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Perishable Pundit
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Ph: 561-994-1118
Fax: 561-994-1610


email:
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Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Is Tesco’s Move To Sell Its Japanese Venture A Sign From The New CEO That Fresh & Easy Will Have To ‘Improve Returns’ Or Else? 

For all we have written about Tesco’s Journey to America in the form of Fresh & Easy, the future of this venture has pivoted around an unknowable: What does Tesco’s new CEO, Philip Clark, think about the notion of sustaining losing businesses in the hope of building long term strategic positions in important markets?

Now we have a clue, as Tesco recently announced its intentions to withdraw from Japan and sell its venture there:

Tesco has today announced its decision to sell its business in Japan.

Philip Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of Tesco Plc, said:

“We have reviewed our portfolio in Asia and the performance of our business in Japan. Having made considerable efforts in Japan, we have concluded that we cannot build a sufficiently scalable business.

“We have decided to sell our operations there and focus on our larger businesses in the region, in line with our priority of driving growth and improving returns. I want to thank our colleagues in Japan for their continued dedication to the business.

“With good stores in good locations across Greater Tokyo, we will be undertaking a formal sale process over the coming months and the business will continue to trade as usual in the meantime.”

Japan is the smallest of Tesco’s international retail businesses. The company operates 129 small stores in the Greater Tokyo area under the Tsurakame, Tesco and Tesco Express formats. Over half of the stores are profitable and Tesco has also developed a strong own label range and a fresh kitchen to supply fish and other products to its stores.

Sometimes cutting a losing division in one place can free up capital and management time to buttress a loser elsewhere. So one could read this as a positive for Fresh & Easy.

But the U.S. chain has been flailing lately, trying various things such as super mini stores without a clear strategy as to how to achieve success.

Reading between the lines, we would guess that the phrase “cannot build a scalable business” could have been inserted to differentiate the situation in Japan from the situation in America.

The U.S. is growing in population; Japan is not. The U.S. certainly is scalable, and there is room for thousands of Fresh & Easy stores, with real estate much easier to get in the U.S. than in Japan. Tesco could buy Meijer, Whole Foods, Supervalu or A&P and become a multi-format operator.

Still, the reference to the priority of “improving returns” seems to imply that Fresh & Easy will be kept on a short leash. If losses don’t decline and if the chain doesn’t follow the path it has outlined to profitability, Philip Clark is making clear that he would rather cut off the losses of his predecessor’s adventures than continue to subsidize them.

Perhaps Aldi and Trader Joe’s would buy the U.S. chain and divide the sites among them. They could do what we suggested Tesco do way back in April 2008.




Del Monte Fresh Stands Up To FDA’s Bullying Tactics

Among those of us who have studied the FDA and its actions in relation to food safety, one thing is extraordinarily clear: Whatever the underlying goals of the food safety laws, acknowledging the mostly benign intentions of the top FDA officials in their day-to-day workings at the FDA, the FDA often comes across as a bully and, once having acted, FDA executives feel the enormous priority to avoid any admission of error, regardless of the costs or consequences to others.

To this day, for example, although the Salmonella Saintpaul investigation is long over and, clearly, tomatoes were not the cause — the FDA has never clearly admitted its error or apologized to the innocent tomato growers whose business it ruined. Nor has the FDA petitioned Congreess to provide financial relief for those whose businesses were destroyed or damaged by the FDA's actions.

Yet as unfair as the FDA can be with domestic producers, it is absolutely arbitrary when it comes to foreign producers. We highlighted the way it acted with caprice toward a Honduran melon producer here and discussed the way the FDA abused import alerts with an attorney named Christine M. Humphrey, Esq. At the time, she was with Fuerst, Humphrey, Ittleman, but now is with C. Humphrey and Associates. You can read the piece below:

Fix Suggested For FDA’s Vigilante System Of Banning Product Through Import Alerts

We also discussed how difficult, indeed almost impossible, it is for the produce industry to get recompense in a discussion with Richard Epstein, a prominent law professor and author who has been named one of the 20 most influential and important legal thinkers of our time:

With FDA/CDC Protected By Sovereign Immunity, Compensation For Losses Looks Bleak Says Professor Richard Epstein

The problem is obvious: There are no ready checks on FDA’s power. An FDA official shows up and bans imports from a farm or demands a recall and, without going to court, there is no independent body one can ask to review the correctness of FDA’s actions. The FDA is judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner all rolled into one.

Generally produce firms will do anything, no matter how ridiculous, to get the FDA to cooperate. So if the FDA sees a telephone wire above a farm and demands that it be moved lest a bird sit on it and defecate on the field below, the farm spends the money and removes it, despite the fact that birds don’t require a wire to do their business and despite the fact that the farm next door is not required to make the change.

The absurdity comes about because once the FDA has decided to impose an import alert, it generally won’t lift it until “corrective action” is taken. Yet, it is often the case that even if the FDA is correct and that farm was the source of a pathogen on produce — and very often the FDA’s evidence for these claims is scanty — thorough inspection of the farm provides not a clue as to what might have gone wrong. As such, there is no known “corrective action” to take.

But the FDA can’t accept that and so demands lots of things that it doesn’t believe in enough to make a policy — just as there is no policy that all farms must not have telephone wires above them. This whole process can easily cause a grower to miss an entire season. After all, who is going to plant melons in Central America if there is an “import alert” blocking them from shipping to the US?

Going to court is generally not an option. First, doing it right with lawyers and expert witnesses is enormously expensive, and produce is typically a low value commodity. Second, going to court takes time and the one thing we don’t have with produce is time. If the product exists, it needs to be sold, and if we are speaking of future business, it needs to be planted – now. Third, the FDA has such enormous powers and is free to exercise them in such an arbitrary manner that those being regulated are afraid to stand up to the FDA because even if they win on the issue at hand, they fear the vengeance of FDA officials in the future.

Of course, what tends to stop a bully is the shock he experiences when someone stands up to him.

The produce trade associations have generally been taciturn when it comes to the FDA. They also have to work with the FDA so are unwilling to call them out even when they know they are incorrect or abusive.

With individual firms afraid to speak up and the trade associations attempting to avoid conflict, we have a situation in which businesspeople become supplicants before government, pleading for favors rather than asserting their rights. It is a situation that debases democracy and republican government.

As such, the produce industry now owes a debt of gratitude to Del Monte Fresh as it has announced that it is not going to simply sit around and be abused. But is going to stand up and fight:

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. Files Lawsuit Against FDA in U.S. District Court

Company Seeks Reversal of Agency Action Restricting Import of Cantaloupe

CORAL GABLES, Fla., Aug 24, 2011 – Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. (NYSE:FDP), filed suit on Monday, August 22, 2011 against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to seek an injunction that would lift an FDA rule restricting the importation of wholesome fresh cantaloupes into the United States.

