June 16, 2011

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Vigorously Defends Produce in Wake of EWG's Dirty Dozen

United Fresh worked to provide balance to news reports earlier this week about the newest "Dirty Dozen" list issued by the Environmental Working Group. Working cooperatively with other industry organizations, United's messages appeared in hundreds of news stories in print, online and broadcast media. Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of communications, appeared on ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer Monday to stress the importance of a diet including fruits and vegetables. The EWG list is produced using data from the USDA's latest Pesticide Data Program, which showed that 99.7 percent of fruit and vegetable samples met residue tolerances.

In response to the EWG report, United Fresh issued its own statement, saying: "At a time when medical experts strongly urge Americans to realize the health benefits from eating more fruits and vegetables, it is irresponsible to mislead consumers with a sensational publicity stunt disguised as science. While its authors admit the "health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure,'' the Dirty Dozen list will almost certainly discourage many people from eating the recommended amounts of fresh produce and potentially diminish the nutrition and health of millions of Americans.

"If anything, the USDA data report, from which the Dirty Dozen is purportedly created, underscores the safety of fruits and vegetables. In its latest report, the USDA states the overall residues found on tested foods were "at levels below the tolerances established by EPA," which are measured in parts-per-million and typically established with a 100-fold or greater safety margin.

"The more productive focus would be to help millions of Americans achieve the health benefits from better nutrition, including a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. United Fresh Produce Association remains steadfastly committed to working with government leaders, health professionals, the produce industry and others to make this goal a reality."

Fresh Convenience Congress Attracts Global Audience

Attendees from thirteen different countries gathered in London this week for the 2011 Fresh Convenience Congress. Hosted by United Fresh in partnership with Market Intelligence, publishers of Fresh Convenience Magazine, the conference engaged attendees on a range of topics impacting the fresh-cut and fresh convenience produce sectors.

The event kicked off with an opening keynote by former United Fresh Board Member Brian Kocher, president, Europe and the Middle East for Chiquita Brands International, who presented on the future of fresh convenience produce, sharing that "… significant potential for growth exists within fresh convenience categories."

Kocher also encouraged companies to stay ahead of consumer demand through new product development. "Innovation is key. You have to innovate in order to satisfy the consumer," he added. 

Additional sessions included trends in fresh-cut, opportunities for branding the category, new product development, foodservice innovations, and sustainability and wasted reduction in the fresh-cut sector. A late-breaking session was added to the program to address the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe.

"The fresh convenience sector and entire produce industry in Europe has been dramatically impacted by the current food safety outbreak in Germany" said Jeff Oberman, vice president of membership and trade relations for United Fresh. "Today's Congress provided a unique forum to gather together as an industry and learn from insight gathered during the North American outbreaks in 2006 and 2008."

"After the two major outbreaks in 2006 and 2008, the way the industry worked together with government was fundamentally changed," said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel, who moderated the session. "We need to continue sharing industry knowledge on supply chain issues with government officials and ensuring accurate information is provided to consumers."

On Thursday morning, attendees enjoyed a walking tour of local retail and foodservice outlets including Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Pret a Manger, Marks & Spencer, Starbucks and others.

Presentations from the conference will be available at www.freshconveniencecongress.com

Smith Introduces Mandatory E-Verify Legislation

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced legislation this week that would require all employers in the United States to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm a potential employee's eligibility to work in the country. The measure, according to Chairman Smith, is aimed at creating more job opportunities for more than 24 million unemployed Americans.

The legislation, introduced on Wednesday, comes after 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 the need for the legislation to take into account the unique labor needs of the agricultural industry.

According to the language of the bill as proposed, agricultural employers would have 36 months before they would be required to use the E-Verify system, and would represent the last business sector to adopt the measure.

In response to the proposed bill, United Fresh will address E-Verify and the current legislative landscape in the first of its four-part Summer Webinar Series on Tuesday, June 28. For more information, please click here

Webinar to Analyze Devastating Potential of Smith E-Verify Bill

United Fresh will kick off its Summer Webinar Series with an in-depth exploration of the recently-introduced legislation by House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) requiring employers to use E-Verify to certify worker eligibility. The June 28 webinar will tackle the effects of the proposed legislation, including presentations from industry leaders and top labor minds, including Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA; Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association; Craig Regelbrugge, vice president for government relations and research, American Nursery and Landscape Association and co-chair, Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform; and  Laura Foote Reiff, co-managing shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, and  co-chair, Essential Workers Immigration Coalition (EWIC).

A mandatory federal E-Verify law would require employers to electronically certify worker eligibility and, according to United Fresh, would be highly disruptive to the agricultural workforce. United Fresh continues to advocate the inclusion of provisions in the legislation to make the bill workable for agricultural employers.

The webinar will take place Tuesday, June 28 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. 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.

