuesday morning discussion of the association's congressional and regulatory agenda, including the council’s government relations priorities for the year and a look at the congressional environment in 2012.

Following that meeting, Congressman and President of the Freshman Class of the 112th Congress Austin Scott (R-GA) joined the group for lunch, during which Rep. Scott shared his views on the expectations of his class, one of the largest in recent memory and what, if any, effects those expectations may have on agriculture policy.

Tuesday afternoon saw a continuation of the council's discussion of the association's major policy and regulatory initiatives for 2011, including an in-depth look at the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. In addition to the Farm Bill, members of the council discussed industry opportunities within federal nutrition and feeding programs and looked at the need on the part of the industry to encourage the fostering of a regulatory environment in which produce companies can succeed. (Note: This same regulatory discussion is also explored in United Government Relations Director Julie Manes’ March 2011 column in Produce Business magazine.)

Following Tuesday afternoon's meetings, long-time produce champion and House Agriculture Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sam Farr (D-CA) showed his dedication to the produce industry by using a break from the House's marathon session stretching from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, to join the council for dinner at Carmine's, a Washington institution.

"Congressman Farr has been such a good friend and vocal advocate of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry for so many years," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther. "We appreciate very much that the congressman was able to join us, and we look forward to continuing our work with him as we move toward the 2012 Farm Bill."

Wednesday morning concluded the council's meetings with a discussion of general issues impacting the produce industry, including sustainability and locally grown, among many others. Following the morning meetings, council members met with leaders in the House and Senate, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), House Agriculture Committee member Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and staff from the offices of Senate Appropriations Committee Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Committee on Small Business member Marco Rubio (R-FL), and House Energy and Commerce Committee member Fred Upton (R-MI).

After the meetings, council members and congressional staffers joined United Fresh for its annual reception honoring members of the House Agriculture Committee. Members in attendance included Reps Farr and Schmidt, as well as Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Stephen Fincher (R-TN), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Larry Kissell (D-NC), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Bill Owens (D-NY), Reid Ribble (R-WI), David Scott (D-GA), Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Peter Welch (D-VT).

United Fresh Foundation Center for Global Produce Sustainability Forms New Advisory Board

The United Fresh Foundation Center for Global Produce Sustainability held an organizational meeting of its new Advisory Board as part of the association's Winter Leadership Meetings in Sonoma, Calif., January 17.

"The new advisory board brings together leaders from each segment of the produce supply chain," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "We wanted to make sure that growers are the anchor of the new board, as sustainability for our supply chain begins with stewardship of the land. It's equally important, however, for our Center to have the advice and counsel of fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, and retail and foodservice partners in this effort.  We all have responsibilities and incentives to adopt wise sustainability measures in our own sectors, and we need to work together as a total food chain partnership in meeting our customers' expectations from the produce suppliers."

At the first meeting of the Advisory Board, members addressed the mission and goals of the Center and examined progress to date on a number of initiatives. The board endorsed four overall goals for the Center:

  • To analyze global issues in sustainability for the agricultural and food industry and how these issues affect the fresh produce supply chain
  • To develop a positive vision that defines appropriate and successful produce supply chain sustainability, both for the industry overall and for individual companies
  • To ensure that external market-based initiatives on sustainability, potential regulations, and public dialogue support rather than hinder the industry's ability to deliver high-quality, safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to meet consumers' needs
  • To provide information, resources and tools for industry members to help them enhance sustainability to meet their own goals, and communicate effectively with suppliers, buyers and consumers about sustainability in their operations

In addition, the board had a lengthy discussion about various efforts underway by different groups to define and measure sustainability in agriculture and the fruit and vegetable industry specifically. United Fresh is actively involved in a number of these initiatives, working with many agricultural commodity organizations to advocate for a science-based approach to sustainability. 

