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United foundation establishes Center for Global Produce Sustainability

by | April 22, 2009
LAS VEGAS -- The United Fresh Produce Association's Research & Education Foundation announced April 22 that it will form a new Center for Global Produce Sustainability, designed to help companies across the fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain enhance their businesses through sustainability. The center will initially be funded through a $1.1 million endowment grant over four years from Bayer CropScience.

The announcement was made by United Chairman of the Board Tom Lovelace of McEntire Produce and by John Smith, director of the horticulture region for Bayer CropScience, during the opening general session of the United Fresh 2009 convention, here.

"Sustainability has been one of the most important issues discussed among our board of directors, our Global Advisory Council and other leadership groups over the past several years," Mr. Lovelace said. "United has been working with a number of allied partners to better understand and define sustainability as it pertains to our fresh produce supply chain. Now, with this great support from Bayer CropScience, we will be able to intensify those efforts, and also begin to develop real tools and programs to help companies from grower through retail and foodservice to proactively manage sustainability in their businesses."

The Center for Global Produce Sustainability will join three other centers within the United foundation: the Center for Leadership Development, the Center for Business Management and the Center for Food Safety, Quality & Nutrition. Each center develops its own programs, which in the aggregate are designed to enhance the ability of the fresh produce industry to provide healthy, safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to consumers around the world.

"Bayer CropScience is pleased to make this commitment to the United foundation to collaborate with the fruit and vegetable industry in enhancing sustainability," Mr. Smith said during his remarks. "In this particular market, understanding the views of the entire food production supply chain is critical to producing enough safe and affordable food for the ever-expanding world while protecting and enhancing the environment for the future. We cannot achieve our goal alone, which is why this center will focus on enhancing relationships with fruit and vegetable growers, the food chain and research partners in the U.S. and globally to ensure meaningful dialogue and advances with regard to sustainability."

According to United President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel, support from Bayer CropScience in helping establish the new center will provide both the focus and resources to enhance strategic work of United Fresh with allied partners in the areas of sustainability, including industry associations, government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

"Our sustainability efforts with the center will be about building partnerships that best serve members of the produce supply chain in order to deliver them the tools and services they need to enhance their own businesses," Mr. Stenzel said. "Fruit and vegetable growers have long been the most committed stewards of the land, and we need to ensure that enhancing sustainability is recognized as an opportunity to improve our businesses rather than one more burden."

The new center will focus initially on reaching out to current partners in the sustainability world, specifically helping to advance sound, scientific principles and metrics for sustainability through the produce supply chain.

"United is already a committed partner in developing the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, and we look forward to deepening our support and involvement in this effort," Mr. Stenzel said. "We'll also continue our work as a member of the ANSI Sustainable Agriculture Standard Task Force, and work with the Keystone Center's Field to Market program in agricultural sustainability.

"In addition, United's Global Advisory Council has made a strong case that our sustainability efforts need to be global in nature, just like our fresh produce industry. Therefore, we will be working with our members and allied partners around the world to ensure a complementary approach to these issues," Mr. Stenzel said. "Bottom line, both Bayer CropScience and the United foundation are committed to developing the tools and assistance companies in the fruit and vegetable supply chain need to enhance sustainability in their operations as a positive business strategy."

To provide leadership and direction to these efforts, the new center will develop an advisory board consisting of leaders from across the fruit and vegetable production chain and allied partners. In addition, the foundation will be appointing new staff to help coordinate the work of the center. Individuals interested in potentially serving on the center's advisory board are asked to contact United Fresh for further information.