September 29, 2011

A Preview of the 2011 Washington Public Policy Conference

Next week, United Fresh welcomes the produce industry to the nation’s capital for the 2011 Washington Public Policy Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Just steps from the Capitol, this year’s conference offers leaders in the fresh produce industry unparalleled access to lawmakers, regulators and opinion drivers in Washington, making it the Produce Industry’s Most Powerful Public Policy Event.

Monday, October 3

This year’s WPPC kicks off on Monday afternoon with the annual welcome for new United Fresh members and first-time attendees to the Washington conference. Following the reception, the education and development starts off with an insider’s look at how produce industry members can communicate more effectively with their elected officials, led by four of the top young minds in Washington. The Fresh Impact Panel at the Advocacy & Grassroots Seminar features four leaders—all under the age of 35—at the forefront of agricultural policy in Washington. USDA’s Anne Cannon MacMillan, Matt Perin of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture, Russell & Barron’s Tyson Redpath, and Jacqlyn Schneider of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will provide a fresh and unconventional look at the process of connecting with members of Congress and conveying produce industry priorities.

“These four leaders represent the new guard and next generation of policy rainmakers in Washington and, even with their youth, they have a seasoned ability to artfully communicate complex agricultural policy issues up the chain to the highest levels of government,” said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Fresh Impact Panel moderator Robert Guenther.

Following the Fresh Impact Panel is an address from government relations and association communications veteran Robert McLean of REM Association Services. After the Advocacy and Grassroots Seminar, the annual Welcome Reception at the Hyatt offers attendees the opportunity to relax and network in a casual environment before the conference kicks in to high gear on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, October 4

Wake up on Tuesday morning with coffee and networking in the Management Resource Center, the forum for solutions and ideas in the areas of traceability, food safety, sustainability, nutrition and more.

“The MRC helps industry members address critical business needs with specific, tangible solutions,” said United Fresh Vice President of Convention and Industry Relations John Toner.

After combing the aisles of the MRC, attendees will convene for the first of the conference’s powerhouse speakers. Tuesday morning’s Opening Breakfast and General Session features a special anniversary with Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), who returns to the Washington Public Policy Conference 10 years after his landmark suggestion to provide schoolchildren a free fruit or vegetable snack each day to promote better health. The author of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in the 2002 Farm Bill, Sen. Harkin will speak on the importance of continued involvement and vigilance on child nutrition matters.

HarkinSen. Tom Harkin addresses the
2001 WPPC.

“As chair of the Senate HELP committee and former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Harkin has long carried the torch for healthy kids on Capitol Hill,” said United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel. “His leadership with the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and child nutrition in general has created unparalleled benefits for children nationwide.”

After Sen. Harkin’s address, WPPC attendees have their choice of top-notch education tailored to each of four main produce industry market segments, including grower-shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesaler-distributors, and retail and foodservice operators.

For grower-shippers, the Could E-Verify Devastate Your Workforce and Destroy Your Business? session offers a chance to explore the potential impact of business-threatening legislation moving through Congress and the repercussions of recent Supreme Court rulings on E-Verify. Attendees will also learn what they can do to help bring a sensible solution to the workforce needs of the produce industry. The session is moderated by Grower-Shipper Board Chairman Will Steele of Frontera Produce, and features Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association, David Pittman, management & program analyst for the Department of Homeland Security, and Kevin Holsclaw, legislative director for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA)

Fresh-Cut Processor Board Chair Jan Berk of San Miguel Produce and Vice-Chair Tony Freytag of Crunch Pak Sliced Apples moderate the fresh-cut processor offerings, which focus on issues in food safety and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) in Fresh-cut Operations Inspections: FDA and Private Sector Perspectives. The session features FDA Consumer Safety Officer Crystal McKenna and United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety & Technology Dr. David Gombas. In it, attendees will hear from McKenna on the top 10 food safety and GMP issues in fresh-cut processor operations. Additionally, the session will address the Global Food Safety Initiative and how it affects the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative.

