October 31, 2013
In Today's Issue:
Farm Bill Conference Committee Begins Deliberations This Week

Wednesday, the House and Senate negotiators appointed to work out the differences between the House and Senate Farm Bills held their first meeting. The conferees hope to produce a final version of the 2013 Farm by year's end. At stake for the fresh produce industry is $1 billion over the next decade in new funding resources and policy changes dedicated to key initiatives, including enhanced trade, pest and disease mitigation, targeted research, increased access to federal nutrition programs and enhanced marketing opportunities.

"I'm pleased to see that both the Senate and the House have a strong Specialty Crop and Horticulture Title, supporting specialty crop, organic and local food production," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow at the meeting on Wednesday. "There are 16 million men and women whose jobs rely on the strength of agriculture. They are counting on us to work together in good faith and get this Farm Bill done. And I am confident we won't let them down."

Last week the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, where United Fresh serves as one of the key negotiators for the coalition, sent a letter to all of the conferees outlining our positions on the Farm Bill currently being considered by this committee. Click here to read the letter.

"It's going to be difficult for the committee to stay on track and pass the Farm Bill and not get bogged down on issues such as funding for the food stamp program, which could derail the process entirely." said Robert Guenther, United senior vice president of public policy. "Our goal is to work with Senate and House members to ensure that through the debate our policy priorities remain center stage and that forward momentum continues to pass the Farm Bill."

United Fresh Announces Second Annual Retail Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference

United Fresh announced this week that the second annual Retail Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference will be held in Chicago on June 12-13, 2014, immediately following the United Fresh and FMI Retail Connect shows. The conference will be hosted by United's Produce Marketing and Merchandising Council (PMMC), the association's volunteer leadership group consisting of more than 30 marketing experts across the produce and retail industry.

"We're excited about the innovation and expertise that members of our council will bring to this conference," said Roger Pepperl, chairman of the council and Marketing Director for Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, WA. "These individuals represent leading companies in our industry, and we share a commitment to building deeper retail/produce engagement to grow sales opportunities and increase fresh produce consumption. Our second conference will be designed to take advantage of United's co-location with FMI Retail Connect, fostering synergies between marketing and merchandising experts that move the supplier/buyer relationship beyond "buy-sell" to "win-win" for consumer impact and growth."

The Board of Directors organized United's PMMC in 2012 after several years analyzing the needs of different professional groups within the association's membership. "We had already seen tremendous synergies with our other councils, when experts in various disciplines such as food safety or supply chain logistics came together to tackle industry challenges," said United Chairman Ron Midyett, CEO of Apio in Guadalupe, CA. "That analysis led to the formation of the PMMC, bringing together the professionals who can truly drive best practices that enhance business for all." United also formed a new Finance & Business Management Council at that time to bring together CFOs, HR experts and general management professionals. Each of United's expert councils is responsible for developing content and programming to benefit colleagues within the broader membership.

The 2014 Retail Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference will kick off with a networking reception on Thursday evening, June 12, following the conclusion of the United Fresh and FMI Retail Connect shows. "Members who have been busy throughout the trade show can catch their breath and relax with professional colleagues," said Cindy Jewell, vice chair of the PMMC and Director of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms in Watsonville, CA. The educational conference then continues all day Friday, concluding that afternoon.

"I'm particularly pleased to see the passion and energy the council members are bringing to the challenge of growing produce and retail connections to better serve consumers and expand our markets," said Ron Carkoski, United chairman-elect and CEO of Four Seasons Family of Companies, Ephrata, PA. "The creative energy these experts are bringing to our industry is impressive, and I look forward to working with them as United's chairman in the future."

Registration for the 2014 Retail Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference is included in the All-Access Package registration for United Fresh 2014. Attendees can also register for the conference a la carte. Registration is now available online at www.unitedfresh.org.

Companies represented on the United Fresh Produce Marketing & Merchandising Council include Advantage Sales & Marketing; Associated Wholesale Grocers; Bland Farms; California Giant Berry Farms; California Strawberry Commission; C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.; Crunch Pak Sliced Apples; DMA Solutions, Inc.; DNO, Inc.; Earthbound Farm; Edge Sales and Marketing; Fresh Link Group; Kings Food Markets, Inc.; Mann Packing Company; Mastronardi Produce, LTD; MCL Fresh, Inc.; Melissa's/World Variety Produce, Inc.; Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association; Ocean Mist Farms; Paramount Citrus; Pear Bureau Northwest; Pero Family Farms; Phillips Mushroom Farms; Pro*Act, LLC; Ready Pac Foods, Inc.; Rouses Markets; Seald-Sweet LLC/UNIVEG Group; Southern Specialties, Inc.; Stemilt Growers, LLC; Sun World International, LLC; Sunkist Growers, Inc.; The Packer Publications; and Village Farms.


Immigration Push Continues on Capitol Hill

As business, faith groups, and others continue to build pressure on lawmakers in the House of Representatives to take up immigration reform, leaders of the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC) are working to find a legislative path forward between Republican and Democrat leaders in the House.

CEOs of the trade associations leading the AWC met with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and several House Democratic leaders on Wednesday. The group discussed HR 15, a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL). Leader Pelosi said that the bill is intended to be bipartisan, although it is largely supported by Democrats at this point.  Republicans Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have signed on as co-sponsors in an effort to keep driving the immigration discussion forward.

The AWC also recognizes, however, that a House bill to address agricultural needs will have to emerge with broader Republican support, most likely from Chairman Bob Goodlatte's Judiciary Committee. AWC members also met on Wednesday with Chairman Goodlatte, and engaged in a positive discussion about a way forward to address industry needs. 

"After sitting with both Leader Pelosi and Chairman Goodlatte, I am slightly optimistic that both parties want to see immigration addressed," said United CEO Tom Stenzel. "But we have to recognize the huge gap between the parties that still exists, and the political challenge to find middle ground at a time when far too many in Congress would rather do nothing than compromise. All of us have to keep up the pressure, telling Congress that doing nothing is failing America and risking the future of growing fruits and vegetables in the United States."

Can You Answer These Five Critical Recall Questions?

Recalls can impact the entire produce supply chain and United wants to help you prepare for a recall and be ready to respond when a crisis occurs. Recall Ready Training Workshop covers the essential elements you'll need to manage a recall. Everyone on your produce recall team can benefit from United's Recall Ready Training Workshop. The next workshop takes place in Philadelphia, PA on November 6-7.

Register today and your team will be prepared to answer these questions when a recall arises:

  1. In the event of a recall, do you know what records you absolutely need to facilitate an investigation?
  2. If the FDA takes environmental samples from your facility as part of an investigation, should you also take your own samples?
  3. If you have a general liability insurance policy and a business interruption policy, is a recall insurance policy really necessary?
  4. What different roles do your CEO and your employees play in managing a public relations crisis during a recall?
  1. What can you do with your local FDA staff now that could help you later during a recall?

Your recall team should include management, operations, food safety/quality assurance staff, technical staff, and sales, marketing and communications staff. United's workshops combine recall protocols and communication management principles to ensure that both your technical food safety staff and communication and marketing staff work together effectively and efficiently during the entire recall event.

Register today for the Recall Ready Training Workshop! To learn more about the workshop, visit our website. If you have questions, feel free to contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.


FDA Publishes New FSMA Proposed Rule on Food for Animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule this week in the Federal Register focusing on production practices for food for animals. The rule, "Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals" was published so that the public can review it and submit comments. FDA will hold three public meetings to discuss the rule on November 21, 2013 in College Park, MD; November 25, 2013 in Chicago, IL; and December 6, 2013 in Sacramento, CA.

To learn more about the FSMA proposed rule on food for animals, and the other proposed rules under FSMA, visit the United's FDA Food Safety Modernization Act web page.


United's Dr. David Gombas Teaches European Industry Leaders about Fresh-Cut Food Safety

Dr. David Gombas, United's senior vice president of food safety and technology, with Professor Mustafa Erkan of Akdeniz University in Turkey.

United's Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology, joined 15 fresh-cut experts in Turkey last week to teach European produce industry leaders about innovations in the fresh-cut sector. Dr. Gombas and experts from around the world participated in the 6th European Short Course on Fresh-Cut Produce Processing in Antalya, Turkey last week. Professor Mustafa Erkan (Akdeniz University, Turkey) and Professor Giancarlo Colelli (University of Foggia, Italy) co-led the workshop which hosted more than 120 participants from 28 countries. Fresh-cut experts spoke on a range of topics, including the basics of pre-harvest, processing and shelf-life considerations; the newest studies on nutritional benefits; and equipment design innovations. Dr. Gombas focused his presentation on fresh-cut food safety, the Produce Traceability Initiative, and how pending FDA rules would impact fresh-cut exports to the U.S.

"FDA will require all fresh-cut products sold in the U.S. to be manufactured in compliance with the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule, and will require all U.S. importers to verify that through on-site audits of the manufacturer or other means," said Dr. Gombas. "The Food Safety Modernization Act enables FDA to require 'high risk' products to be certified for import. FDA has not yet identified whether fresh or fresh-cut imports are in this category, but the potential is real."

