February 27, 2014
In Today's Issue:
United Joins More Than 600 Business Organizations Urging Speaker Boehner to Take Action on Immigration Reform

United Fresh this week joined forces with 636 business organizations representing multiple sectors to send a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner to request House Republicans, who are the majority in the House of Representatives, move forward on immigration reform this year. United Fresh and the other businesses urged the House Republican Conference to use the Standards for Immigration Reform, released by the House Republican leadership in January, as a guide to developing more effective national immigration policies that can be passed by Congress. That document, which laid out principles for immigration reform, specifically cited the needs for a stable agricultural workforce.

"We sent the letter to make sure the House leadership knows that we are not giving up on getting immigration reform passed. Our industry has already suffered greatly because of outdated, dysfunctional immigration policies. By joining with a broad cross-section of businesses that are affected by these policies, we show that the economic consequences of no action will be huge," said United's Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy. "We will do everything we can to work with the House leadership, and all members of Congress, to formulate policies that meet the needs of the fresh produce industry but are also politically feasible. We understand this is a very sensitive issue for members of Congress, but a lack of action is the one thing our members cannot withstand."

The letter asserts that if immigration reform is developed and implemented properly it will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, while at the same time generating greater productivity and economic activity, and respecting family unity.


Labor, Border Issues Highlight Leadership Visit to Arizona

The group does a pre-dawn visit to the San Luis Border where approximately 45,000 workers cross daily from Mexico into Arizona to serve the winter vegetable industry's labor needs.

Class 19 tours lettuce production with JV Smith Companies' President and CEO Vic Smith and General Manager Matt McGuire.

Leadership Graduate (Class 13) Chris Ciruli, COO, Ciruli Brothers, leads the class through their warehouse operations.

United's Leadership Class 19 continued their hands-on educational experience last week learning about labor, border and business issues across the state of Arizona, beginning in Nogales and concluding in Yuma. The group toured local produce operations, met with industry leaders, and gained an understanding of key issues impacting the supply chain, including labor and immigration challenges, as well as the business and regulatory complexities of moving products across the border.

During a roundtable discussion in Yuma, the class heard from Steve Alameda, President, Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association and Co-president, Topflavor Farms; Sonny Rodriguez, President, The Growers Company; Matt Scaroni, Project Manager, Scaroni Family of Companies; and Past United Board Member Vic Smith, President & CEO, JV Smith Companies, who shared their candid insights about the labor challenges facing the Southwest produce industry. The class also had a chance to tour the Yuma border before dawn to see the immigrant workforce crossing into the U.S., and gained a better understanding of the many obstacles that local growers face to ensure a viable, daily workforce.

United extends a warm thank you to the many industry members and organizations who opened their facilities and shared their knowledge and hospitality with the leadership class, including: Ciruli Brothers; Fresh Produce Association of the Americas; GreenGate Fresh; Green Valley Pecan Company; JV Farms/JV Smith Companies; Mariposa Border; San Luis Border; Scaroni Family of Companies; The Growers Company; Topflavor Farms; Wholesum Family Farms; and Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association. And a special thanks to DuPont Crop Protection, the sole sponsor of the Leadership Program since its inception in 1995.

The application period for Class 20 of the Produce Industry Leadership Program is now open. For more information about this opportunity, please click here or contact Shannon Young, United education manager, at 202-303-3405.

United Fresh Talks Intentional Adulteration at FDA Public Meeting

United's Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president food safety and technology, gave a fresh produce industry perspective at last week's FDA public meeting on the proposed Intentional Adulteration rule. Gombas praised FDA for the voluntary food defense tools available from the FDA website, and thanked FDA for their transparency and contributions to food defense understanding, including presentations to the United Fresh Food Safety & Technology Council. Gombas noted that United Fresh had convened a working group of fresh produce stakeholders to review the Intentional Adulteration rule, line by line, and tentatively agrees with many provisions in the proposed rule. However, he noted that some provisions may need additional clarification. For example, the rule identifies the handling and storage of bulk liquids as an "actionable process step" (analogous to a CCP in a food safety plan). Gombas cautioned that, without clarification, some might interpret non-food bulk liquids such as waxes, chlorine and even wells as "bulk liquids" which, he said, does not appear to be FDA's intention. Gombas noted that FDA proposes to exempt operations subject to the Produce Safety rule, and that the working group had agreed with this exemption, but reinforced earlier comments to FDA that any operation that handles and ships only raw, intact fresh produce should be covered by the Produce Safety rule, regardless of its size or the source of the produce received.

