June 14, 2012
In Today's Issue:
Farm Bill Making Steady Progress in Senate

Congress took another major step toward passage of the 2012 Farm Bill this week when the full U.S. Senate took up consideration of the measure, which is the underlying authority for nearly all U.S. production agriculture policy. The version being debated by the Senate maintains the landmark commitment to specialty crop priorities such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, pest and disease management, nutrition and trade opportunities.

“The Senate’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill is positive step in the evolution of specialty crop policies,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “It provides much-needed funds for grants that can help producers maintain their competitiveness, research that helps the industry with issues such as food safety and product development, promoting trade opportunities, programs that increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables served in the public schools, and programs to eradicate the pests and diseases that can destroy commodities before they have a chance to come to market. These are all issues that can make or break a specialty crop producer’s ability to stay in business and provide an abundant supply of nutritious food and other commodities that improve American lives. That’s why we support the bill, and urge Congress to pass the 2012 Farm Bill as soon as possible.”

United is also asking members to take action and call their Senators to voice support for the 2012 Farm Bill. With the threat of parliamentary procedural disputes that could slow or prevent the bill from passing the Senate, it is essential that senators hear from constituents that it is time to pass this legislation that provides crucial funding for specialty crop programs. Please take action today to tell your Senators to support the 2012 Farm Bill. A vote for the Senate Farm Bill is a vote for specialty crops!

Senate leadership is continuing to negotiate the number of amendments to be offered while debate on the overall legislation continues. The House of Representatives is expected take up the measure in the House Agriculture Committee before July 4.

For more information, please contact Robert Guenther at 202-303-3400.

Fred Thompson Slated as Keynote Speaker at Washington Public Policy Conference

Registration is open for United's Washington Public Policy Conference, October 1-3. The annual conference is the ONLY event where the entire fresh produce industry unites to make a real difference on produce industry priorities and help ensure a more profitable future. With produce industry leaders and our nation’s policymakers all in one place, the event amplifies the industry’s voice on issues such as food safety, farm labor, nutrition and consumption and the 2012 Farm Bill.

United is proud to welcome former senator and top political observer Fred Thompson to deliver the closing keynote address with an insider’s look at the campaign process and the pivotal 2012 elections. Elected to the United States Senate in 1994, Thompson served as Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and as a member of the Finance Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence before leaving the Senate in 2002. “I never intended to make [serving in Congress] a career,” said Thompson. “I always thought the Founding Fathers had the best idea about that: leave your regular work, come to town and do your best for a while. Knowing that you’re leaving frees you up to do what you think is right.”

“Thompson’s respected law and political career will definitely lend an interesting perspective going into the November elections,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “The Washington Public Policy Conference is such an important opportunity for the industry to be involved and we’re looking forward to the impact we’ll have in meeting with senators and representatives.”

This year, the event features two days of strategic, face-to-face meetings with lawmakers and their staff. Attendees will also hear from key administration officials and participate in candid and constructive dialogue with the president’s executive team. Market segment education sessions will also provide industry stakeholders the opportunity to evaluate progress made on priority issues. Don’t miss the United FreshPAC Dinner, with breathtaking views from Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse rooftop terrace.

Register for the Washington Public Policy Conference before June 20th and receive a $100 discount!

For more information, visit the Washington Public Policy website, or contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.

Policy Webinar Gives Inside Look at Farm Bill Progress

Policy experts discussed the 2012 Farm Bill today in the first of the Summer Public Policy Webinar Series. The hour-long session presented insights, observations and timely discussion as the Senate considers legislation that will reform and direct the future of agriculture policy in the United States.

Pam Miller, House Agriculture Committee senior staff, discussed the possible differences between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, and cautiously predicted the House’s course of action. Randy Russell, and Tyson Redpath of The Russell Group, United’s legislative counsel, explained the legislative, budgetary and political factors affecting the bill’s path to passage and noted that these conditions must be understood in order to determine which proposals best meet the needs of the produce industry. Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy, closed out the webinar by outlining the steps the industry is taking to advocate for robust federal investment in specialty crop programs.

“The webinar brought together key players involved in the Farm Bill process who have unique perspectives on how this will all work out,” said Guenther. “It was encouraging to hear the members engaged and asking questions, the industry recognizes how significant this bill is. To have the wholehearted support of our members is a powerful message as United works with staff on Capitol Hill to ensure specialty crops maintain the funding established in the 2008 Farm Bill.”

The next webinar, “Food Safety Regulations: Congressional Reaction to the Produce Rules,” will be held Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:00 am Pacific / 2:00 pm Eastern. Don’t miss the latest updates on how the forthcoming food safety rules will impact your business! Be sure that your entire staff benefits from these educational sessions. Encourage each staff member to register separately so they can customize their experience by selecting what sessions they would like to attend.

The series continues through September 12 and provides a rare opportunity to hear directly from key policymakers and regulators as they discuss current events and answer questions in real time. Sign up today to take advantage of these webinars and shape the policies that impact the produce industry. Future webinars will address:

  • Food Safety Regulations
  • Federal Nutrition Programs
  • Taking the Produce Industry Message to Washington

For more information on the Summer Public Policy Webinar Series, click here or contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.

First Harmonized Standard Train-the-Trainer Workshop Was a Full House

The Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative held its first official Train-the-Trainer workshop, sponsored by Costco Wholesale, Northwest Horticultural Council, NCSI Americas and United Fresh for auditors and produce companies who plan to use the Field Operations and Harvesting Harmonized Standards.

