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There have been numerous produce growers and shippers in the news lately for reasons they would rather not be: recalls, foodborne illness outbreaks and, in one notable case, even prison terms for company principals.

“Unfortunately, the court of public opinion renders its verdict within 24 hours after the first reporter calls or the first TV camera goes on,” said Cheryl Miller, chief executive officer of Tampa, FL-based At The Table Public Relations. “How you handle the first 24 hours of a crisis can make all the difference.”

The most critical factor is having a public relations crisis communications plan in place ahead of any incident, added the company’s Bill Barlow.

“Just like the military has guns they hope they never have to fire and you have Band-Aids in your medicine chest you hope you’ll never need, you’ve got to be ready for things you can’t predict are going to happen,” Barlow said. “How you get through a crisis is can be as simple as the difference between being proactive or reactive.”

A proactive approach has a plan in place for dealing with any crisis. A reactive approach comes across to the public and media as a deer-in-the-headlights moment.

“When most people are reactive they’re huddling internally trying to sort out what to do. Meanwhile the media’s contacting them, reporters are hitting deadlines, they’re not getting answers, they’re speculating. Now the first round of coverage is speculative then it gets worse and worse and worse,” Barlow said. “If you’re proactive you meet them at the curb — you come out, you’ve got a designated spokesperson, you’ve got some stock answers and hopefully some media training and are ready to deal with the situation because you had a crisis plan in place which allows you to meet the situation head on and look like you have it under control.”

Determining how prepared a company is for a crisis is a fairly simple process. ATTPR has a five-question checklist that makes the process painless:

Do you have a written crisis plan in place now?

Do you have selected spokespersons and are they media trained?

Do you have your initial crisis team contact list developed and does everyone in your company know and understand their responsibilities during a crisis?

Do you know what to say or how to handle queries when news media contact you about your crisis?

Do you have resources in place should a crisis exceed your capabilities or outside resources that can give you objective counsel?

“If you don’t know or can’t answer or you’re not sure, it’s time to pick up the phone and call a professional,” Miller said.

“A lot of people think they don’t need a crisis plan but that’s the same as the military saying, ‘We’re not going to buy guns until someone shoots at us,’ “ Barlow said.

Whether a company handles crisis public relations communications in-house or relies on outside professionals, an independent — and unbiased —agency can help.

“We have a toolkit that helps companies make sure they have at least gone through the initial steps of preparation so when they do have a crisis they can move quickly,” Miller said. “We have out-of-the-box and custom solutions for any situation.”

Better yet, ATTPR and other professionals often offer no-cost evaluations of companies’ current crisis PR preparation plans.

“First of all you have to have an objective view of the situation,” Barlow said. “That’s something every company thinks they’re capable of but in reality — and especially under pressure — that’s usually not obtainable. Second you have to balance that plan with your corporate agenda. Third, it’s got to make reasonable sense for any situation. If you can balance those three things you can establish a good plan. But generally the objective opinion does not come from within.”

Added Miller, “In 2013, there’s no excuse to be hanging in the breeze when it comes to crisis preparation.”

