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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Wal-Mart Eyes India For Future Growth

Wal-Mart’s partner in India has set the opening of its first store for mid-2008, with 200 large stores in various formats to roll out by 2015. Expected annual sales in 2015 will be about $5 billion U.S.

Wal-Mart desperately wants into the Indian retail scene as the country transitions to western-style stores. Wal-Mart expects western-style retailing to account for 35% of the Indian trade by 2015, up from only 4% today. At the same time, the total retail market is growing rapidly. Wal-Mart’s problem: It is illegal in India for foreign companies to own their own stores unless they only sell one label.

So Wal-Mart is joint-venturing with the Bharti Group on a wholesale venture to supply Bharti’s new retail stores and local retailers. Wal-Mart’s bet: That India will relax its laws and allow Wal-Mart to buy the stores.

The mid-2008 date is a delay of six months from previously announced schedules. Part of it is that structuring the back-end supply change is a challenge in a country such as India, which is both vast and irregularly developed. Real estate is also a big problem as prime developments have to be built to accommodate these modern stores, and even labor — as we dealt with here — can be a challenge.

But high-ranking executives at Wal-Mart see India, along with China, as one of the few markets with both the scale and cultural affinity to offer Wal-Mart the potential for the kind of success it has had in the U.S.




Sainsbury Tries To ‘Make A Difference’ By Encouraging Summertime Family Meals

Last week, Sainsbury’s in the U.K. had a special “Make a Difference Day” that drew on research indicating that parents find it harder to give their children balanced meals during the summer break:

SUMMERTIME TIPS THE BALANCE

A new report out today from Sainsbury’s and Raisingkids.co.uk has revealed that it’s not only school that’s out for summer, but also a balanced diet for Britain’s children.

With 65% of parents admitting that pester power is at full throttle during the summer holidays, and 70% providing quick snacks on the go, it’s not surprising that eight in ten parents find it much harder to provide their kids with a healthy, balanced diet and meal routine. To help parents out, Sainsbury’s has organized a Make the Difference Day on July 19th and is giving away a free magazine bursting with child friendly, balanced recipes, including 10 special recipes from Jamie Oliver.

Sainsbury’s research revealed that parents are enthusiastic about cooking with their children, with 93% saying they can help teach their children about healthy eating if they cook together, and eight out of ten agreeing that when they cook with their children they are more likely to all sit down together for a family dinner, which is vitally important in maintaining a routine over the holiday period.

Dr Pat Spungin, founder of parenting website Raisingkids.co.uk, adds “Results show that when families cook together they eat together, and having family meal times is something that nine out of 10 parents think brings them closer as a family.” Research carried out by Sainsbury’s Active Kids scheme revealed that families who eat together have 30% fewer arguments than those who rarely share meal times. “The easiest way to get your children interested in healthy food is to engage them at the earliest age and get in the kitchen and cook with them.”

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • 72% of respondents cited ice-cream as the top treat requested by children between meals, followed by sweets and crisps
  • Children are spending up to 2 weeks away from home, which has led to 65% of parents feeling concerned that they are consuming hidden treats away from home
  • 7 out of 10 adults admitted that their shopping basket changes over the summer with 50% buying more treats, 44% buying more ice-cream
  • The summer health map of Britain suggests that the most balanced diets will be consumed in the North, North East and West Midlands and the least balanced will be in the East Midlands

Gwyn Burr, customer director, Sainsbury’s comments:

Parents shouldn’t stop treating their children over the summer holidays, but it is important to maintain a balanced diet. Sainsbury’s Make the Difference Day aims to inspire parents to get children involved in cooking their own balanced treats and meals, encouraging understanding of cooking and eating healthy food whilst also showing it can be lots of fun. Cooking together can also provide an exciting indoor activity to occupy children during those wetter days.”

The Make the Difference, Sainsbury’s Magazine, includes tantalising fun recipes from sticky drumsticks with mustard and honey and raspberry lemonade to little blueberry cakes plus 10 top recipes from Jamie Oliver spanning beef and vegetable stir fry to raspberry and kiwi crumble with rolled oats and an exciting treasure hunt soup.