In providing overall guidance to United's work with these initiatives, the Advisory Board agreed that in order to be embraced by the fruit and vegetable sector, any standards or metrics for sustainability must:

  • Be based on sound science, not ideology
  • Not substitute stakeholder opinion for government-approved legal standards
  • Be consistent with conventional agriculture and today's produce supply chain
  • Be practical and cost-effective to implement
  • Protect confidential information
  • Be voluntary for participants

United Fresh Senior Vice President for Public Policy Robert Guenther participated this past week as a member of the Coordinating Council of the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC), an initiative bringing together fruit and vegetable organizations, environmental organizations and companies throughout the produce supply chain to work on common ways to define and measure sustainability.

"We will continue to work with other partners in SISC to seek common ground on ways to measure sustainability in our industry," Guenther said. "These are not easy issues, but to the degree possible, it's important to reach common expectations on what is important when it comes to sustainability and how to measure performance. We believe SISC can be a tool for growers and others in the supply chain to measure and benchmark their own energy use, waste generation and disposal, water use, and similar metrics that can both save money and reduce environmental impact."

The Advisory Board also discussed the role of consumer and customer expectations for sustainability, including potential misperceptions. A large majority of fruit and vegetable farms today remain family businesses, often sustained for multiple generations through their long-standing commitment to sustainability.

"The board discussed how farms located in a climate with ideal growing conditions can often use less energy, water, and other inputs per unit of production than smaller, local farms, even with greater transportation impact," Stenzel said.  "It's important for the public to understand that sustainability is not determined by geography or size but by the stewardship of the operation."

The next meeting of the Advisory Board will take place concurrently with the United Fresh 2011 convention in New Orleans, May 2-5. The Board also agreed to consider expanding its membership if additional members of the industry come forward with a strong interest and expertise to help achieve the Center's goals.  Those interested in serving may contact Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president for member services and the Foundation at 202-303-3400, ext. 408. A list of the Advisory Board members may be found here.

The Center for Global Produce Sustainability is one of four centers within the United Fresh Foundation and was created in 2009 with foundational support from Bayer CropScience. Other Foundation centers include the Center for Nutrition and Health, Center for Food Safety and Quality, and Center for Leadership Excellence.

United Fresh Announces March Town Hall Schedule, Stops in Visalia, Minneapolis, Chicago

United Fresh will host three town hall events next month with stops in Visalia, CA, Minneapolis and Chicago. The events will provide local industry representatives the opportunity to informally discuss important issues currently facing their operations, including the expected impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act, opportunities for sales through federal nutrition programs and an open discussion of regionally specific issues and concerns.

"We look forward to providing this great opportunity to share updates and address key issues from attendees representing varied regions and the total supply chain" said United Fresh Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman.

March 7, United Fresh will travel to Visalia for a Town Hall Luncheon of California's Central Valley hosted by Barry Bedwell, California Grape & Tree Fruit League; Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual and Paul Cruikshank, C.H. Robinson Worldwide. 

On March 16, United Fresh will be in Minneapolis for a Town Hall for the Twin Cities produce industry hosted by Marylou Owen, G.O. Fresh; Nina Brooks, H. Brooks & Company and Ted Morimoto, The Kunkel Company.

On March 17, United Fresh will hold a luncheon in Chicago, hosted by Lisa Strube, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company.

These events are in addition to luncheons scheduled on Monday, February 21 in Belle Glade, FL, at an event hosted by Mark Bassetti and Nichole Towell, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, and Mike Stuart, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, and Tuesday, February 22 in Immokalee, FL, hosted by Reggie Brown, Florida Tomato Exchange.

For more information about these meetings, or to request a Town Hall meeting in your area, please contact Miriam Miller, United Fresh senior director of membership, at 202-303-3400, ext. 410.

