September 26, 2013
In Today's Issue:
2013 Washington Public Policy Conference Begins Next Week!

The 2013 Washington Public Policy Conference is only days away! It’s a critical time in Washington right now with lawmakers debating immigration reform and the Farm Bill. FDA is also drafting new food safety rules that will impact the produce industry for years to come. Your elected officials need to know how these policies will affect your business. Don’t miss your chance to come to Washington and let your voice be heard!

Announced today, House Horticulture Subcommittee Chairman Austin Scott (R-GA) and Ranking Member Kurt Schrader (D-OR) will participate in a panel discussion on Tuesday, October 1 at the General Session Luncheon. Other featured speakers include USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, and Let’s Move! Executive Director Sam Kass.

Register today for the Washington Public Policy Conference! This conference is the only event where the produce industry’s most prominent and influential executives gather together for strategic, face-to-face dialogue with key members of Congress, their staff and top regulatory officials. Register today and join your colleagues in Washington to advance critical produce industry priorities that will ensure a more profitable future!

To register online for the conference, visit the United Fresh website. If you have questions, please contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.

House Farm Bill Action Sets Stage for Possible Conference with Senate

The House of Representatives cleared a major hurdle last week with the passage of H.R. 3102, The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, by a vote of 217 -210. Passing H.R. 3102 allows them to go to conference with the Senate on their version of the Farm Bill.  It is expected that the House and Senate will appoint conferees during next week’s United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, one of the primary negotiators of the Farm Bill, will speak to conference attendees and provide the latest news and information about prospects of the bill being sent to the president this fall. 

At stake in the Farm Bill is over $4 billion in investment for fruit and vegetable policy priorities, including research, preventing invasive pests and disease, trade enhancement programs, nutrition funding and state block grants. 

“The 2013 Farm Bill is one of the most important policy issues Congress will debate this fall,” said United’s Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy. “We are pleased that so many members from the industry will be in town for the WPPC to personally engage their elected leaders and encourage them to finish the Farm Bill this year.”

Limited Seats Still Available for the United FreshPAC Dinner & Reception!

There are still a handful of seats remaining for the United FreshPAC Dinner and Reception! Get your ticket today to experience a spectacular private reception and dinner prepared and hosted by former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib. Chef Scheib will lead you on a culinary journey offering a fascinating personal view of two First Families, the corridors of political power, and international personalities from the vantage point of the White House kitchen.

Contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416 to reserve your seat today!

Stemilt Co-Owner Honored as Organic Grower of the Year

Kyle Mathison, co-owner and grower for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, WA, was honored Wednesday as the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Farmer of the Year at its annual awards celebration dinner.  United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel attended the OTA dinner in Baltimore, MD. 

“It was great to join in honoring Kyle and the Stemilt team, and to see many produce friends in the organic community at the dinner,” said Stenzel. “Many United members are leaders in organic produce, and play an important role in serving the diverse needs and interests of consumers in choosing more fresh produce.” 

Also honored at the event were Karen and Colin Archipley of Archi’s Acres in Escondido, CA, and Arran and Ratana Stephens of Nature’s Path Foods in British Columbia, Canada.
United Fresh Chairman, President Visit Florida Members at FFVA Convention

United Fresh Chairman Ron Midyett, CEO of Apio, Guadalupe, CA, and President and CEO Tom Stenzel joined members of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) for their annual convention earlier this week. 

“FFVA is long-term partner to United, and is a strong advocate for Florida agriculture,” Stenzel said.  Although this was Midyett’s first visit to the FFVA convention, he found many old friends there.  “We’ve had so many Florida leaders serve on the United Board that it was indeed like going home to be greeted at the FFVA Board dinner by Tony DiMare, Drew Duda and Alan Temple, all of whom have served on both the FFVA and United Boards,” said Midyett. 

