June 9, 2011

In Today's Issue:

E-Verify Legislation Anticipated Next Week

It is expected that in the coming days, House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) will introduce a bill mandating the use of E-Verify to confirm the eligibility of workers by all employers. On Wednesday, June 15, the committee will hold a legislative hearing on the proposed bill. This hearing will start the clock, so to speak, on the House debate over federally-mandated E-Verify legislation. It is further expected that the committee will consider the bill at some point prior to the August congressional recess.

Yesterday, United Fresh and representatives from the Agriculture Coalition on Immigration Reform met with Chairman Smith's staff, as well as representatives from House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office, to discuss these new developments. In those meetings, both offices acknowledged that Congress must address the "uniqueness" of the agricultural workforce as this debate moves forward in the House.

A mandatory federal E-Verify law would require employers to electronically certify worker eligibility. United Fresh and other business organizations believe that any mandatory E-Verify requirement would be highly disruptive to the agricultural workforce. United Fresh advocates the inclusion of provisions in the legislation that will make the bill workable for agricultural employers.

Later today, United Fresh will announce its Summer Policy Webinar Series, which will start on Tuesday, June 28, with a special webinar focusing on E-Verify legislation. To learn first-hand the latest information on this issue, United Fresh members may register by clicking here.

United Fresh will continue to provide regular updates on E-Verify legislation as additional information evolves around this latest development.

For more information, contact Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy at 202-303-3400, ext. 409, or Julie Manes, government relations director at 202-303-3400, ext. 404.

Summer Webinar Series Tackles Business Impact of Critical Policy Initiatives

Starting with an in-depth exploration of potential mandatory E-Verify labor regulations on June 28, the United Fresh Produce Association will deliver a series of four webinars giving association members insight into the most current issues affecting the fresh produce industry in advance of the association's annual Washington Public Policy Conference, October 3-5 on Capitol Hill.

The webinars also will explore child nutrition, food safety and provide insights and context on other industry issues, but the first webinar on E-Verify takes on special weight given next week's anticipated announcement of a mandatory E-Verify bill by House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX).

A mandatory federal E-Verify law would require employers to electronically certify worker eligibility. United Fresh and other business organizations believe that any mandatory E-Verify requirement would be highly disruptive to the agricultural workforce, and advocate the inclusion of provisions in the legislation that will make the bill workable for agricultural employers.

"These webinars, especially the first edition on E-Verify later this month, are a great way for our members to get the latest information on issues that will have huge repercussions for the produce industry," said Robert Guenther, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy and leader of the webinar series. "We cannot afford to sit with our hands folded while decisions that will have devastating ripple effects on our industry are made for us. After landmark legal battles and strict laws mandating E-Verify on the books in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Utah, and more on the way, it is extremely important that the members of the produce industry with a stake in the labor and immigration discussion—that's all of us - be on hand to learn not only what's next, but what they can do about it."

The initial webinar will take place Tuesday, June 28 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Subsequent webinars on July 26 and August 30 will address nutrition and food safety, respectively, and the final installment on September 20 will brief members on issues in advance of October's Washington Public Policy Conference. The webinar series is free and is reserved for United Fresh members only. Registration may be done online by clicking here, and more information can be found by contacting United Fresh Political Affairs Manager Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3400, ext. 416.

E. coli Outbreak in Europe to Be Addressed at Fresh Convenience Congress

The current E. coli outbreak in Europe has captured global headlines and severely impacted the produce industry. United Fresh has added a special general session entitled, E. coli Outbreak - An Industry Discussion on Wednesday, June 15, during the Fresh Convenience Congress.

The session will be led by United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel, who will share the stage with industry leaders and member companies from the region.

"This outbreak signals an important time and need for the industry to come together," said Jeff Oberman, United's vice president of membership and trade relations. "The is discussion will look at lessons learned from the 2006 and 2008 food safety outbreaks in the United States and apply those lessons toward maintaining consumer confidence in fresh fruits and vegetables."

To review the full education program schedule for the Fresh Convenience Congress, please click here. United Fresh members receive an additional 10 percent discount on delegate fees. For more information about Fresh Convenience Congress, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940. 

Application Period Now Open for 2011 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program

This fall's Washington Public Policy Conference will welcome the winners of the 2011 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program. Presented by the United Fresh Foundation, the program recognizes up to four family-owned United Fresh member businesses with complimentary airfare, hotel and registration to attend the association's annual public policy summit, October 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

"Through the Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship, United Fresh members in family-owned businesses have the opportunity to see how the decisions made in Washington affect businesses of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, throughout the produce industry," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "Family businesses stand to gain so much by getting involved here in Washington, and it is so important that they have the ability to come to Capitol Hill, meet with legislators and administration officials and make their views known."

The Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program was established in 2001 through a generous grant from Frieda's, Inc. by Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in honor of their mother, Frieda. The program is designed to increase family business' involvement in government relations and produce industry advocacy.

"There really is nothing like the power of grassroots involvement here in Washington, and this program enables members of family businesses to experience that camaraderie and coordinated commitment to the issues that affect our industry," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation. "This program is a perfect opportunity for first-timers to Washington to become engaged in the political process with the support of hundreds of other industry members.  We strongly encourage anyone who is involved with a family business to apply."

Applications are now being accepted for the program, and more information is available by clicking here. Applicants must complete an application and written submission detailing why they want to attend the Washington Public Policy Conference and what they hope to gain from the experience. Applicants must be employed by a family business that is a United Fresh member company in good standing. All applications must be received by July 15. Applications should be sent to the United Fresh Foundation, attention Victoria Backer via email at vbacker@unitedfresh.org; fax to 202-303-3433; or mail to United Fresh Foundation, 1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC, 20006.

For more information about the scholarship program, contact Backer at 202-303-3400 ext. 408, and for more information about the Washington Public Policy Conference, contact United's Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3400 ext. 416.

Increase in Dollar Sales, Growth of Premium Items Highlight Latest FreshFacts on Retail

Weekly dollar sales rose and per store volume of fresh produce stayed fairly consistent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same period last year, according to the latest edition of FreshFacts® on Retail, the quarterly retail research report from United Fresh.

While a number of fresh produce categories experienced significant price increases in the first quarter of 2011, adding to much of the 4.8% dollar growth for produce, other categories such as premium items fared much better. Value-added produce and organic produce, for example, both experienced increases in dollar and volume sales. 

The FreshFacts® on Retail report, produced in partnership with the Perishables Group and sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce, measures retail price and sales trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories.

Highlights of this quarter's report include:

  • Increases for value-added fruits dollar and volume sales by 6.9 percent and 9 percent respectively
  • Gains of 8.4 percent in dollar sales and 7.5 percent in volume for value-added vegetables
  • Volume increases of 15 percent, 16 percent and 16.6 percent for berries, grapes and specialty fruits, respectively
  • For organic fruits, an increase of more than 23 percent in dollar sales, and more than 16 percent in weekly volume  

Each FreshFacts® report also features a Quarterly Spotlight on one industry segment in particular. This quarter, increases in retail prices come under the microscope, as the section examines rising prices across the produce department, and their subsequent impact on sales.  The report identifies that rising produce prices in Q1 2011 were the result of two distinct driving factors across the U.S. grocery channel: A resurgence of everyday low prices and a declining share of volume sold on promotion.

The complete FreshFacts® on Retail report can be downloaded free of charge to all United Fresh members ($50 for non-members) by clicking here. For more information about how to obtain the report, please contact Patrick Delaney, United Fresh communications manager, at 202-303-3400 ext. 417 or. For questions about specific data contained in the report, please contact Kelli Beckel at the Perishables Group at 773-929-7013.

Miss Wingard goes to Columbia

As far as lobbyists go, Mary Grace Wingard has a perfect track record.   The nine-year-old daughter of Walter P. Rawl Director of Field Operations Charles Wingard spearheaded a successful effort to name collard greens as the state vegetable of South Carolina. Traveling to the statehouse in the capital city of Columbia twice to lobby for the recognition of collards, of which the state is the nation's second leading producer.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill into law on May 27, and her spokesman praised Mary Grace for her efforts.

"The governor reminds kids every day that even though they aren't old enough to vote, they are old enough to care about their state," said Rob Godfrey, Haley's spokesman. "The governor is very proud of Mary Grace, who has become a great example of a new generation of South Carolinians who love their state."

At the ripe old age of nine, Mary Grace is no stranger to politics, local or otherwise. In 2008, she sent her father, Charles, the 15 hours up I-95 to Washington to testify before Congress on the importance of salad bars in schools.

For more on the story, click here.

Leadership Class Alum John Cameron Goes Back to School with Healthy Treats

United Fresh member John Cameron of Arlington, TX-based Desert Glory, LTD, traveled to Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary for Career Day last week to talk to daughter Caroline's kindergarten class and son Connor's fourth grade class about healthier eating. During his visit, Cameron and wife Dana served fruit and vegetable snacks to more than 250 kids in both grades.

"We let the kids choose what they wanted and nearly all of them took a sample of everything. The kids devoured the snacks and many wanted extra helpings," said Cameron. "It's proof that if you provide it, the kids will consume it!"

Cameron also channeled his inner poet, leading the kids in a short rhyme. See the video here.

Does Your Company Have a Recall Plan in Place?

United's industry-leading recall training course is now available for purchase in a six-part downloadable, webinar series.

The course includes recordings by expert speakers on topics such as: Traceability and Recalls, FDA Expectations & Perspective; Recalls – Limiting Your Liability; Understanding Traceability; Managing a Recall: Components of a Crisis Management Plan; Mastering Crisis Communications; and Defining and Utilizing the Reportable Food Registry.

Through the program, participants will learn the fundamentals of managing a product recall and the core elements for building a crisis communication plan. This program is a valuable and easy way to train a company's recall team - including management, technical and communications staff - about how to work together to properly handle a recall.

The price for the recorded series is $295 for United Fresh members.  For more information, click here or contact United's Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400, ext. 408.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Bolner's Fiesta Products, San Antonio, TX

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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