Del Monte Fresh is one the largest importers of cantaloupes into the U.S. and is well known for selling fruit of the highest quality. The melons are farmed, processed, transported, and stored under state-of-the-art food safety controls that far exceed FDA regulatory requirements.

Del Monte Fresh’s claims are based on the FDA’s (and several other state health agency officials’) erroneous speculation, unsupported by scientific evidence, that cantaloupes previously imported by Del Monte Fresh from a Guatemalan farm and packing facility were contaminated with the pathogen Salmonella. In fact, neither the FDA nor any state health agency in the U.S. has offered evidence or data to support the FDA action.

”Del Monte Fresh Produce places the highest priority on food safety and protecting customers. We require all of our suppliers to comply with all FDA-recommended food safety procedures, including the FDA’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, as well as the FDA’s Sanitary Standard Operating Procedures. The farm and packing facility at issue in this case was in full compliance with these food safety procedures. The restrictions imposed by the FDA on Del Monte Fresh Produce’s ability to import cantaloupes are unnecessary and not supported by the facts,” said Dennis Christou, Vice President Marketing, N.A. of Del Monte Fresh.

The FDA’s actions adversely affect Del Monte Fresh’s ability to receive perishable fresh produce for sale to its customers in the U.S., as the import alert threatens the viability of a major import source for cantaloupes. Since significant resources and commitments must be finalized immediately to ensure Guatemalan cantaloupes will be ready for harvest in the near future, Del Monte Fresh is seeking immediate injunctive relief from the court.

The lawsuit makes for fantastic reading and you can read the whole complaint here

First, the complaint points out how flimsy the evidence is that Del Monte Fresh even was involved with this matter:

… these officials reached this conclusion without a sufficient factual basis to support the conclusion. Among other things, on information and belief, these officials reached this conclusion without ever testing any cantaloupes to determine whether they were contaminated with Salmonella.

FDA later concluded that cantaloupes imported by Del Monte from PAO’s farm in Asuncion Mita, Guatemala (and allegedly contaminated with Salmonella) were the likely source of the illnesses described above. This conclusion was not rationally supported by the evidence available to FDA. FDA also did not adequately take into account evidence that did not support that conclusion. In addition, FDA’s conclusion was a clear error of judgment. Among other things:

All of the microbiological evidence available to FDA supports the conclusion that cantaloupes from PAO’s farm in Asuncion Mita were not contaminated with Salmonella….

All of the information collected by FDA in a recent inspection of PAO supports the conclusion that cantaloupes from PAO’s farm in Asuncion Mita were not contaminated with Salmonella.

…In November 2010, shortly before the illnesses described above occurred, FDA inspected PAO’s farm located in San Jorge, Guatemala. FDA did not issue a form FDA-483 at the conclusion of the inspection. A form FDA-483 is a list of inspectional ― observations.

By deciding not to issue a form FDA-483, FDA acknowledged that it did not identify any objectionable conditions significant enough to provide to the company in writing. By deciding not to issue a form FDA-483, FDA confirmed that PAO’s food safety procedures at the San Jorge farm are in substantial compliance with FDA regulatory requirements pertaining to food safety. The same conclusion applies to PAO’s Asuncion Mita farm, because the Asuncion Mita farm is subject to the same PAO food safety procedures as the San Jorge farm, and the same PAO quality assurance team monitors compliance with food safety requirements and procedures at both the San Jorge and Asuncion Mita farms.

FDA has not adequately accounted for evidence indicating that the illnesses described above were not caused by cantaloupes at all. For example, one of the patients described above denied consuming cantaloupes before becoming ill.

FDA has not adequately accounted for the possibility that any allegedly contaminated cantaloupes came from sources other than Del Monte. For example, on information and belief, the retailer that FDA alleged had sold contaminated cantaloupes to most of the patients described above had three other suppliers of cantaloupes in addition to Del Monte during the relevant time period. On information and belief, FDA never investigated the three other suppliers to determine whether they were a potential source of Salmonella contamination. In addition, one of the patients described above consumed cut cantaloupe reportedly purchased from a retailer that is not supplied by either PAO or Del Monte. Another patient reportedly consumed cantaloupe imported from Honduras, not Guatemala, that could not possibly have come from PAO or Del Monte, because neither company harvests cantaloupes in Honduras.

FDA has not adequately accounted for the possibility that any alleged contamination of Del Monte cantaloupes occurred after the cantaloupes left the custody of Del Monte in the domestic commercial supply chain…

Second, the complaint points out that Del Monte Fresh was pressured by the FDA into declaring a recall:

Although FDA did not have an adequate factual basis for concluding that Del Monte cantaloupes imported from Asuncion Mita posed a public health risk, FDA nonetheless demanded that Del Monte must either perform a recall of such cantaloupes or suffer the consequences of an FDA consumer advisory questioning the wholesomeness of Del Monte cantaloupes.

The recall demanded by FDA was not justified by the underlying evidence or by the purpose of protecting the public health. FDA lacked evidence that Del Monte cantaloupes were contaminated. Furthermore, the recall demanded by FDA related to cantaloupes that were beyond (or within a day of) their shelf life, and the retailer described above confirmed that no cantaloupes from the relevant time period remained in inventory.

Rather than face a general advisory regarding cantaloupes that could potentially affect the entire cantaloupe market, Del Monte acceded to FDA’s demands and issued a limited recall on March 22, 2011.

Third, Del Monte Fresh tried to reassure the FDA:

Del Monte retained third party experts to evaluate PAO’s compliance with Good Agricultural Practices in general, and in the exact fields where the allegedly contaminated cantaloupes were harvested, and in its packinghouse handling process. The experts’ audit, conducted from April 6-14, 2011, included a review of PAO’s compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices, Standard Sanitary Operating Procedures, Food Safety Program and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program.

The audit confirmed that PAO’s farm and packinghouse operations meet and/or exceed current guidelines required to maintain a high level of food safety and regulatory compliance such that only wholesome food is shipped.

Fourth, Del Monte Fresh even did a test-and-hold program, although as we discussed recently here and in an interview here, this is very expensive and not likely the best way to achieve food safety:

In an abundance of caution, Del Monte requested the third-party experts to establish a rigorous pre-importation test-and-hold program for lots of cantaloupes shipped from the Asuncion Mita farm from the time of the limited recall until the end of the growing season. Under the program, samples were taken from packed product before it left the PAO packinghouse and were tested for the presence of Salmonella by an ISO-certified laboratory in Guatemala City. The third party experts concluded that all such samples tested ― negative for any Salmonella species.

