October 16, 2013

In Today's Issue:
See Highlights from the 2013 Washington Public Policy Conference!

The 2013 Washington Public Policy Conference successfully mobilized more than 500 produce business leaders to advocate for our industry on issues from immigration reform to food safety, despite the challenges from the October 1 government shutdown. View photo galleries from the conference highlighting congressional meetings, session speakers and networking events. See photos of the United FreshPAC Reception and Dinner, Fresh Festival, Leadership Alumni Dinner and more, as well as videos on United Fresh TV.

Also, see United Fresh Chairman Ron Midyett's column from The Packer recapping this year's conference.

Lisa McNeece, Grimmway Enterprises, Inc. (left); Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA); Erin Grether, United Fresh; and Gina Nucci, Mann Packing Company.

Attendees enjoy beautiful view at United FreshPAC Reception and Dinner.

Congressional and Administration Leaders Call United Members to Action at Conference General Sessions

USDA Secretary Vilsack addresses United members at Opening General Session Breakfast.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow discusses the Farm Bill at the Opening General Session Breakfast.

The nation's top agricultural leaders addressed United Fresh attendees about critical policy issues facing the produce industry, including passing the Farm Bill and comprehensive immigration legislation. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called on United members to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Secretary Vilsack said it was the produce industry's "patriotic duty" to make sure Congress passed critical legislation.

Secretary Vilsack explained that immigration reform is vital to the growth of American agriculture. "The sad reality is American agriculture is not producing as much as it could because farmers are not harvesting as much as they could. It's all because they don't have the necessary workforce," said Secretary Vilsack.

Secretary Vilsack also spoke about his efforts to support agriculture through research, child nutrition programs and risk management. He sent the produce industry a personal message. "I'm here to thank all of you for the work you do to make this country a healthier place," said Secretary Vilsack. "You are the key to the physical and economic health of our country."

Senator Stabenow agreed it was time for action, especially with respect to the Farm Bill. "We are not just going to pass another extension that doesn't do the job," said Senator Stabenow. "We need the economic safety, we need the reforms and we need the support to grow the economy that will come from passing the Farm Bill."

Passing immigration reform legislation and the Farm Bill were messages that reverberated through many of the lawmakers' addresses. "I think it's a shame that we don't have a farm bill," said USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden in her address to United's volunteer leaders at their September 30 luncheon. Congressman Austin Scott, House Horticulture Subcommittee; Congressman Kurt Schrader, Ranking Member, House Horticulture Committee and Congressman Jeff Dunham agreed that passing the Farm Bill is critical to keeping America's produce industry competitive.


United Members Make Their Voices Heard on Capitol Hill

Georgia members discuss issues with Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).

United members go to Capitol Hill to discuss critical issues to the industry.

United Fresh members met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill during the Washington Public Policy Conference. Attendees had the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss issues that affect their businesses, including passing immigration reform legislation, the Farm Bill and rulemaking for the Food Safety Modernization Act.

United Fresh members and staff met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the historic first day of the government shutdown. "It speaks to the power of United and the relationships we have on the Hill," said former United Chairman David Krause, CEO of Paramount Citrus. "It says to me that United is important to people on the Hill."

Bob Morrissey, Executive Director, National Watermelon Association, Inc., thought the meetings provided an opportunity not only for United members to meet their lawmakers, but also for lawmakers to get to know United members in their districts. "If you think about it realistically they work for us, whether we voted for them or not, they work for us and they represent us," said Morrissey. "Everything and anything that they do in this town can affect us either positively or negatively and if we don't tell them what we need or what we want to run our businesses back home, they'll never know."

Jim Lemke, senior vice president, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., encouraged United members to continue to meet with lawmakers and build relationships with them. "You need to tell your story and make sure that members of Congress understand exactly how you stand on the important issues going on in our industry," said Lemke. "The personal story is what matters most with our members of Congress so get in there and be heard and take part. You'll be really happy that you did."  

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) meets with United members.

United members and staff meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

United FreshPAC Brings Industry Leaders Together

Walter Scheib, former White House chef, discusses presidential meal preferences with attendees at United FreshPAC dinner.