Some of the top tips included in the Make the Difference Sainsbury’s Magazine are:

  • Choosing lower calorie ice-creams, like Wall’s Mini Milks which are under 50 calories or opting for ice-lollies which also count towards your child’s fluid intake
  • Planning lunches in advance, rather than creating something in a flash and choosing lunch fillings like cottage cheese, tinned tuna with flat-leaf parsley, balsamic vinegar and spring onions,
  • Choosing lower calorie snacks, like pretzels, and have lots of healthy fresh and dried fruit and vegetable sticks to hand
  • Try to sit down and eat family meals as regularly as possible
  • Limit your children to the 80/20 rule when it comes to junk food, 80% of the time help your children make healthy choices, for the remaining 20% of the time allow them to enjoy a treat or two
  • Keep the kids hydrated with diluted fruit juices, sparkling water and milk

It is a bit ironic that Sainsbury’s selected to feature recipes by Jamie Oliver for this promotion as he is the chef behind new healthier meals in British schools that, as we highlighted here, are being rejected by British school kids.

It is hard to believe that Sainsbury’s advice to parents with children is to be “…choosing lunch fillings like cottage cheese, tinned tuna with flat-leaf parsley, balsamic vinegar and spring onions…” If British kids are at all like American kids, those menu items alone would probably cure childhood obesity once and for all!

At least they also urge parents to “…have lots of healthy fresh and dried fruit and vegetable sticks to hand …”




CCOF Opposition To GMOs Outweighs Commitment To National Standards

As the 2007 Farm Bill winds its way to the floor, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) is trying to wrangle some lobbying support from its members:

There is a good chance that an Amendment will be offered to preempt (prohibit) state or local regulation of GMOs, meat, and poultry once approved by USDA. Please contact your Representative immediately to express your opposition to any amendment that would preempt state and/or local regulation of GMOs, meat, and poultry.

We recognize that CCOF has substantive positions on GMO’s and meat and poultry, but, of all organizations, CCOF should recognize the danger to the food industry, especially organic growers, by establishing the precedent that states and localities should be able to preempt Federal regulations.

The food industry depends on a uniform national market to provide a wide assortment of high quality foods at reasonable prices to the American people. If every state and locality can make its own rules, that efficiency will break down.

Didn’t the organic industry go through a massive effort to secure uniform Federal organic standards? Are organic growers and producers really prepared to return to a world in which each state or city can make up its own rules?

We’ll defend to the death the right of CCOF to lobby in Congress for laws it values, but there is something shameful in demanding state and local autonomy when it suits one’s fashion but demanding national uniformity when it suits one’s interests.




Produce Notches Up On Farm Bill

Farm Bill to Push Fruit and Veggies is the headline — which means the produce industry did far better than expected in negotiations in the Ag Committee in the House of Representatives:

WASHINGTON — Congress wants you — and your kids — to eat more fruit and vegetables.

For the first time, substantial help for fruit and vegetable growers is included in the farm bill that’s scheduled for debate in the House beginning Thursday.

“It’s a dramatic increase,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, the top Republican on the Agriculture Committee. “It’s probably four times as much as in past farm bills.”

Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., said the bill will help not only the blueberry and strawberry farmers in southern North Carolina but also school children who will see more fresh produce as snacks and at lunch.

“We can now give proper attention to crops that have been overlooked,” he said.

Since its inception in 1938, the federal farm program has subsidized farmers who grow such commodity crops as corn, rice, cotton, soy beans and wheat. It also underwrites the food stamp program.

Critics say the federal government subsidizes corn, wheat and sugar that contribute to the nation’s obesity problem but does nothing to help farmers growing foods that are considered healthier.

“We’re overfed and undernourished,” said Stephanie Patrick of the American Dietetic Association.

The House version of the bill includes more than $1.5 billion over five years to put more fresh fruit and vegetables in the schools, research better growing methods and help farmers market produce internationally.

But don’t look for price supports for blackberries and broccoli. These farmers reject federal programs that began in the New Deal and now subsidize commodity crop farmers to the tune of $12 billion to $25 billion annually, depending on market prices.

“I do not want this farm bill to be a subsidy in any way,” said Ervin Lineberger in a telephone interview from his farm in Cleveland County, N.C., where he grows blackberries, strawberries and grapes on 50 acres. “I would rather the emphasis be placed on helping the consumer toward a healthy diet. That will take care of our market.”

Apple grower Phil Glaize in Winchester, Va., said federal support would help firm up prices and open new markets. “It gives me an idea whether the apple industry is sustainable over 15 years or we are going to have to fold due to low prices and competition,” he said.