FFVA President Mike Stuart also served as an allied association member on United’s Board several years ago.  “We work together on so many issues, and it is these relationships that make our collaboration both a pleasure and more successful on behalf of the broader industry,” Stenzel said.
Real-World Experience Makes Recall Ready Training Workshop a Huge Success
United’s Dr. David Gombas talks with Marjorie Schultz, FDA Recall Coordinator for the San Francisco District, at the Recall Ready Training Workshop

The Recall Ready Training Workshop in Monterey last week was a huge success, providing participants with strategies to effectively manage product recalls. The workshop brought in more than 40 attendees who learned how to work with the FDA during a recall and minimize their liability. Katie Veenstra, Sales Support for GloriAnn Farms, was impressed with how much she learned at the workshop. “I thought the workshop was fantastic! The information presented was very informative and useful, and I look forward to implementing the things I learned,” said Veenstra.

Another key benefit of the workshop for Veenstra was the experienced instructors. “I appreciated that the speakers had an abundance of experience in the areas of recall and crisis management. They were able to speak from experience and real-life situations.”

Instructors for the workshop included United’s Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology; United’s Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management & communication; Marjorie Schultz, district recall coordinator (San Francisco), FDA; Amy Philpott, senior director at Watson Green and David Durkin, principal attorney for OFW Law.

Limited space is still available for the next Recall Ready Training Workshop being held in Philadelphia, PA on November 6-7. To learn more about registering for the workshop in Philadelphia or future workshops, please contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.


United’s Lorelei DiSogra Encourages International Leaders to Advocate for Policy Changes That Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Sue Lewis, Canadian Produce Marketing Association; Bronwen Anderson, United Fresh New Zealand; Jyrki Jalkanen, Finland Fruit and Vegetable Association; Agnes Vattamany, Hungarian Interbranch Organization for Fruit and Vegetables; and Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh Produce Association

Last week representatives from 24 countries from around the world gathered in Budapest, Hungary for the IX International Conference for the Promotion of the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables. The Hungarian Interbranch Organization for Fruit and Vegetables hosted the conference and brought together national leaders to share strategies and programs to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh’s Vice President, Nutrition and Health, represented the U.S. and gave a presentation on “Policy and Environmental Changes to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption.” DiSogra highlighted United’s leadership role in working with public health advocates to drive policy changes in federal nutrition programs.

“This was an incredible opportunity for countries to share experiences and best practices with each other. My goal was to inspire other countries to engage in policy change as a way to increase fruit and vegetable consumption,” said DiSogra.

DiSogra also spoke at a special symposium on national fruit and vegetable snack programs for school children including, the EU’s School Fruit Scheme, New Zealand’s Fruit in School Program, and the U.S.’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). During her trip, DiSogra visited a Bilingual School in Budapest that participates in the School Fruit Scheme (SFS).

 “After working with the European Commission, Freshfel and European public health leaders for several years to secure funding for SFS, it was exciting to visit a Hungarian school, talk to students and school officials and see firsthand how students are benefitting”, said DiSogra who also distributed the snack, Hungarian Gala apples, to students in several classrooms during her visit.

Lorelei DiSogra passes out apples to students at the Bilingual School in Budapest, Hungary.

At the conference European Commission officials noted that the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy will include additional funding of €60M for the School Fruit Scheme, bringing total funding for SY’2014-15 to €150 M/year. “The SFS and FFVP have become global strategies to increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, I hope other countries are inspired to start similar programs,” added DiSogra.          

For more information on international activities to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables please contact Lorelei DiSogra at 202-303-3403.


United Fresh Produce Association Supports NASDA’s Request to FDA on Proposed FSMA Rules

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture last week voted to ask the Food and Drug Administration to propose a second draft of its rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act before issuing final regulations. Based on the NASDA announcement, the United Fresh Produce Association released the following statement:

The United Fresh Produce Association shares the same commitment as the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to advancing a strong national food safety program to implement the Food Safety and Modernization Act.  Our industry supported this original legislation to create a strong regulatory framework that would be science-based, commodity-specific and focus on the greatest public health priorities.

Like NASDA, we too have heard a tremendous number of questions raised regarding the complexity of the proposed rules, and whether some aspects of the regulations would truly enhance public health.  In a case such as this with the most profound regulatory overhaul of food safety rules in some 70 years, it’s critical that FDA get this right.  We appreciate that FDA is engaging all stakeholders in extensive dialogue, and anticipate that the public record at the end of the current public comment period will be extensive.  Therefore, we join NASDA in its conclusion that this is clearly a situation appropriate for FDA to study all of those public comments, and then issue a revised proposed rule for comment before issuing a final rule.

