December 15, 2011
In Today's Issue:
United Fresh Chairman Meets with USDA Secretary, EPA Administrator

United Fresh Chairman of the Board Reggie Griffin joined a small group of agricultural leaders Wednesday to meet with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to discuss agriculture and environmental issues. Griffin called on USDA and EPA to work together to build greater public understanding of the safe use of approved agricultural chemicals in fruit and vegetable production. “Too often activist groups seek to scare and manipulate consumer fears about pesticide residues, even at extremely low levels that independent public health officials in government have approved as safe. We need you to stand behind your regulatory decisions, and make sure that consumers are confident in eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are essential to their health,” he said.

Following the meeting at USDA, Griffin met with the United Fresh headquarters staff to discuss a variety of current issues in the produce industry, and share perspectives on how the association can continue to help members grow profitable and successful businesses.

United Fresh Speaks at IOM Forum on Microbial Threats

United Fresh Senior Vice President Dr. David Gombas spoke this week to an Institute of Medicine Forum on Microbial Threats, providing an overview of produce industry challenges and the industry’s extensive work to prevent microbiological contamination. The meeting took place at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. As a microbiologist and industry practitioner, Dr. Gombas provided expert perspectives to the scientific meeting, which brought together leading experts from academia, medicine, government and industry to address collective strategies for improving food safety. For more information, click here to review the forum agenda.

United Fresh Co-Hosts Exhibitor Forum in Dallas as Industry Gets Ready for United Fresh 2012 Show

At the United Fresh 2012 Exhibitor Forum in Dallas, John Toner (from left), vice president for conventions, Mary Wright-Rana, director of marketing for Pro*Act, and Stephen Butt, senior vice president of Central Market Division at H-E-B.

Food industry representatives converged at the Dallas Convention Center this week to learn how to maximize value from exhibiting at the food industry’s largest trade show event this coming May 1-3. United Fresh 2012 is co-located with trade show partners Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and American Meat Institute (AMI) for one big event designed for fresh produce companies looking to grow their businesses.

Stephen Butt, vice president of H-E-B’s Central Market Division, welcomed the more than 50 attendees to Dallas for an informative day. In addition to proudly reminding attendees that Dallas is among the nation’s most vibrant and competitive retail markets, he offered tips for ensuring success during the United Fresh show.

“Let me tell you that our staff will always have an eye for what’s new and exciting and well presented on the show floor. Frequently orders are made based off discussions during the show, but often orders are made weeks later. The conversations you have in a booth are very important to leading to relationships that can lead to orders in the future. So I encourage you to bring your best and you’re brightest, because you’ve got to have every competitive advantage if you’re going to exhibit successfully at the show,” advised Butt.

Providing insights into trade show marketing trends, Skip Cox, president of Exhibit Surveys, led an informative review of key research data, including exhibition industry economic trends, marketing trends impacting events, attendee quality trends and exhibit performance trends.

A few highlights:

  • Exhibition spending for food ranks only behind consumer goods and retail trade in anticipated growth over the next two years.
  • The quality of trade event attendees remained strong in 2010, with 80 percent having buying decision input, and 37 percent having final decision authority.
  • In-person events rank at the top in terms of marketing communication effectiveness, well above other tools such as research reports, newsletters, webcasts and case studies.

“Active engagement with your audience is so important,” said Cox. “We’ve looked at statistics that show engagement on a face-to-face basis really drives results. Having the face-to-face experience really drives success.”

Cox also noted that some companies are sending less staff to save money, but said they are missing a huge opportunity. “If you don’t have enough knowledgeable staff at your booth, you can’t get that critical customer engagement.”Forum attendees also heard show previews from John Toner, United Fresh vice president for convention and industry relations, and representatives from FMI and AMI.

John shared some key information about the impressive value and scope of the Texas food marketplace:

  • Dallas/Ft. Worth Retail market is 6th in the country with over $10 billion in retail sales serving 6.5 million people
  • Texas is home to 55 supermarket and 125 convenience chain headquarters
  • Texas is 2nd behind California for foodservice sales at $36 billion

The event concluded with a tour of the expansive Dallas Convention Center, which offers more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space.

For information about exhibiting at United Fresh 2012, visit www.unitedfresh.org or contact United’s Jamie Woodside at 202-303-3400, ext. 420.

Convention Host Committee Works to Enhance Value at United Fresh 2012 in Dallas

Sharing ideas for making the United Fresh 2012 show the best ever, United’s Convention Host Committee met Tuesday in Dallas with United’s convention staff. The group met at the Dallas Convention Center to see trade show, education and networking venues, as well as provide valuable advice for making the most of what Dallas has to offer.

“Dallas offers a unique combination of southern hospitality and a modern business environment. It’s a diverse culture that makes it a great place to do business,” said Dan’l Mackey Almy of DMA Solutions and convention co-chair.

“I’m terribly excited to have this show back in Texas,” said Tommy Wilkins of United Supermarkets and convention co-chair. “This is a great industry and a great town.”

“We’re working to make the convention here in Dallas a fantastic experience for growing business and having a good time,” added Convention Co-Chair Michael Martin of Rio Queen Citrus.

Learn more about United Fresh 2012 by visiting www.unitedfresh.org.

FDA Update on New Food Safety Rules, School Foodservice to Take Center Stage at Winter Meeting

More than 200 volunteer leaders from United Fresh committees, councils, market boards and the Board of Directors will come together in San Diego January 24-25 for the association’s annual Winter Leadership Meetings. Thirteen different volunteer groups will meet individually to conduct their business, ranging from United Fresh market segment boards addressing key issues throughout the total supply chain, to the association’s Government Relations Council setting top public policy priorities for 2012. At each Winter Leadership event, all volunteer groups also come together in a joint plenary session, this year focused on two critical topics – new food safety rules coming from FDA, and work to expand fresh fruits and vegetables in schools.

FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor and key FDA staff are slated to brief the group on the new proposed produce safety rule and other regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act. It is anticipated that the new proposed rules will be announced in early January, making this session the produce industry’s first face-to-face opportunity to talk with FDA about its content. The program then shifts gears to feature the President of the School Nutrition Association Helen Phillips of Norfolk, VA Public Schools and SNA Chief Executive Officer Frank DiPasquale in a discussion about increasing fresh produce in schools. As the national organization representing school foodservice leaders across the country, SNA is a valued partner of United Fresh, and a key ally in starting kids off on a lifetime of healthy fruit and vegetable choices.

This year, the Winter Leadership meetings are preceded by the United Fresh Foundation’s Salute to Reggie Griffin Golf Tournament and Dinner on Monday January 23. To register for what promises to be a fun event honoring our longtime friend and 2011-2012 Chairman, please click here.

Volunteer leaders serving on one of United Fresh boards and councils can register for the meetings by clicking here.

New Online Food Safety Tool Available Now

Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh Senior V.P. for Food Safety & Technology, today joined Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, along with leaders from food and agriculture organizations, to introduce a free online tool to help U.S. producers achieve Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. USDA’s GAP audit verification program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, focuses on best agricultural practices to verify that farms are producing fruits and vegetables in the safest manner possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. USDA’s voluntary audit based program verifies adherence to the recommendations made in the Food and Drug Administration’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.

The free online tool, developed by FamilyFarmed.org with funding from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, helps farmers design a customized manual to meet GAP certification requirements and mitigate business risks by answering just a few questions. It is available at www.onfarmfoodsafety.org

FamilyFarmed.org’s On-Farm Food Safety Project coordinates with the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative, spearheaded by United Fresh, by basing their online tool on the Harmonized Standards, better ensuring that growers’ food safety plans will align with industry standards and audit expectations. United Fresh is coordinating with several audit organizations, including GlobalG.A.P, to ensure consistency in use and interpretation of the Harmonized Standards. United has worked to blend 13 different GAP standards, including USDA AMS GAP/GHP, the AFDO Model Code for Produce Safety, and GlobalG.A.P’s Integrated Farm Assurance standards.

“The Harmonized Standards are an effort to reduce audit fatigue and confusion by achieving industry agreement on the audit standards for on-farm operations, and then maintaining consistency in expectations by a continuing open and transparent dialogue across the industry, including USDA and FDA,” said Gombas.

“Effectively managing risk is important to all producers, and having an acceptable food safety program is in the best interest of consumers, buyers, and the farmers themselves,” said Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. ‘USDA is proud to have worked with private, public and non-profit partners to introduce this free tool to farmers seeking to gain certification as a Good Agricultural Practices producer.”

For more information, please contact Dr. Gombas at 202-303-3411.

United Urges Lawmakers to Support Exemptions for Hours of Service Rules

United Fresh this week expressed support for legislation introduced recently by Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Pat Roberts of Kansas. Their bill, S. 1915, would clarify agricultural exemptions to the Hours of Service rules administered by the Department of Transportation. The exemptions are necessary to ensure the timely distribution of farm supplies during the critical planting and harvest seasons.

More specifically, the legislation would clarify that the ag exemption to Hours of Service rules would apply to:

  • Drivers transporting ag commodities within a 100 air-mile radius from the source
  • Drivers transporting farm supplies for ag purposes from a wholesale or retail distribution point to a farm or other location where the supplies are intended to be used with 100 air-mile radius from the distribution point
  • Drivers transporting farm supplies for ag purposes from a wholesale distribution point of the farm supplies to a retail distribution of the supplies within a 100 air-mile radius from the wholesale

“The legislation clarifies the current ag exemption to make sure there’s no gap in how the regulations affect or don’t affect agriculture. United Fresh is glad to support any effort we can to make sure that policymakers understand the needs of the ag industry,” said United Fresh Director of Government Relations Julie Manes in a letter to the senators. “As Congress takes action on comprehensive transportation policy, we’ll keep working with our industry partners to make sure agriculture doesn’t get shortchanged.”

The Klobuchar-Roberts legislation is expected to receive further action when Congress is likely to deliberate highway transportation policy early in 2012.

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Partners Experience Christmas at the White House

This week, several Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools partners had the opportunity to go inside the White House and experience the lavish Christmas decorations and pageantry now on display at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This private invitation was reserved for organizations engaged in supporting First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which was developed to address the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.

The United Fresh Produce Association Foundation is a founding partner of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

“Each room was outfitted with at least one Christmas tree, and there were numerous paper mache statues of First Dog, Bo,” said Andrew Marshall, United Fresh policy and grassroots manager, who works with United Fresh member companies supporting Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.

To date, more than 1,000 salad bars have been donated to schools in 45 states, with more than eight hundred schools still expressing interest in getting salad bars to serve students more fruits and vegetables. Produce companies interested in learning more about Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools and how to bring salad bars to more schools can contact United Fresh policy and grassroots manager, Andrew Marshall, at amarshall@unitedfresh.org or (202) 303-3407.

Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2012 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 2012 Chairman’s Roundtable:

  • Monsanto, St. Louis, MO
  • R.C. Farms, Gonzales, CA
  • Sanitation Specialists, LLC, Watsonville, CA
  • State Garden, Inc., Chelsea, MA

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.

  • FreshXperts, LLC, Lee’s Summit, MO

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 Wolk at 202-303-3410.

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