United Fresh is now convening working groups to review two new FDA proposals: the Sanitary Transportation rule and a proposed process for designating foods as "high risk". The working groups will meet by web conference in early March. United Fresh members who are interested in participating in the working groups should contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3402.

Salad Bars in High Demand, Industry Leaders Encouraged to Support Midwest Campaign

Midwest schools want salad bars. With over 180 Midwest schools currently on the waiting list, salad bars are in high demand. Let's Move Salad Bars to Midwest School campaign co-chairs are reaching out to produce industry leaders to support salad bars for schools in their state, and Midwest state child nutrition officials are actively promoting the campaign.

In January, the United Fresh Foundation launched Let's Move Salad Bars to MIDWEST Schools, a new multi-year campaign to increase children's produce consumption by donating salad bars to schools in six Midwest states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The campaign is spearheaded by 12 produce industry co-chairs, and will be highlighted at United Fresh 2014 in Chicago.

"Co-chairs are reaching out to produce industry colleagues, allied organizations and foundations to support salad bars for Midwest schools. Don't be surprised if you hear from one of them soon," said Andrew Marshall, United Fresh policy and grassroots manager and team lead for Let's Move Salad Bars for MIDWEST Schools.

The co-chairs are: Lisa Strube, Strube Celery & Vegetable Co. and Becky Wilson, The Tom Lange Company, Inc. for Illinois; Bob Kirch, Caito Foods Service, Inc. and Hilary Martin, Frey Farms for Indiana; Mark Girardin, North Bay Produce, Inc. and Harold Van Eerden, Van Eerden Co. for Michigan; Phil Brooks, H. Brooks & Company and Jason Craig, C.H. Robinson for Minnesota; Ken Holthouse, Doug Walcher Farms and Joe Klare, Castellini Company LLC for Ohio; and Larry Alsum, Alsum Farms & Produce Inc. and Steve Jarzombek, Roundy's Supermarkets for Wisconsin.

"Our children are our future, and it's critically important that they have access to healthy fresh fruits and veggies every day," said Mark Girardin, Michigan co-chair and President of North Bay Produce in Traverse City, MI. "Students spend a majority of their time in school and we need to ensure fresh produce is readily available for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Salad bars place a focus on healthy fresh fruits and vegetables and are an excellent tool to teach children about the importance of making half their plate fruits and veggies."

At just $2,825, salad bars are small investment with a big impact. Industry leaders are encouraged to get involved in supporting salad bars for Midwest schools and the United Fresh Foundation's programs and activities to increase children's fresh produce consumption and expand outreach and education to school foodservice.

To learn more Information about the Midwest campaign, visit www.unitedfresh.org/saladbars and watch and share our campaign video. For questions about the campaign, a list of schools requesting salad bars or to make a contribution, contact Andrew Marshall at 202-303-3407.


Marketing to Students at School: First Lady and USDA Announce School Wellness Policy Guidelines

On Tuesday at an event at the White House attended by United Fresh and other industry stakeholders and advocates, First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA announced new proposed guidelines for school wellness policies that will ensure only healthy foods that are consistent with the Smart Snacks in Schools standards can be marketed to children at school. The good news:  all fresh fruits and veggies meet these standards.

"The new food marketing and local wellness standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the event.

According to United Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, "This week's announcement takes another step toward creating healthier school food environments that encourage students to make healthy choices, including eating more fresh fruit and vegetables."

