June 30, 2011

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Connects with California Employers to Explore E-Verify Impact

United Fresh took the red-hot issue of mandatory E-Verify legislation to California this week, where the association held two regional events to provide updates and gain member feedback regarding the potential impact of the legislation on the nation's largest specialty crop-producing state.

During a stop in Visalia on Monday together with California Citrus Mutual and the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, and one on Tuesday in Salinas with the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther provided an overview of the intricacies of recent legislation proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) that would require employers to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm worker eligibility. Guenther also moderated a forum with attendees on the best strategic response and potential outcomes for the produce industry.

"We've been fighting on behalf of the industry every day on Capitol Hill, but connecting directly with members here in California on their operations and the challenges of E-Verify provides a first-hand look at why this is a critical issue and moment for our industry to respond," said Guenther.

In Visalia Monday, California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen shared thoughts about key members of Congress to whom attendees should direct their outreach, highlighting the value of educating each member on the impact of E-Verify. Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League also encouraged attendees to make plans to visit with their members of Congress in Washington as well as maintain contact with regional congressional staff in California.

On Tuesday in Salinas, attendees participated in a live viewing of the first installment of United's Summer Webinar Series, which focused on the Smith E-Verify bill and its potential ramifications, then enjoyed a lively roundtable discussion on the impact of the proposed legislation on the Salinas Valley, as well as on seasonal operations in other regions of California and Arizona. Participants in the roundtable included co-host Jim Bogart, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and Green Giant Fresh's Sam McKinsey, chairman of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. McKinsey provided hard facts on crops left in the field because of labor shortages, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.

United Fresh thanks it's co-hosts for these events: California Citrus Mutual, California Grape and Tree Fruit League and the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California.

United's Summer Webinar Series continues with three additional monthly webinars. On Tuesday, July 26, United Fresh will explore the new nutritional guidelines and what they mean to the bottom lines of produce businesses. The webinar will also look at how the new guidelines will affect produce consumption, and how an increase in consumption benefits produce companies of all sizes.

On Tuesday August 30, United will tackle the Food Safety Modernization Act, helping companies decipher the language of the new food safety law, and look for ways to meet the challenges of FSMA and minimize costs of the coming regulations.

Finally, on Tuesday, September 20, United Fresh will present straight talk from top Washington and industry insiders on key policy issues, better preparing the fresh produce industry as it converges on the Capitol for the annual Washington Public Policy Conference in October.

The Summer Webinar Series is made possible through the generous sponsorship of 3M Food Safety, and is reserved for United Fresh member companies only. Registration for the series may be completed here. All webinars start promptly at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/11:00 a.m. Pacific. For more information on the series, or on United's Washington Public Policy Conference, please contact United Fresh Political Affairs Manager Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3400, ext. 416.

United Contingent Meets with Lawmakers to Encourage Sensible Solution on E-Verify

Alongside a contingent of concerned produce leaders, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther, and Government Relations Director Julie Manes met with lawmakers and congressional staff from Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina and New York last week to foster a dialogue and encourage a workable alternative to mandatory E-Verify legislation proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) earlier this month.

The group emphasized the need for a viable solution to what Torrey Farms' Maureen Torrey Marshall called "one of the most critical issues ever to face our industry."

"As a member of the produce industry, it is so important for us to educate lawmakers as to the consequences of this legislation for our industry. In its current form, without a workable guest worker program, the legislation hurts our businesses, and has the potential to hurt our communities. As an industry, we believe in E-Verify, but we need to have a viable guest worker program to go along with it," said Marshall, who also serves on United's Government Relations Council.

It is likely that the proposed legislation will hit the Judiciary Committee floor for a vote in mid-July, and anticipated that it will see a full House vote sometime in September. For more information on United's continued outreach to lawmakers on E-Verify, please contact Julie Manes at 202-303-3400, ext. 404.

United Fresh Becomes National Strategic Partner to Promote MyPlate and Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables

United Fresh Produce Association has signed an MOU with USDA to become a National Strategic Partner to promote MyPlate and the "Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables" message consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) is establishing a group of national strategic partners to collaborate on nutrition communications.

