February 13, 2014
In Today's Issue:
United Announces April Recall Ready Training Workshop in Seattle at Costco Headquarters

Recall Ready Training Workshops are back by popular demand. This April, a Recall Ready Training Workshop will be held in April. Meeting facilities have been generously provided by Costco at their corporate headquarters in the Seattle area. 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. United’s Recall Ready Training Workshops cover the essential elements you'll need to manage a recall. Sign up today for the United Fresh Recall Ready Training Workshop at Costco Corporate Offices in Issaquah, WA on April 9-10.

  • Understand the fundamentals of a recall
  • Know your rights and responsibilities
  • Know the role of the FDA and how to work with them
  • Discover strategies for limiting your liability and managing customer expectations
  • Learn how to develop a communications plan and effectively communicate to the industry, your customers, consumers and news media.

Debra Stanton-Latif of Race West Company described the workshop as “a one-stop-shop for building a ‘recall toolkit’ loaded with valuable resources, education, real life scenarios, and power tools that are essential in building a structurally sound recall plan and effectively managing a recall crisis.  A definite A+.”
Stuart Jablon of Dole Fresh Fruit, Inc. agrees. “"We found the Recall Ready Workshop to be of great value. It was engaging, interesting and fun. Never a dull moment. We came away with a number of ideas for how to improve recall preparedness. I highly recommend it," said Jablon.

United’s workshops combine recall protocols and communication management principles to ensure that both your technical food safety team and communication and marketing team work together effectively during the entire recall event. Register Your Team Today!Visit  the website to learn more about recall plan review and development, mock recall training and other services offered through United’s Recall Ready Program.


IRS Issues Final Regulations on Employer Mandate for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The IRS issued the final regulations on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act relating to the employer mandate. The final regulations reiterate much of the regulations first published in December 27, 2012 but offer some critical clarifications on provisions involving the employer shared responsibility mandate. The final rule provides more information on two issues that impact many companies in the produce industry, the effective date of the provisions for companies of varying size and the definition of a “seasonal employee.”

Effective Date
The final regulations state that for employers with 50 – 99 full-time equivalent employees will not have to comply with the mandate until January 1, 2016. This represents a one year delay from the previous regulations. For employers with 100 or more full-time equivalent employees the date to comply with the mandate remains January 1, 2015.

Seasonal Employees
The final rule defines a “seasonal employee” as an employee whose customary annual employment is six months or less, and the period should begin at approximately the same time each year (for example, every summer or winter).  

To read the final regulations, click here. The IRS also offers answers to frequently asked questions concerning the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. To review the FAQs, please visit the IRS website.

Learn How to Bid for $2 Billion in USDA Foods Purchasing Program Contracts

Each year, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service buys nearly $2 billion of foods from producers, including fresh fruits and vegetables, through their USDA Foods purchasing programs. Learn how to submit bids for USDA Foods purchasing programs by participating in the USDA’s free webinar on March 20, 2014 at 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

The presenters will be Sara Hernandez and Dianna Price of the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff. Hernandez and Price will introduce you to USDA purchasing activities, discuss the types of products USDA buys and explain the solicitation and award process for purchasing programs. Following the formal presentation, the webinar will conclude with an interactive question and answer session.

This webinar is part of a series of free, interactive webinars sponsored by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Fruit and Vegetable Programs. If you miss a webinar, just visit USDA’s Webinar Archive to watch it online.

To register online for the complimentary webinar, click here. If you are interested in selling produce to schools, contact Andrew Marshall, United policy and grassroots manager, at 202-303-3407.


Don’t Miss Your Chance to Honor Innovative Chefs and Foodservice Operators

The deadline to submit nominations for the 2014 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards Program is February 28, 2014. Don’t miss your chance to honor exceptional chefs and foodservice operators. Submit your nominations today!

United’s 2014 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards Program honors the industry’s most innovative chefs and foodservice operators. The program is sponsored by PRO*ACT, LLC, and has honored more than 30 different chefs and foodservice operators for their exceptional work in incorporating fresh produce in menu development, proper food safety and handling, engaging in community outreach and building an overall positive dining experience with fresh produce as a centerpiece. 

