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Washington Public Policy Conference — Action Plan For Government Relations

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, June 29, 2007

If you are disappointed in the outcome of the immigration bill, are concerned with future food safety regulation, or just want to understand how our government and our industry government relations efforts work, make sure you mark your calendar to attend the Washington Public Policy Conference, sponsored annually by United Fresh. It is scheduled for September 12-14, 2007.

There are many events in the produce industry but nothing quite like this one. It is unique in the window to power it provides all attendees and impressive in the way United marshals the whole industry to project power and influence in D.C.

You can look at the schedule here. The Pundit’s favorite part is the “March on Capitol Hill,” which United describes this way:


United Fresh members march on Capitol Hill

The WPPC is a unique industry event in that your direct participation shapes the most important afternoon of the conference. Whether rookie or long-time produce advocate, you’ll be part of the largest produce industry grassroots March on Capitol Hill. United Fresh does all the work setting up over 100 group visits with Members of Congress from your home cities and states.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with New York State Apple Association, Inc., President Jim Allen during WPPC Congressional Visits.

As part of pre-arranged small groups, you’ll visit “face to face” with key senators and congressmen to tell them our needs for a stable labor force, increased produce in schools, and more food safety research for a successful and competitive produce industry. Every congressional visit offers different challenges and opportunities, and you just might have fun!

And new this year, in partnership with the National Watermelon Association, is a USDA Briefing that United describes this way:

WPPC attendees are invited to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to meet with senior USDA officials and enjoy a taste of summer with our partners at the National Watermelon Association. Secretary Mike Johanns and his senior staff will host a group of attendees in a discussion of the Farm Bill and other key agricultural issues.


Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship recipient Fred Recchiuti, Basciani Mushroom Farm (second from left), is congratulated by Tom Stenzel, president United Fresh, Karen Caplan, president & CEO, Frieda’s, Inc. and Nick Tompkins, CEO, Apio, Inc.

And remember, if your business is a family business, and you apply now, you may win one of the select scholarship slots offered by the Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Scholarship Program, which we discussed here.

Even if you wind up paying the registration fee (and United does offer $50 off for first time registrants), it is a unique event that you should experience.

Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee Saxby Chambliss greets Dr. Larry Beasley of A. Duda & Sons, Inc.

Aaron Burrma and Chadd Buurma both with Buurma Farms, Inc., with Michigan Congressman Vernon Ehlers.


Long time attendees Tim Fleming, Tim Fleming Sr, Senator Bob Dole, Jan Fleming of Strube Celery & Vegetable Company


Robert Gordon of FreshPoint/Red’s Market; Dan Vache of Sensitech, Senator Bob Dole; Tim Vaux of The Vaux Group; Joseph Mercurio of Joseph Mercurio Produce Corporation, and Charles Ciruli of Ciruli Brothers/Amex Distributing Co., Inc.

Secretary of Commerce Carols Gutierrez and Maureen Torrey Marshall, Torrey Farms Inc.
Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett samples Orchid Island Juice Company’s product

Lee Ann Oxford, L&M Companies; Greg Cardamone, Ag Warehouse & Packing; Congressman Robin Hayes, Pam Miller Minority Staff Director of the Horticulture and Organic Agriculture Subcommittee


Congressman Tom Davis from Virginia with the
Tanimura & Antle team at Fresh Festival.


Maureen Torry Marshall, Mark Munger, Tim Vaux, Vic Smith, Drew Duda, Reggie Griffin, Chuck Ciruli

Take a look at the photos we’ve run of the event. Look at the industry members mingling with powerful figures in Washington, showing that the conference gives industry members an opportunity to get close to important people in the world. It is a chance to network with industry peers but with the added plus of working together to boost the trade’s profile in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.

If you haven’t been to D.C. since your high school trip, make sure to add some time. It is our nation’s capital, and it is a shame if we don’t make ourselves a part of America’s historical journey.

You can download the brochure here. Get hotel information here. Download a registration form here.

WPPC Fast Facts

  • The United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference (WPPCC) began its second decade with the 2005 conference. It has grown each year beginning with about 100 attendees in 1995 and expanding to nearly 300 in 2006. Throughout, it has been the produce industry’s signature event in bringing together grassroots members from around the country to voice their issues to national government leaders.
  • United Fresh has held an annual public policy event in Washington, DC, for some 60 years, since moving its HQ office here in 1943. Originally called the Congress of Committees, this event has been a time for volunteer leaders of the association to come together in Washington to conduct their business meetings and make their views known to the nation’s governmental leaders.
  • The Congress of Committees generally included speakers from USDA, other government agencies and the Congress, but did not include the strong outreach to Capitol Hill that the event is known for today. The event focused more on conducting the business of the association.
  • On June 22, 1994, United Fresh hosted its first Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill as a stand-alone event as part of its National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month celebration. The event was conceived as part of the professional staff lobbying effort to promote the importance of the fresh produce industry to Congress and other national leaders through a visual display and tastings of fruits and vegetables from around the country.
  • Based upon that success, the following year United Fresh re-launched the Congress of Committees in September 1995 as the Washington Public Policy Conference, including the Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill. This year, United Fresh celebrates 12 years of success in expanding member participation in Washington advocacy and shaping legislation and regulations affecting the produce industry.

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