March 10, 2011

In Today's Issue:

U.S.-Mexico Trucking Agreement Ends Ban on Mexican Trucks, $2.4B in Retaliatory Tariffs

United Fresh voiced its approval of an agreement last week by President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon that would bring to an end to retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. goods including fresh fruits and vegetables. When enacted, the agreement will end a ban on Mexican trucks crossing into the United States that has stood for nearly 20 years. The Mexican government imposed punitive tariffs on goods from the United States in retaliation to the ban, which is in violation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

"We are extremely pleased to see what appears to be light at the end of the very long tunnel that was this trade standoff," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert  Guenther. "The retaliatory tariffs placed on fruit and vegetable shipments had a significantly deleterious effect on our members that export to Mexico, and we appreciate the business foresight of Presidents Obama and Calderon for moving toward a concrete and lasting resolution. This is an issue on which United Fresh and our membership on both sides of the border have worked extensively to resolve. We applaud the continued dedication of our members, our allies on Capitol Hill, and our Mexican counterparts, and look forward to providing comments on the proposed agreement to ensure that the final version is one that fosters the continued growth of fresh produce trade between our countries."

Per the agreement, Mexico will lift 50 percent of the tariffs upon signing the final agreement, and the remaining 50 percent when the first Mexican carrier is authorized under the new program.

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Volunteer Leaders Drive Lively Debate at Central Valley Town Hall




United Fresh Vice President of Membership and Trade Relations Jeff Oberman, joined together with co-hosts Barry Bedwell, President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual and Paul Cruikshank, Senior Manager, Supplier QA, Expectations & Protocols, C.H. Robinson Worldwide to more than 80 attendees during Monday's Town Hall luncheon in Visalia, CA.  Topics focused on key legislative and regulatory issues such as the Food Safety Modernization Act in terms of its impact on the region and overall industry.  There was lively debate on the impact the new law will have on industry efforts such as the Produce Traceability Initiative, and GAP Audit Harmonization.   Oberman serving in the role of moderator shared, "while there might be differing views on issue such as PTI, or the impact of this new law to every sector of the industry, United Fresh welcomes feedback from all sides in forums such as these Town Hall luncheons."  Barry Bedwell and Joel Nelsen also highlighted the work of the Government Relations Council staying abreast of multiple issues and United's important role as Secretariat of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which unifies the industry to develop policy recommendations and a common goal that ultimately benefit the entire produce industry.

Nutrition then took center stage as Oberman highlighted major gains in Nutrition Policy within the Fruit & Vegetable Snack Program with a focus on schools in the region.  United Fresh Board Member Dave Dever, President of Pandol Brothers shared how their company worked together with fellow United Fresh member company Sun World International make a statement through donating Salad Bars to Schools in the region and gaining positive media coverage from multiple television, radio and newspapers.  Oberman shared in addition to the school-based initiatives, "United Fresh has been at the forefront of major gains in the WIC program, the recently passed Child Nutrition Reauthorization and 2010 Dietary Guidelines that have all been achieved since our last Visalia Town Hall in the spring of 2009."

The audience enjoyed hearing first hand of the value of United Fresh member programs such as the Produce Industry Leadership Program from Alumnus, Lance McMillan, Sunkist Growers and the upcoming Training for a Recall Webinar series that begins this Friday.   Paul Cruikshank who attended past United Fresh recall training shared with attendees, “this was an extremely valuable program" and encouraged attendees to utilize the staff at United Fresh who can provide food safety and media consultation.  "The event's overall theme, was to get involved as a member company - be it through letting your voice be heard by government and regulatory agencies in the comment period of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, to utilizing all of the member programs and services that United Fresh offers throughout the entire year."

Many thanks go to our sponsors, the California Grape and Treefruit League, California Citrus Mutual and C.H. Robinson Worldwide that made this event a success.  United Fresh will continue our Town Hall program next week in Minneapolis on March 16 and Chicago on March 17.  For more information on these events, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.

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House Ag Committee Passes Bill Lightening Regulatory Burden on Farmers

The House Committee on Agriculture considered H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 this week, which seeks to clarify congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters.