United FreshPAC attendees enjoyed a private reception and dinner prepared and hosted byformer White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib on the Newseum terrace overlooking Washington, DC. Each course of the culinary journey was paired with a personal story from Chef Scheib on his experiences serving the Clinton and Bush First Families.

During the event, industry leaders came together to personally support the critical role United FreshPAC plays in building strategic relationships with Congress. This annual event helps United FreshPAC support pro-produce congressional candidates who will listen to the industry, whether from traditional agricultural production areas where we drive the economy, or from urban areas where fresh produce is equally valued for its contribution to public health. Through United FreshPAC, the produce industry makes a difference in key campaigns across the country. 

Tony Freytag, Crunch Pak Sliced Apples (left); Chef Walter Scheib; Ron Midyett, United Chairman, Apio, Inc.

United members from Four Seasons Family of Companies enjoy the United FreshPAC reception and dinner.
Next Generation Panel Provides Insider's View of Capitol Hill

On Monday, September 30, key administration and congressional staff shared their perspective on how offices in the nation's capital operate. "The relationships you make in those first meetings are important," said Anne Cannon MacMillan, Deputy Chief of Staff to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. She explained that the first few meetings that constituents have with their policymakers can impact whether or not constituents can effectively advocate for their issues.  MacMillan said she still remembers the good and bad meetings she had during her first few years in DC.

Matt Mika, Director of Government Relations, Tyson Foods, agreed that it is important to be prepared and clear with policymakers during meetings. "The first 5 to 10 minutes are key," said Mika. "You need to make that impact quickly and get to the point of why you're there."

The panel recommended that United members try to connect public policies, such as immigration, directly to their business when participating in congressional meetings. Panel members explained that it's important to let members of Congress know how these policies affect your company's bottom line.

Tyson Redpath, United Fresh legislative counsel, The Russell Group, discusses working with lawmakers and staff in Washington, DC.

Key administration and congressional staff discuss their experiences working on produce industry issues.
Educational Workshops Address Key Policy Issues for the Produce Industry

A standing-room-only audience listens to advice from experts in the workshop Managing Recalls to Minimize Business Impact. 

Marla Caplon, Montgomery County School District, Maryland, discusses opportunities for produce distributors in schools.

Robert Guenther, United Fresh, moderates discussion with panel members on immigration and labor issues.

The Washington Public Policy Conference offered three educational tracks to choose from focusing on the top issues and opportunities facing the produce industry today: "Managing Labor Issues in Your Business," "Addressing Food Safety Challenges Today and Tomorrow" and "Growing Kids' Consumption; Growing New Consumers." The labor session explored how immigration reform can help the produce industry and boost America's economy. Brendan Comito, Chief Operations Officer, Capital City Fruit Company, Inc., spoke about his company's experience using the E-Verify system to verify employees' legal status to qualify for employment. Bill L. Brim, President, Lewis Taylor Farms, Inc., discussed his company's experience with the current H-2A agricultural labor program. In addition, Loretta Radanovic, Vice President, Finance, Four Seasons Family of Companies, addressed her company's experience in preparing for health care reform.

During the food safety session, attendees learned how a recall can impact their business and the importance of being prepared for a recall. "When a recall happens, it happens fast. It's easy to forget a key audience or say the wrong thing. Having message templates prepared can help a company quickly demonstrate that they have the recall under control and are protecting public health," said Lisa Watson, principal for the communications firm Watson/Green LLC.

Members of the United Fresh Food Safety & Technology Council and the Food Safety Modernization Act Working Groups briefed the audience on three of the FDA proposed rules and the comments being developed by the Working Groups. In addition, Bruce McEvoy, Director of Global Affairs for Seald-Sweet LLC/UNIVEG Group, and Stuart Jablon, Vice President of Operations for Dole, both addressed operations at America's ports that can significantly affect food safety concerns as produce moves in and out of the U.S. 

In the "Growing Kids' Consumption; Growing New Consumers" session, school food service directors and produce distributors discussed the positive impact of new school nutrition standards on school purchases of fruits and vegetables. Jessica Shelly, School Food Service Director, Cincinnati Public Schools, and Marla Caplon, Director of Child Nutrition, Montgomery County School District, noted how their purchases of fresh produce have doubled in recent years. Phil Muir, President and CEO, Muir Copper Canyon Farms; Sean Leer, VP Sales, Gold Star Foods and Dennis Christou, VP Marketing, Del Monte Fresh Produce, said national school nutrition policy changes were driving this demand for fresh produce. They also noted that their sales to schools have significantly increased in recent years.