Efficiency in the supply chain is on tap for the wholesaler-distributor segment as Wholesaler-Distributor Board Chairman Brendan Comito of Capital City Fruit Company leads How Produce Distributors and USDA Can Work Together to Maximize Efficiency in the Produce Supply Chain. The session features input from Jennifer Dougherty, audit programs coordinator at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, and includes a comprehensive discussion on how the produce industry can work with USDA at this critical step in the supply chain to ensure programs such as small farm GAP certification and border inspection are handled effectively for the industry.

In How Retailers and Restaurants Can Use New Policy Initiatives to Increase Sales, Retail-Foodservice Board Chairman Mitch Smith of McDonald’s will lead retailers and foodservice operators in a discussion of the new MyPlate initiative from USDA and the Dietary Guidelines recommendation to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” The session explores how retailers and foodservice operators can take advantage of new policy initiatives like MyPlate, new menu labeling regulations, WIC and others to increase produce consumption and increase sales, and features Compass Group North America’s Martha Kennedy,Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka, president & CEO of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, and Bashas’ Registered Dietitian Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN.

“This market segment-specific approach is one that serves our members and attendees very well, allowing each to tailor an educational experience to their specific business type,” said Guenther.

Roberts
Sen. Pat Roberts juggles ag priorities
on Capitol Hill.

Following the breakout sessions, attendees will reconvene in the Hyatt’s Regency Ballroom for the Luncheon General Session, featuring a discussion of two issues currently weighing heavily on industry minds: the 2012 Farm Bill and mandatory E-Verify legislation. Leading those discussions are two congressional authorities, Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), and House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA). Sen. Roberts will lend his seasoned perspective to a discussion of the 2012 Farm Bill, pointing to opportunities and challenges for the specialty crop industry.

“This is a great chance for leaders in the produce industry to gain insight on the pending Farm Bill and U.S. agricultural policy from one of the highest congressional authorities,” said Stenzel. “Sen. Roberts has been a leading advocate for agriculture throughout his 30 years in the House and Senate, including two years as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Now, as the lead Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he brings both passion and deep expertise to issues critical to our industry.”

Following Sen. Roberts, Rep. Lungren will tackle the hot-button issue of immigration reform and its effects on the produce industry, discussing his guest worker amendment to the controversial and potentially devastating Legal Workforce Act proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and passed through the full committee last week. Rep. Lungren has been at the forefront of negotiations within the Judiciary Committee and the full House of Representatives to include a farm worker provision in the legislation’s before it moves on to the Senate.


Rep. Dan Lungren

“The produce supply chain grinds to a halt without reliable labor, so a viable, practical guest worker program is an absolute must for any immigration solution, and we continue to push for a guest worker provision,” said Guenther. “The legislation in its current form will devastate American agriculture, so this makes Congressman Lungren’s work on this

matter all the more critical, and underscores the importance of uniting the industry’s voice here in Washington.”

After lunch, WPPC attendees will split up into teams for the annual March on Capitol Hill, during which attendees will meet with lawmakers in the House and Senate to communicate industry issues and priorities. This year’s March on Capitol Hill includes more congressional visits than ever before, and offers the industry a chance to meet face-to-face with their elected representatives.

McCain
Attendees to the 2010 WPPC meet with
Sen. John McCain, left.

“Coming in to these offices and hearing what’s happening, when it’s happening, is fantastic,” said Pear Bureau Northwest’s Kevin Moffitt. “It’s the best way to get our issues out, and I think that United hits the right issues for us when we come here and we just reinforce those issues. It’s a great event.”

The congressional visit teams will stay on the Hill for what many consider to be the crown jewel of the Washington conference, the annual Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill in the Longworth House Office Building. During the event, members of the fresh produce industry showcase the fruits (and vegetables) of their hard work and dedication for members of Congress and their staff. The Fresh Festival is held in high regard not only by members of the industry, but it is also considered to be one of the most entertaining and flavorful events on Capitol Hill.

“It’s one of the most popular nights in Congress,” said long-time produce advocate Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA). “I hope the association keeps it up, because it’s the way our people learn. There’s a lot of education going on here.”

Freshfest
Rep. Jim McGovern, right, samples pineapple spears
at the 2010 Fresh Festival.

“This is such a fabulous event. The Fresh Festival allows us to share the fresh fruits and vegetables our industry produces with these legislators and their staffs so they can see what we really do,” said Frieda’s Jackie Caplan Wiggins. “It’s always wonderful because it shines such a good light on our industry.”