“It really is just enough to help us stay competitive and perhaps expand our markets,” said Lisa Lochridge of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Nutrition advocates hope that providing free fruit and vegetables to students will help wean them from fatty snacks.

“It’s not enough to tell kids to eat more fruit and vegetables if you don’t serve lots of fruit and vegetables in school lunches and as snacks,” said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The bill authorizes the Agriculture Department to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables for school lunch programs and expands the federal program that provides free fruit and vegetables as school snacks.

“They eat sliced apples, and watermelon and baby carrots as opposed to the more popular snack food items,” said Erik Peterson of the School Nutrition Association. “The demand at the vending machines goes down a little bit.”

The health snack program currently costs the government $9 million to put produce in 25 schools in each of 13 states. The bill calls for a $70 million program in at least 35 schools in each of the 50 states. Advocates hope that Congress will expand the program to 100 schools in each state.

“That makes it a huge win-win for improving child nutrition and to help us create future consumers,” said Lorelei DiSogra, nutrition and health expert for the United Fresh Produce Association.

Congratulations are certainly due to the trade’s government relations teams that have been working hard on this issue.

Of course, “tis many a slip ‘tween the cup and the lip,” and passing a committee in the House is a long way from a law and an appropriation and money actually being spent. But it is big progress.

Of course, that depends on how one defines progress. One of the questions in all the discussions of PMA/United merger is what kind of government relations the industry actually wants. It is in the DNA of advocates to want “more” and, perhaps, that is what the trade wants. Or, perhaps, the trade thinks that is the best deal that can be gotten.

Yet the produce industry is pretty conservative. One wonders if you did a survey whether what the industry would urge is actually more money for produce in the farm bill or, rather, getting rid of the trillions spent on big program crops and reducing taxes instead.

Senator Lugar, who is a Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, is pushing the Farm 21 Bill, which phases out commodity subsidies by implementing new “Risk-Management Accounts.” When Senator Lugar was Chairman of the Ag Committee, he thought he had phased out subsidies at that time. But the minute the business got bad, the Congress caved and sent hundreds of billions more to big program crop growers.

In any case, it may all be moot. Brazil has joined Canada in a complaint at the World Trade Organization against U.S. agricultural subsidies. Already Brazil won a complaint requiring the U.S. to overhaul its cotton subsidies. Since the U.S. has no real case, it has been stalling by withholding documents from the WTO since 2001. But things are coming to a head.

It is all fine to add money for nutrition and conservation to the Farm Bill, but we hope the price we pay is not to have to acquiesce in supporting enormously inefficient and wasteful program crop payments.




Pundit’s Mailbag — CPMA & PMA To Lead Industry Closer To Global Traceability

Few issues will wind up being more important to the produce trade than traceability, because nothing else holds the promise of containing food safety or food security issues so that the impact on the trade is minimized.

As such, we have devoted substantial attention here at the Pundit to the issue, including pieces such as these:

Much of the trade’s actual knowledge about traceability in the produce industry and the specific problems the trade has relates back to a joint endeavor by the Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, which was published as a Traceability Best Practices document for the North American fresh produce industry.

So we were especially pleased to receive this letter from an important executive at CPMA:

Over the past few months, we at CPMA have noted the marked increase in the focus on traceability within industry press and have applauded the Perishable Pundit’s efforts in this area to ensure readers are kept abreast of this important issue for our sector. In addition, we applaud the increased efforts by individual companies to facilitate traceability implementation as a tool to support overall food safety efforts. The purpose of this letter is to provide information to your readers on current efforts to ensure a global traceability standard and implementation guidelines for the produce sector.

To address the need for a standardized approach to traceability, industry stakeholders brought together first under the CPMA/PMA Traceability Task Force, and then internationally through the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), have spent the past few years determining guidelines to assist industry in implementation. Additionally, we have participated in the global effort, under the auspices of the global supply chain standards body, GS1, to create the generic Global Traceability Standard which ensures consistency across international borders; especially important for our very global industry.

We are happy to report that CPMA and PMA, representing both our stakeholders and the five other international produce associations of the IFPS, recently met with GS1 to begin work to establish a global traceability fresh produce implementation guideline compliant with the Global Traceability Standard, robust enough to address the main international regulations and flexible enough to be adaptable to local regulations as well as all fresh produce categories. The basis for this effort is the PMA/CPMA Fresh Produce Traceability Guide to Implementation, which is harmonized already to the Global Traceability Standard and has been endorsed by the produce associations within the IFPS.

