January 30, 2014
In Today's Issue:
United Fresh Congratulates the House on Passing the 2014 Farm Bill

United Fresh congratulates the House of Representatives for passing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (commonly known as the Farm Bill) by a vote of 251-166.The Farm Bill conference report provides an overall increase in investment of 55 percent over 2008 Farm Bill funding levels in critical produce industry initiatives and programs.

During the debate on the House floor, Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) cited bill provisions that provide “dramatic investment in specialty crops" as a reason for his support of the conference report. Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1) agreed and urged support for the bill, in part because of the "unprecedented investment in specialty crops."

United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel lauded the diligence of House members in their ongoing support of the Farm Bill. “We appreciate the leadership and hard work provided by House Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and other members of the House in support of this bill,” said Stenzel. “We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues later in the days ahead to ensure this bill also passes the Senate.”

Senate leaders were unable to get unanimous consent to move forward on the farm bill conference report today. It is likely that a final vote will take place in the Senate on Tuesday. If the Senate follows the House action as expected and passes the report, it will then be sent to the president for his signature.


Contact Your Senators TODAY to Vote "Yes" on the 2014 Farm Bill

United Fresh urges you to voice your support today for passing the proposed 2014 Farm Bill. Members of the Senate need to hear from you about the critical need to pass the Farm Bill as soon as possible. 

Following the passage of the Farm Bill in the House, the Senate is now preparing to vote on this important legislation. We must take action now to ensure the Farm Bill becomes law and  urge our Senators to vote “yes” on the Farm Bill. There is opposition on both the left and right, and even some agriculture groups are unhappy with the outcome because they did not get certain provisions they wanted. This is not an easy vote, so we need an aggressive effort right now from the fresh produce industry. 

This week we ask United Fresh members and their colleagues to call their senators to urge their support for the Farm Bill Conference Report. To participate in the campaign, click here. Take action TODAY! For additional information regarding the Farm Bill please contact Robert Guenther at rguenther@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3409.

United Volunteer Leaders Meet to Review Association Programs, Set Policy Direction for 2014

United’s volunteer leaders came together for the Winter Leadership Meetings in Miami last week to review association programs and set the policy goals for 2014. The United Market Segment Boards and expert councils met, including the Fresh-Cut Processor Board, Grower-Shipper Board, Retail-Foodservice Board, Wholesaler-Distributor Board, Finance & Business Management Council, Food Safety & Technology Council, Government Relations Council, Nutrition & Health Council, Produce Marketing & Merchandising Council, Supply Chain Logistics Council and Member Relations Task Force. The boards and councils shared the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing the industry, and discussed United programs addressing those issues.

The Board of Directors also met, which includes chairs from other working groups and a range of expertise in every sector of the supply chain. Among the highlights from the Board meeting were United’s comments submitted to the FDA on proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules, the full enrollment for the Produce Executive Development Program at Cornell University, the introduction of the new 2014 Webinar Series, and planning for the second annual Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference in Chicago.

The Board also discussed government relations priorities for 2014. Those six policy goals include shaping 1) the implementation of new food safety law and proposed regulations, 2) aworkable and achievable immigration policy, 3) agricultural policy to support fresh produce competitiveness, 4) nutrition policy to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, 5) sound environmental regulatory and legislative policy, and 6) a positive business environment for the industry. The Board also discussed the top four issues facing the industry:  the Farm Bill, immigration reform, nutrition policy and the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The Board also reviewed plans for the United Fresh 2014 convention in Chicago this June. Co-located with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), United Fresh 2014 offers produce and retail executives unprecedented value in the opportunity to engage with customers and industry counterparts. An expanded show floor, featuring the newly added Midwest Produce Pavilion, Food Safety & Traceability Pavilion and the Expert Consultation Center, make it even easier for buyers and sellers to connect. To register for United Fresh 2014, click here.