Fifth, when FDA imposed its “Import Alert,” it had no reasonable basis to do so:

FDA’s imposition of Import Alert #22-03 was based entirely on the unsupported alleged association between Asuncion Mita cantaloupes and the illnesses from Salmonella described above. FDA did not have, and never has had, evidence that cantaloupes from Asuncion Mita caused the Salmonella illnesses described above. In issuing Import Alert #22-03, FDA did not have, and never has had, any evidence of either ― spot contamination or widespread or systemic contamination of Asuncion Mita cantaloupes.

Import Alert #22-03 expressly states FDA’s conclusion that the source of the contamination is likely one or more of the following: irrigation of fields with water contaminated with sewage; processing produce with Salmonella-contaminated water; poor hygienic practices of workers that harvest and pack the produce; animals in close proximity to product or water sources; and/or lack of adequate cleaning and sanitizing of equipment that comes in contact with the product.

On information and belief, FDA has no evidence whatsoever that PAO’s Asuncion Mita operation has irrigated fields with water contaminated with sewage; processed produce with Salmonella-contaminated water; used workers for harvesting and packaging that have poor hygienic practices; had animals in close proximity to product or water sources; and/or lacked adequate cleaning and sanitizing equipment that comes in contact with product. To the contrary, the evidence available to FDA from its own microbiological testing of Asuncion Mita cantaloupes, from its recent inspection of PAO’s farm in San Jorge, and otherwise, wholly undermines any assertion that such practices have occurred or are occurring.

Sixth, after explaining how damaging an import alert can be, the complaint states the real point — that the agency has no basis for its actions:

FDA’s imposition of Import Alert #22-03 is an arbitrary and capricious final agency action within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). Among other things, this action (1) is not rationally connected to the evidence before FDA; (2) is based upon a clear error of judgment; (3) has not adequately taken into account evidence that does not support Detention Without Physical Examination.

FDA’s imposition of Import Alert #22-03 also is an arbitrary and capricious final agency action because it is not justified by the factual conclusions that FDA has relied upon as the justification for the action. Among other things, FDA’s conclusions in Import Alert #22-03 as to the likely source of alleged cantaloupe contamination (described in paragraph 23 above) have no evidence supporting them (as explained in paragraph 24 above).

Seventh, the complaint points out that the law does not give FDA authority to do what it is doing. This is a long and technical section. Part of the issue is that the law only gives authority to FDA under certain conditions. If it knows of food “manufactured, processed, or packed under insanitary conditions” or if the food is “adulterated” because it has been “prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby . . . it may have been rendered injurious to health” — but the FDA has no particular basis for believing that Del Monte’s cantaloupes meet any of these criteria.  In fact, from everything we know about food safety the opposite is true. These are exemplary farms and packing houses.

Eighth, the complaint points out that FDA abuses its powers to evade its legal responsibilities. Legally the FDA is required to follow what is called “notice and comment procedures,” but it does not do so. It declares that Alerts are actually just guidance to field offices and those don’t require  evaluation through a notice-and-comments procedure. Of course, these are not “guidance” at all. They are firm rules that require the proper procedure be followed.

Hopefully Del Monte’s attorney will make a motion to seek outside counsel to bring in Christine M. Humphry, who we mentioned above, as a specialist on cases of this type. She wrote the key Law Review article on this matter — The Food and Drug Administration’s Import Alerts Appear to Be “Misbranded”  — and, as a former FDA Investigator/Compliance officer, she has unique insights:

This article suggests, however, that Alerts—labeled as “guidance”—do not provide fair notice. The aggregate effect is an administrative scheme that undermines principles of uniform enforcement, and moreover, fundamental fairness and procedural due process, which are the hallmarks of the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA’s) notice-and-comment procedures.

The situation is a terrible one, from a public health standpoint, the FDA, by giving no weight to the quality of the operation, reduces incentives to invest in food safety programs. From a public policy standpoint, the arbitrary use of power is bound to be abused.

The FDA’s response to all this is basically that though it has no hard evidence, it has epidemiology that indicates that Del Monte Fresh’s production was implicated. Just as criminals can be convicted on circumstantial evidence, so, sometimes, food safety decisions are made based on epidemiology. Fair enough, but epidemiology is used by the FDA as a kind of magic incantation as if just saying the word proves the case.  Yet the prominent epidemiologist of our time had no problem standing up and attacking the efforts of epidemeologists during the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak:

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Esteemed Authority On Public Health, Speaks Frankly About The FDA, The CDC And The Incompetent Management of the Salmonella Saintpaul Tomato Outbreak Investigation

In general, just as the availability of DNA tests is going to move jurors to greater skepticism in reviewing cases with purely circumstantial evidence, allegations of foodborne illness sourcing that can't be verified via testing will increasingly be judged with skepticism.

At very least, the FDA should be required to provide contemporaneous transparency so outside epidemiologists can critique its work and point out errors. There need to be PACA like independent review boards that can assess epidemiological claims. Most of all the expectation that in some magic way every cause will be found and so corrective action can be taken needs to be abandoned.

Hopefully Del Monte Fresh's actions will get a court to put reins on the agency. The industry owes the company a hat tip just for being willing to try.

 




The New York Produce Show And Conference Announces Retail
"Thought Leaders" Panel...
Be In New York City November 7-9, 2011

It was over a year ago that we began the establishment of a new industry institution with a simple announcement:

New York, NY — The Eastern Produce Council and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine announced today their collaboration to launch The New York Produce Show And Conference….

“New York City is the epicenter of the region that buys more fresh produce than any location in the country,” explains Dean Holmquist, director of produce and floral for Foodtown, Inc., and president of the Eastern Produce Council. “The extraordinary diversity of the population in this region assures a dynamic market for mainstream, ethnic and specialty produce,” points out John McAleavey, executive director of the Eastern Produce Council.

Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce/floral at Kings Super Markets and vice president of the Eastern Produce Council, indicated that “the sophisticated clientele of the northeast region combines with a plethora of quality retailers, restaurants, foodservice distributors and wholesalers to introduce product from local growers, growers across North America and growers from around the world.”

Jim Prevor, founder and editor-in-chief of PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine and the online PerishablePundit.com, celebrated the establishment of such a high caliber event in a region long lacking its own trade show and conference: “My great grandfather, Jacob Prevor, emigrated to America and established a wholesale facility in the old Wallabout Produce Market in Brooklyn. My grandfather was a wholesaler and auction buyer in the old Washington Street Produce Market in Manhattan. My father, Michael Prevor, was an original tenant when The Hunts Point Market opened in the Bronx. Over the decades we operated farms and had supermarkets in the region and worked hard to make the ports and airports of the region major hubs for the import and export of fresh produce.

