September 27, 2012
In Today's Issue:
USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan, AAN President Walsh Slated to Speak at WPPC

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will discuss the Farm Bill stalemate on Tuesday morning.

American Action Network Brian Walsh will explore the complexities of political campaigns in his Tuesday afternoon remarks. 

Tuesday morning at the Washington Public Policy Conference will kick off with USDA Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan. Merrigan will engage attendees with a discussion of the 2012 Farm Bill stalemate and how the expiration of certain programs will directly impact the fruit and vegetable industry. She will also offer insights into issues and opportunities affecting the industry and share her own perspectives on how the fruit and vegetable industry can work with government to reach the next milestones in building a stronger industry.

Working alongside Secretary Tom Vilsack, Merrigan oversees the day-to-day operation of USDA's many programs and spearheads the $149 billion USDA budget process. She serves on the President's Management Council, working with other Cabinet deputies to improve accountability and performance across the federal government. Merrigan brings a wealth of knowledge to USDA from a decades-long career in policy, legislation, and research related to the many missions of USDA.

Later that day, Brian Walsh will take the stage to share insights about increasingly complex political campaigns. Walsh, president of the American Action Network (AAN), will provide his perspective on the competing influence of Super PACs and political parties in the current elections and will also look at the impact social media is having on the electorate and which party may have the upper hand with social media in the November elections.

In his current role, Walsh guides AAN to “create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security.” Prior to joining AAN, Walsh was Political Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, where as a senior strategist for House Republicans, he led the successful efforts to win the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.

“We’re excited to have Deputy Secretary Merrigan and Brian Walsh join us at WPPC,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. “They are both seasoned politicos with insights into how Washington works that our members will find especially valuable as they navigate Capitol Hill to advocate for a strong Farm Bill.”

It’s Not Too Late to Register for the Produce Industry’s Most Powerful Public Policy Event! Register today or contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416 for more information.


Meet 2012 Grower Achievement Award Winner Steven Lyles Farms

2012 Grower Achievement Award Winner Steven Lyles has demonstrated excellence in farming, agriculture education, food safety, and the efficient use of technology.

Steven Lyles has spent two decades nurturing his operation, a vegetable farm that has grown from ten acres to nearly 2,000. Steven Lyles Farms is finding success as a family affair in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Steven, along with wife Anna and daughter Susanna, embody the excellence that the Grower Achievement Award recognizes. Presented by Meister Media, the 11th annual Grower Achievement Award will be given at the Washington Public Policy Conference next week.

Steven Lyles Farms is thriving, even in the face of the challenges that farming near populated areas can present. The Lyles use their location on the outskirts of the city limits to educate their community about agriculture, whether it be talking to neighbors about Integrated Pest Management or hosting upwards of 20,000 school children each year at Lyles’ Mesilla Valley Maze Family Fun Farm for interactive education sessions.

Read more about the 2012 Grower Achievement Award Winner, Steven Lyles Farms, here!

  • See how Anna Lyles’ involvement with Ag in the Classroom has led to New Mexico’s Ag Educator of the Year Award and a non-profit family foundation.
  • See how technology plays a critical role in the operation from laser leveled fields to precision drip irrigation.
  • Learn how Steven Lyles Farms stays ahead of the curve on food safety.

Meet Steven Lyles at the 2012 Washington Public Policy Conference, network with other industry leaders, and make at difference at the produce industry’s most powerful public policy event!

United Attends EPA Discussion on Water as a Critical Resource

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced last week that Congress would take up the Farm Bill sometime after the November presidential elections. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, with several critical specialty crop programs vulnerable to a loss in funding, including pest management, marketing, trade, nutrition and research programs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the following about Congress’ failure to pass a Farm Bill before adjourning: "Americans deserve a food, farm and jobs bill that reforms the safety net for producers in times of need, promotes the bio-based economy, conserves our natural resources, strengthens rural communities, promotes job growth in rural America, and supports food assistance to low-income families. Without the certainty of a multi-year bill, rural communities are being asked to shoulder undue burdens."

