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Continuing the celebration of its 60th anniversary, the Quebec Produce Marketing Association will hold its 60th annual convention Aug. 23-25 at the Fairmount Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, QC.

With the theme "60 Years of Love," convention attendees will be treated to many exciting activities at the world-renowned resort town nestled at the foot of the Laurentian Mountains about 90 minutes from Montreal.

The convention location is a special one for the QPMA, as it held its 50th convention there 10 years ago.

"It is a memorable place for the association, and I really think that it is amazing that we are already at the 60th convention," Sophie Perreault, executive director of the association, told The Produce News. "There are so many associations, so many networks that you can be a part of that having one that has lasted for so many years is impressive. We are lucky to always have record attendance and have so many people coming. It shows their support and that they enjoy this event."

This year, Ms. Perreault said that the QPMA "put the focus on giving a treat to our members, to celebrate this anniversary with them. We will have a lot of surprises."

The convention will kick off 9 p.m. Thursday with the Presidents' Reception. On Friday, attendees will have a choice of several activities, including Acrobranche, an "aerial hike" through the hotel's on-site forest.

For those who would like to keep both feet on the ground, a two-hour hike on a cross-country trail will introduce participants to the area's plant and animal life -- including a show with some of the region's birds of prey -- as well as the geological history of the oldest mountain chain on Earth.

Golfers will be able to choose from one of three golf courses that are among the more prestigious in the province: Le Diable (The Devil); Le Geant (The Giant); and Le Maitre (The Master).

Later that evening, attendees will be able to kick back, let loose and celebrate at the festive atmosphere of the QPMA's 60th Anniversary Carnival dinner dance and are invited to wear white for the occasion.

"We really wanted to celebrate and make it fun, and that's why we chose the theme of carnival for Friday evening," Ms. Perreault said. "I think that the carnival is really a theme where you can let go and have fun."

Saturday's events will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with the association's annual general meeting followed by two workshops.

The first is titled "Draw me a Picture," which will be led by Frederic Blaise, a food marketing specialist and president of Enzyme Communication Marketing Inc., a Montreal-based marketing and communication group specializing in the agri-food, health and wellness sectors. Mr. Blaise will offer a lively and realistic account of the challenges and opportunities facing consumers.

The second workshop will be given by Fr?d?ric Par?, ecological agriculture program coordinator for Equiterre (an equitable Earth). Equiterre is dedicated to building a citizens' movement by promoting individual and collective choices that are both environmentally and socially responsible. Through its four programs -- ecological agriculture, fair trade, sustainable transportation and energy efficiency -- the organization has developed projects that encourage individuals to take concrete actions that bring about positive change.

A brunch will follow the workshops, and attendees will relive the highlights of the industry from 2006-07 and the winners of the "I Love" contest, which congratulates the QPMA members who have best utilized the "I Love 5 to 10 a Day" logo and theme into their businesses, including packaging, bags or promotional materials will be announced.

Produce veteran Peter Fogarty, owner of Metro Fogarty, a two-store franchise of Metro Richelieu Inc. and QPMA president in 1995 (see story on page 38) will be toasted at Saturday night's closing banquet, where he will receive the association's coveted Pillar of the Industry tribute for 2007.

"For Saturday's banquet, we want to honor the people who made the association what it is today, and that will really be the focus," Ms. Perreault said. "We also wanted to give it a more historical and formal touch, and we will have a music revue by Du Rock a L'Opera, which fits our theme of history because we go through the history of music and it is kind of a link between the two."

Following the banquet, attendees can visit the President's Suite, where they can meet and congratulate outgoing President Michel Levac as well as the association's president-elect for 2007-08, Bernadette Hamel.
WASHINGTON -- Next month, the so-called "no-match" regulation designed to crack down on employers who hire illegal workers goes into effect, and the rule is likely to devastate agriculture and other industries already struggling with a weakened labor force.

Starting in mid-September, the Social Security Administration plans to begin sending out 15,000 letters a week under the so-called "no-Match" regulation. If an employer has a significant number of employees without accurate identity information, the administration will send a "no-match" letter. The employer must take steps to rectify the situation within 90 days of receiving the letter or may be found liable.

"There is a right way to react to a 'no-match' letter, which, if followed in good faith, will give the employer a safe harbor against liability, and there's also a wrong way to respond, which is to ignore it," Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said at an Aug. 10 press conference. "And the regulation makes clear that if you ignore a 'no-match' letter, you are putting yourself in a position where that fact will be used against you if the time comes to assess liability."

The "no-match" rule is just one of a number of new initiatives announced earlier this month. The Department of Homeland Security plans to increase fines against companies that knowingly hire illegal workers and to expand criminal investigations, institute new border-security measures such as the construction of 370 miles of fencing, and to hire more than 18,000 border- patrol agents.

"The new rule will be catastrophic to agriculture," said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League in Fresno. "With an estimated 70-90 percent of our workforce undocumented, this enforcement action has the potential not only to force production out of the United States but [it] could put permanent crops, such as table grapes and tree fruit, totally out of business."

He added, "This action will affect not only seasonal workers who will be fired but also some long-time employees who are productive members of their communities. Because of the rule's timing, citrus may be the first to feel the brunt of the rule since it is harvested in November and December, he said. The only bright spot, said Mr. Bedwell, is that the changes may serve as a catalyst for AgJOBS to move forward.