“It is an incredibly exciting moment that we should have the opportunity to join together with our friends at the Eastern Produce Council, the preeminent organization in the region, to bring a world-class event to the region, and it is an honor that we can bring the industry together in a city known both as the ‘Capital of the World’ and the ‘Big Apple’.”

“Jim Prevor has built a reputation for industry thought-leadership that is recognized around the world, and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine was launched on the Hunts Point Market,” said Robert Goldstein, owner/president of Genpro Inc., and secretary of the Eastern Produce Council, “so the board of directors of the Eastern Produce Council voted unanimously to join hands with Jim and his team at PRODUCE BUSINESS and the online Perishable Pundit to better serve this region with a high-end trade show and conference.”

“The Eastern Produce Council represents the most important players in the region,” said Ken Whitacre, vice president of publishing at PRODUCE BUSINESS and PerishablePundit.com. “Their engagement with the event ensures that exhibitors will encounter a cross section of the movers and shakers that make the industry a vibrant and robust contributor to the national and international industry. We are honored to work together with such an important association and with such an instrumental membership.”

Both PRODUCE BUSINESS and the Eastern Produce Council are committed to enhancing the industry by providing the region with a world-class venue for marketing, education and media exposure. That venue is The New York Produce Show And Conference.

In the end, the event was an extraordinary addition to the pantheon of industry events. In the heart of the biggest buying market in the country, we conjured up a sold–out trade show, a fantastic conference, a media and “consumer influencer” program, a student and faculty outreach program, chef demonstrations and recipe development for the trade, plus tours of the industry. It was really something quite extraordinary.

If you didn’t make it last year, here is a little video clip that gives a flavor for the event:

Of course, when confronted with the overwhelming success of the event, the leaders of the Eastern Produce Council and your friends at PRODUCE BUSINESS had only one reaction: A joint vow to make the 2011 event even better.

In the days to come, we will be unveiling plans for another extraordinary event: A larger and more comprehensive trade show, a new Global Trade event that salutes the New York region’s traditional role as the gateway to and from America, a Foodservice event focused on the restaurant scene in Manhattan, and new outreach to the media and consumer influencers that impact demand for our products. Plus there will be new and more extensive tours of this vibrant region.

We established a tradition last year and we will continue it this year with an announcement first of our Retail “Thought Leaders” Panel. These key retailers, a “Who’s Who” of the industry, help define what actually happens in this dynamic marketplace. We are incredibly grateful that they are willing to step up and share their insights and intelligence with the trade. The Pundit will personally question these insightful leaders at the Keynote Breakfast on Tuesday, November, 8, 2011:

ERIC BEELITZ
Director of Produce & Floral
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company

 

Eric started his career in 1973 as a produce clerk with Pathmark Stores Inc. After graduating Union County College with a degree in Criminal Justice he became a produce manager in many of the high volume stores in the Company. His produce expertise quickly led to several Store Management positions. For several years Eric was in charge of training future store managers in all areas of running a succesful produce department.

Eric was promoted into Produce Merchandising as a Category Manager in 1989. After developing an extensive produce category management program at Pathmark Eric was named the Category Manager of the year for the company in 1992. He became a Senior Category Manager in 1995 due to his team building approach to the business. His ability to train and develop other members of the produce merchandising team for future success is what drives him.

When A & P purchased Pathmark in 2008 Eric became an integral part in making the merger successful. In 2011 Eric was named Director of Produce and Floral for Waldbaums, The Food Emporium, A & P, Pathmark, Food Basics, and Superfresh stores. In his current position Eric is responsible for all merchandising, procurement, pricing, and promotion for all of these banners. Eric is married and has two sons.

RICH CONGER
Director of Produce
King Kullen Supermarkets

 

Rich has 30 years of experience in various positions in the produce industry. He is now responsible for the produce departments of 46 stores – 42 in Long Island and 4 in Staten Island.

Rich recently helped develop an extensive locally grown program that includes Long Island growers and New York State apple growers.

DAVE CORSI
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Wegmans Food Markets

Dave joined the Wegmans family 25 years ago, where his early experience was as a Store Manager in the Southern Tier region of New York for 5 years. After his Store Operations experience, in 1993 he relocated to Rochester, New York, to work as a Produce Category Manager.

In 2000, Dave took over Produce Operations and is the Vice President Produce and Floral, responsible for procurement, pricing, merchandising and promotion. In 2003, industry members nominated Dave and Wegmans as “Retailer of the Year” by Produce Merchandising magazine. Then, in 2005, Dave was selected as Vance Publishing’s “Marketer of the Year,” where he was honored for merchandising excellence, setting high standards for others to emulate, and his leadership role in the produce industry. In 2007 Dave was awarded the Perishable Pundit's Single Step Award honoring Dave for his role in advancing the cause of food safety in the industry.

Dave served on the USDA Fruits and Vegetable Advisory Committee for 4 years. Today, Dave serves as the Past Chair for the Produce Marketing Association.

JOE DELORENZO
Director of Produce Merchandising & Operations
Alpha 1 Marketing/Krasdale Foods

Joe has over 40 years experience in the supermarket industry. As Director of Produce Merchandising and Operations for Krasdale Foods in White Plains, NY, Joe is responsible for what goes on and what goes in the produce departments in over 300 stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania under the C Town, Bravo and AIM supermarket banners.

Joe is a second-generation retailer. His father worked at Food City in Shrewsbury, NJ, and Joe started working with him at the age of 16.

Before working at Alpha 1/Krasdale, Joe worked at Foodtown for 25 years. He has served as president and vice president of the Eastern Produce Council and is currently on the Board of Directors of CIFI – Catholic Institute of the Food Industry. He was awarded Man of the Year by the New Jersey Growers Association in 2000.

KEITH FROSCENO
Vice President Produce & Floral Merchandising
Price Chopper Supermarkets

As VP of Produce and Floral Merchandising at the 124–store, Schenectady, NY-based chain since 2006, Keith is responsible for determining optimal display space and creating masterful merchandising that attracts the most sales throughout Price Chopper’s diverse 6-state reach.

The bulk of Keith’s supermarket experience comes from working 20 years at Bozzuto’s, where he left the company as Vice President Produce and Floral Merchandising in 2005. Prior to taking on his current position at Price Chopper, Keith was Vice President of Produce Sales at W. Newell/Supervalu for one year.

Overall, Keith has been in the supermarket business for more than 35 years. He has also served on various PMA Boards and was President of the Governor’s Council of Agricultural Development in Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

DEAN HOLMQUIST
Director of Produce & Floral
Foodtown Supermarkets

As Director of Produce & Floral, Dean has demonstrated more than 25 years of progressive produce experience in the retail food industry. His current responsibilities at Foodtown are to direct sales, merchandising and operational activities for 65 member stores in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Dean is currently President of the Eastern Produce Council, a position held since April, 2009. Before that, Dean held the position of Vice President of the Eastern Produce Council from 2007-2008. Dean has been an EPC Board member since 2001.

Dean was awarded the Scholarship for Leadership Excellence from PRODUCE BUSINESS to attend the PMA FIT’s Leadership Symposium in Dallas, Texas, in January 2010.

DERRICK JENKINS
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Wakefern Food Corporation

Starting his career at Wakefern in 1982, Derrick got his first taste of what the world of produce was all about when he worked as a junior accountant reporting to the produce division. From that position, he rose up the ranks to his current position of Vice President of Produce and Floral.

Derrick credits his mentors, Herman Fadem and Al Ferri: “They worked with me at the early stages of my career and helped me lay a foundation upon which I could build a successful personal and professional career.

Derrick is a member of the Eastern Produce Council and serves on the Board of PMA. He is married and has four children.

PAUL KNEELAND
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Kings Super Markets

An industry veteran for more than 29 years and previously the Director of Produce and Floral for Roche Bros. Supermarkets in Boston, Massachusetts, Paul has been in his position at Kings since June 2007. In addition to overseeing produce and floral for 24 Kings Super Markets in New Jersey and one store in Long Island, Paul also oversees produce and floral for 6 Balducci’s Food Lover’s Markets with stores in Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and Virginia.

Paul is the past First Vice President of the New England Produce Council and was chairman of its annual expo for the first seven years. Currently, he is Vice President of the Eastern Produce Council and chair of its New York Produce Show and Conference committee.

Paul holds degrees in Business Management from Boston College as well as Northeastern University in Boston. He was the recipient of the PRODUCE BUSINESS/New England Produce Council’s Retailer of the Year award in 2005.

CARMINE NAPOLITANO
Senior Vice President Perishables-Produce Director
Gristedes Supermarkets

An industry veteran for more than 42 years, Carmine has been in his position at Gristedes Supermarkets since 2003. He is responsible for sales, merchandising and gross profits for all perishable departments.

Carmine started his career with Mayfair Supermarkets and soon moved up to become Vice President of Produce and Floral. While at Mayfair, he implemented the first fog/misting application on the East Coast, put in place European-style merchandising tables, juice and melon bars, and frost top salad bar and drop-ledge European refrigerated cases.

Carmine was formerly on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Product Council. He was a member of a Retail Merchandising Share Group, which included 18 members from the United States and Canada. He was featured in the Produce News as a spokesperson for the Pride in New York Program that supports all New York fresh products.

JOHN VASAPOLI
Director of Produce Merchandising
D'Agostino Supermarkets

John is responsible for all sales-related decisions for the produce department, such as item selection, quality control, presentation standards, and pricing.

In 1972, John started his career at D’Agostino as a part-time stock clerk. A year later, he was promoted to assistant store manager. In 1978, he was promoted to the position of store manager. During this period, John successfully ran a number of stores throughout Manhattan.

In 1985, John was promoted to the position of produce director. Since that time John has also had stints as director of deli/bakery and meat/seafood, where he gained valuable knowledge in the workings of these perishable departments. Most recently, John has also taken on the responsibility as manager of food safety and emergency planning.

****

All of us at the Eastern Produce Council and PRODUCE BUSINESS are deeply appreciative that these retail executives, whose time is always in such demand, have made The New York Produce Show and Conference a priority.

We hope you will as well.

If you would like some additional information, here is a small brochure we prepared.

The event website is here.

Buy-side, sell-side, media and education attendees, as well as those registering spouses and companions for the spouse/companion program — organized and hosted by Mrs. Pundit and featuring High-Tea at the Plaza — can all register at this link.

We have arranged many travel discounts.

And have a discounted room block at the Hilton New York.

There are still a few exhibiting opportunities left and you can let us know about your interest here.

We will soon be announcing our list of valued sponsors, without whom the event would not be possible. We still have some wonderful opportunities for sponsors to step in and assert their industry leadership and woo this vital market. If you would like to receive more information on how your organization can be part of this great new industry institution, please let us know here.

We look forward to seeing you in New York.




Attack On Hawaii’s Genetically Modified Papayas Sparks Debate About Science, Organics And Freedom To Choose

The headline on the Associated Press article by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher reads like a joke — Hawaii’s Genetically Modified Papayas Attacked — but it is a deadly serious matter. It touches on the rule of law, the integrity of democracy, the possible use of a veneer of public policy debate for private gain and a distortion of legitimate concerns regarding science and food safety:

Thousands of papaya trees were chopped down on 10 acres of Big Island farmland under the cover of night last month. Hawaii County police said the destruction appeared to be done with a machete, but there are no leads and few clues beyond the tree stumps and all the fruit left to rot.

“It’s hard to imagine anybody putting that much effort into doing something like that,” said Delan Perry, vice president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association. “It means somebody has to have passionate reason.”

A growing theory among farmers is that the attack was an act of eco-terrorism, a violent protest against the biotechnology used in growing papayas here. Police did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The majority of papayas grown on 170 farms on Oahu and the Big Island are genetically modified.

University of Hawaii scientists developed the genetically modified fruit that’s resistant to a ring spot virus that wiped out production on Oahu in the 1950s and was detected in the Puna district on the Big Island in the 1990s. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are crops whose genetic makeup has been altered to give the plant a desirable trait. The genetically modified fruit is credited with saving Hawaii’s $11 million papaya production industry.

“We wouldn’t have a papaya industry today if it weren’t for the transgenic papaya,” said Alicia Maluafiti, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents the seed industry and protects biotech crop growers. “Without a transgenic papaya restricting the expansion of the virus, that virus would be prevalent today.”…

One of the affected farmers, Erlinda Bernardo, said fellow papaya growers often worry about retaliation from those who are against GMOs. “Most of the product on the island is genetically modified,” she said. “If not, most of the farmers would suffer, there would be more unemployment.”

Bernardo, her husband and four children are preparing to plant again in another area after 3,000 trees worth $15,000 on five leased acres were destroyed. “We’re afraid to plant in that area, so we’re giving up the lease there,” she said. “When you start all over again, you have to wait a year for the papaya to bear fruit.”

We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more:

Delan Perry
Vice President
Hawaii Papaya Industry Association
Hilo, Hawaii
President
Volcano Isle Fruit Company
Pahoa, Hawaii

Q: Could you provide insight into the assault on the Hawaiian papaya industry, which involved the chopping down of thousands of papaya trees, decimating some 10 acres of farmland? Since the large majority of Hawaiian-grown papayas are genetically modified, is this an act of eco-terrorism by anti-GMO activists? Is the incident isolated or has there been a history of such attacks?

A: In fact, something on a similar scale happened about a year ago, covering 13 or 14 acres, actually on the same road. Most people think the acts are related. Police have persons of interest, but are still investigating.  That’s one reason we are offering, and the industry is supporting, a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those involved. And we continue to solicit donations. The industry wants to encourage someone to step forward and put these people in jail.

Q: Was your business attacked?

A: I grow papayas in Pahoa on the eastern corner of the Big Island.  Our farms were not hit this time, but we were affected in a different incident about 10 years ago. We’re a diversified farm for over 30 years. We mostly produce for the local market with products ranging from hydroponic lettuce to orchids, citrus and avocados. Papaya is an important part of our business, but not a majority.

Q: What is the impact of these attacks on the industry?

A: For the farmers involved, it’s pretty devastating. Puna, the main growing area, is made up of a lot of fairly rural areas with thousands of acres perfectly suited to growing papayas. We have several hundred mostly small farmers. For perspective, there may be 1500 acres to 2000 acres producing at one time. The attack targeted 10 acres in the lower elevation part of the Puna district. It was a large number of trees at 800 trees per acre, which is a lot of damage.

Papayas are a relatively short term crop; they grow four years and then they get replanted. That was $55,000 to get those trees that were destroyed up to that age so that is significant to the family farms that were involved.

Q: Considering this isn’t the first attack, isn’t there a way to set up better security? How is it possible for people to cut down thousands of trees without being noticed?

A: It’s relatively easy to chop down these trees; if someone has the will, they only need a machete, not a chain saw. This is a rural area; it was done at night, a mile or so off a dirt road. There are many, many farms but no fences. There isn’t even electricity in parts. It’s usually a very mellow and friendly area but this makes people on edge and fearful. 

Unfortunately, there is a large amount of our agriculture vandalized. It is troubling, it’s expensive and it hurts mostly small farmers, crushing their economic viability. When anti-GMO activists steal or destroy property, all they are doing is depriving family farms of their livelihoods and their ability to feed people; it’s disheartening.

Our papaya industry is different from the corn and soybean industries in our reasons for introducing genetically engineered crops. We did it because we had to, not to boost product quality and yields. Papaya Ringspot Virus got into the main papaya growing region of Puna, and the technology with GMOs was there to eliminate a disease that was fatal to the industry. These papaya farmers didn’t have any option but to embrace the technology unless they wanted to grow something else or shut down.

Q: How important is the Hawaiian papaya market?

A: For the local market, papaya is the number one fruit. It’s exported to the mainland continental United States, and Canada is a very important export market. It’s very popular there, especially in western Canada. Canada went through a parallel regulatory process and approved it.

Without genetically engineered papaya, people wouldn’t have an industry. On the Big Island, it’s one of the biggest industries, important economically to everyone, approaching 1,000 farms. 

Back in the early 90s, the industry began the process of going through the USDA, FDA and EPA to get approval for commercial use, and went through a similar process in Canada in 1999 or 2000. We’ve been working on deregulation in Japan because it is an important export market to the industry.

The only variety going to Japan now is the traditional Kapoho variety, which is not disease-resistant. But if you have a farm in a very isolated area or there are no other papaya fields around you, you can produce it, but it’s much more expensive.  It’s continuing but as a much smaller market.  It used to be bigger, but became so complicated to grow. Deregulation with Japan has been a project for 10 years. We’ve had three agencies in Japan approve genetically modified papaya and now it is in the consumer protection area assessing the marketing issues for the Japanese people.

Q: Do other countries face the same virus issues with papayas and if so, what are their solutions?

A: In many countries, Papaya Ringspot Virus is a serious problem.  In Thailand it curtails the industry. Mexico is a big, big producer and the country has to deal with the virus. Brazil does as well, and they open up new virgin areas to run away from the virus. Here in Hawaii, we don’t have places to run. I know research has been done in many, many countries, but I don’t know of any other countries besides China that have commercialized genetically modified papayas.

The growing conditions in Hawaii are ideal for papayas. They can grow without irrigation. Most of the time we’re blessed with showers, and the land is rocky and well drained because it’s volcanic. We have lots of sun and adequate rainfall. Farmers are never satisfied, and like anything else, contend with insects and fungus, but overall conditions are quite perfect.



Mira contacted Dr. Richard Manshardt, a geneticist at the University of Hawaii to learn more…


From left to right are Dr. Maureen Fitch, Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, and Dr. Richard Manshardt.
Photo credit: University of Hawaii.

Dr. Richard Manshardt
Assistant Professor in Plant Breeding
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawaii

Q: In light of the recent attack against genetically modified papayas, could you shed light on the evolution of the product and your role in the process?

A: I was part of the team 20 years ago that developed the genetically engineered variety. Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, as a virologist at Cornell University, had been interested in diseases in plants, and had a hard time getting good papayas in New York because of diseases. Dr. Gonsalves is from the Big Island of Hawaii, where ultimately the Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRV) made its way into that production. The virus was long recognized as a grave limitation. People have looked at resistance materials within papaya species to try to eradicate the disease historically plaguing the industry here. If we didn’t solve these problems, there wouldn’t be an industry.

Q: Was genetic engineering the only viable solution?

A: Conventional breeding efforts weren’t practical because there was not a high enough level of resistance and they introduced traits not favorable to papaya production. Nothing very useful came out of it. Dennis Gonsalves got into this in the mid-80s, working with a grad student to produce through mutation a mild form of the virus to infect plants, producing less serious problems and protecting the plants from more virulent strains.

Inoculating young plants in this way worked to a degree in Hawaii.  The yields were somewhat lower but farmers could get a good crop. When testing the virus in Taiwan, it didn’t work well, not to the point of being economically useful. This is another attempt, cross protection, which is used in citrus and tomatoes and there is a history of applications where it’s useful.

Dr. Maureen Fitch from the Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station in New York was doing graduate doctoral work at University of Hawaii in my lab and developed an important part of the process — the ability to regenerate genetically modified tissues to plants. Dr. Gonsalves developed the gene, Dr. Fitch developed procedures for growing the gene, and I tested the material in the field.

The gene protected the papaya from the virus. Within two years of testing we knew it worked and demonstrated its usefulness in the field.

Q: How long did the government vetting process take and what was involved before it was approved for commercial use?

A: We spent seven years testing through USDA under field conditions to be sure it wouldn’t become a super weed. FDA looked for any effects on workers and toxic side effects, and EPA tested for food allergies. There was no budget for this, so we did it on the side. Dr. Gonsalves spearheaded the whole thing and was responsible for commercial employment. He wanted to make sure it got out in the field, and didn’t end its tenure as a scientific research project. Finally, in 1998, 10 years after we started, it was cleared for commercial use.