Following the Fresh Festival, contributors to the United Fresh Political Action Committee, or FreshPAC, are invited to a special reception featuring House Agriculture Committee member and Republican Freshmen Class President Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA). Rep. Scott will discuss the impact of new members of Congress on Capitol Hill as well as prospects in the 2012 elections.

“Rep. Scott’s position as a business leader serving his district in Washington gives him insight into the practical issues our members deal with in their businesses every day,” said Guenther. “As a respected mind in the risk

Rep. Austin Scott.

management industry, Rep. Scott has an acute understanding of the risks that our industry takes each time seed goes into the ground and the rewards we are able to provide on tables across America.”

The FreshPAC dinner will take place at the historic Decatur House, just steps from the White House, and is a separate, ticketed event. Those interested in attending may contact United’s Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3400, ext. 416, for more information.

Wednesday, October 5

WPPC’s final day on Wednesday begins with morning coffee and networking in the in the MRC, followed by a Breakfast and General Session featuring House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture Chairwoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH), both of whom will explore issues relating to specialty crops in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Rep. Frank Lucas
Schmidt
Rep. Jean Schmidt speaks during a dedication
of salad bars by Let’s Move Salad Bars to
Schools in Cincinnati.

Chairman Lucas will explore the key issues likely to emerge as his committee begins discussions on the 2012 Farm Bill, and discuss ways the produce industry can remain involved to ensure the continued viability of produce-specific Farm Bill programs.

“Throughout his tenure, Chairman Lucas has proven himself to be a champion on agriculture issues, both for his home state and for the nation,” said Guenther. “We look forward to his insight on the upcoming Farm Bill, as well as his perspectives on food safety, nutrition, and on how the recent debt reduction efforts will impact funding for agriculture initiatives.”

Following Chairman Lucas, Chairwoman Schmidt will add to the discussion of the Farm Bill, focusing on the importance of nutrition and feeding programs authorized by the legislation.

“United Fresh has been lucky to work alongside congressional champions like Chairwoman Schmidt to provide healthier options for kids every day at school,” said Guenther. “To have her address this year’s WPPC is a continuation of that teamwork, and provides our industry with some great insight into the support on Capitol Hill for programs of particular interest to fruit and vegetable producers.”

After the Breakfast General Session, WPPC attendees will split up into teams, travelling to USDA and EPA headquarters in Washington, and FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, MD, to meet face-to-face with regulators.

Highlighting these meetings is a session at USDA with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, during which the secretary will discuss the current policy landscape for the produce industry regarding the Farm Bill, nutrition programs, agriculture research and other important USDA programs that benefit the industry.

Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addresses
the 2009 WPPC.

“Secretary Vilsack and his team at USDA are intimately involved with so many issues that are important to the fresh produce industry,” said Stenzel. “Attendees at this year’s Washington conference will have the chance to hear how these issues and more will affect their businesses.”

Attendees meeting with staff at EPA will discuss the agency’s pesticide and water policies with Agricultural Counselor to the Administrator Larry Elworth, and how potential changes could impact production inputs.

At FDA, attendees will meet with Deputy Director of Operations Don Kraemer, as well as FDA’s Ted Popalawski, Katie Vierk, Crystal McKenna and Samir Assar, for a discussion of the Food Safety Modernization Act and how businesses can adopt new practices on production, processing, handling, logistics and more to meet FDA’s coming rules.

For those interested in the sights and sounds of Washington, United Fresh will lead a group to the National Archives, where attendees will view the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, as well as the new special exhibit. “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam: The Government’s Effect on the American Diet.”

VandHei
POLITICO’s Jim VandeHei.

Wrapping up the 2011 WPPC is an address from POLITICO Co-Founder and Executive Editor Jim VandeHei, who will provide a unique perspective of how politics, campaigns and the media intersect the nation and how these three pillars will influence the elections in 2012.

“VandeHei is better positioned than anyone else to pull back the curtain on Washington and address what is really happening inside the White House and on Capitol Hill,” said Guenther. “We are excited to have someone with Jim’s 15-year experience speak before our industry leaders.”

