February 14, 2013
In Today's Issue:
Immigration Reform, Food Safety Are Key Issues for Government Relations Council Meetings

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack shares candid remarks with the United Fresh Government Relations Council.

John Keeling, National Potato Council Executive VP and CEO, speaks with Florida Representative Ted Yoho at the United Fresh reception.

More than 30 members of United’s Government Relations Council met in Washington, DC, this week to discuss immigration reform, food safety and other critical policy issues facing the produce industry. Council members, representing United’s membership from companies and industry groups, had candid discussions with top Obama Administration officials, members of Congress and their staffs, policy advisors and others.

“Our industry needs immigration reform legislation now,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “We were sure to deliver that message in our meetings on Capitol Hill this week.” United is a founding member of the Agricultural Workforce Coalition, which has proposed sweeping new farm labor solutions for addressing industry workforce needs. To advocate for that goal, council members engaged with 40 key congressional offices on the urgent need for immigration reform and a workable agriculture guest worker program. 

“Immigration reform has the best chance to pass this year,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who met with the Council on Tuesday to review top priority issues. “An agricultural labor solution alone won’t pass,” he added. “Any immigration solution must be comprehensive.”

Sec. Vilsack told Council members that an immigration reform package must be passed this year because the issue would get bogged down in election year politics in 2014.

With a deadline of March 1 fast approaching for deep automatic spending cuts – the so-called sequester of funds required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 – Secretary Vilsack predicted that there would likely be some disruption of services from USDA. Further, responding to questions from Council members about APHIS funding, the secretary said APHIS funding has been “under attack” and that USDA is prioritizing eradication and containment programs to save money.

Citing his department’s progress on school nutrition, Sec. Vilsack said USDA remains committed to the USDA MyPlate standard that calls for fruits and vegetables to comprise half of every meal. He added, “We could not have gotten as far as we have on school nutrition without the support of the fruit and vegetable industry.”

FDA officials met with the Council for a frank exchange about the proposed Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Jenny Scott, senior advisor at the Office of Food Safety, and Jim Gorny, senior advisor for produce safety, reviewed key components of the proposed regulations and responded to questions on risk assessments for different commodities, exemptions for commodities and facilities, water standards and many other issues.

“We have proposed rules that we believe are commensurate with the risk,” said Scott. “If you disagree, I hope you’ll let us know.”

“I think the Preventive Controls Rule is going to have a larger impact on the produce industry than many expected,” said Tom Stenzel, United’s president and CEO. “There are going to be many questions.”

For more information about United’s Government Relations Council meetings, please contact Robert Guenther at 202-303-3400.


United Fresh Requests Extension for FSMA Rules Comments

United Fresh has submitted a request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to extend the comment period on certain provisions related to recordkeeping and the collection of information in the proposed Produce and Preventive Controls Rules. Several provisions currently face a comment deadline of February 15. The extension is necessary to provide sufficient time for the industry to examine and respond to the complex and substantial changes proposed for the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, as well as all other food industries in the United States.

“United is in the midst of a very exhaustive review process with our members,” said Dr. David Gombas, United’s senior vice president of food safety and technology. “The proposed rules are part of a larger suite of rules that are all interrelated and will have far reaching effects on the industry. The request is consistent with the time needed to properly respond, especially given that three additional proposed rules, on Foreign Supplier Verification, Preventive Controls for Animal Feed, and Accredited Third-Party Certification, are scheduled to be released in the near future and will also impact the industry.”

United Fresh member-driven working groups for the two proposed rules have held several calls and webinars to move the review process forward in preparation for submitting comments to FDA. The working groups will also meet in coordination with FDA’s public FSMA hearings February 27 in Washington, DC, March 13 in Chicago, and March 26 in Portland, Oregon.

“United Fresh has consistently supported mandatory, enforceable, commodity-specific food safety practices based on the best available science, applicable to both domestic and foreign produce,” said Tom Stenzel, United’s president & CEO. “That support continues through this rulemaking process. We ask that the comment period for those provisions be extended so that United Fresh and other interested parties can have a reasonable opportunity to provide FDA with meaningful input on these important initiatives.”

For more information about the proposed Produce and Preventive Controls Rules, please visit the United Fresh FSMA page at unitedfresh.org/fsma or contact Dr. David Gombas, United’s senior vice president of food safety and technology, at 202-303-3400.


Will FSMA Require Preventive Controls in Your Operation?