The training sold out with over 70 attendees, including representatives from a dozen state and private sector audit organizations, who participated during the two day meeting at Costco Wholesale Headquarters in Issaquah, WA. The training featured the official training materials developed by the Initiative’s Calibration Committee. The materials are designed to calibrate auditors in food safety expectations of growing and harvesting operations using the Harmonized Standards. Trainers for this session included Milinda Dwyer, Costco Wholesale; Ed LaClair, NSF Agriculture; Larry Robertson, Darden; and Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh.

“While the Harmonized Standards go a long way in reducing the potential for conflicting food safety expectations, it all comes down to the auditor,” said Gombas. “Having a single standard doesn’t reduce audit fatigue if different auditors interpret the standards in different ways. This workshop was developed to better calibrate auditors from different audit organizations in how the Harmonized Standards are supposed to be used. We really got into the weeds on what an auditor should expect to see at an operation, how an auditor should judge that operation based on the evidence they see, and how that judgment can change in different situations.”

A second workshop is being considered for this summer on the East Coast to enable others to attend, details coming soon! For more information, please contact Erin Grether, government relations coordinator, at 202-303-3400.

Fluctuating Prices Have Varied Effects in Q1 FreshFacts® on Retail, Quarterly Report Now Available to United Fresh Members

Fresh produce retail prices fluctuated in the first quarter of 2012, though fruit categories managed to remain steady while the majority of vegetable products decreased in average retail price compared to the first quarter of last year. Organic and value-added fruit and vegetable products fared well regardless of variable retail prices, with consumers continuing to pay a premium for the products, according to the latest edition of FreshFacts® on Retail, the quarterly retail research report of the United Fresh Foundation.

Supermarket produce dollar sales were steady this quarter, while volume increased slightly compared to last year. These shifts were caused by a 1.3% decline in average retail price. Fruits were the strong drivers behind produce dollar gains, with an average retail price increase of 1.5% that increased dollar sales 3.0% and volume 1.4%.

The FreshFacts® on Retail report measures retail price and sales trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories. It is produced in partnership with the Nielsen Perishables Group and sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce. This current report examines data for the first quarter of 2012 (January 1 - March 31). The report is free to United Fresh members.

“This report provides our members with solid data that showcases detailed performance of fruit and vegetables at retail,” said Victoria Backer, United’s senior vice president of member services, foundation. “With volume and dollar figures from the current quarter compared to the last year, the industry can use this report as a tool to examine category performance.”

This edition of FreshFacts® also spotlights pricing and promotions in the value-added produce categories. The report examines the factors and dynamics that influence the success of value-added product promotions, noting that consumers have become less price-focused in certain categories while others still rely on promotions to attract shoppers and boost sales.

United Fresh members can down the complete FreshFacts® on Retail report for free by clicking here. For more information or questions, please contact Shannon Young, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

United Fresh Launches Food Safety Course Index

United Fresh is pleased to announce the Food Safety Course Index, a new tool to assist members in locating food safety courses such as audit training, certification programs, GAP, GMP, HACCP, irradiation, microbiology, postharvest, recall, sanitation courses and more. The dynamic project will be continually updated as new courses are developed and existing courses that may have been overlooked are added. The project was led by Jeff Brandenburg, The JSB Group; John Hennessy, Locusttraxx; and Cathy Carlson, Community Alliance with Family Farmers. 

“The Food Safety Course Index is a clearing house for courses that are relevant to United Fresh members,” said Brandenburg. “There are so many courses offered, and this tool brings them all together. The courses can be sorted by topic and audience, so whether its executives or line workers, there is something for everyone. United is the go-to association for all things tech and food safety, so the course index is a logical offering and one that will be of value to members looking to sharpen their food safety programs.”

To access the Food Safety Course Index from the United Fresh homepage, click on the Food Safety box in the top banner. On this page, the index can be accessed by clicking the Food Safety Course Index photo or the link below it.

For more information, or to add courses to the index, please contact Barry Eisenberg, vice president of food safety services, at 831-801-1706.

United Presents Produce Industry Traceability Progress at GS1 US Connect Conference

Last week, United’s Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché participated in a panel at the GS1 US Connect conference in Las Vegas. The session, “Traceability Guidelines for Food Safety,” provided attendees with the latest updates from the produce, meat, poultry and seafood industries in regards to what each is doing to implement effective and efficient product traceability. The panel also included representatives from Tyson Foods, International Dairy Foods Association and National Fisheries Institute.

“All fresh food markets are deeply involved in developing traceability programs for the benefit of the market and with the knowledge the Food Safety Modernization Act will address traceability,” said Vaché. “The GS1 Standards have been widely adopted in response to the need for a common language to track and trace our food products through convoluted and worldwide supply chains. The produce industry is viewed as the perishable food segment leader for the work we’ve accomplished, particularly the development and success of the Produce Traceability Initiative.”

The panel’s presentation is available for download here. For more information, please contact Dan Vaché at 425-629-6271.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Wish Farms, Plant City, FL

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.

Upcoming United Fresh Events

Join us for events designed to grow your business.

Summer Webinar Series: Food Safety Regulations
July 11, web-based

Summer Webinar Series: Nutrition
August 8, web-based

Produce Inspection Training Program
September 10-14, USDA Training Center, Fredericksburg, VA

Summer Webinar Series: The Produce Message to Congress
September 12, web-based

Washington Public Policy Conference
October 1-3, Washington, DC