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In a little over a month, the United Fresh Produce Association will welcome hundreds of fresh produce industry leaders to Washington, D.C., for the annual Washington Public Policy Conference. This year’s conference, October 3-5, will feature the most recognizable names in national agriculture, food safety, nutrition, immigration and labor policy alongside the most outspoken and influential leaders in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry.
Policy decisions leading to labor shortages, cuts in federal feeding programs, and changes in oversight have repercussions all along the fresh produce supply chain, including effects to the American consumer at the retail and foodservice level.
Held at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, the Washington Public Policy Conference provides unfettered access to C-level executives at produce, ag and food industry leaders, as well as face time with lawmakers and officials in the House and Senate, at USDA, EPA and FDA, and other federal agencies.
Among the highlights of this year’s conference:
March on Capitol Hill – Attendees will split up into groups and hit the Hill for meetings with members of Congress in the House and Senate to talk about the issues affecting the produce industry. Last year’s March on Capitol Hill covered more than 140 congressional offices, including meetings with Sens. Debbie Stabenow, John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Reps. Sam Farr, Bill Owens, Gabrielle Giffords, John Salazar, Jean Schmidt, Heath Schuler, Rosa DeLauro, Lloyd Doggett, Adam Putnam, Jack Kingston, and many, many others. Meetings this year are expected to far surpass last year’s total.
Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill – Called one of the most popular nights in Congress by Rep. Sam Farr, this event has established itself as a perennial favorite among members of Congress, congressional staffers and industry members alike. With a line that stretches down the hallway, this reception packs the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria every year, and is the produce industry’s opportunity to share its bounty with leaders in Washington.
Face-to-Face with Regulators – This year, the Washington Public Policy Conference will include meetings with regulators and agency officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration to address issues like the Food Safety Modernization Act, new school meals guidelines and the Clean Water Act. United has a long history of cooperation and collaboration with USDA, EPA and FDA, and these meetings will provide a window on how that collaboration will continue in the short and long term.
General Session Speakers – Headlined by a Wednesday address from House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, this year’s Washington Public Policy Conference promises an impressive array of speakers from both chambers of Congress, both sides of the aisle and multiple federal agencies.
Market Segment Breakout Sessions – One of the more unique offerings at the Washington conference, the market segment breakouts provide a forum for each of United’s four Market Segment Boards to address topics specific to their industry segments. The Grower-Shipper session addresses the potential impact of E-Verify legislation moving through Congress, while the Fresh-Cut session will focus on issues in food safety and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), including input from the FDA's Office of Enforcement on the top 10 food safety and GMP issues in fresh-cut processor operations. Efficiency in the supply chain is on tap for the Wholesaler-Distributor segment with a comprehensive discussion on how the produce industry can work with USDA, while the Retail-Foodservice session will address the new MyPlate initiative from USDA and the Dietary Guidelines recommendation to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” and how retailers and foodservice operators can take advantage of new policy initiatives like MyPlate, new menu labeling regulations, WIC and others to increase produce consumption and increase sales.
For a full schedule of events, please click here.