More information, registration options and a complete schedule of events for the 2011 Washington Public Policy Conference is available at www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc, or by contacting United Fresh at 202-303-3400.

Be sure to follow updates from the conference on United’s Facebook and
Twitter pages with hashtag #WPPC2011.


Rep. Dan Lungren, Author of Guest Worker Amendment to Controversial E-Verify Bill, to Join United’s Washington Public Policy Conference

LungrenHouse Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Member Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), will join the United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference Tuesday morning to discuss his amendment to the controversial and potentially devastating Legal Workforce Act proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and passed through the full committee last week. Rep. Lungren’s amendment provides for a guest worker program that would enable agricultural operations to hire seasonal work. While the language passed by the committee does not contain Rep. Lungren’s amendment, the congressman has been at the forefront of negotiations within the Judiciary Committee and the full House of Representatives to include a farm worker provision in the legislation’s before it moves on to the Senate.

“We are deeply honored to have Congressman Lungren participate in this year’s Washington Public Policy Conference. He has been an important leader in the House in trying to find a workable solution that addresses the unique challenges that a mandatory E-Verify system will place on the fresh produce industry,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “This will be a timely keynote speech for our attendees and comes at a critical juncture during negotiations on this legislation before it reaches the House floor.”

On September 21, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Legal Workforce Act mandating the use of E-Verify for all employers in the United States. Under the measure, employers must confirm all employees’ eligibility through the federal E-Verify system. United Fresh has advocated over the last year for a comprehensive approach to E-Verify legislation including provisions for a practical, efficient worker program to address the needs of specialty crop agriculture.

“The produce supply chain grinds to a halt without reliable labor, so a viable, practical guest worker program is an absolute must for any immigration solution, and we continue to push for a guest worker provision,” added Guenther. “The legislation in its current form will devastate American agriculture, so this makes Congressman Lungren’s work on this matter all the more critical, and underscores the importance of uniting the industry’s voice here in Washington.”

More information on the Washington Public Policy Conference is available at www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc.


2011 United FreshPAC Dinner Features House Rising Star Austin Scott

AustinFirst-term congressman and House Agriculture Committee Member Austin Scott (R-Ga.) will discuss the impact of new members of Congress on Capitol Hill as well as prospects in the 2012 elections during the annual dinner of the United Fresh Political Action Committee on Tuesday evening, October 4. Elected by his House Republican peers as freshmen class president, Rep. Scott is one of more than 100 new members of Congress elected in 2010. Within the Agriculture Committee, Rep. Scott serves on the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, and the Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture. The address comes on the second day of the Washington Public Policy Conference.

“Rep. Scott’s position as a business leader serving his district in Washington gives him insight into the practical issues our members deal with in their businesses every day,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. “As a respected mind in the risk management industry, Rep. Scott has an acute understanding of the risks that our industry takes each time seed goes into the ground and the rewards we are able to provide on tables across America. We are excited to welcome him to this years’ FreshPAC dinner, and look forward to his thoughts on everything from the mindset of newcomers on Capitol Hill to the 2012 elections to the general political atmosphere here in Washington.”

Rep. Scott’s address comes at this year’s FreshPAC dinner, punctuating the second day of the Washington Public Policy Conference. Established in 1976 to promote United Fresh member involvement in the political process, FreshPac gives members a forum to support candidates for Congress, helping to elect and re-elect pro-produce candidates. All FreshPAC funds support members of Congress who support issues important to United Fresh members. United Fresh is prohibited from using general treasury funds to make contributions in connection with a federal election, and FreshPAC is funded solely by individual and personal contributions to support candidates.

The FreshPAC dinner is a separately-ticketed event. For more information, please contact United’s Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3400, ext. 416.


Rep. Jean Schmidt to Address Washington Public Policy Conference

SchmidtRep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture, will explore the opportunities and challenges for protecting the federal investment in specialty crop programs on Wednesday morning, October 5, at the Washington Public Policy Conference. Chairwoman Schmidt’s address comes on the final day of the annual policy summit of the United Fresh Produce Association at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, and marks another step in the partnership between United Fresh and Chairwoman Schmidt. Most recently, United Fresh joined with Schmidt to dedicate salad bars to Cincinnati’s Academy of World Languages in May 2010.