United's Miller Honored with Produce Business' 40 Under Forty

Congratulations to United Fresh Senior Director of Membership Miriam Miller, who was named Monday to the 40-Under-Forty, Produce Business' annual list honoring 40 young leaders within the produce industry. With the honor, Miller becomes the fourth United Fresh staffer to be honored on the list, joining Senior Vice President of Member Services, Foundation Victoria Backer, Vice President of Membership Jeffrey Oberman, and Vice President of Convention and Industry Relations John Toner.

Winners are nominated by a peer in the industry and the criteria for selecting the winner is based on the candidate's leadership skills within his or her company, within the industry and within the community.

This marks the seventh year that Produce Business has conducted the 40-under-Forty program, which now accounts for 280 program alumni.

Let's Move! Mid-Atlantic Summit Invites United Fresh to Educate Local Stakeholders About Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools

In Baltimore this week, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, Department of Health and Human Services' corresponding jurisdictional office presented the first-ever Let's Move! Mid-Atlantic Summit. The event was the first of its kind designed to foster dialogue between the many regional stakeholders engaged in programs to solve childhood obesity and childhood hunger.

As a founding partner of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, United Fresh was invited to educate the broad audience of educators, school nutritionists, healthy community advocates, and local, state and federal government representatives about the program's strategy to increase children's access and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables through salad bars at school.

United Fresh Policy and Grassroots Manager Andrew Marshall was on hand to answer questions about Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, and explain how interested schools and school districts can apply and raise funds for a salad bar.  As part of the summit's "speed share" session, titled "Sharing Strategies and Working Together to End Childhood Obesity," Andrew spoke to three different groups of conference attendees outlining the purpose of the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, and how a school or district interested in operating a salad bar program can apply for one. Organized in a format similar to a speed-dating session, the program focused on Andrew answering questions from the audience and highlighting the produce industry's commitment to ensuring more children have access to fresh produce in school meals.

"United's participation in the Let's Move! Mid-Atlantic Summit, speaks directly to the core objective of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, which is to mobilize and engage stakeholders at the local, state and national level to support salad bars in schools across the country, until every child has the choice of healthy fruits and vegetables every day at school," said Marshall. "The conference was very well attended, and it provided an excellent opportunity to educate more stakeholders about Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, andexplain how salad bars stocked with a wide variety of fruit and vegetable options each day can encourage students to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables."

For more information about Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, click here, or contact Marshall at 202-303-3400, ext. 407.  If you are interested in finding out how your company can get involved, contact United's Vice President of Business Development Claudia Wenzing, 202-303-3400, ext. 415.

CDC, United Fresh Present Workshop on Salad Bars for State Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators

With the goal of engaging all state Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators in United's Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a training workshop this week in Salt Lake City. CDC's Dr. Larry Grummer-Strawn kicked off the training by noting that Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools is an important environmental change that will increase children's access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias and showed a video of First Lady Michelle Obama launching Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools in Miami last November.

Grummer-Strawn was joined by CDC's Dr. Diane Harris, United's Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, and Jessica Shelly, school foodservice director for Cincinnati Public Schools, who spoke before the 37 state Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators in attendance.

CDC also announced that five states will receive Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools grants to conduct state-wide trainings and evaluation projects, and develop best practices that will be shared nationwide to support effective implementation of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools. Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin received the CDC-funded Let's Move Salad Bars grants.

"CDC's leadership and commitment to the success of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools is invaluable" Dr. DiSogra said. "It's an honor and pleasure to work closely with CDC staff everyday as we work to accomplish the goals of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools and put fruits and vegetables front and center in school cafeterias."

DiSogra Receives 2011 Excellence in Advocacy Award

Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health, received the 2011 Excellence in Advocacy Award from the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors (ASTPHND) at their annual meeting Tuesday in Salt Lake City.

Dr. DiSogra was recognized for her passion and leadership in keeping fruits and vegetables front and center throughout the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

In thanking ASTPHND for the advocacy award, Dr. DiSogra emphasized that "the battle for healthier school meals that include a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day is not over," and she urged ASTPHND members to "stay engaged at the state and local to support USDA's new school meals nutrition standards. It's critical that all of us work to ensure that all children have healthier school meals everyday and that the school food environment becomes a model for good nutrition and health."

