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TUBAC, AZ -- Members of the Nogales produce industry, who supply the United States with the bulk of its winter vegetables, gathered here Nov. 12- 14 for business sessions and networking events designed to create dialogue and exchange ideas as the Nogales season was preparing to kick off.

The 41st annual Nogales Produce Convention, facilitated by the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, included daylong seminars featuring officials from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and U.S. Customs & Border Protection, which monitor the flow of produce exports to the United States from Mexico.

On Nov. 12, FDA officials gave updates on its methods to monitor the quality, safety and veracity of produce imports. Dominick Veneziano, director of the Division of Import Operations for the FDA, told those in attendance that it is utilizing its PREDICT program, which stands for predictive risk-based evaluation for dynamic import compliance targeting.

Among the goals of PREDICT, an internal system of the FDA, are to improve screening of imports and to expedite the entry of non-violative goods while also preventing the entry of adulterated goods.

Mr. Veneziano said that having the produce industry maintain proper records and submit accurate data are key factors for expediting crossings.

Industry members in attendance voiced concerns about extended delays of shipments when product samples are sent for testing at laboratories, sometimes as far away as Washington, DC. While Mr. Veneziano said that his agency is doing everything it can to speed the process, he suggested that the produce industry must also share the burden and invest in additional coolers and other equipment to maintain the quality of product while it is in detention.

On Nov. 13, officials from Customs gave presentations related to the tomato suspension agreement and the upgrades at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.

The annual golf tournament, held Nov. 13-14 at the Tubac Resort and Rio Rico Golf Course, and the opening reception Nov. 12 and closing fiesta Nov. 14 rounded out the social elements of the popular convention.