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McCALL, ID — In addition to seating the 2011-12 board of directors and officers at its 49th annual convention, held here June 9-11, the Idaho-Oregon Fruit & Vegetable Association heard industry updates from keynote speakers, Idaho state Sen. Tim Corder (R) and Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association.

 

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Kent Sutherland (third from left), the new president of the Idaho-Oregon Fruit & Vegetable Association, with past presidents Marc Bybee of Fiesta Farms, Ryan Henggeler of Henggeler Packing Co. and Jamie Mertz of Symms Fruit Ranch.

 

During the board meeting June 10, outgoing association President Ryan Henggeler of Henggeler Packing in Fruitland, ID, passed the gavel to new President Kent Sutherland of J.C. Watson Co. in Parma, ID. Replacing Mr. Sutherland as vice president is Dwayne Fisher of Champion Produce Sales in Parma, and replacing Mr. Fisher as secretary-treasurer is Mike Williamson of Williamson Orchards in Caldwell, ID.

The three-day convention kicked off Thursday, June 9, with an evening reception and Texas Hold-Em poker tournament. Delegates got down to business the following morning with an industry breakfast, headlined by Sen. Corder, who chairs the state’s agricultural committee.

Sen. Corder warned attendees that “things are changing in Idaho, and you have a vested interest in those changes.”

Noting that Idaho is redistricting, the senator went on to say that currently the nine-member senate agriculture committee has three members who are actually from an agricultural background.

“When we go forward and redistrict, we will lose 10 percent of that [representation],” he said. “Agriculture is losing power at the state and federal level.”

He spoke of the agriculture industry’s needs in transportation, specifically highways and railroads, and he said that the industry itself needs to lead in the efforts to secure improvements.

Last year, the Idaho house and senate approved the Right to Farm Bill, which the senator said is an effort to “revitalize farming.” And in discussing immigration, he said that the state needs a “reasonable and expedited H2A program,” and added, “Ag better lead this charge and lead it fast.”

Following Sen. Corder, Pat Linden, business manager for Union Pacific Railroad, gave a brief update on rail business, in which he said that the number of rail loads in 2010-11 increased over the previous year.

“I think it’s because rail offers great service and delivery, and we had our best-ever customer satisfaction,” he said. “We are very cognizant of the past, and we’ve made significant strides. Our leadership team is focused on you.”

At the President’s Dinner Friday night, Mr. Henggeler introduced Mr. Stenzel, who cited statistics showing American consumption of fruit and vegetables has not increased over the past 20 years.

“Kids now might be the first generation not to outlive their parents,” he said, noting that diabetes is becoming more prevalent in young people. “Obesity is a crisis.”

But Mr. Stenzel offered that “kids like fresh vegetables, and there is a change going on.”

Schools now offer snacks of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the government-funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children provides fruit and vegetable vouchers.

“That’s now in all 50 states,” Mr. Stenzel said. “Fifty percent of all babies are born to WIC-eligible moms, and those are our future consumers.”

He commented on the school salad bar program launched a year ago by first lady Michelle Obama, saying, “Kids eat a greater variety of vegetables when they have choices at a salad bar.”

Mr. Stenzel said that last year there were 60 salad bars in 12 states, and this year the number had doubled. Over the next three years, some 6,000 school salad bars will be put in place.

And he said that new dietary guidelines that recommend fruit and vegetables fill half of each dinner plate were announced recently by Ms. Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.

Mr. Stenzel said that he encourages donations to the salad bar program.

Saturday night’s dinner was set aside for the introduction of three-time Olympian who won a Silver Medal in Freestyle Skiing at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and multiple World Cup championships. Jeret (Speedy) Peterson has signed on as spokesperson for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee, will make personal appearances and is featured in advertising and other collateral material as well as in a YouTube video, “Cooking with Speedy.”

The committee has added a second web site, USAOnions.com, specifically for the Peterson campaign and to complement its Bigonions.com home site.