This Guide to Implementation is exactly that: a guide to implementing an effective traceability solution. While including best practices that allow for traceability, it also focuses on the core element needed to track an item: a standard product identification number. This number comes in the form of a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). Once the GTIN is established, the industry will have a number to reference what is being tracked or traced. The Guide also addresses other key elements needed for effective traceability. As an example, if you are a primary producer, the data to capture, store and share with your supply chain partners includes:

Buyer/Receiver ID
Lot Number
Product Description
Product ID
Quantity
Unit of Measure
Shipment ID
Vendor/Supplier/Sender ID
Date of Receipt
Ship From Location ID
Ship To Location ID
Shipment Date

N.B. It should be noted that if the primary producer is the first participant in the supply chain, some of these data elements will not be applicable to them (i.e. Receipt Date).

As you’ve noted, PMA and CPMA are also leading efforts around standardized product identification and other areas, including determining the industry realities; necessary information to identify implementation pathways. Later in the summer, the results of a recent survey executed by PMA and CPMA will be released. The following are some points of interest from that survey that indicate the state of the industry relative to traceability:

Out of 128 produce suppliers participating in the survey:

  • 77% indicate they can track one step up the supply chain and one step back YET

  • 53% do not even have a number on their cases,

  • 33% use a generic number on their cases that will not uniquely identify them from another supplier,

  • only 2% use a standard GTIN number on their cases,

  • 39% do not have a number on their packaged items, and of those that do have a number on the item, only 46% use a number that would allow the buyer to trace back the item to a particular grower.

It is safe to draw the conclusion from this snapshot of industry that although some organizations have very robust traceability systems in place, there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure a functional traceability capacity across the entire supply chain.

This is a critically important issue requiring an industry-wide solution. We encourage industry to look further into their current traceability programs to ensure their effectiveness throughout the supply chain. With a Canada/U.S. standard established, and the development of a global produce standard/guideline well in hand (working with additional industry associations and GS1), we are equally encouraged that others are working with industry to ensure and support implementation.

As we move forward we will continue to support implementation via educational opportunities and applaud the Pundit’s efforts to bring clarity to this very complex issue.

— Jane Proctor
Director, Industry Technology & Standardization
Chair, IFPS
Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

We appreciate Jane’s kind words regarding our coverage of this matter and we pledge to fight the good fight on this one. Alas, the results of the survey Jane mentions are most distressing, especially considering that in the U.S., at least we have a bio-terrorism law that legally mandates traceability. The fact that more than two-thirds of the industry either does not have a number on each case or uses a number that will not uniquely identify the supplier is almost inconceivable.

And the survey results, depressing as they are, are the least of it. One thing we have learned is that many who may have the “form” of traceability in place do not have the “substance.” For example, it is all terrific to be able to identify a source of product by a lot number, but if that lot number represents a consolidation of product from five different fields, its usefulness is limited.

Even being able to trace back to the precise moment a processed item came off a line is of minimal use, especially if the line isn’t stopped and sanitized periodically so that the knowledge of when an item came off the line also establishes a time stamp on the product that might be implicated.

We also have learned that collecting all kinds of data, important as that may be, doesn’t count for much if we don’t know exactly where that data is and if it cannot be easily accessed upon demand.

One wonders, also, if the survey results aren’t excessively optimistic in that many packers and processors may require their growers to sign documents attesting that the grower will maintain documentation and have it available within 24 hours if needed. So the survey respondents may think certain information is available, yet no drills or other tests are being performed to ascertain if these warranties are actually being done.

Outside of the big fresh-cut processors in Salinas that have gotten deadly serious on these issues, we still hear of many growers who sign what they need to in order to sell their product, and their record retention policy is a weekly prayer that their number doesn’t come up.

The fact that CPMA and PMA are working to see published a “global traceability fresh produce implementation guideline compliant with the Global Traceability Standard” is very important news.

Shippers have complained to the Pundit that the CPMA/PMA Best Practices document, valuable as it is, doesn’t go far enough. These shippers have asked for a document that they can hand to their technical staff and say, “program for this.”

