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Country Fresh Mushroom appoints new president/COO

Country Fresh Mushroom Co. announced Oct. 2 the hiring of Jeff Busch as president and chief operating officer, replacing Jim Howard.  

"I am humbled and honored to be entrusted to lead Country Fresh," Busch said in a press release. "I very much look forward to working with the seasoned management team along with the seven cooperative owners to continue the growth and success of this truly special organization."

Ed Leo, chairman and chief executive officer of Country Fresh, said in the press release that he, the board of directors and senior management are all very pleased that Busch agreed to join the company.

"As president and chief operating officer, Jeff will take over the reins from Jim Howard, who very capably helped grow Country Fresh and has decided to move back to Illinois to spend more time with his family," Leo said in the press release. "The board believes that Jeff is an ideal fit with the culture of the company and his enthusiasm and experience will guide the company as it continues to move forward.

Busch, a 23-year veteran of the produce industry, most recently held the position of president of Caruso Inc. in Cincinnati. Prior to that, he has held sales and operational positions with Taylor Farms, DiMare Fresh and Fresh America.

Busch has served the industry throughout the years as a fellow of the United Fresh/Dupont Leadership Program Class 8 and the United Fresh Supply Chain and Logistics Council.

Busch and his wife, Megan, will be relocating to the Kennett Square, PA, area in late October before his Nov. 3 start date with Country Fresh.

USDA revokes preferred PACA treatment for Canadian shippers

Clearly as retaliation for inaction on the part of Canada with regarding to establishing some type of trust protection from bankruptcy for all fresh produce shipped into the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revoked the specialized treatment Canadian shippers have received under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for decades.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2014, and obtained by The Produce News, Charles W. Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Program, informed Canadian officials that because the country does not have a "dispute resolution system comparable to the U.S. system," as of that date Canadian shippers will now be treated like every other foreign shipper utilizing the PACA's reparation services.

Though the action was taken with regard to PACA's dispute resolution system, there is no doubt it was designed to express frustration over Canada's inability to form a trust protection program similar to the one that exists in the United States.

In recent weeks several produce organizations on both sides of the board have warned Canadian officials that this action was imminent because of the failure to address the trust protection issue. In realty, with the Dispute Resolution Corp., Canada does have a system to handle disputes that is similar to what exists in the United States. What Canada does not have is a trust protection program that puts shippers of fresh produce in a priority position when their product become part of a bankruptcy proceedings.

Canadian officials have been working through a long list of issues of reciprocity with the United States for a couple of years now with one of those being the trust protection concern for fresh produce. Recently, Canadian officials took that issue off the table declaring that a change in the country's fresh produce licensing addressed the problem.

Reaction disputing this from both sides of the border was swift.

Industry leaders from Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Texas International Produce Association expressed frustration at a lack of progress toward reciprocity with a joint press release earlier this week.

"The inability of the Canadian government to resolve such a longstanding issue -- one it committed to resolving -- is a missed opportunity and extremely discouraging to U.S. exporters," said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. "We need leadership from Canada to find a path forward to a solution. Producers in both countries depend on it."

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, emphasized the importance of a payment priority program for U.S. shippers. "Protections afforded under PACA may seem less than sexy and may appear insignificant -- until you don't get paid. Then they become one of the most valuable protections afforded to a family farmer."

A little more than a week ago, the Canada-based Fresh Produce Alliance warned this action would occur if Canada didn't address the trust protection issues.

"According to data collected by the Fresh Produce Alliance, American suppliers are losing at minimum $10 million annually through Canadian buyer insolvency," said Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of Canadian Horticultural Council, which along with Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., makes up the Fresh Produce Alliance. "This is, coincidentally, about the same amount that Canadian suppliers are recovering each year through the U.S. Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust. Hundreds more Canadian suppliers depend on the security PACA offers for ease of mind in their trade relationships."

On both sides of the border, the USDA's action on PACA claims is considered a direct response to the trust fund inaction.

McInerney of Western Growers explained that under PACA rules, Canadian shippers have been treated just as U.S. licensees for decades. That has allowed Canadian shippers to pursue a formal complaint without posting a bond worth twice the amount of the damage they are claiming.

Under this new protocol outlined by Parrott of the USDA, disputes originated by a Canadian shipper moving to a formal hearing stage will need to be accompanied by the bond, just as disputes are treated by shippers from any other country.