United Fresh Honors Del Monte Fresh Produce as Industry Advocate of the Year

Ron Midyett, United Fresh Chairman, Apio, Inc. (left); Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc. staff: Amanda Costa, Dennis Christou, John McCann, Dave Russell and Tom Stenzel, United Fresh

United Fresh honored Del Monte Fresh Produce as the 2013 Produce Industry Advocate of the Year at the Washington Public Policy Conference. Del Monte Fresh Produce has been a long-time leader in the public policy arena, serving on United's Board of Directors, Nutrition & Health Council, Food Safety & Technology Council and Fresh-Cut Processor Board. Del Monte Fresh Produce has been instrumental in advocating for public policies that support the produce industry, as well as supporting initiatives that create healthier school environments, including Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools. United President & CEO Tom Stenzel presented the award to Del Monte Fresh Produce representatives.

"They've donated more than 20 salad bars to schools, and are a leader in bringing fresh vending machines to schools, even when those vending machines carry other company's product," said Stenzel.

"Del Monte Fresh Produce is proud to be the recipient of the United Fresh Produce Industry Advocate of the Year Award," said Dave Russell, Del Monte Fresh Produce vice president of sales, national accounts. "Our continuing commitment to United Fresh and its efforts to keep our nations' leaders and government focused on the major policy issues impacting our industry is a reaffirmation of the positive returns to our company and all other industry stakeholders. We would like to encourage all members of United to increase their participation and play an active role in advocating for our industry. The results are worth the effort."

The United Fresh Produce Industry Advocate of the Year Award pays special recognition to one United Fresh member each year that serves as an advocate for the entire produce industry. Honorees are leading companies and associations that make an impact and drive the industry forward. Learn more about the United Fresh Produce Industry Advocate of the Year Award by visiting the United Fresh website.


More Than 5,000 lbs. of Produce Donated to DC-Area Food Banks Following Fresh Festival

Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) and United's Immediate Past Chairman David Krause, Paramount Citrus

The Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill proved a hit this year with attendees, even though it was moved from a congressional office building to the Hyatt due to the government shutdown. This event was a great way for produce industry leaders to get members of Congress and key DC decision-makers excited about fresh fruits and vegetables. Attendees sampled a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including almonds, avocadoes, apples, pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, citrus, pears, bananas and fresh-cut fruit and salad.

This year's Fresh Festival also made an impact on two local Washington, DC organizations that serve residents in need, DC Central Kitchen and Miriam's Kitchen. Thanks to the generous donations by Fresh Festival exhibitors, more than 5,000 lbs. of fresh fruit and vegetables were donated this year. DC Central Kitchen and Miriam's Kitchen estimated that the donated produce would feed their constituents more than 20,000 meals for three to four days. 

"Fresh Festival was packed with local DC guests and several members of Congress, their staffs and conference attendees. This year's Fresh Festival was a stellar networking reception that ultimately provided top-quality fresh produce to a great many of the city's underserved," said United's Andrew Marshall, policy and grassroots manager.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and his staff celebrate the fresh fruit and vegetable industry at the Fresh Festival.

Dan Nakamura (left) and Pat Kole from the Idaho Potato Commission, with Chef Michael Hirsch from Miriam's Kitchen

Make Plans to Attend the 2014 Washington Public Policy Conference!

The 2013 Washington Public Policy Conference only lasted three days, but the positive impact made for the produce industry is valuable and long-lasting. Attendees learned about the key public policy issues affecting our industry, including the Farm Bill, the Food Safety Modernization Act and immigration reform. United members representing the entire produce supply chain made their voices heard on Capitol Hill and met with key administration and congressional leaders to discuss issues facing the produce industry. While great work was accomplished during the Washington Public Policy Conference, the work should continue throughout the year, including meetings between United members and their policymakers when they return home.

Next year's Washington Public Policy Conference is already coming together. Be sure to save the date for the 2014 Washington Public Policy Conference on September 8-10, 2014!