The Senate passed their version of the legislation on June 21 with a strong bipartisan vote. The House Agriculture Committee completed their bill on July 12, which reinforced many of the commitments to specialty crops that were included in the Senate-passed legislation.

“It is disappointing to see Congress leave town while there is still work to be done on the Farm Bill,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. “We’ll continue to advocate for a strong Farm Bill next week at the Washington Public Policy Conference, when more than 500 United Fresh members march on Capitol Hill to let their senators and representatives know that this should be their top priority.”

For more information, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, at 202-303-3400. There is still time to register for the Washington Public Policy Conference, the produce industry’s most powerful public policy event.

United Fresh Visits Members in Pacific Northwest

Basin Gold’s Michael Connors (R) and United’s Dan Vaché discuss production challenges at one of the company’s onion fields in Moses Lake, WA.

Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management, and Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications, were on the road meeting with members in Washington last week.  The Pacific Northwest visits included meetings at Crunch Pak, Stemilt Growers, Chelan Fresh, CMI, Rainier Fruit and Domex Superfresh Growers.

“It’s always great to get out and talk with members at their operations, some of which are expanding production and making big investments in modern packing operations,” said Gilmer. “We had constructive conversations about labor supply and the need for innovation in the guest worker program, the burden of multiple audit standards for growers, distributors, and processors, the implementation of traceability initiatives, sustainability and more.”


GLOBALG.A.P. National Technical Working Group Meeting

GLOBALG.A.P. North America has scheduled a meeting of its U.S. National Technical Working Group (NTWG) for Thursday, October 25 in Anaheim, CA. According to Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety & technology, and U.S. NTWG Coordinator, “GLOBALG.A.P. North America has launched its food safety-only Produce Safety Standard (PSS) for fruit and vegetables, and is looking for input from the NTWG on how auditors are to judge the requirements. PSS is the only standard based upon the Harmonized Standards that has been submitted to GFSI for benchmarking. GLOBALG.A.P. North America is making a good faith effort to maintain the integrity of the Harmonized Standards when implemented at the field audit level.”

Some of the topics to be covered at the October 25 NTWG meeting include an update on the Produce Safety Standard and its application of the Harmonized Standards; discussion of the “Tomato Metrics” proposed checklist riders for PSS, which are modified and additional control points designed specifically for the tomato industry; an update on GFSI benchmarking of PSS and re-benchmarking of GLOBALG.A.P.’s comprehensive Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard; and other topics of interest to U.S. stakeholders interested in GLOBALG.A.P.’s certification. The NTWG meeting will take place immediately after GLOBALG.A.P. North America’s two-day Public Workshop (IFA/PSS Fruit and Vegetables training), October 24-25, at the same location in Anaheim.

Please contact Dr. David Gombas at for information about participating in the US. NTWG or attending the October 25th meeting. For more information about GLOBALG.A.P. North America’s Public Workshop on October 24-25, please contact Jonathan Needham at

United Joins EPA to Discuss Water as a Critical Resource

The Environmental Protection Agency held a full-day session looking at the importance of water to the U.S. economy on September 19 in Washington, DC. United Fresh, American Farm Bureau Federation and American Farmland Trust represented agricultural interests, and participated alongside numerous environmental groups, energy and natural resources companies, private and municipal water providers, and government agencies, including USDA, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey/Department of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, and Department of Energy.

“It’s important for the national agriculture organizations to be a part of this discussion. Water is a resource that is critical to the success of the fresh produce industry,” said Burleson Smith, United Fresh vice president of environmental affairs & sustainability. “We’re more than willing to share our knowledge about the economics of water, how it affects our members, and related sustainability efforts that the agriculture community practices.”