“United Fresh has been lucky to work alongside congressional champions like Chairwoman Schmidt to provide healthier options for kids every day at school,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “To have her address this year’s WPPC is a continuation of that teamwork, and provides our industry with some great insight into the support on Capitol Hill for programs of particular interest to fruit and vegetable producers.”

As the first woman to represent Southern Ohio in Congress, Chairwoman Schmidt is in her fourth term in the House. In addition to chairing the Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture, Schmidt serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Schmidt will join House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), also speaking during Wednesday’s Breakfast General Session.

“With Chairman Lucas and Chairwoman Schmidt on tap, Wednesday’s program will give our members an excellent overview of the legislative and political terrain in the House that our members can’t afford to miss,” added Guenther.

More information on the Washington Public Policy Conference is available at www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc.


Harmonized Standard and Tomato Metrics Piloted in Greenhouse Operation

United’s Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology, and Dr. Barry Eisenberg, vice president food safety services, were on hand at Houweling’s Nurseries in Camarillo, CA, as USDA auditor Tony Souza performed a mock audit to see if the Produce GAPs Harmonized Standard for Field Operations and Harvesting would work in a greenhouse operation. Also on hand were Costco’s Milinda Dwyer and Ed Beckman of the California Tomato Farmers.

By the end of the visit, it was clear to all that the audit questions posed by the harmonized standard would address all of the food safety risks and controls that should be reviewed in a greenhouse operation.

“We are grateful to Houweling’s Nurseries for opening their doors, sharing their food safety programs and hosting this pilot audit,” said Gombas. “However, it was also clear that the food safety risk profile for a greenhouse operation is very different from a field operation. Auditors and customers should not expect that a greenhouse food safety plan will have the same controls as will exist for commodities grown in a field operation.”

“We were pleased to offer ourselves for the pilot and we were very gratified by the resulting knowledge we gained as a result,” said Brian Beggs, Houweling’s director of industry relations said. “We intend to work together with the other producers who have made the same investment in comparable facilities and have the same commitment to quality and food safety as we do.”

The opportunity was also used to field test the Food Safety Programs and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain (also known as the Tomato Metrics) module for greenhouses.

“The pilot was important to judge the effectiveness of the tomato metric's greenhouse module that provides the commodity specific metrics in support of the harmonized standard,” said Beckman. “The tomato metrics are designed to be a living document that is the definitive standard for science-based protocol applicable to the harmonized standard. From this pilot, we learned that the metrics should be revised to better address the practices found in a climate-controlled environment where there's continuous production. It's now up to the greenhouse industry to step forward and revise the metrics."

Dwyer agreed, saying, “Since this was not a live audit, we were all able to contribute to the audit process from our own perspective. By midday, it became clear that the tomato metrics will need modifications to work well for greenhouses, as there are significant differences between the controlled atmosphere of a greenhouse and the open growing area of a field. Perhaps the greenhouse growers will get together and work on a version of the metrics that will work well for commodities grown ‘under glass’. At the end of the day, I believe we all walked away with invaluable insight.”


United Hosts GLOBALG.A.P. TOUR 2011 Next Month in Atlanta

Global Gap

Going to Atlanta in October?
There will be a great opportunity to learn more about United’s harmonization efforts with the GLOBALG.A.P TOUR 2011.

On October 17, United Fresh will run the GLOBALG.A.P. U.S. National Technical Working Group Meeting, where participants will have a final look at the joint draft that combines the Harmonized GAP checklist on farm with the GLOBALG.A.P. Food Safety criteria contained in their Version 4. Directly following, there will be an open consultation meeting where all stakeholders—retailers, producers, certification bodies, NGOs, processors, plant protection manufacturers, and trading organizations—can discuss current issues, raise questions, and form a strategic plan for the future.

On October 18, United’s Senior Vice President, Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas will explain the process of harmonization and how the GAPs Harmonization Initiative’s goal of one audit by any credible third party, acceptable to all buyers is within reach.

McDonalds, U.S. Foodservice and Marks and Spencer will share their buyers’ views on standard harmonization with responses from producer groups.  Booking as still available to reserve your seat at this event and preferential rates are available for United Fresh members.