The legislation addresses a regulatory burden posed by a 2009 U.S. Circuit Court decision that invalidates an earlier regulation by the EPA exempting pesticide applications that are in compliance with The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) from having to also comply with a costly and duplicative permitting process under the Clean Water Act. The committee passed Chairman Lucas’s amendment by unanimous consent and then recommended the bill to the full House. 

"The 2009 decision is one that is unusually broad and could mean a heavy regulatory weight on farmers. The passage of this bill out of committee is a positive step in reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on American agriculture," said Julie Manes, director of government relations for United Fresh. "We urge Congress to pass the legislation and send it to President Obama for his signature."

For more information on H.R. 872, please contact Manes at 202-303-3400, ext. 404.

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PTI Leadership Council Determines Unique GTINs Are a Requirement for Traceability

A proposal for an alternate path for implementing Global Trade Item Numbers, or GTINs, a key component of the Produce Traceability Initiative, has not garnered wide enough support from the PTI Leadership Council to be adopted. The alternate proposal for implementing GTINs was initiated after members of several PTI working groups raised the difficulties that some industry members are experiencing in implementing case configuration-unique GTINs, or "unique" GTINs, within their companies. Tracking of the GTIN in combination with a lot number or pack/harvest date as each case moves through the supply chain provides the chain-wide, electronic traceability sought by the PTI.

The Master Data Working Group proposed the short-term use of less detailed, commodity- or variety-general GTINs, or "base" GTINs, to allow those companies more time to implement unique GTINs. That group then vetted the proposal to the Implementation Working Group, which was unable to reach consensus on the proposal. Due to the impasse, the proposal was presented to the Leadership Council for review and vote.

More than 80 members of the Leadership Council and their companies’ information technology staff participated in a special conference call on February 24 to learn about and publicly discuss the base GTIN proposal in detail. It was clear from council members' comments even interim use of base GTINs would not be a practical solution for the industry overall.  For example, many receivers reported that their data management systems require unique GTINs to map to specific stock-keeping units (SKUs), and could not handle both base and unique GTINs concurrently. 

"It was really impactful for me to hear from my buyers that their systems simply won't allow one base-level GTIN to be associated with several SKUs," said Doug Grant of The Oppenheimer Group, a member of the Leadership Council and the PTI Executive Committee. "It became evident to me this interim solution just wasn’t workable, and that our time is better spent working to implement unique GTINs as per the existing PTI guidelines."  

"We are committed to being flexible and sensitive to industry members' needs, and this proposal was developed with a lot of thought about ways we could keep the initiative moving forward," said Leadership Council Chair Cathy Green Burns, CEO of the Food Lion Family of banners. "With the goal milestones and timelines unchanged, our attention will return to how we can best help members overcome barriers to implementation."

Green Burns urged sellers and buyers alike to contact their supply chain partners as soon as possible to discuss implementation status. She also noted that the Leadership Council and working groups would consider how to assist companies with GTIN implementation in future meetings.

Industry members are encouraged to visit the official PTI website at www.producetraceability.org for assistance and staff contact information.

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Compensation Survey Expands Participation Opportunity

The recently launched United Fresh Produce Industry Compensation Survey has attracted myriad participants throughout all sectors of the produce supply chain.  This unique benchmarking tool will provide produce industry employers with reliable metrics on salaries and benefits for key positions and will help ensure their company is offering competitive compensation to their employees.

"We've had a wide range of companies already participate in the survey and have made the decision to keep the survey open until May 15, allowing even further industry participation - thus developing the most robust final instrument possible," said Victoria Backer, senior vice president, member services.

The survey is available at www.unitedfreshsurvey.com.  U.S.-based produce industry employers including grower-shippers, brokers, wholesaler-distributors, importers, exporters and fresh-cut processors are encouraged to participate until the May 15 deadline.  Companies that participate in submitting data for the survey are eligible to receive a fully-customized report for their company at a discounted rate of $195.  

Prepared by expert research firm Industry Insights, the survey confidentially collects data from U.S.-based produce companies.  It measures compensation and benefits levels for 30 positions including Sales & Marketing, Production & Operations, Quality Control & Assurance, Administration, Finance & Accounting and Executives. 

For additional information about the survey, contact Victoria at 202-303-3408.

