March 21, 2013
In Today's Issue:
United Makes a Fresh Impact with Tour in Central California

Tom Stenzel speaks to the more than 50 industry leaders in attendance at the Salinas town hall luncheon.

Barry Bedwell (left), California Grape & Tree Fruit League, and Tom Stenzel met with Harold McClarty (center), President of HMC Farms in Kingsburg. Harold’s children, Jon and Chelsea, are fifth generation farmers, and Chelsea is a past recipient of United’s Caplan Family Business Scholarship.

United Fresh continued the California Fresh Impact Tour this week with town halls and member visits in Sacramento, San Francisco, Salinas, and Santa Maria.

More than 30 members attended the Sacramento event, where the discussion focused on advancing current policy initiatives in both California’s and the nation’s capitols. The tour picked up again on Monday in San Francisco with visits to members in the Bay Area and a breakfast with representatives from the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.  On Tuesday, more than 50 industry leaders were in attendance at the Salinas town hall luncheon hosted by the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. Wednesday, United Fresh Chairman-Elect Ron Midyett, Chief Executive Officer, Apio, and Tony Martin, CFO, Windset Farms, hosted a town hall with 30 members at Windset’s Santa Maria facility. 

“We’ve had a full schedule and a strong turnout for our California Fresh Impact Tour,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh CEO. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback from members about how important immigration reform and food safety are to the vitality of their operations – all issues that we will be addressing at United Fresh 2013 and beyond.”

The tour continues today with a town hall luncheon in Oxnard and Friday with member visits throughout Southern California and the coastal growing regions, a town hall breakfast hosted by Westlake Produce in Los Angeles, a town hall luncheon hosted by Stater Bros. and Westlake Produce Company in San Bernadino.

More information on Fresh Impact Tour locations, as well as town hall registration options, can be found on the United Fresh website.

Throughout the trip, members and staff will be posting updates and photos to the United Fresh Twitter and Facebook pages. Follow along online or attend a Town Hall to join in on the 2013 California Fresh Impact Tour!

For more information on the California Fresh Impact Tour, please contact Sophie Drayton, membership coordinator, at 202-303-3413.


United Fresh Briefs Retailers on FSMA Implications

United Fresh spoke to retailers on the expected impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act in a March 20 webinar in partnership with the California Grocers Association.

Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, outlined the development of FSMA and the major changes that the rules propose. He predicted that the most direct impact on retailers will be the result of the proposed Preventive Controls regulation that would require any facility that holds food to keep a formal food safety plan. An additional requirement for retailers to publicly post a summary of foods on the Reportable Foods Registry is also expected to cause waves.

More indirectly affecting retailers, but just as critical, Gombas noted that the FSMA rules will change the way suppliers handle produce. “As the regulations roll out, you can count on confusion, concerns, and added costs,” he said. “We are reaching out to members across the supply chain to make sure they are aware of the requirements as they come along, but the most important advice we can give to retailers is to know your supplier.”

The session explored some of the nuances of the proposed rules and shared the perspective of United, who has been formulating comments to the FDA with the help of two working groups and the broader fresh produce industry. Gombas highlighted a major concern the industry has with the proposed rules in the exemption of certain small farms. “We believe that retailers and customers who buy directly from the farm deserve the same level of food safety as those who are buying from more conventional channels. The best advice I can give is to know your suppliers well – know whether or not they are able to provide the same level of food safety.”

United encourages retailers to become familiar with the proposed rules and submit comments to FDA, with particular attention to the effects that small farm exemptions may have on purchasing confidence.

A recording of the webinar is available to California Grocer Members at For more information, please contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3400.

United Fresh, Industry Leaders Talk FSMA with Capitol Hill Staff

Congressional staff listen in as a fresh produce industry panel describes the implications of FSMA on their respective commodities.

Yesterday, United Fresh and other fresh produce industry experts briefed more than 40 congressional staff of key lawmakers on the implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, moderated a panel discussion on key aspects of the proposed Produce Safety Rule. The briefing, hosted by the Specialty Crop Caucus, featured panelists from across the agriculture industry: Chris Schlect, president, Northwest Horticultural Council; Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of federal government affairs, Western Growers; Reggie Brown, executive vice president, Florida Tomato Exchange; and Kelli Ludlum, director of congressional relations, American Farm Bureau.

Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, led the briefing with an overview presentation of the rule. He outlined the rulemaking process, exemptions within the proposed rule, and the risk factors addressed. Gombas also drew attention to the produce industry’s reaction to specific sections of the law where vague language could be open to interpretation, and in contrast, where very detailed requirements are set forth. Industry leaders then gave their perspective of the impact the proposed rule could have on their respective commodities and association members.

