October 24, 2013
In Today's Issue:
United Fresh Supports Expediting the Processing of H-2A Applications

United Fresh strongly supports efforts this week by Congressmen Sam Farr (CA-20) and Tom Rooney (FL-17) to spearhead joint congressional letters (view letter 1, view letter2) to key government agencies responsible for managing the H-2A federal agriculture guest worker program. The recent government shutdown created a backlog of H-2A applications, which prompted a letter from more than 20 members of Congress to encourage the Department of Labor and other agencies to find a streamlined and efficient way to process the applications as soon as possible.  The winter fruit and vegetable season is about to come into full harvest, and growers in states such as Florida and Arizona will be severely impacted if they do not have the harvest workers ready to go in the next several weeks.

"Getting H-2A applications processed in a timely manner, even without a government shutdown, is always a challenge for produce providers," said Robert Guenther, United senior vice president of public policy. "Paperwork being backed up for over two weeks really puts growers, who desperately need workers, in a tighter bind. The strong bipartisan group of members of Congress is sending a critical message urging relevant agencies to move resources as needed to address this issue, and offering specific recommendations for speeding up the approval process. Congressman Farr and Congressman Rooney have been champions of the produce industry and this letter demonstrates their commitment. United Fresh supports and will complement their work. United Fresh will do everything we can to monitor agency efforts to clear up the backlog, and ensure it's done as fast and efficiently."

The produce industry will continue to work mutually with United Fresh to encourage the impacted federal agencies to expedite these applications.

Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance Urges Conference Committee Leaders to Pass a Bill This Year

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) sent a letter last week to the Farm Bill Conference Committee leaders applauding their efforts to establish a formal conference committee on the 2013 Farm Bill, and encouraging them to negotiate and finalize a conference report for the Farm Bill before end of the year.

Wednesday, House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders announced the scheduling of the first public meeting for the 2013 Farm Bill Conference Committee for October 30.  

SCFBA commended the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders on their work creating bills that build on the strategic funding and policy direction the Alliance has pursued since the 2008 Farm Bill. SCFBA agreed that both of the Farm Bills that were passed over the summer will enhance the competitive position of specialty crop growers across the country.

The Alliance also highlighted critical priorities that were included in both bills and recommended they be included in the final conference report. These priorities included initiatives and programs related to market access and expansion, production research, combating invasive pests and diseases, promotional tools and infrastructure investment, and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts.


United's Robert Guenther Addresses Political Challenges Facing the Ag Industry at Steinbeck Center Ag Forum

United's Robert Guenther talking with KSBW reporter after the Agriculture Forum at the National Steinbeck Center.

United's Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, addressed the challenges facing the agricultural industry at the National Steinbeck Center's Agriculture Forum yesterday in Salinas, CA. Guenther participated in a lively discussion focused on state and federal perspectives on the politics of agricultural issues. Grower-Shipper Association President & General Counsel Jim Bogart moderated the session, and Dave Puglia, Western Growers senior vice president of government affairs and communications, joined Guenther in discussing the political climate and challenges in Washington, DC and Sacramento, CA.

"The political climate in Washington is more volatile than it's been in decades," said Guenther. "Now, more than ever before, it's critical that agricultural industry leaders meet with the elected government officials in their state to make sure the lawmakers are aware of the critical policies that need to be addressed, including immigration reform and the Farm Bill."

The Agriculture Forum began in 2003 and remains one of the National Steinbeck Center's most popular programs. The forum is designed to examine the current issues affecting the agricultural industry, as well as consumers. The Ag Forum provides the opportunity for leaders experts from a variety of fields to discuss topics that are provocative and relevant to the agricultural sector.

Watch a KSBW TV news story about the Farm Bill session here.

Leadership Council Moves Produce Traceability Initiative Forward

The Produce Traceability Initiative Leadership Council met last week to discuss the efforts going on behind the scenes by over 170 industry volunteers to continue the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) Best Practices and the industry communication efforts. The Buyer, Implementation, Communications and Technology Working Groups provided progress updates.

The Leadership Council also received information regarding progress on the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, an initiative focused on increasing the adoption of GS1 Standards within the foodservice supply chain, and Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), which institutes a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities and strengthens food traceability.

"It is important to understand the leadership role the North American produce industry has taken to create the vehicle to attain whole chain traceability and how other initiatives are following very similar paths," said United's Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management.

The Leadership Council also agreed the use of the Advance Ship Notice as the preferred method for exchanging traceability data between trading partners in the produce industry. The use of the Hybrid Pallet Label, which is an interim option for the industry to communicate traceability data between trading partners, remains as an alternative for those trading partners  who do not yet have the capability to use the Advance Ship Notice.

The Leadership Council also urged industry trading partners to update or complete the PTI self-reporting scorecard, which assists companies in sharing their PTI implementation status within the community. The council hopes this tools will provide recognition of the progress that's been made by both the supply side and demand side to attain whole-chain traceability.