It sounds like we might be on the verge of coming to that place. If so, the industry will owe a great deal to Gary Fleming and Jane Proctor, and to PMA and CPMA, for supporting this vital industry effort.




Pundit’s Mailbag — PMA And United Need To Remain Separate

Our many discussions on the subject of the desirability and practicality of a merger between PMA and United came back into prominence lately when the associations confirmed that actual talks were going on to explore merger, cooperation or other forms of co-existence. As a service to the trade we ran a piece entitled An Industry Discussion: Pros And Cons Of A PMA/United Merger which attempted to lay out the basics of the industry discussion on the subject.

  

This piece brought many letters and we dealt with two of those letters in Pundit’s Mailbag — Finding The Right Answers For Possible PMA And United Merger and, today, we want deal with other aspects of this issue by looking at another letter we have received on this subject:

“Partnerships” aside, the economic and political interests of the growers, shippers and distributors are fundamentally opposed to those of the retailers and food service operators. United, FFVA and WGA saved PACA not so very long ago when PMA sat on its hands.

There are any number of issues where PMA and United must disagree. They have different franchises. We need them both. The issue is how to fund United. Income from produce growing, shipping and distributing is notoriously unreliable, and when those involved have a bad year, there is no choice but to hock the jet, fire all non-family staff, cut the advertising and skip United.

I wish there was a simple solution to this problem, but hopefully those more creative than I can come up with one.

— Frank McCarthy
Vice President of Marketing
Albert’s Organics/United Natural Foods
Dayville, CT

Frank has both the benefit of experience in many different aspects of business and an incisive mind, so he quickly cuts to the chase. Most assuredly, different industry segments have different interests.

This being acknowledged, it still leaves three points open for discussion:

  1. Although we are not certain that PMA would agree with our esteemed correspondent’s characterization of its activity on PACA, even if we accepted that PMA may have “sat on its hands” during the PACA situation, that doesn’t tell us how a new consolidated PMA might react in the future if it did merge with United. After all, one reason the grower/shippers didn’t push PMA to go to the mat on this issue is that they could work through United as well as regional groups. If there was only one national association, perhaps the outcome would be different.

    Still, Frank makes an important point because it might not be different in a good way. If, for example, the grower/shipper community did push the one national produce association to take an aggressive stance on such an issue, the most likely outcome is… someone might form a second association.
    If the grower/shippers won the battle, the retailers and foodservice operators — and certainly their non-produce bosses — would object. So they might start a new association to be very similar to the “old” pre-merger PMA.

    If the grower/shipper segment pushed for this position and lost… well the grower/shippers might feel a need to start a new association similar to the ‘old” United.

    It strikes us as very important that the trade not do something out of idealism and a sort of starry-eyed wish to speak with one voice. The difference of interests that Frank speaks of must be accommodated in any new association structure.

    In our “industry discussion” piece, we raised the possibility that the new WGA Washington office could be the nucleus for a group to represent growers or grower/shippers. One of letter-writers yesterday raised the idea of not having a permanent staffed effort but, instead, raising money on an ad hoc basis as issues of concern arise. In other words, the new national produce association wouldn’t lobby at all, and if anyone wanted to lobby, say on issue such as PACA, it would be expected that ad hoc groups would be set up and funded.

    There are pros and cons to all this: Will WGA be too dominant in some council of regional growers groups? Could an ad hoc approach be effective? The point is that no successful solution can be found that doesn’t recognize the different interests in the industry.
  2. Whether “we need them both” is sort of the key question, and the answer probably depends on how we define “we.” Many large western operations seem to have doubts. Even before WGA opened a physical office in D.C., WGA had long ago hired law firms and lobbyists and flew in staff and members to lobby.

    Many western growers consider WGA to be “their” association. They buy their insurance through them and feel perfectly aligned with them. They feel they need to be members of PMA for marketing purposes and support WGA for government relations, but are not certain they need United.

    Now, and this may be the key that decides it all: We understand from several WGA board members that they have been specifically told by Tom Nassif, President of Western Growers Association that United cannot be relied on to represent the interests of western growers. The opening of a D.C. office, which we chronicled here and here, was an obvious manifestation of that opinion.

    Now the question may be, is it useful to WGA to keep United as a lobbying organization? We would think absolutely.