United Fresh continues the review of the proposed rules under Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) with a webinar dedicated to the Preventive Controls Rule. On Friday, February 15, 2pm – 3:30pm ET, join us for an in-depth look at the proposed rule, including how the requirements, exemptions and implementation will affect the fresh produce industry. Featured speakers include:

  • Jenny Scott, Senior Advisor, Office of Food Safety, FDA CFSAN
  • David Durkin, Legal Counsel, OFW Law

 Samir Assar Ph.D., Director, Produce Safety Staff, FDA CFSAN, will be available for the question and answer portion of the webinar.

The proposed rule would apply to many domestic and foreign firms that manufacture, process, pack or hold human food. These firms would be required to have written plans that identify hazards, specify the steps that will be put in place to minimize or prevent those hazards, identify monitoring procedures and record monitoring results and specify what actions will be taken to correct problems that arise.

The webinar is free for United members and $50 for non-members. Registration is available here.


FDA, United Fresh Examine Produce Rule Implementation in Webinar

The proposed Produce Safety Rule addresses risk factors in the field and along the handling process.

On February 11, United Fresh and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) partnered on a webinar to examine the proposed Produce Safety Rule. Dr. Samir Assar, Director, Produce Safety Staff, FDA CFSAN, outlined key aspects of the proposals and the regulatory framework to support the new rules. Dr. Assar went into further detail on exemptions to the rule and the risk factors that the rule addresses.

Dr. David Gombas, United’s senior vice president of food safety and technology, followed with the fresh produce industry’s perspective on the pros and cons of the proposed rule. He applauded the FDA’s risk based approach and highlighted the flexibility allowed for farms to control those risks by establishing alternatives to certain requirements related to water and biological soil amendments of animal origin.

Gombas also explained some challenges of implementing the Produce Safety Rule. Notably, United Fresh opposes the Tester Amendment, which grants exemption to small operations with less than $500,000 in annual sales. “It’s been proven true time and time again that regardless of farm size, pathogens can compromise the product. Pathogens don’t know what size operation they’re on or where they produce is headed,” said Gombas. “It is in all of our best interests to promote a consistent food safety standard with no exceptions.”

Moving forward, United will continue to engage members and prepare comments to be submitted to FDA. A series of rule review working group meetings will be held in conjunction with the FDA public meetings where members of the Produce Safety and Preventive Controls Working Groups will draft comments and the broader industry can give feedback. The United meetings will be held February 27 in Washington, DC, March 13 in Chicago, and March 26 in Portland, Oregon.

More information about the webinars is available on the United Fresh FSMA page at: unitedfresh.org/fsma. Members will also find resources about the FSMA proposed rules, including an FDA PowerPoint presentation summarizing the new rules, FDA fact sheets and the full text of both draft rules, as well as federal register notices. For more information about the proposed Produce and Preventive Controls Rules, please contact Dr. David Gombas, United’s senior vice president of food safety and technology, at 202-303-3400.


Experience a Taste of San Diego Served Prime on a Hot Plate

Congratulations to James Law, Armstrong Produce, LTD., this week’s winner of our Taste of San Diego give away. Mr. Law will receive a gift certificate to dine at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. At Ruth’s Chris Steak House, it’s clear that quality ingredients, attention to detail and that special sizzle is what they’re passionate about. Don’t miss their USDA Prime steaks, served sizzling on a 500° plate - every bite is as delicious as the first.

Every Thursday through May 2, 2013, United Fresh will draw one lucky winner from the United Fresh 2013 registered attendee list. Each winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to one of San Diego's finest restaurants, courtesy of our promotional sponsor, Diversified Restaurant Systems, Inc.

Register today for United Fresh 2013 and you'll be automatically entered for United's Taste of San Diego giveaway. You could win a gift certificate to one of the best restaurants in San Diego!

Register now for your chance at next week’s featured restaurant: The Oceanaire Seafood Room. Sleek and sophisticated, The Oceanaire provides the perfect setting to enjoy the freshest, sustainably caught seafood, with a menu that is always dynamically changing to reflect market availability–  a menu that lives and breathes right along with the seafood. You'll find out why The Oceanaire has been voted one of the best seafood restaurants in the country.