“Thousands of talented chefs work hard every day to find innovative ways to showcase fresh produce in their menus,” said Tom Stenzel, United president and CEO. “With PRO*ACT’s generous support, we are proud to honor those chefs who are committed to making produce the centerpiece of the meal.”

In 2014, the Business in Industry & Colleges category will be expanded into two separate categories, “Business in Industry” and “Colleges & Universities,” bringing the total number of winning chefs to seven. Chefs also will be honored in each the following business categories: Casual and Family Dining, Fine Dining Restaurants, Hotels & Healthcare Industry, K-12 Foodservice and Quick Service Restaurants.

“Fresh produce continues to be the rising star of the foodservice sector, and chefs play a critical role in introducing consumers to new produce items,” said Max Yeater, President of PRO*ACT. “We are proud to support this exceptional program and honor leading chefs who are making fresh produce the highlight of their menus.”

The winning chefs and their corporate executives receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to United Fresh 2014 on June 10-13 in Chicago. The winners will be honored at the Produce Celebration Gala, and the chefs will also participate in the education program at United Fresh 2014 to share their views on produce trends in foodservice.  PRO*ACT will also make a donation to a charitable organization of each winner’s choice.

More information on nominating nomination information is available online. For more information about the award program, please contact Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


Only Two Weeks Left to Nominate Outstanding Retail Produce Managers at Your Companies

Nominations for the 2014 Retail Produce Managers Awards are due February 28, 2014 so submit your nominations today! This is your chance to honor the exceptional produce managers on the front line in supermarkets working every day to increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. United is accepting nominations for the 2014 Retail Produce Managers Awards. United Fresh will award 25 of the industry’s top retail produce managers for their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, community service and customer satisfaction. Award winners will be recognized at the United Fresh 2014 Convention in Chicago, IL.

The 25 winning produce managers and their corporate produce directors will receive complimentary roundtrip airfare to Chicago for the United Fresh 2014 Convention, full conference registration for the convention, two nights lodging, a commemorative plaque and recognition at the Produce Celebration Gala held at the convention. Five grand prize winners will also receive $1,000. 

Nomination forms can be downloaded as a Word document or submitted online. To learn more about the Retail Produce Manager Awards Program, visit the United Fresh Foundation website.

Enhance Your Company’s Economic and Environmental Sustainability

Learn more about sustainability for fruit and vegetable producers by joining United’s Sustainability Pilot Project. The year-long pilot project will take participants through the Sustainability Guide and Self-Assessment for Fruit and Vegetable Production and develop a community of sustainably-minded producers across the country. The project involves teaching growers about sustainability practices, using the guide to self-assess current sustainability practices and sharing best practices with other growers.

The pilot project will include 20 – 25 fruit and vegetable producers from across the country growing diverse crops. Participants do not have to be United Fresh members. To learn more the pilot project, contact Dr. Lisa Hightower, United communications manager, at 202-303-3417.


Millennial Consumers Are the Future of the Produce Industry Says Wada Farms’ Bob Meek
Bob Meek at a seed trial in Argentina.

Bob Meek, CEO of Wada Farms Marketing Group, believes the future for the produce industry will look bright if we get a better understanding of Millennial consumers. “Millennials are looking for more than a product,” said Meek. “They are looking for an experience and want to know the story behind that product. It’s our job to introduce them to our story and farmers.” Meek explains that it’s critical for the produce industry to understand these consumers’ motivation to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. These consumers are often motivated by convenience. They tend to purchase value-added products that take less time to prepare.

Bob Meek has built an extensive career understanding the drives and motivations of consumers through his 10 years working for Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. and Wada Farms Marketing Group. Over time, Meek has seen a number of significant trends occur in the industry but the most dominant trend has been consolidation. Fewer people are now handling larger volumes of product. Retailers have also been significantly impacted by this trend. Retailers now have fewer resources and are looking to growers and shippers to become partners with them in merchandising, data analysis and advertisement planning.