Ensuring that unhealthy food is not marketed to children is one of the First Lady's top priorities, and why it's important for schools to reinforce healthy choices and eliminate marketing of unhealthy foods. Once implemented, students will no longer see ads on the school campus that promote unhealthy foods; vending machines, posters, school signs and scoreboards must promote foods that meet nutrition standards. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the same legislation that required schools to increase the amount and variety of fruit and vegetables served to students at school lunch and breakfast, mandated that USDA develop guidelines for what must be included in local school wellness policies, both in terms of nutrition education, physical activity, community engagement and overall implementation of new healthy school food environments.

For more information about new school wellness policy guidelines, contact Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United vice president of nutrition health, at 202-303-3403.


Missouri Considers Reimbursing Food Stamp Recipients for Purchasing Fruits and Vegetables

A Missouri House panel heard testimony earlier this week on a bill, HB 1879, that would create a pilot program to give food stamp recipients $10 per week in bonus dollars to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets. Supporters of the bill explained that the legislation would reduce obesity in low-income households, thereby reducing healthcare costs for obesity-related illnesses.

"Around the country many states now have pilot programs that provide financial incentives to food stamp recipients to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets." said Lorelei DiSogra, United vice president of nutrition and health. "Strengthening nutrition in SNAP (food stamp program) is a high priority for United Fresh, the 2014 Farm Bill provides $100 million for Nutrition Incentive Grants to increase fresh fruit and vegetable purchases among low-income consumers participating in SNAP."

United Fresh Reaches Out to the Northern California Produce Community

Jeff Oberman and Tom Stenzel welcome longtime Food Lion leader Jim Corby to his first Fresh Produce and Floral Council meeting as the new Director of Produce for Save Mart Supermarkets in Modesto, CA.

Michael Janis hosts the United team for a tour of the new construction at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.

United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel and Vice President of Trade Relations Jeff Oberman toured a number of facilities, and met with United members in northern California last week. "Meeting with members in their own operations is best way we can keep up with the pulse of the industry," said Stenzel. 

The team began with early morning visits with members of the San Francisco Wholesale Market, and market manager Michael Janis provided a tour of their new facilities now under construction.  After meeting with a number of retailers and distributors in the area, Oberman spoke at the Fresh Produce and Floral Council's Northern California Luncheon in Pleasanton, CA to promote the value of the upcoming 2014 United Fresh Convention in Chicago. "Chicago is a world-class city and truly shines in the heart of the summer," said Oberman.  He promised a better Chicago experience in June than in this winter's Polar Vortex.


Get Your Team Prepared this April for Virtually Any Recall Situation

Be sure to sign up for the United's next Recall Ready Training Workshop at Costco Corporate Offices in the Seattle area this April. Recalls can impact the entire produce supply chain and it's important to be ready to respond when a crisis occurs. This workshop will provide your team understand the fundamentals of a recall, know your rights and responsibilities, and discover strategies to limit your liability and manage customer expectations.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 9 and Thursday, April 20, 2014 in Issaquah, WA. Limited space is still available for the workshop so sign up today!

Learn How to Effectively File PACA Complaints

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is hosting a free, interactive webinar, An Overview of the PACA Compliant Process, on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The webinar will feature John Koller, Chief of the Dispute Resolution Branch of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Division. Koller will provide a brief overview of the Act, discuss the importance of Federal inspections, and explore how to file informal and formal PACA complaints. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer period.

To register online for the USDA webinar, click here. This webinar is part of a series of webinars sponsored by the Agricultural Marketing Service's Fruit and Vegetable Programs. If you miss a webinar, you can visit USDA's Webinar Archive to watch it online.


New Member Welcome

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

  • Matthews Sweet Potato Farms, Wynne, AR
  • Rochester Midland Corp., Rochester, NY

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

[Chairmans Roundtable.JPG]

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 company who has committed this week to the 2014 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • Allen Lund Company

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:

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