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WASHINGTON -- The United Fresh Produce Association has announced the appointment of Ray Gilmer as vice president of communications, where he will bring more than 20 years of combined experience in agricultural issues management, public relations and crisis management to United's senior management team.

"Ray is well known to many throughout the produce industry, due to more than a decade heading up communications and public affairs at the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association," Tom Stenzel, United's president and chief executive officer, said in an April 8 press release. "We are indeed fortunate to add him to our team."

Mr. Gilmer will join United Fresh April 20 and will be based at its headquarters office here.

United Fresh Chairman Tom Lovelace of McEntire Produce added in the release, "United Fresh is a leader in driving priority issues for the produce industry, and the communications function has never been more critical than it is today. I'm really pleased that Ray will be spearheading the United Fresh programs that focus on media relations and member communications, as well as communications support for critical legislative initiatives."

Mr. Gilmer will lead United's communications outreach to key news media, underscoring United's leadership on food safety, nutrition, labor issues, transportation and supply chain, and other priority issues.

"With Ray's experience, he will also quickly become a valued resource to United members, providing direct counsel and support in crisis communications and multiple areas of the business," Mr. Stenzel said.

"Adding Ray to the United team is a great benefit for our members," said Jim Lemke, senior vice president at C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. and chairman- elect of United Fresh. "Ray probably has some of the strongest communications credentials in the produce industry, and I look forward to working with him to further bolster United's recognition as the leading voice for the produce industry."

Mr. Gilmer joined the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in 1994 as director of communications and education, and was named director of public affairs in 2000. While there, he led communications initiatives on issues such as international trade, farm labor, pest eradication, social responsibility and food safety. He also worked closely with United and other industry groups on multiple farm bills and country-of-origin labeling initiatives, providing leadership for outreach to key stakeholders, such as lawmakers, news media and coalition partners.

Mr. Gilmer has served on the board and executive committee of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, where he contributed to development of the Fruits & Veggies: More Matters program. He also served as president of the Agriculture Institute of Florida & Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, as well as vice president for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Mr. Gilmer has also worked in broadcast journalism and in a public relations agency capacity, serving clients such as Monsanto and Kodak. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in radio and television from the University of Central Florida and a master's degree in broadcast administration from Boston University.