Meek credits his membership with United Fresh Produce Association of over 20 years with helping him become more knowledgeable about the industry. Meek also believes United Fresh is an important advocate that champions the interests of the produce industry on Capitol Hill. “United fights very hard for the industry in the political realm,” said Meek. “Regulations for growers and shippers are increasing every day. If we’re not careful, we could regulate ourselves right out of business. United Fresh makes sure that the government takes a sensible approach with when it creates regulation.”

Learn more about Bob Meek and his involvement with United Fresh by reading his profile on the United Fresh website.

Automation Is the Key Difference between American and European Processors Says Luca Ascari of ABL

Luca Ascari, vice president of purchasing and sales for A.B.L. Srl, believes that North America and Europe are two very different market places. Dan Vaché, United vice president of supply chain management, talked with Ascari about ABL and the state of the industry for processor. Below is an excerpt of the discussion.

Dan: Do you believe there are any new products or machinery that are now in high demand for the marketplace?

Luca: We have seen a big demand increase of machines in the past years and it keeps growing.  Our machine in highest demand is with the melon-pineapple peeler.

Dan: What is the primary difference between North American and European processors in terms of equipment?

Luca: North America and Europe are two very different market places. European companies are much more automated than U.S. companies. Sitting on the Fresh-Cut Fruit Processor Board, I’ve always encouraged U.S. companies to visit European processors because I think there is a lot they could learn from them. Some processors (especially in the U.S.) are convinced that machines can’t produce a good quality cut product, but that is not true. Others believe labor costs in North America are cheaper than in Europe but even that is not true. Finally, some processors have used technology but haven’t seen a good result. It’s important that processors select professional suppliers. It’s also important that the supplier of the machines must be professional as well and are clear about what they can and cannot do.

Dan: You have been a member of the United Fresh-Cut Processor Board Since 2012. What do you believe has been the primary value of your participation in this board and United as an organization?

Luca: Serving on the United Fresh-cut processor board is an honor and is has been a great experience. There is nothing like it in Europe. Competition exists in every sector, and if we want to beat our competitors we have to do a better job. Why not sit together and discuss the common problems that everybody has? I find this very beneficial for the whole industry and key for progress.

ABL continues to grow by listening to customer needs and meeting or exceeding their expectations. Read the complete interview with Luca Ascari in the upcoming issue of Fresh Cut Magazine.

Congress Taking Key Steps to Making Immigration Reform a Reality

After the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill last week, congressional members are now turning their attention to passing immigration reform. This month’s #ifarmimmigration campaign has brought national attention to the impact of our current immigration policy on agriculture. United’s Julie Manes, director of government relations, believes Congress has made critical first steps towards passing comprehensive immigration reform. Manes provides her perspective in the upcoming issue of Produce Business Magazine. Read an excerpt of her column below. 

In 2013, Congress took key steps toward making immigration reform a reality. The Senate passed a comprehensive plan which included a new agriculture guest worker program that was supported by United Fresh and other agriculture allies. The House of Representatives held a number of important hearings on key aspects of immigration reform such as agriculture workers and border security.

Much of the initial work needed to get reform passed had been done and then towards the end of last year, action seemed to stall. However, late in January, Republicans in the House of Representatives, who hold the majority in that body, released a set of principles for immigration reform. While this is not legislation, it does indicate that the leadership of the House is serious about trying to find a path forward in the House, which has its own set of political challenges in address what is already a sensitive topic. From these principles, the leadership of the House can “take the temperature” of the rank and file and determine what are the next best step.

You can be sure that United Fresh has made this issue our top legislative priority; after all, without an adequate, skilled workforce, produce providers cannot get product to the marketplace which of course, is the foundation of our industry. We will keep working to keep you informed about what is happening on this essential issue and let you know what you can do to keep the pressure on policymakers to get reform passed in this session of Congress.

Read the complete column by Julie Manes in the upcoming issue of Fresh Cut Magazine.


Upcoming United Fresh Events

Join us for events designed to grow your business:

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 11-12, Taco Bell Headquarters, Irvine, CA

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

Recall Ready Training Workshop
April 9-10, Costco Headquarters, Issaquah, WA

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