Thursday, June 21, 2012
In Today's Issue:
Senate Farm Bill Preserves Funding for Critical Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Encourages Fresh Produce Consumption

United Fresh congratulates the Senate on the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 with a vote of 64-35. The passage came after a two-day consideration of more than 70 amendments, pared down from nearly 300 that were submitted. The bill addresses many priorities critical to United Fresh members, including programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

The bill maintains 2008 levels of funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), a victory for the more than 3 million school children who receive a fresh fruit or vegetable snack from the program each day. United helped to spearhead creation of the FFVP as an effective way to improve child nutrition, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and encourage long-term healthy eating habits.

Additionally, United is pleased by the Senate’s acceptance of an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), which calls for a feasibility study of insurance products that could cover recalls, quarantines and market disruptions.

“It’s gratifying to see the Senate Agriculture Committee and the full Senate show such strong support for these important produce industry priorities,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “We commend the Senate for maintaining focus and moving through so many amendments so quickly.”

As a coordinating member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, United worked closely with senators and produce industry stakeholders to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. The nearly 1000-page bill passed by the Senate includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition and other programs that enhance the ability of producers to be competitive and meet the needs of American consumers.

Highlights of the bill include:

  • Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $70 million per year
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $25 million in FY13; $30 million in FY14-15; $65 million in FY16; $50 million in FY17
  • Plant Pest and Disease Program funded at $60 million in FY13-16 and $65 million in FY17
  • Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program funded at $150 million per year
  • Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program for fruit and vegetable SNAP incentives
  • Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program
  • Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year

“The Senate has sent a strong signal to the House that this legislation deserves to be acted on quickly, and we encourage the House to move forward as soon as possible. United will continue to work with Congress to provide the produce industry perspective and raise awareness of the issues most important to our members,” stated Guenther.

The House Agriculture Committee is expected to release their version of the bill in July.

United Joins Senator Stabenow to Highlight Farm Bill Reforms, Give Update on Progress

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee has taken charge of ensuring the 2012 Farm Bill passes the Senate.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, hosted a teleconference yesterday to update stakeholders on the progress of the 2012 Farm Bill. United’s Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, was invited to speak on the call along with several other advocates representing farm, conservation and nutrition interests.

Stabenow commended the Senate for moving so quickly through the amendments. She hoped to complete work on the bill soon, noting “Agriculture is the bright spot in our economy, it underpins our economic recovery. We are providing the most significant reform in agriculture policy in decades. We’re facing a September 30 deadline, so it is critically important to get this bill through.”

Guenther reiterated the Chairwoman’s comments that this Farm Bill has an increased focus on promoting healthy foods and strengthening programs focused on fruits and vegetables. “We’re glad to see that this bill continues the support of specialty crop programs that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill,” said Guenther. “We especially appreciate funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, which provides a healthful snack to more than 3 million school children every day.”

Looking forward to the House taking up the Farm Bill, Stabenow said she had a great working relationship with House Ag Committee Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson. “They’ve been advised of what we’re doing and I have great confidence they will be successful in reporting a bill out of their committee. The broad parameters we had talked about together [in deficit budget reductions last fall] are maintained in our bill, we had decided where the savings would come from. I believe they will get it done.”

Technical Working Group Finalizes Harmonized Standards for Post-Harvest Operations

The Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative Technical Working Group (TWG) met for their annual meeting at Costco Wholesale Headquarters in Issaquah, WA on June 5. The meeting was co-sponsored by Costco, NCSI Americas, Northwest Horticultural Council and United Fresh.

On finalizing the Post-Harvest Operations Harmonized Standards for on-farm packing, cooling, storage and transport of fresh produce, Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president food safety & technology, said, “The Post-Harvest Operations Standards have been available in draft form since 2010, but we’ve been waiting for enough on-farm pilot audits to reveal if anything needed to be changed. Thanks to USDA, which has done more than 20 audits using the draft standards, we were able to make some important changes and both sets of standards are now final.”

The TWG also heard reports from audit organizations on their use of the standards. NCSI Americas, Equicert, NSF and USDA all shared their positive experiences with the use of the harmonized standards and their plans for continued use moving forward into 2013. In addition, the TWG discussed progress on GFSI-benchmarked audit schemes using the Harmonized Standards, as some customers intend to require that type of certification. “More than 20 major produce buyers have endorsed audits using the Harmonized Standards,” said Gombas. “However, some conditions on their use may exist, so operations are encouraged to contact their customers and buyers first.”

A summary of the Technical Working Group meeting, including details of the changes made to the draft Post-Harvest Operations standards, is available here. The TWG remains an open-invitation, all-industry group, responsible for making sure the standards remain relevant and representative of the best science available for all fresh produce commodities, regions and size operations. If you would like to become a part of this working group, please contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402. More information about the Harmonized Standards, including downloadable versions of both final standards, is available on the United Fresh website.

Washington Public Policy Conference Expands with Two Beautiful Capitol Hill Hotels

The Liaison Hotel, one of two beautiful options for your stay in Washington, D.C.

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 underscores the industry’s positions on issues such as food safety, farm labor, nutrition and consumption and the 2012 Farm Bill.