Since its inception in 2007 in Bari, Italy, the short course has offered participants the latest innovations in the fresh-cut sector. Courses have been taught in Cordoba and Almeria (Spain), Mesagne (Italy) and Berlin (Germany), reaching more than 600 processors, suppliers, students and scholars. The workshop presentations are available to view online.


International Produce Standards Board Elects United's Dan Vaché as New Member

Randy Fletcher, vice president of logistics & supply chain management of Associated Produce Inc. in Baton Rouge, leads IFPS Board on a tour.

The Board of Directors of the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) elected United's Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management, as a new board member during their meeting on October 15-16 in New Orleans, LA. Vaché represents United on the board, replacing United's President & CEO Tom Stenzel. Stenzel also served as Chairman of the Board of IFPS. The Board of IFPS is composed of national produce associations from around the globe with the long-term mission of improving supply chain efficiency of the produce industry through developing, implementing and managing harmonized international standards.

The Board of IFPS also toured the distribution facility of Associated Produce in Baton Rouge, and met with their distribution and logistics team led by Randy Fletcher, vice president of logistics & supply chain management. Associated Produce, Baton Rouge leads the pack in early adoption of produce traceability strategies. The company is eagerly awaiting more of its trading partners to become Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) compliant so it can take full advantage of its internal systems set up to receive, record and store required PTI elements.

After touring the distribution center, IFPS Board members toured two retail stores supplied by Associated Grocers – Baton Rouge, LaBlanc's and Alexander's Highland Market. Both retail stores showcase fresh produce the moment you walk in the store.

The board meeting covered multiple topics including criteria for assigning Price Look-Up (PLU) Codes, PTI progress report and emerging international standards. IFPS is becoming even more valuable as more international standards are being created for traceability and food safety. If you have questions concerning the International Federation for Produce Standards, please contact Dan Vaché at 425-629-6271.


United Fresh CEO Joins Chiquita for Team Picnic

Brian Kocher, COO of Chiquita Brands, at the company's employee picnic.

United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel joined Board member Brian Kocher, COO of Chiquita Brands, on Friday afternoon at the company's employee picnic at the Seventh Street Public Market near its new headquarters in Charlotte, NC.

"While visiting with Brian on United issues, it was also great to see the transition that the company has made, building its management team in a new city. People are always the number one asset for any of our companies, a commitment that was clear being with the team enjoying the event last week," said Stenzel.


Check Out United's Member Spotlight: Bridget Bengard, Bengard Ranch

Bridget Bengard in the Lower Patrick Ranch in Salinas, CA.

Presentation of the 2013 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business scholarships at United's Washington Public Policy Conference. Alex Jackson, Frieda's, Inc. (left); Bridget Bengard, Bengard Ranch; Dan Henry, W.D. Henry & Sons; Robert Holthouse, Holthouse Farms of Ohio; Kimball Redd, Muir Copper Canyon Farms; Karen Caplan, Frieda's, Inc.

Bridget Bengard, project manager at Bengard Ranch, believes ensuring a stable agricultural workforce is critical to the success of her family's business. Bridget feels it's imperative that immigration policies be developed that encourage agricultural workers to come to the U.S. Bridget explains that for Bengard Ranch, people are the backbone of the business and immigrant policies can ensure people stay year after year. "People are so important. We need to treat the people who work with us in our business as well as possible," said Bridget. "There are people who have worked with us for years and they become part of our family. At the end of the day we are all in this together and working hard is the most important thing."

Bridget learned the importance of advocating on Capitol Hill for policy issues such as immigration reform through her membership in United Fresh. "Being a member of United Fresh has opened my eyes to the agricultural political world," said Bridget. This year Bridget received the 2013 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship, which sponsored her trip to D.C. to attend United's Washington Public Policy Conference. Through the experience, Bridget gained a deeper understanding of how she could influence public policies that impact agriculture. "During the conference I had the great opportunity to learn about advocating for our industry and met produce leaders from across the country," said Bridget. "My involvement with United has been incredibly beneficial to furthering my career, and has encouraged me to speak up as a young agribusiness professional."

Learn more about Bridget Bengard and her involvement with United Fresh by reading her profile on the United Fresh website.


New Member Welcome

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

  • Buona Foods Inc., Landenberg, PA
  • FRESH+, Media, PA
  • Meridian Fruits SPR de RL, Periban, Mexico

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 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