“The rulemaking process is very lengthy and complex, and we want to be sure that lawmakers understand the process and implications,” said Guenther. “All of the panelists stated that they would be asking for an extension to the comment period, not because anyone is trying to delay the process any further, but because the industry is conducting a thorough review to ensure the final rule is effective and advances food safety responsibly.”

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


Produce Executives Enhance Leadership Skills at Cornell University

Reggie Griffin and Steve Grinstead field questions as Professor Ed McLaughlin moderates the fast-paced discussion on foodservice and retail industry trends.

Produce company executives from across the country converged at Cornell University last week to participate in United’s Fresh Produce Executive Development Program. The 42 executives focused on a range of industry issues, and development of management and leadership skills. Topics included decision making, managing change, conflict management, financial planning, supply chain logistics and entrepreneurial strategies.

“I’m sure I’ve learned ways to sharpen my leadership,” said course participant Dean Taylor, Director of Food Service Sales & Commodity Planning at Mastronardi Produce. The practices that we go through and the methods used by the professors in the course show you areas that you need to improve on.”

Nicole Brunner, membership director at the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association and 2013 program attendee applauded the real-world lessons offered: “It is vital in the produce industry for us to understand the supply chain; from the grower, distributor, wholesaler up to the retailer and finally the consumer. The Supply Chain Simulation game was an excellent tool for us to look at each stage of this chain and work together,” she said.

During the week-long course, executives participate in exercises that measure their personal strengths and weaknesses, providing insights about how they interact with colleagues and ways they can improve their job performance.

“The messages are really strong about adapting to change,” said course participant Judith Damiani, CEO of Citrus Australia, LTD. “You can buy a hundred management books and a thousand articles about how to manage and lead better, but coming here to Cornell pulls it all together. It’s a fantastic summary. It’s a succinct analysis for yourself and how you can apply what you’ve learned to your work.” 

United is launching a new Produce Executive Development Alumni Program at United Fresh 2013 in San Diego. The event is open to program graduates and will feature an Executive Education Seminar and a Networking Reception on May 14.

The 2013 Executive Alumni Program will include an educational seminar on “The Shifting Leadership Paradigm,” which will address how executives must constantly adapt their leadership skills to meet today’s unique industry challenges. The program will be followed by a networking reception.

This program is open exclusively to the graduates of the United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program. There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration is required by April 30. To RSVP, please contact Shannon Young, education manager, at or 202-303-3405.


United Fresh Reaches Out on Farm Bill, FSMA to Industry Groups

United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther described a challenging road forward for a 2013 Farm Bill as a speaker at this year’s National Grape Policy Conference. The conference included wine and grape industry members from the Wine Institute, California Association of Wine Grape Growers, Wine America, and National Wine and Grape Initiative.  With sequestration and the budget continuing to dominate discussions on Capitol Hill, agriculture programs have been feeling the squeeze. Guenther estimated that the bill could face up to $10 billion less in the Senate and $8 billion less in the House in funding compared to the expired 2008 Farm Bill.

“The 2012 Farm Bill provided a unique opportunity in terms of savings on the budget and advancement of specialty crop priorities,” said Guenther. “Unfortunately, there were disputes regarding certain commodity programs and nutrition programs that couldn’t be resolved in the face of election year politics and the bill died.”

Guenther did note that the nine month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill maintained funding for key specialty crop programs, but several are still at risk. United Fresh and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance will continue to drive efforts forward, mindful of the pressing fiscal landscape.

Guenther shared a similar message at a meeting of the Cranberry Institute Board of Directors on March 19. Beyond the possibility of a 2013 Farm Bill, the discussion covered immigration reform and food safety. “The entire industry, regardless of commodity, has their eyes on these issues,” said Guenther. “We’ll continue to work with our allies to ensure these issues remain a priority and are addressed effectively.”

Julie Manes, United Fresh director of government relations, also appeared on a panel with other agriculture industry advocates as part of the annual National Ag Day Student Training, in which students from around the country who are pursuing careers in agriculture receive training on how to be effective messengers and advocates for agriculture. Under the sponsorship of the Agriculture Council of America, and in partnership with 4-H and FFA, nearly 100 collegians came to Washington March 17-19 for training about policy and regulatory issues relevant to agriculture, as well as message training in preparation for a day on Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives.

Manes and the panel addressed the topic of “Creating a Positive Image for Agriculture.” Industry representatives of the American Farm Bureau, pork producers and farm credit sectors, provided the audience with information about the primary issues facing American agriculture, the challenges that each industry sector is facing and what opposition messages that the general agriculture community must address. 