Margo Wootan, Center for Science in the Public Interest, also received the 2011 Excellence in Advocacy Award for her leadership and the critical role the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) coalition played in passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

After Broccoligate, Apio's Ron Midyett Knows the Importance of Consumer Perception

Ron Midyett
Apio, Inc.
Guadalupe, California

You've been in the industry for 24 years, but how did you choose this? How did you land in produce?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask someone who is working in produce.  I think everyone's answer is different, and very interesting.  My path into produce was somewhat serendipitous. As far as my background, I have a technical degree in food biochemistry, with an emphasis in fresh fruits and vegetables, from the University of California, Davis.  With that said, however, I was not wed to a career in produce when I came out of school. So to be honest, it was love that pulled me to the industry. I met my wife while in school; she was a year behind me and I knew she was going on to grad school in the area. When I was presented with two job offers coming out of school; one in consumer packaged goods with Quaker Oats in St. Joseph, Missouri, and the other with Dole Food Company in their San Jose research center, I chose the job that would put me closest to her, and that was out here in California with a produce company.  I have fully enjoyed my time spent thus far in the produce industry.

You mentioned that you have a technical degree. Was there a factor that drew you to that more than another academic path?

I really wanted to be able to come out of school with a degree that I would use and that was marketable. Although I wasn't sure where I would focus academically during my first couple years, I knew I wanted to be in the sciences, because that's where I found the most enjoyment and academic success.  Toward the end of my sophomore year, I started looking around at the various degrees and majors, and stumbled across food science. This was the mid-80s at the time, and there were all kinds of opportunities in food. It was interesting, fast-paced, and I kept coming back to the old saying of "everybody's gotta eat," so I felt that it was pretty recession-proof. Plus, the Davis Food Science program had something like a 98 or 99 percent placement rate for all graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree, so I thought, "sign me up."

Apio is based in Guadalupe, a small coastal community halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. How does your company interact with the town?

Working in produce has allowed me to live in wonderful rural locations that have been key to the success of my businesses, so I am always looking for ways to support and give back to the community, both personally and professionally. Apio is the largest employer in Guadalupe, and an active community member.  Supporting the next generation, and the families of many of our employees through the Boys and Girls Club is a cause that is nearest to Apio's heart. 

Your company was famously responsible for sending a truckload of broccoli to the White House in 1990 after then-President George Bush famously refused to eat it. One of the things that our industry has struggled with, both in the past and currently, is consumer perception versus fact. During "Broccoligate," the produce industry took an active role in combating the perception that the most powerful person in the country was bad-mouthing our product. In your mind, how important is that perception, and what is our role as an industry to improve how we address those perceptions?

Obviously, in more cases than not, the perception is the reality, so if there are negative perceptions out there about our products, we absolutely need to address them. Furthermore, I believe that we need to address them together, as an industry. Just given the nature of produce, there are very few companies within the industry with the marketing reach and power to take on those perceptions alone, that's why for the past year and a half, we've been working on a project within the Fresh-Cut Market Segment Board to provide tools that businesses can use to combat those misperceptions of the fresh-cut world. Frankly, I don't know why there are some of those bad perceptions about our products. Maybe it's because we take them for granted given that on the face, they're so healthy and good for you that we tend to think that they'll sell themselves. It is a busy marketplace out there, though, and in this day and age, there are all sorts of competition for the consumers' hearts and minds. We've got to be, as an industry, at the forefront of competing for those hearts and minds.

You are the past-chairman of United's Fresh-Cut Market Segment Board. How has the addition of that board and the three other Market Segment Boards changed, in your mind, the way United addresses its members?

I think that they've been a tremendous addition, simply from the perspective of United's service to the entire produce supply chain, from the farm all the way to retail. When you think about it, the supply chain represents such a large swath of companies, activities and world views, and when you have issues that affect the entire industry, undoubtedly, each segment of the supply chain will have its own view on what is most important to those companies that comprise it. The Market Segment Boards are a great tool in that they provide detailed, market segment-specific discussion and dialogue around those issues, that can then be articulated to the larger United board to ensure that each of the various viewpoints are considered when the industry takes a position on any given issue.

Tell us about your family.

I have been married for 20 years to my beautiful wife Cathy, and have two fantastic kids; Andrew who's 15 and Lauren who's 12. Andrew plays basketball and volleyball in high school, and Lauren plays basketball and tennis. Outside of sports, Lauren is a baker with aspirations of having her own business, and she and Andrew are actively involved in our church life.

How about your hobbies? How do you spend the little free time that you have?

At this point in my life, time is a scarce commodity, it's spent either with work or with the family. I do enjoy a game of golf and I have a lifelong passion for flyfishing, although this area is a trout desert, so I have to travel many hours East or North to get any time on a river. I'm from Northern California originally, raised in the mountains, in a little town in the Sierra foothills east of Chico called Paradise.

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:

  • Jem-D International, Forest Park, GA
  • Procacci Bros., Philadelphia, PA

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:

  • Fresh Focus, Maspeth, NY
  • General Produce Distributors, Franklin Park, IL
  • Grasmick South, LLC, Granada, CO
  • Jack's Produce, Pearsall, TX
  • Lookout Ridge Consulting, American Falls, ID
  • Root Brothers Farms, Albion, NY

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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