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The Southeast Produce Council has announced that Adam H. Putnam, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, will deliver the keynote address at its annual conference this March.

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Adam H. Putnam, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture.

Mr. Putnam will speak Saturday, March 3, during the SPC Retail & Foodservice Conference & Expo, about Florida’s school lunch program and his efforts to get more locally grown produce into school lunch menus. The annual conference, known as Southern Exposure, is scheduled for March 1-3 in Tampa, FL.

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Mr. Putnam was sworn in Jan. 4, 2011, as Florida’s 11th commissioner of agriculture. Before that, he served five terms as a representative for the state’s 12th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before serving in Congress, he served in Florida’s House of Representatives. A fifth-generation cattle rancher and citrus grower, Mr. Putnam continues to farm with his family in Polk County, FL, according to the SPC web site.

The theme for Southern Exposure 2012 will be “Hollywood The Golden Era 1920-1960,” and in keeping with past practice, the council has modified its alligator logo to reflect that theme, SPC Executive Director Terry Vorhees told The Produce News at the end of November.

As usual, the council has planned a wide range of activities for its upcoming annual conference and expo, with some tweaking as it continues to respond to member needs.

The opening-day golf tournament will be held Thursday, March 1, at the Lake Jovita Golf Club. This tournament has sold out for the past two years, according to SPC Second Vice President David Sherrod of Apio Inc. and chairman of Southern Exposure 2012, so golfers are urged to register early.

The always-popular field tours will take place Friday, March 2. Attendees will stop first at the Del Monte Fresh facility in Port Manatee, then visit Wish Farms.

The “Hollywood’s Golden Era” gala opening party will take place Friday evening.

On Saturday, the council will hold two workshops. The first one is titled How Food Bloggers are Influencing Produce Consumers, the other is still untitled but will focus on the Produce Traceability Initiative, according to Mr. Vorhees. In a change from previous years, the two workshops in 2012 will be held concurrently, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., allowing the keynote lunch to become more of a keynote brunch, beginning at 10 a.m.

After Commissioner Putnam delivers the keynote address at this brunch, the council’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which is co-sponsored by The Produce News, will be presented. The 2012 honoree will be announced shortly after the first of the year, Mr. Vorhees noted.

The earlier brunch also will allow the trade show to begin at noon, a full hour earlier than previous years, giving exhibitors as well as retail and foodservice attendees the additional time they had requested.

The trade show until this year has been capped at 200 booths in keeping with everyone’s desire to preserve the intimate atmosphere that has always marked Southern Exposure. But Mr. Vorhees said that in lieu of the strong demand by exhibitors and the resulting waiting list, the council is considering increasing the number of booths slightly.

Southern Exposure 2012 will conclude Saturday evening with the closing party and farewell reception.