    There is nothing more valuable in lobbying Congress than an aggrieved constituent. WGA makes a mint on its insurance business and may be able to afford big name lawyers, connected lobbyists and an office filled with the finest Gucci footwear. But all that takes a lobbying effort only so far. On any issue of national importance, what WGA desperately needs is a multitude of farmers in other states with which to make common cause. WGA only has members in California and Arizona.

    In other words, viewed in this sense United is not a competitor to WGA as much as a tool for WGA to use. Let United dial its rolodex and find some member in Maine when the visit is to Senator Olympia Snow; let United find a fourth generation Ohio grower to visit a Congressman there.

    One could make an argument that it would behoove WGA to urge all its members to join United so that United would be strong, and when an issue such as immigration comes up, United would be ready, willing and able to have a contingent from every state prepared to descend on D.C. — something WGA could never do.

    Rationally, the argument would probably win that WGA’s interests are served by a stronger United. Yet the spinach crisis did leave confused the issue of a spokesperson for the grower/shipper segment of the trade.

    Some animosity and jealousy may have entered into the mix during the spinach crisis as the two associations, United and WGA, jostled for position as spokesperson for the trade.

    And substantive policy differences have arisen with WGA looking to USDA as the future regulatory partner of the produce trade while United has seen FDA as the way to go.

    Most associations, like businesses, live because 20% of their members or customers provide 80% of the revenue. If WGA comes to decide United is useful and urges the support of United, United will probably have the resources needed to be effective long term.

    But if WGA tells its members that “we” do not need United, “we” need to put more money into WGA’s D.C. office, United will have a tough roe to hoe.
  3. To go back to Bruce Peterson’s ever-present question on associations — if this organization didn’t exist, would we create it now? — we need to make sure that we don’t look at the situation with blinders on. There may be other options than simply saying United and PMA should exist separately or they should merge.

    For example, even if to lobby government we need an association for the production side of the business, should that association also run joint tradeshows with FMI? Should it run leadership programs? Executive development programs? Fresh-cut events in Europe?

    For that matter if we need a supply-chain marketing organization like PMA, does it need a vice president of government relations? Does it need a PhD to deal with food safety issues?

    Traditionally PMA monitored industry issues for the benefits of its members and it assisted regulators with industry information. Its integrated membership gave it the option to be influential in quiet ways — a vice president of produce at a supermarket can speak to his boss to try to sway him; a foodservice operator can speak to NRA and try to move that association in a specific direction.

    Yet one senses pressure on PMA to do things we are not sure anyone at PMA really wants to do — what is the upside for PMA of taking on expensive lobbying tasks that can only be divisive? But as PMA’s membership becomes distinct from United’s, it no longer matters what United is doing.

    United, with its heart and soul in government relations, feels compelled to develop other programs both to, hopefully, make some money for the association and to maintain thicker links with its members. It leaders are not really convinced that if United didn’t do a trade show and didn’t have many other things to connect with its members that members would just send in checks for government relations.

    Plus, United is not just grower/shippers. Yes, that is the identity it has taken on in terms of lobbying in D.C., but some of the oldest members at United are wholesalers, and the association just merged and brought in a group of fresh-cut processors. Surely these wholesalers, brokers and processors are not going to support an association whose only function is to do government relations for produce growers and shippers.

When the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association had talks with PMA before it merged with United, PMA not only didn’t leap to do the merger, it studied the situation and recommended that IFPA had a pretty good gig going and should keep it up.

One wonders if the logic of Frank’s letter combined with the insight in Bruce Peterson’s search for functionality doesn’t lead to this conclusion: That the industry may benefit from a supply chain marketing association that is vertically integrated such as PMA, but that government relations and lobbying should really be the premise of more focused and specialized associations. A fruit and vegetable grower association, a produce shipper association, a wholesaler and distributor association, a processor association, perhaps all functioning under a “United” umbrella for the occasional “joint statement,” perhaps even all working out of a building owned by some kind of industry trust.

In this way, we would all work together on supply chain and marketing issues through PMA yet would also have our own segmented associations to advocate each sector’s interests while maintaining a mechanism for joint action.

Of course, this sounds intriguing but raises the question of who is going to pay for it all, and do any of these sectors actually think they have sufficient interests in DC to justify a permanent presence?

Perhaps they do and will fund it. But if they don’t, well, doesn’t that tell us something about what the industry actually wants and needs?

Many thanks to Frank for such a thought-provoking letter.

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