USDA Finds Schools Purchase More Than $350 Million in Local Food, Including Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

This week USDA unveiled the results from its first Farm to School Census, which found that schools across the country purchased more than $350 million of local food during the school year. The top two local foods purchased by schools were fresh fruits and vegetables. Schools also reported which foods they want to purchase more of in the future. For examples, New York schools said they'd like to purchase more beans and herbs. Schools also said which types of Farm to School activities they were engaged in such as school gardens, farm tours and taste tests of foods.

"Farm to school activities are a great way to get kids excited about fresh fruits and vegetables," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United vice president of nutrition & health. "When kids are involved with activities like school gardens or farm tours they will eat more fruits and vegetables at school and when they go home."

To see which items are currently being purchased in your state and which items schools want to purchase more of in the future, view the USDA Farm to School Census interactive map.


United Fresh Joins Harris Teeter for Reopening of Potomac Yard Store

Harris Teeter Store Manager James Smith (left) and United President & CEO Tom Stenzel

United Fresh helped Harris Teeter celebrate the reopening of its Potomac Yard store Wednesday, a 44,000 square foot store that will be open 24/7.The Washington, DC-market store had been closed since May 2012 after being flooded, and reopened this week following an extensive clean-up process and complete renovation.

The new Potomac Yard store features a redesigned pharmacy, expanded floral department, and new prepared food stations, including pizza, an Asian hot bar, and a made-to-order sandwich bar.

"Congratulations to Harris Teeter for renovating this store so quickly after the flood," said United President & CEO Tom Stenzel. "The store looks great and the United staff and I look forward to shopping there soon."


Register Today for the Recall Ready Training Workshop in Philadelphia!

There are still limited seats available to attend the Recall Ready Training Workshop in Philadelphia, PA on November 6-7. Register today to reserve your place! This two-day, hands- on training program will help you understand the fundamentals of a product recall. We'll also take an in-depth look at how to build a customized communication plan in the event of a recall, and how to effectively communicate to the industry, customers, consumers and the media.

This course is designed for everyone on your produce recall team, including management, technical staff and marketing/communications staff. Make sure your company isn't taken by surprise in the case of a food recall. Learn more about the workshop by visiting the United Fresh website. To register for the workshop online, click here. If you have questions, please contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.


Don't Miss Your Chance to Participate in the 2014 Produce Executive Development Program

The 2014 Produce Executive Development Program provides participants with an Ivy League educational experience, designed exclusively for produce executives. The United Fresh program takes place on March 9-14 at the Cornell University Statler Hotel & Executive Conference Center. Registration is limited to 40 participants, so register today to ensure you don't miss your chance to participate in this exciting program!

The Produce Executive Development Program takes participants through a unique learning experience characterized by cutting-edge theory, industry best practices and thought-provoking discussions about critical business issues affecting the global produce industry. Executives will be exposed to the latest business trends, learn effective tools to advance their companies, and master skills to navigate economic challenges.

To learn more about the 2014 Produce Executive Development Program visit our website. If you have any questions, please contact Shannon Young at 202-303-3405.


Get Hands-On Produce Inspection Training from USDA Experts

United Fresh and the USDA-AMS have partnered to bring the industry the Produce Inspection Training Program on January 13-17 at the USDA SCI Training & Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA. This unique program is designed to provide real, hands-on instruction from USDA experts to individuals involved in the produce supply chain, from grower to retailers. This specialized training consists of a fundamentals course and commodity lab. The 2-day fundamentals course covers grading, standards, tolerances, PACA and sampling procedures. The 3-day commodity lab focus on hands-on commodity inspections of the five most commonly requested commodities: grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.

This course is designed for a wide range of audiences, including produce buyers, warehouse managers, field inspectors, product inspectors, quality control managers and quality assurance managers. Visit the United Fresh website to learn more about the program. You can also watch a video and hear from participants about their experiences in the course. Click here to register online or you can download the registration form and email it to education@unitedfresh.org. If you have questions, feel free to contact Shannon Young at 202-303-3405. 


Upcoming United Fresh Events
day planner

Join us for events designed to grow your business:

Produce GAPs Harmonization Post-Harvest Operations Train the Trainer Workshop
Oct 30-31, Florida Tomato Exchange/Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, FL

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

Produce Inspection Training Program
Jan 13-17, USDA SCI Training & Development Center, Fredericksburg, VA

2014 Produce Executive Development Program
Mar 9-14, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Produce Inspection Training Program
Jun 2-6, USDA SCI Training & Development Center, Fredericksburg, VA

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

2014 Washington Public Policy Conference
Sep 8-10, Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Produce Inspection Training Program
Sep 22-26, USDA SCI Training & Development Center, Fredericksburg, VA