The sooner you register, the greater your chances to win a certificate to one of these stellar restaurants:

Baci Ristorante
Bertrand at Mister A’s
Bully’s East
Donovan's Steak & Chop House
George’s at the Cove
Island Prime
Mille Fleurs
On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
Pamplemousse Grill
Poseidon on the Beach
Ruth's Chris Steak House
The Marine Room
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
The Prado at Balboa Park

Learn more about these great restaurants and how you can experience a Taste of San Diego!

European Fresh Produce Industry Aims to Harmonize GS1 Standards

In conjunction with the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), a new GS1 European Fruit & Vegetables Working Group was announced last week at Fruit Logistica in Berlin to ensure a harmonized implementation of the GS1 System in the European fresh marketplace. 

“This is an important step in helping align GS1 country organizations throughout Europe, and ensure that they are interacting collectively with the fresh fruit and vegetable sector,” said United President and CEO Tom Stenzel, who also serves as Chairman of the IFPS.  “Harmonizing produce standards globally creates transactional benefits for industry members, aiding in product identification, chain information management and traceability.”

The working group is focused on implementing a common framework for electronic messaging in Europe. This goal includes the proper use of GTIN, Global Location Numbers (GLN), and standardized electronic master data information exchange to create efficiencies in delivering produce.


United Fresh Member Alpine Fresh Touts PTI Progress

The Alpine Fresh team gives Dan Vache a tour of their asparagus packing operation in Peru. From left to right: Luis Flores, Peter Hill, Dan Vaché, & Eduardo Soto.

In late January following the International Produce Traceability Initiative & Food Safety Seminar held in Lima, Dan Vaché, United Fresh vice president of supply chain management, travelled with United Fresh member Peter Hill, Food Safety Director of Alpine Fresh in Miami, to see two of their asparagus packing facilities in full operation. Alpine Fresh, a grower, packer and shipper of fresh asparagus, has implemented a comprehensive food safety program and Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) recommendations. 

“The implementation of the PTI at the Alpine Fresh Ica facility, including the use of hybrid pallet tag, was exceptional,” said Vaché. “It’s evident that team members at Alpine Fresh understand the importance of traceability in conjunction with their food safety program. The momentum and implementation of the PTI continues to expand and international suppliers reap benefits from their investments in food safety and the PTI.”

Peter Hill, a member of United’s Food Safety & Technology Council, has helped lead Alpine Fresh in their journey to PTI compliance for more than a year. “With the release of the proposed FSMA rules, Alpine Fresh wants to be proactive and stay one step ahead. Food safety and effective whole chain traceability go hand in hand in protecting our consumers. At the end of the day, what’s really important to us is that our final customers have a safe, healthy, and positive experience and are confident to continue consuming produce in the future. The support of United Fresh in that endeavor really does make a difference, and we were happy to host the visit.”

For more information about the Produce Traceability Initiative, please contact Dan Vaché at 425-629-6271.

United Fresh Hosts Webinar to Maximize Exhibitor Success at 2013 Tradeshow

Replay the webinar for tips to drive traffic to your booth on the United Fresh 2013 show floor!

United Fresh hosted a webcast on February 13 to help exhibitor’s maximize their success at United Fresh 2013, May 14-16 in San Diego. Trade show guru Jefferson Davis presented an engaging plan for exhibitors, focused on the single biggest challenge impacting tradeshow performance: attracting and interacting with enough of the right attendees during the show.

United Fresh members and exhibitors can watch a replay of this important webcast to learn a proven eight-step marketing process that integrates the latest and best marketing media to better support your corporate marketing objectives and put your company “in the mind” and “on the agenda” of United Fresh attendees.

Topics included in the webcast:

  • The four strategic pillars of a successful exhibit
  • Understanding changing tradeshow attendee behaviors
  • The critical importance of pre-marketing your exhibit
  • Determining your exhibit marketing objectives
  • Budgeting for marketing success
  • Calculating your exhibit interaction capacity
  • Creating your ideal visitor profile
  • Building ideal visitor lists
  • The five major tradeshow marketing media
  • Eight emerging marketing media you must start integrating
  • An overview of 2013 United Fresh pre/at/post show exhibitor marketing opportunities
  • A sample integrated marketing program for small, medium and large exhibitors

“Jefferson Davis is a leader in exhibitor education and it was a great opportunity for our exhibitors to spend an hour with this leading trade show expert,” said John Toner, vice president of convention & industry relations. “Our exhibitors were able to learn about best strategies to set budgets and maximize their investment in the annual United Fresh trade show.”