On Capitol Hill, United Fresh is already talking about the importance of the new MyPlate icon and the "Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables" message with policy makers.

"Federal nutrition polices need to support environmental changes that will make it possible for all Americans to make half their plate fruits and vegetables. Right now we are very focused on how USDA's new proposed regulation for school meals will create that environment and greater access to fruits and vegetables so that school children can make half their plates fruits and vegetables at lunch every day," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh's VP of Nutrition and Health. 

United Fresh will also promote the new icon and dietary guidelines messages with media, in United's legislative advocacy work, and in our Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.  United Fresh and other National Strategic Partners are meeting with USDA on July 19 to plan a joint marketing and communications strategy. 

USDA Announces Reestablishment of Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee

As announced in the Federal Register Tuesday, USDA intends to reestablish the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.

The purpose of the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee is to examine the full spectrum of issues faced by the fruit and vegetable industry and to provide suggestions and ideas to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on how the department can tailor its programs to better meet the fruit and vegetable industry's needs. The committee serves as a venue for United Fresh and the greater produce industry to have input through useful dialogue with USDA. United Fresh helped to found and serve on the original committee in 2001 under then-Secretary Ann Veneman.

"As part of the original organization of the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee and having worked closely with USDA for many years, United Fresh is very pleased that USDA is continuing this great opportunity for the industry to provide feedback directly to the federal government," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther.

Members of the industry interested in serving on the committee should contact Guenther at 202-303-3400, ext. 409. Nominations must be submitted to USDA before July 15.

United's Guenther Talks Farm Bill with California Agriculture Panel

In a speech today to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther discussed the prospects of the 2012 Farm Bill and impact on the fruit and vegetable industry. In particular, Guenther focused on the challenges Congress will have in writing the 2012 Farm bill compared to 2008 and what the fruit and vegetable industry needs to do to ensure success in the new legislation.

"Congress is under significant pressure to reduce the deficit and many farm bill programs are under the microscope right now," said Guenther. "We must ensure that we can justify and explain these programs to Congress as they consider these important policy decisions."

Congress is expected to conduct a series of hearings on the Farm Bill before drafting the new legislation at the end of 2011. United Fresh is part of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which is the coalition that was successful in convincing Congress to include $3 billion in infrastructure investment for specialty crops during the 2008 Farm Bill. For more information on the Farm Bill, please contact Guenther at 202-303-3400, ext. 409.

California Governor Vetoes State Card Check Bill

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial "card-check" bill Tuesday, scoring a victory for produce businesses in the Golden State. The measure would have eliminated secret ballot elections to determine whether or not the employees of a company join a union, instead allowing unions to organize and enroll new members through signed petition cards.

Brown's veto came just before midnight, at which point the legislation would have become law. Brown said in his veto message that the bill is a "drastic change" to the state's agricultural labor relations act, and he said, "I appreciate the frustrations that have given rise to it."

Brown's predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed the legislation four times in four years; however with his longstanding ties to labor, Brown was considered more likely to sign the bill into law.

United Fresh has stood firm in its opposition to card-check. For more information on United's work on this and other labor issues, please visit www.unitedfresh.org.

USDA Profiles United Board Member Jan Berk in Launch of Value-Added Producer Grants

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced this week that the department is now accepting applications for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.

"By creating value-added products, farmers and ranchers can expand economic opportunities, create jobs and keep wealth in rural communities," Merrigan said. "These funding opportunities will promote business expansion and entrepreneurship by helping local businesses get access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for their products and services."

In USDA's announcement of the availability of the grants, the department featured the success story of United Fresh Board Member Jan Berk and Oxnard, CA-based San Miguel Produce. In 2009, San Miguel received a Value-Added Producer Grant for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and with the grant, expanded markets for their Cut 'n Clean Green products.

The deadline for applications is August 29, and for further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the Federal Register notice here. To see a video featuring Deputy Secretary Merrigan discussing the grant program click here.

United Board Member Dan'l Mackey Almy Talks Marketing and Nutrition with United Fresh Staff

Dan'l Mackey Almy, United Fresh Board member and president of Irving, TX-based DMA Solutions, visited with United Fresh staffers Monday to share her unique and inspirational journey through the produce industry. Mackey Almy, in Washington to discuss action steps for the United Fresh Nutrition Council that she chairs, talked with United staff about the importance of telling the story of the fresh produce industry, and embracing the unique and varied personalities of the men and women that comprise it to help the association accomplish its goals.

"Dan'l is a storyteller at heart, and she uses that to help her clients succeed and to further the goals of the industry," said Patrick Delaney, United's communications manager.

Along with DMA's Marketing Manager Heidi Haaven, Mackey Almy met with United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra on ways to better promote the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative. For more information on Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, please visit www.saladbars2schools.org.

Is Your Family Business Represented in Washington?

Four winners of the 2011 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program will help to ensure that the views and the interests of family businesses are represented on Capitol Hill this fall at the annual Washington Public Policy Conference.

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.

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.

USDA, Ad Council Team Up for Food Safety Campaign Before Independence Day Weekend

USDA, in partnership with the Ad Council, launched a food safety campaign this week aimed at reducing the incidence of foodborne illness by educating Americans. The message of the campaign, "Clean. Separate. Cook. Chill." hopes to boost understanding of safe food handling techniques in the home.

"The new campaign from the Ad Council and USDA reflects the input from dozens of stakeholders from the government, universities, consumer groups and industry, including United Fresh," said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of communications. "Since the majority of foodborne illnesses can be linked to contamination that occurs in the home, these ads will at least raise awareness for millions of consumers about making their food safer."

USDA launched the campaign in the lead-up to the barbecue-heavy Fourth of July weekend, hoping to remind home chefs to, among other precautions, clean surfaces and utensils, wash hands, and separate raw meats from other foods.

The campaign will consist of television, print and social media outreach and is spearheaded by the Ad Council, originators of such iconic public service campaign messages as "Friends don't let friends drive drunk," and, "Only you can prevent forest fires."

"This is just a good reminder to make sure that in the rush of trying to get the meal on the table you don't forget one of these rules and put yourself at additional risk," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

More information on the new campaign, as well as food safety tips and resources, are available at www.FoodSafety.gov.

Sign Up Today for the Third and Final Inspection Course of 2011

There's just one more chance this year to take part in United's popular Produce Inspection Training Program, the produce industry's only USDA-instructed inspection training program. The final session of 2011 will take place September 12-16 at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors' Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA.

The hands-on training is designed to help produce industry receivers, handlers, buyers, shippers and sellers understand the complexities of the produce inspection process. The program is offered in two specialized courses: Fundamentals of Produce Inspection and the Commodity Labs course. The two-day Fundamentals course is a prerequisite to the Labs course and focuses on inspection essentials, PACA, sampling procedures, and general market principles. The three-day Commodity Labs program applies the fundamental principles to real world inspections including the five most commonly requested commodities - grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes - with up to seven additional commodities based on the attendees' most common preferences.

Class size is limited and registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration fee for the introductory course is $895, $1225 for the advanced course, and $1925 for members for both courses taken together. If three or more colleagues register for both courses at the same time, each receives a $100 discount. For more information on the program, please contact United Fresh Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400, ext. 408.

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:

  • Bunzl, Inc., St. Louis, MO
  • Charlie's Produce Company, Seattle, WA
  • Desert Glory, LTD, San Antonio, TX
  • Keystone Fruit Marketing, Greencastle, PA
  • Paramount Citrus, Delano, CA
  • Strategic Diagnostics, Inc., Newark, DE

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:

  • Delta Produce Marketing, San Antonio, TX
  • HerbThyme Farms, Inc., Pico Rivera, CA
  • Washington Red Raspberry Commission, Lynden, WA

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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