Those interested are encouraged to also consider attending GLOBALG.A.P.’s Public Workshop for crops on October 19-20. For more information and registration, please click on the link above or contact Daniela Fabiszisky.

More information on the events can be found on the TOUR 2011 website.


United Joins CPMA in Monterey for Discussion of Traceability, GAPs Harmonization

CPMAUnited Fresh joined in two discussions on industry issues this week, in an effort to communicate best practices and updates regarding the Produce Traceability Initiative with stakeholders from the Canadian industry.

In Monterey, CA, Thursday, United’s Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché spoke with members of the citrus industry at the semi-annual meeting of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Industry Technology Advisory Committee (CITAC), discussing best practices in case labeling. The meeting included a report from CITAC’s Direct Print on Corrugate task force, a survey of grower-shippers on the use of Reusable/Returnable Plastic Containers (RPCs), and basic elements of PTI-compliant case labeling on RPCs.

“CITAC was very interested with the progress of the PTI in the United States,” said Vaché. “The retail members also have a high interest, especially with the RPC label, as they do not want to be requesting something totally different from the U.S. suppliers to keep the application process as efficient as possible.”

In addition to participation in the CITAC meetings, United Fresh Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman participated in CPMA's Food Safety and Government Relations Committee meetings, also in Monterey.

"It was valuable to gain the support and input from Canadian shippers on their participation on the Produce GAPs Harmonization effort as well as government relations issues that impact the industry from both sides of the border," said Oberman.


United’s Gombas Addresses Public Health Officials at OutbreakNet Conference

Gombas Citing both the 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that incorrectly blamed tomatoes, and this summer’s E. coli outbreak in Europe that incorrectly warned consumers away from cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes, United Fresh Senior Vice President Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas encouraged continued communication with the produce industry to more than 100 public health officials at the annual OutbreakNet conference in Long Beach, CA.

“The produce industry has information that can assist in the early stages of an outbreak investigation, and public health officials should use that information to avoid naming the wrong commodity in a foodborne outbreak,” said Gombas. 

OutbreakNet is a national network of federal, state and local epidemiologists and other public health officials who investigate outbreaks of foodborne, waterborne, and other enteric illnesses in the United States to help ensure rapid, coordinated detection and response to multi-state outbreaks.

“In mid-June 2008, when public health officials were still looking for contaminated tomatoes and blaming poor recordkeeping, key individuals in the tomato industry were looking at CDC’s published information and saying ‘this can’t be tomatoes’.  Unfortunately, there was no mechanism for CDC or FDA to share vital, confidential information about the outbreak with the industry and the search, which ultimately identified jalapeno peppers as the outbreak source, continued for weeks,” added Gombas.  “Together, we have to find a way to overcome this breakdown in public health protection before the next outbreak.”


Celebrating New Haven’s Salad Bars

New Haven School District’s salad bars are in the spotlight this week. On Tuesday, the school district hosted a press event to celebrate their 33 new salad bars and to announce that 43 of their 47 schools now have salad bars, meaning that almost all of New Haven’s 20,000 students have access to salad bars every day at school. All of this has happened within the last year as New Haven has embraced Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools. The district’s success is also featured this month on the Let’s Move blog.

Chef Tim Cipriano, New Haven’s executive director of food services, is focused on increasing vegetable consumption, especially dark green and yellow-orange, and believes that salad bars provide the best opportunity to entice students to try new veggies.

“Our students love being able to make their own salad, to choose what they take to eat. They feel empowered; it’s all about ‘they choose’” said Cipriano. “Every student goes to the salad bar and they scarf down raw broccoli, cauliflower and black bean salad. Increasing access to healthy food for our kids is a top priority. I see no better way to celebrate our school children than to actively promote consumption of fresh vegetables through salad bars.”

“We are honored to support Chef Tim and other school food service leaders who every day make it possible for students to fill half their plates with fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health.

New Haven’s salad bars have been donated by Whole Food Market, NatureSeal and the United Fresh Foundation. To support United Fresh Foundation and Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, please contact United’s Andrew Marshall at 202-303-3400, ext. 407.