Q: There are several variety names bandied around. Could you clarify?

A: The variety actually genetically engineered was initially called Sunset. Once its virus resistance had useful characteristics, we called it Sunup. The industry is used to growing a light orange yellowish fruit and that’s what people expect, but the fruit of the Sunup was red. So to convert it, we made a conventional hybrid between Sunup resistant to virus and Kapoho Solo (the name solo came about for any small papaya in which one person could eat the whole thing and all commercially released Hawaiian varieties carry that colloquial Solo name). The hybrid created yellow flesh fruit that was resistance to the virus. Those hybrids were actually made in the early 90s.

The commercial genetically modified varieties are the Rainbow (yellow flesh) and the Sunup (red flesh), both good quality fruit.  Not to confuse you, but the original red flesh papaya was called Sunrise, which has been around 40 or 50 years. There was another closely similar red flesh line with comparable attributes and better shelf life called the Sunset variety (Brazil grows a lot of that), and the genetically engineered one is Sunup.

The theme I want to get across here is that from the 50s to the 90s, several decades of research took place from conventional breeding to cross protection approaches. I tried many of these approaches and got nice vigorous virus-resistant plants but couldn’t do anything with them because the plants became sterile or unproductive. None provided the control needed for the industry and that’s the rationale for going after genetically engineered product.

Q: Does that mean the overwhelming majority of papayas produced in Hawaii are genetically modified then?

A: In major growing areas of Hawaii, papayas have to be genetically engineered. I don’t have the latest figures, but in 2009 the National Agricultural Statistics Service has figures of around 65 percent to 85 percent of production in the major growing areas is Rainbow or genetically modified Sunup. Some non-GMO traditional Kapoho is exported to Japan. Farmers can grow it but are continually losing crops.

Dr. Gonsalves moved from Cornell around 2000 to head up the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii, and has taken on responsibility for the deregulation effort in Japan to export genetically modified papayas. Japan’s organizations analogous to the USDA and FDA have accepted the product, but there are still labeling issues and some environmental protection issues that are being resolved. The process has been long and very rigorous — tied to specific information results of scientific research.

Q: While violent acts of protest against genetically modified food are criminal and people committing them have been called eco-terrorists, are there valid concerns regarding genetic engineering?

A: A lot of people are not concerned about the science of GMOs, but the corporate control. Whoever did this act… we don’t know what the reason, it’s hard to say, but it’s a crime and these people should be prosecuted. There could be other reasons for doing this besides the issues of GMOs.

That said, there are legitimate concerns with GMOs. It’s a powerful technology moving genes from one species to another, but it’s not the genetic engineering that’s dangerous; it’s a matter of understanding the science and what you’re moving.

There are definitely cases where people have done things in good faith and in the testing process there were allergies to this specific protein this gene was making. There are good reasons for concern but that’s why there is a deregulation process.

In our case with the gene we used, it was a papaya gene and people have eaten papayas with this gene for years without any problems… It’s  analogous to immunization, where one viral gene reacts as a resistance gene for the real virus. The name for this is gene silencing. The gene is there but its output gets silenced.

Q: What are the most important points you want readers to take with them from our interview?

A: Three quick points I can make:

One, the GMO material is safe; nobody knows everything and I don’t pretend I know everything, but it’s been consumed for over a decade, tested ad nauseum and there has been no evidence of any health problem.

The genetic procedure is also safe but it is important the gene is well characterized and tested to be sure it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. That’s the normal deregulation procedure.

Second: It is problematic that organic growers have decided they don’t want to grow GMO products. There is no genetic restriction except for genetically engineered. Organic growers have selectively decided not to grow them. They can grow anything and call it organic; it’s a production procedure not a genetic procedure. It doesn’t restrict the kind of plant you can grow. I’m saying there is a distinction here, which is very arbitrary.

And yet, it’s easy, at least in the papaya case, to prevent any contamination from coming into non-genetically engineered papayas. We are doing research on how papaya pollen gets around, and cross contamination is not an issue. The most important thing is not to plant genetically engineered seeds.

The third point I want to make is that different approaches to agriculture are all good when they are appropriately applied. Organic makes a lot of sense from the sustainable component, which takes a long term view and tries to promote an ecosystem that is nurturing for agriculture. These are good values but they are very labor-intense and tend to be costly to affect.

If working with a tree crop with a long crop cycle, you can’t do conventional breeding with many generations, and putting gene resistance into a long perennial crop like that speeds up production dramatically. People are getting the message from both sides, and at some point it will make sense to grow organic Rainbow papayas. In an agricultural context, there isn’t a conflict. Conflict comes from emotional, religious, or ethical issues, which don’t make it wrong, just not scientifically based or agriculturally based.

It always comes down to risk/benefit; if you only look at risk you won’t do anything, and if you only look at benefit, your actions could be ill-advised.

Even with risk/benefit analysis, the risks and benefits are different for different groups of people. No one needs papaya; you can live without papaya. However, if you’re a papaya producer, it’s important, etc.

The job of federal agencies and scientists is to put the options out there in the context of the economic and health components of the American food supply and consumers make the choice. And that gets us into labeling issues, a whole other discussion. 

Our purpose at the University is to get fact-based information out and look at the issue in the most unbiased way we can present. The ideal democracy is the informed consumer.

There are a lot of myths and hearsay regarding genetically modified organisms. We look to be an anchor.

These different breeding and agricultural approaches are good when used appropriately. It wouldn’t make sense to do GMOs when you could do it easier with conventional, just as it wouldn’t be appropriate to grow 50,000 acres of animal feed organically. These are not conflicting approaches except for the emotional issues.

It goes without saying that destroying property for political reasons is an act of terrorism. If the issue here is GMOs, then opponents have the same right to petition congress as any other citizen. They also have the right to encourage consumer boycotts and refrain from purchasing products themselves. They obviously do not have the right to go destroy other people’s property just because Congress didn’t vote their way.

We are, however, somewhat skeptical that opposition to GMOs is what motivated this destruction. It is possible, but we suspect that the anti-GMO forces would have been proud of their work and claimed “credit” for it. We suspect it is either personal or financial in motivation. Maybe they hope to drive these farmers out and buy or lease the land cheap themselves?

Our question is where are the police in all this? This already happened, so one would think the police would have installed hidden cameras, offered substantial rewards for information, done aerial surveillance, etc. The fact that it can happen again and again and the police are ineffective at dealing with it is unacceptable.

One point raised in the interviews that we think is of great importance is the issue of whether or not the rules governing organic food should continue to prevent genetically modified foods from being sold as organic. This is really a triumph of marketing over good sense.