In his letter to Susie Miller, director general of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Parrott said that in the future if Canada does implement a dispute resolution system similar to the PACA, the need for a bond would be revisited.

The Fresh Produce Alliance was quick to react, aiming its displeasure at Canadian officials rather than the U.S. action.

"Without PACA access, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills will have to post double the value of what they are trying to recover as bond to make a claim," stated Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. "For example, a small producer owed $50,000 would have to post $100,000 cash to make a claim, effectively removing $150,000 from their cash flow/operating line for up to one year. Many cannot afford this [and] will simply have to walk away, losing what is rightfully owed to them."

Situations like this can devastate not only the producer, but also all the businesses connected to them and hits rural communities particularly hard, according to the Fresh Produce Alliance.

"The Fresh Produce Alliance has repeatedly briefed and met with various ministers and [members of Parliament] to raise the importance of the issue," added Fowlie, "yet the government has not taken necessary mitigating action, despite warnings that the removal of PACA access was imminent without confirmation of a Canadian solution."

JMB adds sweet corn to product list

Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt is bringing sweet corn back and it's stealing the spotlight in their newly redesigned booth at this year's PMA Fresh Summit, Oct. 18-19 in Anaheim, CA.

Available in four and eight packs, JMB's sweet corn has been added to their product list for 2014.JMB Like JMB's other fresh produce, sweet corn is available year-round due to long-term partnerships with growers in California and Mexico.

JMB is showcasing its sweet corn by serving delicious corn salsa to attendees during PMA. Sweet corn may be the center of attention this year, but as a global asparagus marketing, packaging and shipping company based in California, asparagus remains JMB's key product, and the company will be sampling their signature Angel Hair asparagus.

JMB delivers superior fresh asparagus to customers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, while representing growers in California and various locations in Mexico and Peru. With these growing locations, JMB has capabilities to offer quality asparagus year-round.

"PMA couldn't have come at a better time to showcase our sweet corn," Dan Miller, worldwide produce manager for JMB, based in San Francisco, said in a press release. "Even though we are showcasing sweet corn as a new product, we are quite familiar with it and will be a great addition to our well-known asparagus and other products."

JMB can be found in booth No. 602 at PMA Fresh Summit.

New officers and new programs mark SEPC fall conference

YOUNG HARRIS, GA — The Southeast Produce Council’s 15th annual fall conference will be remembered for a simple and very moving tribute to its co-founder and longtime executive director. But it will also be remembered for the election of new officers as well as the introduction or rebranding of some new and exciting programs.

The council opened its fall conference Thursday evening, Sept. 25, at the Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa, here, with its traditional get-acquainted opening party.SEPC1686SEPC introduced its new officers at the President’s Dinner Dance. They are President Mark Daniels of Military Produce Group, First Vice President Teri Miller of Delhaize America, Second Vice President Sheila Carden of the National Mango Board, Secretary Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa and Treasurer Steve Pinkston of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., along with Executive Director David Sherrod. This year’s opening party was dubbed the Get Acquainted Hoedown at Brasstown, in keeping with the theme of this year’s event: the Hoedown Touchdown Throwdown in Brasstown.

But before the festivities got under way, David Sherrod, who was officially named executive director during the fall conference, led a ceremony honoring Terry Vorhees, the council’s co-founder and its first executive director. After Sherrod read one of Vorhees’ favorite passages from the Bible, attendees released 64 purple balloons — Vorhees was 64 years old when he died July 30 — and the SEPC directors released 15 crystal balloons — to mark the council’s 15th anniversary. The ceremony brought tears to the eyes of Sherrod and many others that evening.

The conference held two workshops on Friday morning, Sept. 26, one on “Defining Locally Grown” and another on the “Future of Online Grocers.” Both workshops were very well attended.

After the workshops, attendees gathered for the general session and luncheon, which featured keynote speaker John Smoltz, a former Major League Baseball pitcher best known for his years with the Atlanta Braves, and one of only 16 pitchers in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts during his career.

Smoltz told the large crowd about his childhood and how he got into baseball, and he gave a good deal of credit to his parents, who “allowed me to pursue my passion,” and who instilled in him the discipline to help him succeed throughout his life.

Outgoing President Andrew Scott of Nickey Gregory Co. and incoming President Mark Daniels of Military Produce Group both addressed the luncheon attendees, as did Sherrod, who had been serving as assistant executive director of the council during Vorhees’ illness and who had just been officially named executive director.

“It’s a tough road to follow behind Terry,” said an emotional Sherrod, thanking the board of directors and everyone at the Southeast Produce Council for their strong support as he carries on Vorhees’ work in moving forward. He also announced that beginning Oct. 15, the council would have a new address in Millen, GA, Sherrod’s home where he will be working.

Attendees also heard reports from the chairpersons of all the committees during the luncheon.

In one of those reports, it was announced that beginning next year, the name of the fall conference would be changed to Southern Innovations Symposium. That event is scheduled to take place Sept. 17-19, 2015, at Wild Dunes in Charleston, SC, a new venue.

After the general session, the council’s new leadership program for women in produce, known as Southern Roots and chaired by Teri Miller of Delhaize America, held its first official reception. (See separate story on page 82.)

At the President’s Dinner Dance Friday night, the council recognized the 10 members in the graduating class of the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals, known as STEP-UPP and spearheaded by Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa, who serves as chairperson, and Tom Page, retired from Supervalu, who serves as vice chairperson.

Another highlight at the President’s Dinner Dance was the introduction of the four new members of the board of directors: Raina Nelson of Renaissance Foods, Barb Anderson of DNE World Fruit LLC, John Williams of L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms and Daniel Klausner of Apio Inc. The four members of the board who were re-elected were also introduced: Brian Rayfield of J&J Family of Farms, Tommy Wilkins of Grow Farms, Brandon Parker of Shuman Produce and Mike Ryan of Bayshore Produce. All serve for two-year terms.

The new officers were also introduced during the dinner dance. They are Mark Daniels of Military Produce Group as president, Teri Miller of Delhaize America as first vice president, Sheila Carden of the National Mango Board as second vice president, Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa as secretary and Steve Pinkston of Walmart Stores Inc. as treasurer, along with David Sherrod as executive director.

On Saturday morning, Sept. 27, golfers enjoyed the 15th annual Ken Lanhardt Memorial Golf Tournament. The foursome of Steadman Taylor, Matt Howell, Allen Dalton and Kevin Taylor, all of Progressive Freight, took first place with a score of 14 under par.

As always, the fall conference ended with the Ultimate Tailgate Party.

Contacted Monday afternoon, Sept. 29, Sherrod offered his first impressions of the event.

“We were very happy the way things worked out,” he told The Produce News. “We had great attendance at all the functions. Our workshops were at max capacity. Our panelists and speakers were excellent. We had very informative seminars. The Ultimate Tailgate Party was probably the biggest we ever had.”

Sherrod said that 275 people had attended the just-completed fall conference, “almost exactly the same as last year,” which took place in Myrtle Beach, SC.

“The golf tournament was excellent,” he said, and referring to the perfect weather conditions, he quipped, “Terry was looking down and handled the weather.”

Sherrod concluded by saying that throughout the fall conference, “We felt the absence of Terry, but we felt that his spirit was still there. Everyone I spoke to said that.”

FPFC plans 50th anniversary celebration

The Fresh Produce & Floral Council, which will be celebrating its 50th year in 2015, has revealed a new 50th anniversary logo that it will use throughout 2015, beginning with the annual dinner dance.FPFC-50th Logo

"The dinner dance is our first event of 2015," FPFC President Carissa Mace said in a press release. "So, while it's still 2014, we will be using the 50th anniversary logo in all of the dinner dance marketing."

The dinner dance, where the 2015 board of directors will be introduced, will also have a Golden Anniversary theme.

Mace says that there will be "anniversary moments" at the council's 2015 membership luncheons, as well.

"They won't be big parts of the luncheon programs," she said, "but we will acknowledge some milestones and pay tribute to the industry leaders who helped establish the council in its early years."

The FPFC was first established in July 1965 as the Fresh Produce Council, following the first meeting of industry leaders at Cal Poly Pomona in April of that year. The association's name was later changed to the Fresh Produce & Floral Council to recognize the floral side of the industry it also represents.

The FPFC currently has over 360 member companies representing over 900 individual contacts.