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Recall Training Course Kicks Off Tomorrow, Still Time To Register

The popular Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire course from United Fresh kicks off tomorrow, but there's still time to register. The course, presented through the United Fresh Foundation's Center for Food Safety and Quality, consists of six weekly, hour-long sessions covering all aspects of crisis planning, liability and communication.

The six-part course features representatives from FDA and legal professionals, as well as crisis communication and food safety experts, helping participants gain a firm grasp on a company’s rights and responsibilities during a recall, how to limit liability and manage customer expectations, and the steps involved in guiding a company through a product recall as smoothly as possible.

"We've received such a fantastic turnout for each in-person version of this course that we wanted to expand, and bring it to the entire industry," said United's Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer. "The new format will bring the same industry-leading concepts and exercises from the recall course right to the participant's desk."

Program presenters include Larry Howell, recall and emergency coordinator for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, David Durkin of Olson, Frank & Weeda, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas and Ray Gilmer, United’s vice president of communications.

"A product recall can be devastating to a company's bottom line and reputation," said Gilmer. "The companies that are best prepared can weather the storm and minimize the impact of a recall. This course helps companies ensure that each person on their staff knows how to work together to properly handle a recall."

Registration for the course is $495 for United Fresh members; $695 for non-members, and registration can be done online here. For more information, please contact United Fresh Education Manager Julie Jacocks at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.

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United Fresh Child Nutrition Allies Featured in New York Times

School nutrition champions Eric Goldstein and Jorge Collazo of NYC SchoolFood were featured in this week's "CityCritic" video feature in the New York Times. The piece showcases Goldstein and Chef Jorge, who joined United Fresh members and spoke about the vital role that fresh fruits and vegetables as well as school salad bars play in New York's public schools at last year’s United Fresh convention in Las Vegas. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

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24 Hours Left to Nominate an Outstanding Female Industry Leader

Friday is the final day to submit nominations for United's annual Reception Honoring Women in Produce, May 3 at United Fresh 2011 in New Orleans. Each year, United Fresh recognizes the contributions of all women working in the produce industry and recognizes one outstanding female industry leader at the reception, which has become one of the most popular features of the annual convention.

"This is a celebration of women and the essential roles they have played in shaping and guiding the produce industry," said Victoria Backer, senior vice president of member services for United Fresh. "This annual reception is an opportunity to showcase the contributions of these thought-leaders, role models, and opinion-drivers and we're looking forward to honoring all women in the produce industry in New Orleans."

Nominations may be submitted online and must be received by close of business tomorrow.

Past honorees at the Reception Honoring Women in Produce include Tonya Antle, Tanimura & Antle; Frieda Caplan, Frieda's, Inc.; Margaret D'Arrigo-Martin, D'Arrigo Brothers of California; Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission; Jan Fleming, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company; Janice Honigberg, Sun Belle, Inc.; Lorri Koster, Mann Packing Co.; Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission; Dr. Martha Rhodes-Roberts, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; Steffanie Smith, River Point Farms, LLC; Heather Shavey, Costco Wholesale; Rosemary Talley, Talley Farms; and Jenney Tenney, The Kroger Company.

For more information on the Reception Honoring Women in Produce, please contact United Fresh Political Affairs Manager Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3400, ext. 416.

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Rio Queen's Gretchen Kreidler is this Week's BIG Winner in United's Restaurant A Week Giveaway!

Congratulations to Gretchen Kreidler of Rio Queen Citrus! She's the winner of this week's Restaurant a Week Giveaway. Gretchen will enjoy one of the country’s finest restaurants as she dines at Commander’s Palace, courtesy of United Fresh.

Every Thursday, 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 Gretchen! Next week's Restaurant a Week winner is headed to Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House, courtesy of United Fresh 2011.

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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:

  • McEntire Produce, Columbia, SC

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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New Member Welcome

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

Welcome
  • Bland Farms, Glenville, GA
  • Cravo Equipment, Ltd., Brantford, ON
  • Freshline Foods Ltd., Mississauga, ON
  • Global Produce Sales, Lakeland, FL
  • Hellman Perishable Logistics, Miami, FL
  • Nature Fresh Farms Inc., Leamington, ON
  • Raytec Vision, S.P.a., Parma, Italy
  • WQS Certificações de Produtos Ltda., Botuicato, SP, Brazil

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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Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

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