United Fresh Submits Comments to FDA on FSMA Foreign Supplier Verification Rule

United Fresh submitted comments to the FDA this week on a proposed rule under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals (Foreign Supplier Verification Rule). United’s comments reflect review by a diverse expert working group who spent 10 months reviewing the proposed rules. The working group included over 40 representatives of member organizations throughout the fresh produce supply chain.

“From the beginning of our work to pass food safety legislation, we’ve advocated for a level playing field for foreign and domestic producers,” said Dr. David Gombas, United senior vice president of food safety and technology. “It’s critical that FDA establishes food safety requirements that keep consumers safe and that all suppliers meet, no matter what their geographic location or size.”

In its comments on the Foreign Supplier Verification Rule, the association raises several key issues:

Direct Suppliers
The importer’s Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) should be limited to the direct supplier, not the supplier’s suppliers. We agree that the importer should hold the aggregator accountable for meeting food safety regulatory requirements in its supply chain, but the importer should not be responsible for having specific detailed information about each of the original growers. 

Verify Compliance with Relevant Regulation
FSVP should be limited to verifying compliance with the relevant regulation. We encourage FDA to limit importers’ requirements to verification that direct suppliers are in compliance with the relevant regulation and to not require importers of fresh produce to perform a hazard analysis beyond the scope of the Produce Safety rule.

Same Requirements as Domestic Suppliers
Foreign suppliers should follow the same requirements as domestic suppliers; therefore, standards for foreign suppliers should be the same as those in the Produce Safety rule, subject to the revisions we have recommended.

In the Produce Safety rule, FDA proposed to limit the risks covered in the rule to microbiological, not chemical or physical hazards.  However, in the Foreign Supplier Verification rule, FDA proposes to require importers to evaluate potential chemical and physical hazards in fresh produce exported to the United States.  This potentially requires foreign fresh produce growers to comply with food safety standards that exceed requirements of domestic operations, inviting a WTO challenge. 

No Exemption for Small Foreign Suppliers
While very small foreign suppliers may have size-appropriate requirements, there should not be any exemptions.  Importers’ requirements should be the same, regardless of the importer’s or foreign supplier’s size.

Flexibility of Tools and Approach
Importers should be allowed to use whatever tools/approach they deem appropriate for evaluating foreign suppliers’ compliance with the applicable regulation.

United working groups also reviewed the proposed Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule. United issued comments for those rules on November 15, 2013. To review United’s complete comments on the proposed Foreign Supplier Verification Rule, Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule and, visit the United Fresh website.

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Join United’s Working Groups on the Proposed FSMA Animal Feed and Intentional Adulteration Rules

You are invited to participate in United Fresh working groups to assess and develop comments to FDA’s Preventive Controls for Animal Feed and Intentional Adulteration proposed rules.

Thanks to the efforts of many of you, United Fresh submitted substantive comments to FDA on their proposed Produce Safety and Preventive Controls for Human Food rules, sufficient to warrant FDA agreeing to issue revised proposed requirements for many of the issues you identified, including water and compost standards, exemptions, and mixed-use facilities. We are currently in the process of developing comments based on input we received from the Foreign Supplier Verification Working Group.

FDA has now published proposed rules on Preventive Controls for Animal Feed and on Intentional Adulteration. As proposed, both rules have the potential to impact segments of the fresh produce industry.

In the Animal Feed rule, FDA proposes to exempt farms that are not required to register with FDA, but holds registered facilities responsible for assessing potential hazards in produce distributed for animal feed, including culls and waste.

The Intentional Adulteration rule also proposes to exempt farms, and facilities with annual food sales of less than $10 million. The rule applies to operations that receive or store bulk liquids, perform mixing of ingredients, or that pack products with secondary ingredients. We believe that certain interpretations of this language could include packinghouses and fresh-cut operations.

The comment period for the Animal Feed and Intentional Adulteration rules end March 31. If you are interested in participating on a working group to assess and develop comments to either rule, please contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.


United, FFVA and Western Growers Come Together to Educate Future Leadership

Members of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA)’s Emerging Leader Development Program and Western Growers’ Future Volunteer Leaders came together with graduates of the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program last week to hear from United President Tom Stenzel, FFVA President Mike Stuart and Cory Lunde, Western Growers’ policy analyst and project manager. Stenzel, Stuart and Lunde engaged in a roundtable discussion on current issues impacting the industry, including immigration, the Farm Bill and food safety.

The event took place at the Everglades Research & Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. The luncheon was sponsored by Farm Credit as an opportunity to support future leaders of the produce industry.

School Salad Bars Increase Purchasing of Fresh and Fresh-Cut Fruits and Vegetables

A recent evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative found that schools with salad bars are increasing their purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables and 81percent of schools are using fresh, pre-cut fruits and vegetables in their salad bars. The study also found that salad bars are an effective strategy to increase students’ fruit and vegetable intake and help schools comply with new federal school lunch nutrition standards. 

As a result of the salad bars, schools saw an increase in student participation in the lunch program, demonstrating the value of salad bars to both students and schools. Schools participating in Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools also reported many activities to encourage healthy eating, including outreach to parents. The executive summary of the evaluation can be accessed online.

In 2013, Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, an independent research institution, partnered with Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools to evaluate the school districts that had received salad bars from early 2010 thru January 2013.  

Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools aims to increase children’s fruit and vegetable intake by donating salad bars to schools across the country and supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. To date, salad bars have been donated to 2,900 schools nationwide.

Last week United Fresh launched Let’s Move Salad Bars to Midwest Schools, a new multi-year campaign to benefit students in IL, MI, WI, MN, OH and IN, that supports United’s 2014, 2015 and 2016 conventions in Chicago. To make a donation to Let’s Move Salad Bars to Midwest Schools or for more information about how to support salad bars for schools in your local community, contact Andrew Marshall at 202-303-3407.


Webinar Offers Key Information on Nominating Retail Produce Managers for National Awards Program

If you’ve been thinking about nominating a produce manager for the United Fresh Retail Produce Managers Awards Program, we invite you to join us for a free webinar to learn more about the program.

Join us Thursday, February 6 at 4:00 PM Eastern, for a 30-minute webinar to learn more about the overall program, how to submit a proper nomination, and what criteria is used to select the winning managers. The 2014 Retail Produce Manager Awards Program, sponsored by Ready Pac Produce, will recognize 25 outstanding retail produce managers. The winners will be honored at the United Fresh 2014 convention, June 10-13 in Chicago, co-located with the FMI Convention. The deadline to submit a nomination is February 28, 2014.

Registration for the webinar is complimentary for all attendees. Click here to register today.


New Member Welcome

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

  • Jetro Restaurant Depot, College Point, NY
  • Southern Manitoba Potato, Manitoba, Canada

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.


Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2014 Supporters

The Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed this week to the 2014 Chairman’s Roundtable:

  • Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce
  • B & W Quality Growers, Inc.
  • Huron Produce Ltd.

The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support. For more information on the Chairman’s Roundtable, please contact Senior Director of Membership Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


Upcoming United Fresh Events

Join us for events designed to grow your business:

United Fresh Special Activities at Fruit Logistica 2014
Feb 5-7, 2014, Berlin, Germany

Webinar: 2014 Retail Produce Manager Awards Program
Feb 6

GAPs and GMPs for HACCP-Based Food Safety Workshop
Feb 18-20, Athens, GA

United Fresh Webinar Series: FDA’s Quantitative Risk Assessment – A Pathway to Irrigation Water Standards
Feb 21

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

Produce GAPs Harmonization Post-Harvest Operations Train the Trainer Workshop
March 11, Taco Bell Headquarters, Irvine, CA

Technical Working Group Meeting
March 13, Taco Bell Headquarters, Irvine, CA

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