For more information about United Fresh 2013 on how your company can maximize business building opportunities in San Diego, please visit www.unitedfreshshow.org or call John Toner at 202-303-3424.


Begin Your Leadership Journey Here

Members of Leadership Class 18 enjoy a guided tour of O’Brien Family Farm’s U-Pick operation with President and Owner Tom O’Brien. The farm, located in Bradenton, Florida, grows hydroponic strawberries.

United Fresh wants to equip your up-and-coming leaders with the tools they need to achieve success in the produce industry. The United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program is designed for industry professionals ready to take the next step in their leadership journeys.

Class 19 of the Produce Industry Leadership Program will embark on a year-long program that will expose participants to the many facets of the produce industry and help them think beyond their daily business. Participants will engage in a fully customized program, focused on four core areas:

Leadership Development
Business Relationships
Government and Public Affairs
Media and Public Relations

“The program is an exploration of the many facets of the produce industry while teaching the professional skills and personal development that are vital to success,” said Strube. “It is a life-changing experience and an opportunity that I recommend to anyone who is committed to advancing their career.”

The 12 leadership fellows will take part in a series of customized trips which include face-to-face meetings with leading industry players, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, interactive experiences with influential leaders in Washington and more. This year's schedule will feature trips to Michigan & Ontario; Washington, DC & Wilmington, DE; and Yuma, AZ. The class will graduate at the 2014 United Fresh Convention in Chicago, IL.         

 The Produce Industry Leadership Program is made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection. It is a special opportunity for United Fresh members to advance and enhance their leadership skills and industry knowledge. There is no cost participate and all regular travel expenses are covered through the program.

Candidates interested in applying for the program can download information and an application at unitedfreshfoundation.org. The deadline for applications is Monday, March 11, 2013. Participation in the program is limited to 12 fellows who are selected by an Advisory Committee. The fellows are chosen from a broad cross-section of the industry to represent the breadth of the United Fresh membership. Since the program’s inception, more than 200 industry members have participated. For more information, please contact Shannon Young, United Fresh education manager, at syoung@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3405.


PTI Update: Industry Awaits FSMA Traceability Rules

The proposed rules under FSMA are expected to include traceability specific plans.

The produce industry must wait longer to learn how the U.S. government plans to implement the traceability regulations of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The two proposed rules mention traceability, but don’t directly address specific rules and implementation, but more details are expected to be released soon. Read more about how the fresh produce industry is preparing to implement FSMA and its expected traceability provisions in the recently released FYI Update.

The January/February edition of the Produce Traceability Initiative FYI also includes:

  • No FSMA Trace Rules Yet, but Help is Available on Other Rules
  • PTI Buyer Group Forms to Address Final Steps in Implementation Process
  • Report on Traceability in the Canadian Food Supply Chain
  • New Informational Flyer on Unique Product Identification
  • PTI in the News
  • And more!

PTI is a voluntary, industry-wide effort designed to help the industry maximize the effectiveness of current track and trace procedures, while developing a standardized industry approach to enhance the speed and efficiency of traceability systems for the future. Industry participants cover every segment of the produce supply chain. The PTI is an industry-led, supply chain-wide initiative governed by a 34-member Leadership Council.

You can access this and past editions of PTI FYI on the PTI website in EnglishSpanish and French. For more information, please contact Dan Vaché, United’s vice president of supply chain management, at 425-629-6271.


Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2013 Supporters

The 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 2013 Chairman’s Roundtable:

  • RAAW Foods International, LLC, Miami, 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 Vice President of Membership & Marketing Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


New Member Welcome
Welcome New Members!

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

  • Amerifresh, Scottsdale, AZ
  • BFC Associates, Inc., Batavia, IL
  • RAAW Foods International, LLC, Miami, FL
  • Richter & Company, LTD., Charlotte, NC
  • South Florida Logistics Services, Coral Gables, 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 Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


Upcoming United Fresh Events

day plannerJoin us for events designed to grow your business:

FDA’s Proposed FSMA Preventive Controls Webinar
February 15, 2-3:3:30pm ET

United Fresh FSMA Rules Review Meeting
February 27, Washington, DC

2013 Produce Executive Development Program
March 10-15, 2013, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

United Fresh FSMA Rules Review Meeting
March 13, Chicago, IL

United Fresh FSMA Rules Review Meeting
March 26, Portland, OR

United Fresh 2013 
May 14-16, 2013, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA