NEWARK, DE -- Johnna Hepner, Produce Marketing Association's director of
food Safety and technology, joined other fresh produce industry
representatives to conduct an educational field tour Aug. 21 for U.S. Secretary
of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in California's Salinas Valley.
She participated in the tour as part of the association's efforts to better
educate government officials about the produce industry and its particular
food safety challenges, which have included recent field tours for other
Secretary Vilsack was invited to tour the valley by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and
Jim Costa (D-CA), who organized this event to showcase the state's
agricultural value and to demonstrate the breadth of the industry's food-
safety protocols. The three-stop tour ended with a roundtable discussion of
the progress and strategic direction of food safety research, in which Ms.
Hepner participated with several PMA members including Tim York, PMA past
chairman and Center for Produce Safety chairman, who was also representing
"We are very pleased to have the chance to join in and share our industry
knowledge with the secretary," Ms. Hepner said in an Aug. 31 press release.
"This outreach is right in line with our work to collaborate with government
officials and get them acquainted with the cutting-edge, food-safety
initiatives our industry has in place, as well as the unique needs and
challenges we have that preclude one-size-fits-all approaches."
In recent months, PMA has also conducted similar tours to build key
relationships with government officials and to enhance their industry
knowledge. In April Bob Whitaker, PMA's chief science and technology officer,
escorted Michael Taylor, the Food & Drug Administration's deputy
commissioner for foods, on a tour in Nogales, AZ. Last fall Bryan Silbermann,
PMA’s president and chief executive officer, hosted Margaret Hamburg, FDA’s
commissioner of food and drugs, and Mr. Taylor on a tour of small farms in
PMA's home state of Delaware.
"Reps. Farr and Costa recognize that anytime you can get an official the
caliber of the secretary of agriculture with boots on the ground in one of our
fields is a very good thing," Ms. Hepner said in the release. "We greatly
appreciate their effort to help the secretary get an understanding of the
produce industry, our practices and our unique food safety challenges and