“It is really encouraging to see the number of young people who are devoted to making agriculture their careers and how passionate they are about delivering clear messages about the positive work being done in agriculture to meet the changing and growing nutritional needs of the world,” said Manes.

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


Experience a Taste of San Diego at a Traditional, Hometown Steakhouse

Want to experience a Taste of San Diego? Register now for your chance at next week’s featured restaurant: Bully’s East. A San Diego tradition since 1971, Bully’s is known for superior quality, exceptional value and of course, friendly service! Bully’s features award-winning prime rib, fresh seafood, steaks, ribs, and sandwiches. Chef Luis Martinez leads the kitchen and prides himself on maintaining the original flavors in the food and bringing the essence of each natural ingredient into the forefront of his dishes. The horseradish crusted prime rib is the house specialty, but don’t miss the rack of the smoked baby back pork ribs.

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.

Congratulations to Jay Garcia, Walter P. Rawl & Sons, Inc., this week’s winner of our Taste of San Diego give away. Our winner will receive a gift certificate to dine at Prepkitchen. The restaurant takes a “back to the future” approach to cooking by working with seasonal and farm to table products and makes most of our food from scratch; the way it used to be, they way it ought to be. Since first opening its doors, Prepkitchen has grown into a quintessential neighborhood spot serving great seasonal comfort food in a relaxed environment.

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!

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!


Is Your Payroll Attracting and Keeping the Best Talent?

Produce industry companies are encouraged to participate in this valuable survey before the April 5 deadline!

The 2013 Produce Industry Compensation Survey, a project of the United Fresh Foundation’s Center for Leadership Excellence, is now open! The data collected will be published in an expansive research report that will assist produce industry employers in understanding critical compensation benchmarks. Any U.S. or Canadian-based produce industry employers, including grower-shippers, brokers, wholesaler-distributors, importers, exporters and fresh-cut processors, are invited to respond ahead of the April 5 deadline. The final research report will be available for purchase at United Fresh 2013, the association’s annual convention and expo, May 14-16 in San Diego.

The compensation survey, which was first released in 2011, has been updated based on input from the United Fresh Market Segment Boards, including the addition of three new positions, Regional Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, and Manager of Food Safety/Quality Assurance. Additional enhancements will include job descriptions, an expanded section on employee benefit practices, and the report is now open to produce companies operating in the U.S. or Canada.

Prepared by expert research firm Industry Insights in partnership with the United Fresh Foundation, this confidential survey measures compensation and benefits for 33 full-time positions within the produce industry. Data will be collected from U.S. and Canadian-based produce companies on a range of positions, including Sales & Marketing, Production & Operations, Quality Control & Assurance, Finance & Accounting and Executives.

The results from the survey will be published later this spring in a detailed research report. The report will allow produce companies to directly compare their salaries and benefits for full-time positions across multiple business sectors, as well as by ownership type (family, private, public), type of business, produce sales volume, number of full-time employees and geography. The new data will also show important shifts since the report was first published two years ago.

The survey is available at Companies that participate in submitting data for the survey are eligible to receive a fully-customized report for their company at a deeply discounted rate of $195. Non-survey participants can order a survey report for $495 for United Fresh members and $695 for non-members. For more information on the survey, please contact Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400, ext. 408.


Deputy Secretary Merrigan Departs from USDA

On March 15, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced she would be leaving her post at the United States Department of Agriculture. United Fresh congratulated Deputy Secretary Merrigan on her many years of service to USDA and American agriculture, she has been a trusted ally for so many vital produce industry issues, including supporting funding for specialty crop research, promoting healthy eating in schools and at home, and advancing food safety initiatives.

“United appreciates Deputy Secretary Merrigan’s support of United’s initiatives and programs over the years,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh CEO. “She has helped raise the visibility of salad bars as a strategy to improve child nutrition at Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools events while publicizing the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition campaign, partnered with us for the launch of the milestone online tool to help producers achieve Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, among others.  For these major advances and her daily commitment to the broader agriculture community, United Fresh extends our gratitude to Deputy Secretary Merrigan.”

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

  • California Asparagus Commission, El Centro, CA
  • Delta T Solutions, San Marcos, CA
  • Fresh Forward, Inc. Edmonton, Canada

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 831-600-8922 or Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.

Upcoming United Fresh Events

day plannerJoin us for events designed to grow your business:

Los Angeles Fresh Impact Town Hall
March 22, Near LA Produce Market, Los Angeles, CA

San Bernadino Fresh Impact Town Hall
March 22, Hilton San Bernadino, San Bernadino, CA

San Diego Fresh Impact Special Events
March 26, San Diego, CA

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

Produce Inspection Training Program
June 3-7, USDA Training Center, Fredericksburg, VA