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PMA launches redesigned website, provides better access to resources
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Protecting the 2014 Pacific Northwest cherry crop
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Good season expected for Pacific Northwest cherries
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Wish Farms' consumer program features recipe videos
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Domex Superfresh Growers' orchard tech
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Local sponsorship fuels national health and fitness messaging for California Giant
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CMI's high-quality KIKU apples
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E. Armata completes renovation of Hunts Point facility
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Lone Star focuses on service
There are some things Trent Bishop, sales manager of Lone Star Citrus Groves in Mission, TX, and one of the company’s founders, just can’t control. One of those is the disposition of his competitors. When Lone Star was formed in 2007, there were a bit more than a handful of packer-shippers in south Texas in the citrus industry.Lone Star’s Texas Sweeties packed and ready to ship. Over those years several packers have been sold to companies outside of the Lone Star... Read more
When J.B. Cutsinger began selling Texas citrus in northern California he was a much younger man and the Texas industry included more than a dozen packer-shippers. A lot has changed in those close to 40 years. But Cutsinger still sells Texas citrus in much of the Golden State and considers his firm — International Citrus and Produce in , Burlingame, CA — the “go-to” citrus supplier for the area, at least for Texas citrus. “Yeah, I think after all these years people... Read more
Peter Condakes Co. moves sales to New England Produce Center
Peter John Condakes, president of Peter Condakes Co. Inc., told The Produce News that the company has made some major location changes in recent times. “Suzanne Polymeros, a vice president and partner is in charge of fruit and western vegetables,” explained Condakes. “Peter Leo Condakes is also a vice president and in charge of Southern and imported vegetables. In March we moved their operations from the Boston Market Terminal to the New England Produce Center... Read more
“We’re doing about the same things that we’ve always done and have built our reputation on, but we’re doing them even better,” Shawn Grant, owner of Grant Stanton Produce Co. Inc., located at the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA, told The Produce News. “We had a good summer with basically the same items we’ve been handling, but we moved more product and sales were stronger. I attribute the increases to people loosening up on their spending a little, and... Read more
Veg-Fresh Farms launched its “Good Life” line of organic produce in 2012 in response to the growing demand for organically grown products. Since then, the group has expanded the line to include peppers, onions, tropical fruits and, most recently, strawberries.   Upon the heels of opening its new distribution facility earlier this year, the Veg-Fresh team announced the shipment of the three millionth package of “Good Life” organic produce. “With the U.S. demand... Read more
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FreshPack and Produce Pro transform frustration into shocking growth in sales
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Country Sweet Produce is taking proactive measures to deal with California’s ongoing drought. “The water shortage in California has definitely affected our decision making,” Commodity Manager Cody Rose told The Produce News. “We have extended the days between irrigation sets to help conserve. We have the water this year but are farming as if we didn’t. We are well aware of the impact for next year’s crop if we don’t get a significant amount of rain or a good snow... Read more
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Tater Man is early out of the gate this year with cured sweet potatoes from Alabama
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PURE Bioscience seeks FDA approval for patented prewash that may reduce produce pathogens 100-fold
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Wayne E. Bailey puts 2013 behind and heads into great 2014 crop
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Stemilt goes long with new apple packingline
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New ownership strengthens General Produce’s stellar reputation
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Southern Produce aligned  for a great sweet potato crop
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Volume, sizing down, but quality excellent for Quail H Farms
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Nickey Gregory Co. serves Southeastern states from headquarters on the Atlanta Market
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JJ Jardina celebrates 90 years in business
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PMA Fresh Summit 2014
On the day that the Produce Marketing Association’s 2014 Fresh Summit opened, Bryan Silbermann, PMA chief executive officer, promised it would be the most well-attended event in the history of the... Read more
PMA Fresh Summit 2014 kicks off in Anaheim
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Natural Blend, new vegetable dehydration plant, holds opening ceremony in Farmville, NC
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FPFC meets in Southern California
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Southern Roots reception at SEPC conference
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California ag secretary keynotes FPFC event
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SEPC Fall Conference opens at Brasstown Valley
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Potatoes and tomatoes on the menu at EPC dinner meeting