Our industry incorporates rigorous food safety practices appropriate for specific commodities throughout the produce industry and that are audited today by both government officials and third-party auditors.  We look forward to continuing to work with FDA to achieve a strong and appropriate regulatory framework that is protective of public health.  After all, the nation’s number one public health nutrition goal is to make half of every plate fruits and vegetables.


United’s Dan Vaché Briefs International Produce Industry Executives About Produce Traceability Initiative
Peter Hill, Grower Relations and Food Safety, Alpine Fresh, and United’s Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management (R)

United’s Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management, addressed an international audience on the benefits of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) in Miami last week. The Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association sponsored the conference at the Miami Airport Convention Center, which drew over 100 attendees. Attendees included Peruvian exporters, US importers, retailers’ transportation companies and technology companies.

Vaché believes it is imperative that the entire fresh fruit and vegetable industry participates in attaining whole chain traceability to protect the industry from massive produce recalls when food safety issues are suspect.

“We don’t need to implicate an entire commodity in a recall if there is a specific lot of produce that may be cause for concern,” said Vaché.  “The industry needs to be able to remove suspected produce from the supply chain in an expeditious manner."

Many industry members on the grower/shipper side struggle with initial implementation of the PTI. Presenters provided solutions for attendees to help keep investment costs to a level that meets their needs and provides visibility into their supply chain.
For more information, please contact Dan Vaché at 425-629-6271.


Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops Announces First Set of Metrics
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The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC) announced earlier this week the release of five Working Metrics designed to support sustainability efforts across the specialty crops supply chain. The metrics are intended to provide science-based measures for assessing on-farm performance across key areas impacted by the production of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The metrics are considered “working metrics” because they will continually be refined based on evolving knowledge. The Working Metrics were developed through unprecedented collaboration among growers, buyers and public interest groups. 

The metrics are Applied Water Use Efficiency, Energy Use, Nitrogen Use, Phosphorous Use and Soil Organic Matter. The goal of SISC is to provide producers and buyers who are considering a sustainability program free access to data-driven measurement tools that can be used by individual partners across the supply chain. Using common metrics will help alleviate the need for supply chain partners to invest time and resources developing their own proprietary measurement tools.

"The SISC metrics take a different approach than the practice-based approach United Fresh used in development of its Sustainability Guide and Self-Assessment, released earlier this year," said Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management & communication. "United's Guide is intended to help the industry learn how to implement and assess sustainable practices, and to be able to better communicate about sustainability to their stakeholders and customers. We encourage members to download United's Guide, compare it with the SISC tool, and consider how they might best fit their operations."

United's Sustainability Guide and Self-Assessment can be downloaded at this link. It's free for members and $75 for non-members.



USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants Grow Markets for Fruit and Vegetable Producers
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USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced earlier this week that the USDA will invest $52 million in grants to support America’s specialty crop producers through the 2013 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The program will fund 54 block grants, which in turn will support 694 initiatives nationwide. The grants will help fruit and vegetable producers strengthen markets for specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits.

“These investments will strengthen rural American communities by supporting local and regional markets and improving access to fresh, high quality fruits and vegetables for millions of Americans,” said Secretary Vilsack in a USDA press release issued earlier this week.

"These specialty crop block grants return very real value for the fresh produce industry, and they are why we are fighting so hard for passage of the 2013 Farm Bill," said Ray Gilmer, vice president for issues management & communication. "United helped to champion the use of state block grants in the Farm Bill to benefit our industry with research, nutrition, marketing and other programs."

The 2013 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will support a wide range of initiatives that increase nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption, improve efficiency within the distribution system and reduce costs, and develop new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops. Since 2006, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has awarded over $293 million.


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

  • Holt Logistics Corp., Philadelphia, PA

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.



Upcoming United Fresh Events
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Join us for events designed to grow your business:

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

Recall Ready Training Workshop
Nov 6-7, Hilton Hotel, Philadelphia, PA

United Fresh 2014
June 10-13, McCormick Place, Chicago, IL