June 13, 2013
In Today's Issue:
United Members Urge Immigration Reform in Capitol Hill Meetings

United Fresh members emphasize the consequences of labor shortages to Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

United Fresh members urged key senators to support comprehensive immigration reform in meetings on Capitol Hill yesterday. Chalmers Carr, Titan Farms; David Hille, Cabbage, Inc; Andy Mercier, Merchants Food Service; Andy Shoemaker, Taylor Farms; Chris Rawl, Walter P. Rawl and Sons; and Charles Wingard, Walter P. Rawl and Sons; met with their congressional offices to stress the importance of immigration reform to their operations and the broader fresh produce industry.

"The visits with lawmakers are intended to help them understand how important immigration reform is to our company and the industry as a whole," explained David Hille, president of Ohio-based Cabbage, Inc. "Without a proper workforce to harvest the crops, food supply, food prices, and national security will be affected. We must get this point across. To do so effectively, we need to educate lawmakers and their staff about how immigration reform impacts us."

The group of industry leaders met with the offices of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Corker (R-TN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), all lawmakers from states where members' operations are facing challenges from labor shortages. A meeting was also held with the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

The Senate began debate on the immigration bill on June 11, and is expected to hold a final vote before the July 4 recess. Comprehensive immigration reform is within reach, and this may be the last chance for the produce industry to ensure that this critical issue is addressed. United Fresh is helping lead the charge to secure the stable and legal agriculture workforce that is necessary to the success of our members.

Unfortunately, Senate offices are hearing much more from opponents of immigration reform than proponents. Now is a critical time for you to make your voice heard. Every email, call or visit to Capitol Hill makes an impact and takes us one step closer to turning this opportunity to reality.

There are three ways to step up and take action:

1. Call your senators today through United's Immigration Call Center
2. Send Congress a letter from the Grassroots Action Network
3. Encourage your colleagues to contact Congress.

Tell Congress that your business needs a stable and skilled agricultural workforce to survive.  Our whole industry depends upon growers and packers being able to harvest and pack the nation's bountiful supply of fresh produce.  For more information, please visit www.unitedfresh.org/labor.

Specialty Crops Advance in Senate Farm Bill

United Fresh applauds the June 10 passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 by the Senate with a vote of 66-27. The bill addresses many priorities critical to United Fresh members, including programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues their support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. With the vote, the pressure is now on the House to take action. The House Agriculture Committee approved their version of the Farm Bill on May 16. The full House is expected to consider the legislation next week.

"We congratulate the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Leadership for moving forward with this legislation that is so important to the nation's produce providers," said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh CEO. "The bill supports fruits and vegetables in ways that will boost consumption and help provide healthful options to Americans - through block grants, nutrition programs and pest and disease research. We're looking forward to working with the House to preserve funding for these critical fruit and vegetable programs."

As a 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 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 (FY2014); $30 million (FY2015-2016); $65 million (FY2017); $50 million (FY2018)
  • Coordinated Plant Management Program funded at $60 million (FY2014-2017) and $65 million (FY2018)
  • Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 levels

"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.

For more information, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, at 202-303-3400.


Advocacy Scholarships Available to Develop Family Businesses

The 2012 Caplan Family Business Scholarship recipients experienced firsthand the impact of a united voice on Capitol Hill at last year's WPPC.

The United Fresh Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2013 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program. The program awards up to four scholarships for employees of family-owned businesses to attend United Fresh Produce Association's Washington Public Policy Conference (WPPC) in October.

Scholarship recipients will receive complimentary airfare, hotel and registration to attend the WPPC, September 30 – October 2 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Washington Public Policy Conference brings together hundreds of produce leaders from all sectors of the industry to interact personally and share ideas with administration officials, congressional leaders and industry colleagues.

"This scholarship afforded such a unique opportunity to connect with our nation's lawmakers and gain a deeper understanding of the policy-making process, and how those policies impact my family business," said 2012 scholarship recipient TJ Rahll, Edward G. Rahll & Sons, Inc. "Walking the halls of Congress was an incredible experience and one that highlighted how important it is to be engaged so that our industry's voice is heard in DC." 

The Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program was established in 2001 through a generous grant from Frieda's, Inc. to the United Fresh Foundation by Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in honor of their mother, Frieda Rapoport Caplan. The program is designed to increase family business' involvement in government relations and produce industry advocacy.

"This scholarship program is a perfect introduction for employees of family businesses to learn about the inner workings of Washington and amplify their voice along with hundreds of industry leaders at this event," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation. "We encourage our members who are involved with a family business to apply and take advantage of this advocacy opportunity."

To apply for a 2013 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship, participants must complete an application form and written submission outlining why they want to attend the WPPC and what they hope to gain from the experience. Applicants must be employed by a family-owned business that is a United Fresh member company in good standing; the program is open to first-time attendees of the Washington Public Policy Conference.  The application can be downloaded here and must be received by July 31.

For more information about the scholarship program, contact Shannon Young at 202-303-3405, and for more information about WPPC, or to register, contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.

United Leads FSMA Discussion at Hunts Point Market

United's Robert Guenther answers questions on the impact of FSMA on produce wholesale operations.

At the June 11 Hunt's Point Cooperative Annual Meeting, the impact of the proposed food safety rules on terminal market operators was the focus of remarks by Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. His address to Hunt Point Market representatives included an update on the status of the rules and comment process, as well as the specific implication of the proposed Preventive Controls Rule on produce wholesale operations.

"We know that all produce companies, from grower to processor to distributor, have many questions about how these new rules will affect them," said Guenther. "We want to ensure that companies throughout the supply chain participate in the comment process so that FDA hears your voices on how this will affect your business."

Comments on the proposed rules are open through September 16, and members are encouraged to contact United Fresh to participate in the comment process. More information is available at www.unitedfresh.org/fsma.

Miriam Wolk, vice president of membership & marketing, also gave the attendees an update on United Fresh's programs for wholesalers and distributors, including the new networking opportunities that were launched at United Fresh 2013. "We welcome all wholesale and distribution companies to get involved in United and participate in the Wholesaler-Distributor community." For more information, please contact Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


United Fresh CEO Briefs European Produce Leaders on Farm Bill, FSMA

United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel spoke to European produce leaders at the Annual General Meeting of Freshfel, the European Fresh Produce Association, June 11 in Paris. Stenzel briefed members on the U.S. Farm Bill just passed this week by the U.S. Senate, as well as United's efforts to increase produce consumption among kids through various school programs.

"Probably the biggest concern to our European trading partners was the pending FDA regulations to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)," Stenzel said. "While Europe has sometimes adopted more severe agricultural restrictions on pesticides and genetically modified crops contrasted with U.S. scientific evaluation, in this case European regulators are more precise in focusing on specific microbiological risks than the broad approach taken by FDA in the proposed rules. It's important that the global produce industry work together to establish common safety standards," Stenzel said.

While in Europe this week, Stenzel will also chair the Board of Directors meeting of the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), which works with produce associations around the world to support harmonized standards in product identification and chain information management.


Goal Is in Sight for Produce GAPs Harmonization

Dr. David Gombas has authored an extensive review of the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative.

The goal of "One audit by any credible third party, acceptable to all buyers" is in sight for the Produce Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Harmonization Initiative. Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, highlights the progress made in this month's Food Safety Magazine.

Gombas identifies the key players in shaping the Produce GAP Harmonized Standards and gives a lay of the land on who is accepting audits to the Harmonized Standards, who is auditing, the Harmonized Standards' relationship to GFSI and SQF, and the role of the Calibration Committee in interpreting the Standards.

"Experience has shown that more and more produce customers are requiring audits of their suppliers, including small and local suppliers, and that customers are realizing the costs of redundant audits are adding to their own costs, regardless of who pays for the actual audit," reports Gombas. "The broad acceptance of the Harmonized Standards by major produce buyers seems to show a road forward to meeting the industry's objective of reducing the audit burden without sacrificing safe produce growing and handling practices."

A PDF version of the article, "Produce GAPs Harmonization: The Goal Is in Sight" is available online. For more information about the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative and the Harmonized Standards, please visit www.unitedfresh.org/gap_harmonization or contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3400.

CA School Foodservice Workshop Aims to Increase Fresh Produce Served to Students

California Giant Berry Farms is sponsoring a salad bar that will be raffled off at the workshop to one of the school districts in attendance.

Next Tuesday, June 19, the California Department of Education's Nutrition Services Divisionand a host of other stakeholders are providing a freeone-day training and networking session for produce growers and distributors that work with schools, school foodservice directors, cafeteria staff, and advocates working to increase fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals.

The training session, "School Food Innovations Toward Increasing Specialty Crops: A Systems Approach," will feature leading school foodservice directors, and discuss issues ranging from distribution and sourcing, recipes and preparations, how to market and promote school food programs, and as well as cost saving measures, funding opportunities and ways to build community partnerships. The training will provide an opportunity to network with and learn from foodservice directors from across the state who are procuring and serving fresh produce in their schools.

"With the new changes in school meals that require a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to be served every day, we are pleased that CDE, CDFA and a broad coalition of local stakeholders are coming together for this training workshop," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition & health. "The focus on how to ensure school foodservice directors, produce growers, and distributors can increase children's access and consumption of fresh produce is a great step towards strengthening the supply chain that delivers these healthful options to schools."

To help make more produce in school cafeterias a reality, California Giant Berry Farms is sponsoring a salad bar that will be raffled off and provided to one of the school districts in attendance.

The session will be held from 8 am – 3 pm at New Brighton Middle School's Performing Arts Center and Central Kitchen in Capitola, CA. For more information, and to register for the training workshop, click here.

Additionally, following the training session there will be a School Food Policy Forum to discuss the new school nutrition standards that require schools to dramatically increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables served to students each day. More information is available here.

New Member Welcome
day planner

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

  • Joseph Bezon & Sons, Byron, NY

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:

Produce Inspection Training Program
Sept 16-20, USDA Training Center, Fredericksburg, VA

Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire
Sept 18-19, Embassy Suites Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Washington Public Policy Conference
Sept 30 – Oct 2, Washington, DC

Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire
Nov 6-7, Hilton Hotel, Philadelphia, PA