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NEPC holds trade show under tents
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NEPC produce and floral expo opens
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Roundy’s George Hurst honored as 2014 Mango Retailer of the Year
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Opportunities abound for garlic industry
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Walmart Canada launches Half Your Plate program
Walmart Canada has joined Half Your Plate, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association's healthy eating campaign designed to get Canadians of all ages to eat more fruits and veggies to improve their health. After a successful launch on social media this summer, Half Your Plate is now making its way onto produce packaging and into retail stores across Canada. “We... Read more
Chiquita Brands International Inc. announced that its shareholders have not approved the revised transaction agreement with Fyffes plc. In early March, the two companies announced plans for a $1 billion merger, but at this point the transaction agreement has been terminated. Chiquita now expects to enter into discussions with the Cutrale/Safra Group regarding... Read more
CAC announced retail contest winners at PMA Fresh Summit
At the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit, held Oct. 17-19 in Anaheim, CA, the California Avocado Commission announced the retailer winners from its 2014 5-Star Performance Program. CAC also hosted supermarket registered dietitians as part of the Produce for Better Health Foundation program, held a brunch for retailers and highlighted the significance... Read more
IPC launches new national television commercial
For the past two years, the Idaho Potato Commission's national television commercial has featured the Great Big Idaho Potato Truck and a perplexed potato farmer who can't seem to keep tabs on it and its fun-loving Tater Team. Now, the IPC has launched a new national television commercial that again features the now-famous farmer searching for his truck... Read more
Pear Bureau Northwest launches fresh consumer advertising
Pear Bureau Northwest is launching a new consumer advertising campaign this season, using print ads to help boost pear consumption and increase the total number of pear consumers. Ads for USA Pears will be featured in Bon Appétit, Cooking Light, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Weight Watchers magazine and Food Network magazine, reaching more than 20 million in combined... Read more
Bailey Farms Inc. in Oxford, NC, is voluntarily recalling 6,215 pounds of fresh Serrano chile peppers due to a risk of Salmonella contamination. The peppers were distributed to Meijer Inc. and may have been sold between Oct. 14 and Oct. 19 at Meijer stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In addition, the peppers were distributed to Publix... Read more
Live Oak Farms appoints Ed Beckman to newly created COO position
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Itaueira Farms launches new sliced melon product
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Avocados from Mexico rolls out new promotional tools
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New York Apple Growers partners with Wegmans to introduce SnapDragon apples this fall
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ANAHEIM, CA -- With the average child viewing around 5,500 unhealthy food ads on television per year, compared to the fewer than 100 healthy food ads featuring fresh fruits and veggies, it's no wonder 33 percent of children in the United States fall under the category of "overweight or obese." And this is exactly the problem the produce industry hopes to change... Read more
The new website at D'Arrigo Bros. Co. of Massachusetts has plenty of information about this wholesaler located on the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA. It also contains, as one might expect, lots of history and old-time photos about the well-known D'Arrigo family, which got into the fresh produce industry back in the 1920s and is perhaps best known for... Read more
United Fresh to honor Mike Cavallero with Lifetime Achievement Award at Midwinter Leadership Forum
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Whole Foods launches first-ever national brand campaign
Whole Foods Market has launched its first national brand campaign to highlight its quality standards, healthy offerings and key milestones as a pioneer in the natural and organic food industry. By communicating the company’s deeper purpose and its history of celebrating food and the people who produce it, the multichannel advertising initiative is intended to... Read more
Chris Veillon to head marketing at Nature Fresh Farms
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Ready Pac names Phil Yamamoto VP of procurement
Ready Pac Foods Inc. has hired Phil Yamamoto as its vice president of procurement. In his role, Yamamoto will be responsible for establishing a consistent, dependable and cost-effective supply of materials and agricultural goods to ensure the most efficient delivery of high-quality products to the consumer. He will assist in the assessment and rebuilding... Read more
New SunSelect greenhouse grows California peppers year-round
SunSelect, a leading Canadian greenhouse grower, will ship its first-ever California-grown tomatoes this week. This historic shipment marks the beginning of a new era for the British Columbia-based grower, as the doors to its brand new 32-acre greenhouse officially open to fresh opportunities. Along with cocktail and traditional tomatoes-on-the-vine, SunSelect’s... Read more
After the close of the 2014 Produce for Kids campaigns, the organization reached a milestone donation of more than $5 million raised to support local children’s charities. Through in-store campaigns, the digital Power Your Lunchbox Pledge, and with the help of retail and produce partners, Produce for Kids is making a substantial impact in local communities. During... Read more