Catch Up on United's Activities at Last Week's Freshconex and Fruit Logistica

United's presence was a focal point of activity for the three-day Freshconex and Fruit Logistica exposition in Berlin last week. The United Fresh booth featured the annual and wildly popular Global Reception, as well as opportunities to meet with presenters from United's Freshconex Business Forums, including Chairman Steffanie Smith, River Point Farms; Board Members Paddy Callaghan, Nature's Best Limited and David Barney, Bakkavor; Steve Grinstead, Pro*Act; Daniel Kretzschmar, Nunhems; Friedhelm Balmes, Gartenfrisch Jung GmbH; Raina Nelson, Rosemont Farms; Kim and Eric Gaarde, Fruit Dynamics; Jeff Brandenburg, JSB Group; Mark Sementilli, Bunzl; and Harrij Schmeitz, Frug I Com/Imtech.



"It was a great place for all members to meet a friendly face in a show with more than 70 different languages being spoken," said United Fresh Vice President of Convention and Industry Relations John Toner. "The show also allowed us to remind folks of the great convention opportunity coming up in New Orleans this May as a way to see what the North American marketplace has going in terms of making produce more convenient and more accessible through all channels of trade." 

Photos from last week's event are available by clicking here, and presentations can be viewed here.

Retail Produce Manager Awards Program Draws Record Nominations

The United Fresh Foundation has announced record nominations for the 2011 United Fresh Retail Produce Manager Awards Program. The nomination period, which closed February 7, drew more than 230 nominations from more than 50 different retail banners.

This is the seventh year of the Retail Produce Manager Awards Program, which was established in 2005 through the support of founding sponsor Ready Pac Foods, Inc. The program pays recognition to those on the front line in supermarkets working everyday to increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Twenty-five retail produce managers will be honored at the 2011 United Fresh convention, May 2-5 in New Orleans. The winners will be selected by a committee of produce industry leaders including Nelia Alamo, Gills Onions; Francine Eskenazi, Ready Pac Foods; Stacey Larson, OMG Delivers; Randy Marcum, Cabbage, Inc.; Dick Spezzano, Spezzano Consulting; and Kaari Stannard, NY Apple Sales. The winners will be announced in March and will be judged on a range of criteria, including:

  • Commitment to customer satisfaction and promotion of fresh produce
  • Innovative merchandising, special displays and sampling programs, such as participation in Fruits and Veggies: More Matters campaigns, commodity promotions, etc.
  • Produce-related community service or outreach, such as adopt-a-school programs, school tours, community service projects, etc.
  • Recognition among company peers

"We are so proud of all of the nominees and want to thank every company who submitted a nomination for this year's program," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation. "The efforts made by these men and women every day are truly changing the way consumers experience the produce department, and we extend our utmost thanks to each and every one of them."

The 25 winners and their corporate produce directors will receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to United Fresh 2011. The winners will be honored at the annual United Fresh Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 4, where five grand prize winners will be announced as recipients of an additional $1,000 cash prize.

Salad Bars Take Center Stage at Culinary Institute Conference

Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health, highlighted Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools at the recent Culinary Institute of America (CIA) World of Healthy Flavors Conference in St. Helena, CA. Joining Dr. DiSogra was Chef Jorge Collazo, executive chef, New York City School Foods, who spoke about salad bars in New York's K-12 schools, and how he is making the healthy choice the most appealing choice for 1 million school children every day in New York City. 

A collaborative effort with the Harvard School of Public Health, the CIA World of Healthy Flavors is a three-day leadership retreat for 60 of America's most influential culinary leaders, including chefs, top nutrition scientists, and nutrition communicators. A major focus of this year's conference was the question of how to incorporate the new Dietary Guidelines and the expansion of new nutrition research into healthy, flavorful menu choices in schools, restaurants and foodservice. Speaker presentations can be found by clicking here.

"There was tremendous interest in Lets Move Salad Bars to Schools," said Dr. DiSogra, "Chef Jorge's passion and commitment to salad bars in New York City schools reinforced the benefits and sent a strong message that if salad bars can work in New York, they can work in every school in the U.S."

The CIA conference ends with an exciting day called Produce First!, during which all participants become chefs for the day in the CIA's kitchen, creating dozens of delicious new produce menu items.

"Many United Fresh members including Mann Packing Company, River Ranch, Taylor Farms, Paramount Citrus, and Markon sponsored Produce First!, so we had a fantatsic variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to use in creating our new produce menu items," said Dr. DiSogra.

Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, contact Dr. DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.   

Time is Running Out to Transform Your Company and Your Career

Time is running out to join the visionary produce leaders already registered for United's  2011 Produce Executive Development Program. March 13-18 at Cornell University, executives from all sectors of the produce industry - grower/shippers, processors, wholesalers and retailers - will gather on the Cornell campus for engaging discussions with Ivy League professors, industry thought-leaders and top retail and foodservice experts.

The five-day program is tailored for produce industry executives to sharpen their business skills, navigate economic challenges and learn effective tools to advance their companies. Designed for mid- to senior-level produce executives, including presidents, CEOs, senior vice presidents, vice presidents, directors and others with management experience, the program is about learning, generating ideas and sharing the unique perspectives of its diverse group of participants.

Click here to register for the 2011 Produce Executive Development Program, March 13-18, or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education manager, at or 202-303-3400, ext. 405.

How Much Do You Know About United’s Produce Industry Leadership Program?

What is the Produce Industry Leadership Program?

Launched in 1995, the Produce Industry Leadership Program was founded to develop produce industry professionals with the desire to lead within their companies, their communities and the industry; to provide a deeper understanding of industry issues and build cohesion among industry sectors, with a strong link to agricultural production; and to provide a personal experience in shaping and leading produce industry issues. Thanks to the support of program sponsor DuPont Crop Protection, there is no cost to participate in the program and all regular expenses are covered through program funding.

What Will the Participants Learn?

The program is developed around four core goals: leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public relations. During the year-long fellowship, participants will take part in a series of customized trips that will include face-to-face meetings with leading industry players, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, interactive experiences with influential leaders around the globe and much more. The 2011-2012 Program will include trips to California, Washington, D.C., Wilmington, DE, and Chile.  The class will graduate at the 2012 United Fresh Convention in Dallas.

Who Should Apply?

The Leadership Program is designed for "up-and-coming" produce industry professionals ready to take the next step in their leadership journey.  While there is no age requirement, by definition the program involves individuals with a demonstrated commitment to the produce industry. Eligibility is limited to representatives of United Fresh member companies, and all candidates must have the support of their companies to participate. Since the program's inception, more than 190 members throughout all facets of the industry have participated. Click here to see the program alumni.

How are the Participants Selected?

The 12 individuals are chosen by an Advisory Committee of United Fresh Board members and leadership alumni. The participants are selected from a broad cross-section of the industry to represent the breadth of the United Fresh membership.  The Committee strives to achieve balance while considering multiple factors, including industry segment, commodities represented, business size and type, and geographic location.

How Do Candidates Apply?

Candidates who are interested in the program can apply online, use the downloadable application form, or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.  The deadline for applications is Friday, March 4.

Restaurant Services' Nicole Hottendorf Is This Week's BIG Winner in United’s Restaurant A Week Giveaway!

Congratulations to Nicole Hottendorf of Restaurant Associates, as the winner of United's Restaurant a Week Giveaway. Nicole is off to Pierre Maspero's, courtesy of United Fresh.

Every Friday, United Fresh draws a winner from all registered attendees to United Fresh 2011. Winners receive a gift certificate to one of New Orleans' finest restaurants. Each week, the list is updated with the most current registered attendees, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2011, the BIGGER your chances are to win!

Congratulations Nicole! Next week's Restaurant a Week winner is headed to Royal House Oyster Bar, courtesy of United Fresh 2011.

Meet Your United Fresh Board of Directors: Muir Copper Canyon Farms' Phil Muir Knows that Sustainability Means Adapting to Change

Phil Muir
President and CEO
Muir Copper Canyon Farms
Salt Lake City, Utah

Tell us a little about Muir Copper Canyon Farms.