EPA is working to identify data and research gaps and develop a path forward that supports a range of public and private sector information needs in its attempts to support efficient, effective, and sustainable decisions.  A public meeting is being organized for December 4 in Washington, DC. 

More information regarding the EPA study may be found here.  For more information, please contact Burleson Smith, vice president of environmental affairs & sustainability, at 202-303-3400.


Retired Military Leaders Push to Ban Junk Food from U.S. Schools

Mission: Readiness, a national security organization of retired generals and admirals, released Still Too Fat to Fight, earlier this week. The report emphasizes that “the problem of junk food in schools is not just a national health issue. It is a national security issue.” Data presented in the report shows that students in the United States consume almost 400 billion calories a year from high-calorie, low-nutrient foods sold at school. “Selling junk food at school contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic and seriously undermines efforts to teach children about the importance of a healthy diet,” according to the report’s authors. The report calls for the federal government to update nutrition standards for competitive foods, those sold outside of school meals through vending machines, à la carte lines, snack bars, and other venues. Rising rates of obesity among young adults is a trend that affects national security, the report argues, pointing out that 25 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds considered too overweight for military service.

The report calls for strong federal nutrition standards for school snacks, citing the widespread availability of junk food in our nation’s schools as a major contributing factor to childhood obesity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working to update standards for foods and beverages offered outside of school meals since 2011 and child nutrition advocates expect USDA to release a proposed rule in the coming months. The reportStill Too Fat to Fight, is a follow-up to Too Fat to Fight, which focused on the need for healthier school meals and was issued in 2010 shortly before passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

“The engagement of Mission: Readiness in child nutrition policy and advocacy is a tremendous asset to all of us working to create healthier school food environments,” said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition & health. “New nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold in schools will be another important opportunity to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in school vending machines, à la carte lines and school stores. We hope that USDA will release the proposed regulations for comments by the end of the year.”

For more information, please contact Dr. Lorelei DiSogra at 202-303-3400.

Fresh Produce & Floral Council Donates Salad Bar to Western High School
Dean Taylor

The Fresh Produce & Floral Council (FPFC) celebrated the donation of a salad bar to Western High School in Anaheim, CA yesterday. The salad bar was donated through Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, and according to a statement earlier this year by FPFC President Carissa Mace, “Dovetails perfectly with our mission statement. This gives us the opportunity to directly spend member funds in a way that both increases consumption of fruits and vegetables and helps build consumers of our products for years to come.”

Rick Cruz, FPFC Chairman and Manager of Division Operations, Vons/A Safeway Company, was joined by Carissa Mace, FPFC President; Martha Craner, President, B&C Fresh Sales; Daniel Lunt, Western High School Principal; and Terry Gerner, Director, Nutrition Services, Anaheim Union High School District, at the salad bar ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony. Afterwards, students and guests enjoyed lunch from the salad bar, stocked with colorful fruits and vegetables.

 “As students are headed back to school across the country, it’s so exciting to see more salad bars being donated,” said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition & health. “Salad bars are an effective way for schools to meet the new school meal requirements, which call for a doubling of the amount of fruits and vegetables served every day. Parents and students are asking their schools for salad bars, and we’re proud to support the effort to donate as many as possible and create healthy eating environments for kids.”

United Fresh is a longtime advocate of improving child nutrition through wider access to fresh fruit and vegetables and is a founding partner of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation and has donated salad bars to more than 1,600 schools nationwide.

For more information on the Fresh Produce & Floral Council, please visit their website. For more information on Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, please contact Andrew Marshall, United Fresh policy & grassroots manager, at 202-303-3407.


New Member Welcome
Welcome New Members!

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

  • AMC Direct, Inc., Glassboro, NJ
  • Teachers College, Columbia University, Boca Raton, 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

day plannerJoin us for events designed to grow your business:

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

2013 Produce Executive Development Program 
March 10-15, 2013, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
United Fresh 2013
May 14-16, 2013, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA