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PMA’s Silbermann sets retirement date, Burns’ role to expand in 2016

Bryan Silbermann, longtime chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, will relinquish day-to-day operational responsibilities to association President Cathy Burns in 2016 and will officially retire from the organization in early 2017.

In a conference call with The Produce News, Silbermann revealed that the general succession plan and retirement date was established on Dec. 1, 2013, when Burns was hired as president.Silbermann-BryanBryan Silbermann

“PMA’s Executive Committee approved Cathy’s hiring as my successor with the knowledge of my intent to retire on January 31, 2017,” Silbermann said.

Initially, the plan was to have Burns transition into assuming the day-to-day operations at some point in 2016, presuming that she met the expectations of the board as president and that the job was to her liking. Silbermann said she “exceeded the expectations of the board,” which has led to the expanded role, effective Jan. 1, 2016. He said the staff will report to her as of that date.burnsCathy Burns

Silbermann will maintain the CEO title and work on specific projects for the organizations during the year-long transition period. On Jan. 1, 2017, Burns will be named CEO and Silbermann will officially retire one month later.

During the transition year, Silbermann spelled out six areas in which he will concentrate his efforts, including offering “advice and counsel” as Burns needs it and “representing PMA at our events worldwide — both in and outside of the United States.”

He will also reach out to the membership and conduct additional face-to-face meetings of the association’s regular members to help them maximize the value of their PMA membership. Silbermann is also planning to work very closely with the Center for Produce Safety on its relatively new governance structure, which has it operating as a separate foundation apart from the University of California-Davis.

During this year, PMA is also intent on expanding its collaborative efforts with other trade associations, especially the United Fresh Produce Association. Silbermann said the two organizations worked very closely on their response to the rules regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act, and that collaboration will continue.

Finally, the PMA CEO will work with current staffer Kathy Means and retired PMA veteran Duane Eaton to update the history of the association, which will eventually be available to the industry in some type of digital format. He said there is a lot of “institutional knowledge” that the trio will attempt to capture for the benefit of the organization and its membership.

Burns noted that during this year she will continue to implement PMA’s strategic plan 2.0, and be the primary contact between the PMA board of directors and staff.

“I will also have my eye on leading PMA’s long-range growth,” she said.

The former supermarket industry veteran, who held a variety of senior management roles in the corporate world for many years, said she has very much enjoyed working for the industry at large as opposed to concentrating her efforts for one employer, as she did for most of her career.

The 61-year-old Silberman joined PMA in 1983 as manager of international trade and market research. He came from the financial industry with no produce industry background. After rising through the ranks for more than a decade, he was elevated to the top spot at PMA on July 1, 1996, when longtime CEO Robert Carey retired. Silbermann said he has been pointing toward a retirement date in this general vicinity for more than a decade.

“And I am retiring, I am not consulting,” he quipped, noting that while he might take on some small projects upon his retirement, his main focus is to retire.

Market Fresh unveiling new line of tray vegetables

Market Fresh Produce, a distributor of a full line of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, avocados and peppers, based in Nixa, MO, announced a new product line of tray vegetables.potato This new line brings customers their favorite items prepackaged for the ultimate convenience.

The new line is pre-portioned and overwrapped with breathable film to preserve the quality and shelf life of the produce and includes its own individual tray with a recipe and nutrition facts. The new line consists of 12-ounce green beans, two-pack hothouse or vine-ripe tomatoes, two-pack red and yellow peppers, three-pack baker potatoes, two-pack zucchini squash, two-pack yellow squash, three-count corn on the cob, six-count Roma tomatoes, three-count cucumber, two-pack red peppers, two-pack yellow peppers, and two-pack green peppers. The new product line is expected to be available Jan. 2.

NatureFresh’s new Ohio greenhouse gets first plants

The reality of locally grown tomatoes from Ohio in the heart of winter took a gigantic step forward when greenhouse grower NatureFresh Farms announced that the first tomato plants for its new high-tech 15-acre Delta, OH, greenhouse had arrived on site and were planted, highlighting the completion of the construction of Phase I.NFF-OhioRed FirstPlants2015Peter Quiring, president of NatureFresh, with the first tomato plants for the company's new high-tech 15-acre Delta, OH, greenhouse.

“This is a great day for NatureFresh to see the first tomato plants arrive here at our new greenhouse in Ohio,” Peter Quiring, president, said in a Nov. 30 press release.

In just over six months from the groundbreaking, NatureFresh built a state-of-the-art facility that will produce locally grown greenhouse tomatoes year round. This will be a first for the state of Ohio to have locally grown tomatoes 12 months a year.

“We will be heading in to 2016 with 130 acres in Leamington, ON, and 15 acres in Delta, OH, for a total of 145 acres under glass,” Quiring added.

Construction of NatureFresh’s Phase II of 30 acres has already begun and expected to be completed by the middle of next summer.

NatureFresh Farms grows and markets an extensive variety of tomatoes, Bell peppers and cucumbers.

“The demand for locally grown produce is increasing year over year,” Ray Wowryk, director of business development, added in the press release. “By reducing food miles and growing closer to home, consumers will have the opportunity starting in February to purchase Ohio grown tomatoes in the winter, which is a first.”

NatureFresh unveiled its OhioRed brand for its new Ohio grown product recently at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Atlanta. The first crop of OhioRed Tomatoes is expected to be ready for picking in mid-February 2016.

“The increase in our acreage in Ohio will help us provide even more product to our key retail accounts in the Midwest and in Canada,” said Wowryk.

Tesco reaches $12 million settlement for class action lawsuit

England-based retailer Tesco PLC has reached an agreement in principle to settle a $12 million class action lawsuit in New York arising out of the company's 2014 overstatement of its income. tesco

The class action was against the company and certain of its former directors and alleged breaches of U.S. federal securities laws in connection with the overstatement of commercial income.

The settlement agreement is subject to confirmation by a federal court in New York. If confirmed, it will settle one of two claims before U.S. courts arising out of the commercial income overstatement; the other claim is brought in Ohio.

Tesco has more than 6,800 stores and employs 480,000 people worldwide.

USDA imposes sanctions on three PACA violators

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on three produce businesses for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act: New Farm Inc., Watermelons Inc., doing business as All Sweet Watermelons, and Farmers Fruit & Vegetable Co.

The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:

  • Watermelons Inc., doing business as All Sweet Watermelons, operating out of Howell, NJ, failed to pay a $143,560 award in favor of a California seller.  As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Charles F. Pagano was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.

  • New Farm Inc., operating out of Brooklyn, NY, failed to pay a $45,614 award in favor of a Texas seller.  As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Jong Hwa H. Kim was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.

  • Farmers Fruit & Vegetable Co., operating out of Dallas, failed to pay a $36,745 award in favor of a Texas seller.  As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Carlos G. Guillen and Edgar A. Rodriguez were listed as the officers, directors and/or major stockholders of the business.

In the past three years, the USDA resolved approximately 3,700 PACA claims involving more than $66 million. Its experts also assisted more than 7,100 callers with issues valued at approximately $100 million.