With growing industry engagement, attendees at this year’s conference will have the choice of two beautiful Washington, DC hotels. The Hyatt Regency Washington and the Liaison Hotel Capitol Hill are situated right across the street from each other and just steps from the Capitol. Feel the energy that comes from being in the heart of Washington: walk to the Smithsonian and the National Mall, tour government centers, experience monuments and historical landmarks - all just minutes from our Capitol Hill hotels. Special rates are available to conference participants, so reserve your room today!

This year, the event features two days of strategic, face-to-face meetings with lawmakers and staff of congressional offices. Attendees will also hear from key Cabinet 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. United will also welcome former Senator Fred Thompson to deliver the closing keynote address with an insider’s look at the campaign process and the pivotal 2012 elections. 

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

Grower-Shipper Association Hosts Gathering of Food Service Directors to Discuss More Produce in Schools

(L-R) Abby Taylor-Silva, GSA Foundation; Linda McGlone, Monterey County Public Health; Luis de la Garza, Reiter Berry Company; Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin, Taylor Farms; Congressman Sam Farr; Suzanne du Verrier, Healthy Eating Lifestyle Principles; Chris Moss, Monterey County Public Health.

The Grower-Shipper Association Foundation hosted a gathering of local food service directors and grower-shippers on June 13 in Salinas, CA to discuss how produce companies can provide more produce to schools to meet the USDA school lunch requirements.

Participants included Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA), who spoke about the nation’s need to address the obesity epidemic through more produce in schools, Deborah Beall, California Department of Education, 10 school food service directors and 15 grower-shippers.

“We applaud GSA for their leadership in bringing local grower-shippers and schools together to move forward with collaborative efforts to double the amount of fruits and vegetables served in school lunch,” said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United’s vice president of nutrition & health.

The Foundation presented preliminary school food service survey results that show the need for more local produce and that package sizes, e.g. individual servings, have become more important due to shortened lunch periods and the new USDA regulations.

Participants learned about the new fruit and vegetable regulations that call for ½ cup servings of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors each week. Growers also discussed the market impact of the new regulations.

The Foundation will continue to hold stakeholder meetings to ensure continued success and that schools fruit and vegetable needs are met.

For more information about the Grower-Shipper Association Foundation and its More Produce in Schools Program, please contact Abby Taylor-Silva at 831-422-9007.

School Nutrition Stakeholders Recap Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Nationwide Success

The concept of salad bars as an effective strategy to increase children’s access and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables continues to be the topic du jour in the world of child nutrition. Last week, United Fresh policy and grassroots manager Andrew Marshall was in Traverse City, Michigan to attend a Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools workshop funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the National Council of Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators.

Tim Cipriano, executive director of food service for the New Haven, Connecticut Public Schools, and Rodney Taylor, director of nutrition services for the Riverside, California Unified School District, both vocal advocates for implementing salad bars in schools, spoke to the coordinators.

In 2011 and 2012, the CDC provided grants to Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators to support Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools. The grants provide funding to develop salad bar training videos, marketing kits, statewide training conferences and salad bar best practices. 2011 grant recipients included Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin, click here for a brief description. Recipients of the 2012 grants are Alaska, Ohio, New Mexico and Washington State, a brief description can be viewed here.

“It was amazing to hear about all of the work being done to by Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators to promote salad bars in schools,” said Marshall. “Having CDC and their partners engaged in activities to promote Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools has been a tremendous asset that has enabled more schools and communities to promote increased fruit and vegetable consumption at school. This partnership is a win for the produce industry, and win for our children’s health.”

As more schools learn about the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program, United Fresh continues to engage the produce industry to support the national Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, and to bring salad bars to schools in the communities in which they live and work. To date, more than 1,400 schools are awaiting funding for salad bars through Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools. For a list of schools and their locations, visit www.saladbars2schools.org or click here.

To learn how your company can invest in future produce consumers by bringing salad bars for schools as part of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, contact United Fresh policy and grassroots manager, Andrew Marshall at (202) 303-3407.

Former United Fresh Chairman Jack Van Eerden Passes Away at 91

Ribbon cutting ceremony for United's Alexandria, VA office in 1978. Chairman Van Eerden is second from right.

Jack Van Eerden, second-generation president of Grand Rapids-based foodservice distributor Van Eerden Foodservice passed away June 15 at the age of 91.

Mr. Van Eerden was instrumental in the evolution of the family-owned Van Eerden Foodservice Company’s growth from a produce company to a full-service food distributor. His three sons Andrew, Harold and Daniel currently run the business together, which he oversaw with patience, trust and strong leadership. Van Eerden Foodservice continues its growth today with fourth generation family members. Jack’s leadership extended throughout the food industry as Chairman of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and shareholder of Frosty Acres, the first foodservice cooperative, and UNIPRO Foodservice.

“Jack was a leader in his community and the industry nationally, serving as Chairman of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association in 1978.  Jack and the whole Van Eerden family have been fast friends to many of us, and we are saddened by his loss. But we also rejoice in the wonderful life he lived and all that he meant to so many people,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and CEO.

Jack was born in Grand Rapids on November 13, 1920 and graduated from Calvin College. He was a Captain in the U. S. Army during World War II and served in the Pacific. As a life-long member of the Grand Rapids community, Mr. Van Eerden used his time and efforts to contribute to others through engaging with local organizations, schools and his church.

Mr. Van Eerden is survived by his widow, Katie Van Eerden, his three sons and two daughters, 16 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

New Member Welcome

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

  • BT9, Israel
  • CMI Equipment and Engineering Co.
  • Rives de Loire, France

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