The Muir family has been growing and distributing fresh fruit and vegetables since 1850. Muir Copper Canyon Farms has been in business since 1999. However, Muir-Roberts Co., Inc. its predecessor was started in 1947. It was a grower, packer, and shipper of primarily potatoes, onions, apples, and cherries which sourced product from Oregon, Idaho, and Utah, selling its products nationwide. It progressively discontinued its shipping businesses from 1999 to 2005. Its predecessor started in 1921, and so on back to 1850. Our family has been active and associated with United Fresh for three generations and proud that both my father and grandfather were Chairmen of the Association. 

What values are most central to your company?

1) Family. That means treating customers, employees, and suppliers as if they are family. Treat all with respect and honesty.  Excellence, our customers deserve the best from each of our individual efforts. 3) Commitment. Our family has been committed to the produce business for 150 years. We must recommit ourselves each and every day. 

How do you work to fulfill those company values? 

We follow the admonition of embracing change. If our organization is doing the same thing (i.e. processes, technology, products, etc.) that we did five years ago, we will quickly be out of business. Without adapting to and adopting change we truly cannot be sustainable. I am constantly observing others in our great industry and those that survive are continually improving and changing. Communication becomes paramount to change, because it takes constant brainstorming, consensus building, organizational structure adjustments, and adopting the best practices of others. It can't be accomplished without open communication. We have a positive attitude. At every managers meeting each manager must start with "What went right this week?"  We don't have problems, rather we have challenges we must overcome.  In this way, we focus on the three company core values of family, excellence and commitment.  

What new products and projects are you working on?

We are focusing on new products that offer more convenience to our customers while protecting or improving the cost per serving, taking into account their on-site cost factors of labor and shrink. The new products now being offered that offer "ripe and ready at point of use" packaging technology are some with a lot of promise. Education of the customer base will be the key to converting customers over. We are re-working all of our technology for the next generation produce industry. We are also re-working many of our operational processes to streamline in preparation for new technology and the full implementation of PTI. 

Which industry issues strike a chord with you the most and why?

First, the Produce Traceability Initiative, because of the cost. We must provide a safe product to the consuming public, but the cost will be tremendous. Second, childhood obesity. This includes the continued emphasis of healthy eating at the school level.  Our industry is at the center of the action and we must respond. This is a huge task to re-work the bureaucracy of the school lunch program, not only on the national level, but more critically and difficult, by the district level. This is important to our company because of our current commitment to the K-12 segment.  Finally, the crisis of food safety in the local movement. Small growers not being compliant to the current standards that commercial growers now meet, yet the consuming public believing the "if it is local, then it must be safe" mindset. This is also wrapped up in the sustainability issues, of proximity to market versus efficient use of overall market resources.

How does Muir Copper Canyon Farms interact with the surrounding community there in Salt Lake?

Our company is actively involved with community service. We participate annually with Food Bank drives, and daily making sure product gets utilized by the Food Bank system. We have participated on Food Bank committees, and have the commitment to solely support a parish food pantry. We actively support charitable causes that address, hunger, homelessness, childhood or health issues. We actively participate in locally produced issues such as "Utah's Own" initiative and other grass-roots organizations. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are a locally owned business and the money generated by our business supports many families in our community and stays in our community. We also believe that our company is part of a larger "Produce Industry" community, and that in order for us to be good citizens of this community we need to actively participate in solutions to the challenges ahead.

Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2011 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 2011 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • Horizon Transportation, Inc., Visalia, 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.

New Member Welcome

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

  • ABC Research Group, Gainesville, FL
  • CGP, Inc., Clayton, NC
  • Couture Farms, Kettleman City, CA
  • Fresh Cut Network, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Horizon Transportation, Inc., Visalia, CA
  • Intelleflex, Santa Clara, CA
  • Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Ruby Robinson Company, Buffalo Grove, IL

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.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events
  • Produce Industry Town Hall Luncheon
    February 22, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research & Education Center, Immokalee, FL