If scientists do a breeding program with different types of papaya and through conventional cross-breeding they get the gene for resistance to Ringspot virus to move from one variety of papaya into another, that is perfectly OK to market as organic. But if a geneticist uses molecular techniques to do the same thing, to end up with the exact same papaya, that is somehow beyond the pale.

It really makes no sense. Two exactly identical pieces of fruit, one is acceptable to market as organic and one is not, solely because of the way the great-great-great grandparents of the fruit were created.  It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Here is a local news report with pictures of the damage:

<a data-cke-saved-href="http://video.app.msn.com/watch/video/vandals-destroy-3-big-island-papaya-farms/1d0romc2i?cpkey=7bf9f734-4abf-4f7d-8b2a-d23cae084af4%7c%7c%7c%7c&src=v5:embed::" href="http://video.app.msn.com/watch/video/vandals-destroy-3-big-island-papaya-farms/1d0romc2i?cpkey=7bf9f734-4abf-4f7d-8b2a-d23cae084af4%7c%7c%7c%7c&src=v5:embed::" target="_new" title="Vandals Destroy 3 Big Island Papaya Farms">Video: Vandals Destroy 3 Big Island Papaya Farms</a>

 




Jobs Speech On Football’s Opening Night Already Fraught With President’s Fumbles

The job news is bad: US Economy Created No Job Growth in August, Data Show:

Employment growth ground to a halt in August, as sagging consumer confidence discouraged already skittish U.S. businesses from hiring, keeping pressure on the Federal Reserve to provide more monetary stimulus to aid the struggling economy.

Nonfarm payrolls were unchanged last month, the Labor Department said Friday. It was the first time since 1945 that the government has reported a net monthly job change of zero. The August payrolls report was the worst since September 2010, while nonfarm employment for June and July was revised to show 58,000 fewer jobs.

President Barack Obama will address the nation on jobs:

President Barack Obama will unveil a new job growth package in a speech to be delivered in early September, a senior administration official told CNN Wednesday.

The president intends to spend much of this fall pushing a sharply divided Congress to pass the plan, the official said.

The administration has not finalized that package, but it's likely to include tax cuts, spending on infrastructure and measures designed both to assist the long-term unemployed and bolster certain struggling sectors of the economy, the official said.

The speech is scheduled for Thursday night. The whole process of scheduling the speech has led to further questions about the President’s team and its understanding of the strictures they operate under. The White House had originally announced that the speech would take place on Wednesday night. Of course, the President has no right to conscript the chamber of the House of Representatives to give a speech. He has to be invited. The White House team never asked to be invited and that date conflicts with a long-scheduled Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library.

Perhaps this could have been worked out had the President asked, but having tried to order around a co-equal branch of government, the House Leadership was in no mood to be cooperative and suggested the speech could wait a day.

The President had little choice but to bend and he did.

Then the focus of concern at the White House switched to the fact that they weren’t certain if very many people would care to listen to another presidential speech on the economy, especially if it conflicted with the Saints–Packers game. So they set the speech for an early 7:00 PM Eastern time – which is, of course, 4:00 PM Pacific Time: Obama Speech Won’t Conflict with Football.

"I can assure all you football fans that he will be completed before kick-off," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The lack of interest is mostly because the president is said to be likely to rehash many small proposals that he has already made: Spend money on infrastructure, make schools more energy-efficient, extend unemployment insurance, etc. These ideas are small and exhausted and will neither help the President nor create many jobs.

The President could save his re-election prospects by unveiling a bold plan that would actually cause a jobs boom.  We laid it out for the President a year ago in this piece in The American Thinker. Solving the Unemployment Crisis




Participate In Tip Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament

Coming up on Monday, September 12, 2011, is the Third Annual Tip Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament, which benefits the Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence.

There are always a lot of reasons to attend  these types of events. There are business relationships to make and reinforce, and this event is held in Loveland, Ohio, and so it is nearby Kroger headquarters. Reggie Griffin, Vice President of Produce and Floral Merchandising at Kroger, has been generous in his support of the event.

Yet, even more, there is a kind of spiritual benefit to participation, a way of tipping a glass to those who helped build the industry in which we all toil. For some, the connection to Tip Murphy is personal; others are only remotely familiar with Tip and his contribution to the trade.

data-cke-saved-src=When the first iteration of the tournament was held, we wrote a piece titled Tribute To Tip Murphy, and we told a story that, in retrospect, makes the case for participating:

We had known Tip for many years, but our friendship took to a different level when Tip left Chiquita and was looking for a job and reevaluating his life. We spent a few hours together at the PMA convention in 2006 and talked for a long time about what mattered in life, about family and friends and career. After the convention, Tip sent us a note telling us how so many people in the industry had been so kind:

“I wanted to send you a short note to thank you for your comments to me at PMA about my situation. I very much appreciate all of the support in this phenomenal industry… it is truly a testimonial to the great people and great relationships in the Produce Industry!… Thanks again for your interest in me… I truly appreciate it!!”

The little happiness we can share is that we are so glad we spent the time to sit down and try to be a friend to Tip. Concern for another person manifests itself in a richer and more rewarding relationship. We are plenty busy at PMA and really had no time for that discussion yet making the time resulted in an acquaintance becoming a friend and thus was one of the most rewarding decisions one can make in life.

Now here is the sadness. In December of 2006, after Tip had accepted a position with Paganini Foods, Tip invited the Pundit to travel with him to Sicily in January 2007. Nominally the trip was to visit citrus growers, but Tip had laid out a great opportunity to have fun and become better friends.

We didn’t go on the trip. Can’t even remember why — basically there was office stuff and work and not wanting to be away from home. We left it that we would make a point to do it in the future.

We never did. And now we can’t.

There is surely a lesson there for everyone.

So the lesson is to participate when you can.

You can register to play here.

You can do a sponsorship here (Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS is sponsoring the lunch):

And make a donation here:

Foundational grants for the program were provided by Chiquita Brands North America, Naturipe Farms LLC, Paramount Citrus and Ready Pac Produce.

The Pundit was honored to be asked to serve on the advisory board along with Todd Melton of Chiquita, Scott Owens of Paramount Citrus, Bruce Peterson of Bland Farms, Bill Schuler of Castellini Company, Bob Spence of Ready Pac, Dick Spezzano of Spezzano Consulting Services, Robert Verloop of NatureRipe Farms and Barbara Gaitan of Emerald Packaging. Facilitation of the event is ably handled by industry veteran Dana Davis on behalf of the Foundation.

If you can come or support the event, please do so. If not, please say a prayer or raise a glass for Tip’s wife, Gretchen, and their daughters. This whole tournament and scholarship program is a way of letting them know that Tip’s accomplishments, both professional and personal, are remembered and honored. 

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