USDA Launches MyPlate Fruits and Vegetables Video Challenge

choosemyplate.govAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined local leaders and nutrition advocates in Sacramento this week to encourage Americans to 'Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables,' the first themed message supporting the new MyPlate food icon. Secretary Vilsack urged partners across the nation to keep the enthusiasm and momentum going by participating in the MyPlate Fruits and Veggies Video Challenge. USDA is encouraging all individuals and teams to submit inspiring and instructive videos that provide innovative, easy, and practical tips on how to 'Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables.'

"By tapping into American creativity we can help families focus on healthier food choices and to make half their plate fruit and vegetables," said the secretary.

The video challenge supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, which is dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity. The videos can be songs, skits, or how-to videos, as long as they include useful information on how to add more fruits and vegetables to the diet on a budget. Each video should feature one tip, must include the message "Make half your plate fruits and vegetables," and should direct viewers to visit the ChooseMyPlate.gov website.

There will be a total of $9,000 in prize money for the three categories: (1) Tips for Kids, (2) Tips When Eating at Home, and (3) Tips When Eating Away from Home. There will also be a Popular Choice Award. Judging will be done through a combination of USDA panels and public voting. Winning submissions will be used on the ChooseMyPlate.gov website and will be highlighted by MyPlate communications partners. Winners will be announced on December 14th.

For more details on the video challenge, go to FruitsAndVeggies.challenge.gov


Get Your Copy of Valuable Industry Compensation Data Today


With budget cuts the name of the game in Washington, how does your bottom line stack up? Produce industry members can ensure their competitiveness with the United Fresh Foundation’s comprehensive survey of produce industry compensation and benefits, available on the United Fresh website by clicking here.

The confidential survey of 119 produce industry companies measures employee compensation and benefit data for a wide range of full-time positions including sales and marketing, production and operations, quality control and assurance, administration, finance and accounting, and executives. The survey was open to U.S.-based produce industry employers including grower-shippers, brokers, wholesaler-distributors, importers, exporters and fresh-cut processors.

"This report offers compensation data from multiple market segments across the nation," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer.  "This is a terrific yardstick by which produce companies can gauge their salary and benefit levels to ensure their competitiveness within the industry, increase profitability, and not only attract new talent, but also retain the valuable employees already on the team."

United's compensation survey shows detailed salary and benefits information on companies, sorted by ownership type, type of business, produce sales volume, number of full-time employees and geography, and represents a wide range of the industry with regard to company size, with 32 percent of responses coming from companies with between 100 and 499 full time employees, and almost 17 percent coming from companies with fewer than 20 full time employees. Also represented is a large range of sales volumes, including 30 percent of responses from companies doing more than $100 million in annual volume, and 22 percent from companies doing less than $15 million in sales annually.

The survey concept was developed by the United Fresh Grower-Shipper Board, which identified an important need for a national compensation survey for the fresh produce industry.  To help ensure the broadest and most beneficial input for the produce supply chain, a task force with members from the United Fresh Grower-Shipper Board, Fresh-Cut Processor Board, and Wholesaler-Distributor Board was formed in December 2010. The Task Force reviewed and provided input to help determine the top 30 positions within the industry that would be most valuable to industry members.  In February 2011, the survey was sent to the industry and 119 surveys were completed. Industry Insights, an Ohio-based company that specializes in industry compensation research, administered the survey on behalf of United's Foundation.

"The produce industry competes with other industries for attracting and keeping the best talent. United's Grower-Shipper Board strongly supported the idea of conducting a national compensation survey to help industry employers stay competitive in the workplace," said Fred Williamson, president of Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and chairman of United's Grower-Shipper Board.

The final survey report is available to members of United Fresh for $495 and non-members for $695. Companies who participated in the survey receive an additional discount. The survey can be purchased here, and more information is available by contacting United’s Shannon Young at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.


Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2011 Supporters

CRT

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:

          • DiMare Company, Ruskin, FL

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 Senior Director of Membership Miriam Miller Wolk at 202-303-3410.


New Member Welcome

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

Welcome
  • Sam Okun Produce Company, Toledo, OH
  • Zenatek S.a.r.l., Hauppauge, 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.


Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

Events in your area, designed to grow your business.