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IFPA’s Washington Conference fights for fresh produce

By
Craig Levitt

Cathy Burns, CEO of the International Fresh Produce Association, and Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, opened this year’s Washington Conference, which was switched from its traditional September meeting date to June 10-12, at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC.

Among the topics Burns emphasized was improving and growing produce consumption. The plan is to expand the fresh fruit and vegetable program, include more fresh produce in USDA procurement programs, grow fruit and vegetable incentives in SNAP, and support implementation of the updated WIC food package.

Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack

“This industry is an economic engine,” Burns said. “We contribute almost $340 billion to the economy; in the U.S. alone we support over 2.2 million jobs. We are not a rounding error, we are here, we are strong and we make a huge economic impact. Our products matter and our voice matters on issues that are so important to sustain our industry.”

Burns talked about the importance of labor, the farm bill, packaging and food safety. “They are giving little regard to current industry practices," she said of packaging regulations being passed. "If implemented, the packaging rule will compromise food safety and quality, and increase food waste.”

Burns also touted the continued support of the Food Safety Modernization Act: “We need to ensure our members ability to comply.”

Regarding the farm bill, she said, “It was the greatest single investment in our industry and it really must be passed this year.”

Despite the importance of the farm bill, Secretary Vilsack was unsure of the likelihood that it would be passed this year. “I think we are not going to have the farm bill until policy makers are realistic about the resources available,” he said.

Vilsack also talked about the importance of the fresh produce industry and reiterated that the industry “has a partner in the USDA, and we want to be a good partner.”

Craig Levitt

Craig Levitt

About Craig Levitt  |  email

When his dreams of becoming a professional hockey player came crashing down due to lack of talent, Craig Levitt turned to journalism. He graduated from Hofstra University in 1992 and has covered various areas of the retail food trade since 1996. Craig joined The Produce News in 2017 and is now managing editor. In his spare time, Craig still plays men’s league hockey (poorly) and enjoys walking the aisles of his favorite supermarket with his wife and two daughters.

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