The legal liability will be a real strain, said Craig Regelbrugge of the American Nursery & Landscape Association, and it will force "a bad set of choices." Employers will be forced to fire workers who don't match up with the SSA database. Some desperate employers and workers may go off the books, he said.

The irony is that the SSA would lose billions of dollars of revenue if that comes to pass, Mr. Regelbrugge added. "It will either hasten a solution or hasten the demise [of businesses]," he said.

John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, said the problem is that Congress did not pass comprehensive immigration reform, and that piecemeal reforms "will do more damage than good."

Mr. McClung said that it is unclear how damaging the no-match rule will be overall, but large companies will feel the impact immediately.

"People are still vague about the safe-harbor provisions," Mr. McClung said. For field labor, it may be very damaging, but it is unknown whether long- term seasonal employees who work at the packingsheds would also be caught under the new rule.

Also, it's unclear how the 90-day no-match response time will work in short- term harvest settings, he said. Others have suggested that the new rule would cause a shell game, as illegal workers shuttle from employer to employer before the 90-day time limit expires.

On Aug. 10, administration officials did vow to reform the H-2A and H-2B guest-worker programs, and to beef up border and workplace security. For agricultural workers, the Department of Labor has been directed to review the regulations implementing the H-2A program and to institute changes that will provide farmers with an orderly and timely flow of legal workers, while protecting the rights of laborers.

"During the legislative process, we heard from many people involved, especially farmers and small business owners, that these programs could be made easier to use while protecting the rights of workers," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement. "That's why the Department of Labor will be reviewing ways to make the H-2A Agricultural Seasonal Worker Program more workable, while protecting the rights of workers."

This may sound more promising than it turns out to be, warned Mr. Regelbrugge. The industry has heard similar promises, he said, but only legislation -- such as AgJOBS -- would systematically resolve the labor shortage.

In the meantime, Mr. Chertoff blamed Congress for not passing comprehensive immigration reform and pointed to the current situation as the consequence.

"As of July 2, more than 1,400 immigration bills had been submitted by state lawmakers, and since January, 170 of those bills have become laws," he said. "Without reform, we will also see many of our agricultural products coming from overseas. And without reform, small businesses and farmers are going to go out of business. This issue is not going to go away; Congress needs to act."
Naturipe Farms LLC, based in Naples, FL, announced that Bruce Peterson has joined the company as president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Peterson is a 37-year veteran of the produce industry who is best known for his 15-year stint at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where he launched and built that retail giant's perishable foods division before leaving the company in early 2007. Earlier this year, he presided over his own consulting firm, Peterson Insights Inc.

"The board of directors and principals of Naturipe Farms are excited that Bruce has joined our company," Edmundo Ruiz, chairman of the board of Naturipe, said in a statement. "He brings a unique perspective to our organization and will help us move the company to the next level of our development."

Mr. Peterson is replacing John Shelford, who served as president of Naturipe Farms LLC since the partnership was formed in 2000. Mr. Shelford, who will leave the company, said in the statement, "I have been honored and proud to be associated with such a progressive company and an exciting industry. I am pleased and support Bruce as he takes the leadership of Naturipe Farms."

"I am thrilled to be joining Naturipe Farms," Mr. Peterson said in the statement. "They have built a very special organization that has some unique characteristics to it. I believe there is a tremendous opportunity to expand their business model to other applications, and I look forward to helping develop the company to realize its full potential."
Whole Foods Market Inc. and Wild Oats Markets Inc. announced Aug. 16 that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has denied the Federal Trade Commission's request for a preliminary injunction related to the proposed merger between Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Markets.

"The District Court's ruling affirms our belief that a merger between Whole Foods and Wild Oats is a winning scenario for all stakeholders," John Mackey, chairman, chief executive officer and co-founder of Whole Foods Market, said in a statement. "We believe the synergies gained from this combination will create long-term value for customers, vendors and shareholders as well as exciting opportunities for team members."

The FTC may choose to appeal the District Court's ruling and may seek a stay from either the District Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to preclude the closing of the merger pending the FTC's appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Markets have agreed with the FTC to not close the merger prior to noon (Eastern time) Monday, Aug. 20. Absent a stay pending appeal, the companies may close the transaction at any point after that time and date.

"We are very pleased with the court's ruling and always had confidence that once presented with the facts, the judge would rule in favor of this merger," Gregory Mays, chairman and CEO of Wild Oats Markets, said in the statement. "We continue to believe this merger is in the best interest of our stakeholders, as it will mean significant career opportunities for our store associates, capital investment in our stores to enhance the shopping experience for our customers, and value-creation for our shareholders. We look forward to closing the transaction."

On Feb. 21, Whole Foods Market entered into a merger agreement with Wild Oats, pursuant to which Whole Foods Market, through a wholly owned subsidiary, has commenced a tender offer to purchase all of the outstanding shares of Wild Oats at a purchase price of $18.50 per share in cash. On June 7, the FTC filed a suit in the federal district court to block the proposed acquisition on antitrust grounds and seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction pending a trial on the merits. Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats consented to a temporary restraining order pending a hearing on the preliminary injunction, which concluded on Aug. 1.

Whole Foods Market recently extended the expiration date for its tender offer to purchase outstanding shares of common stock of Wild Oats to 5 p.m. (Eastern time) Aug. 20.

Whole Foods Market previously announced it plans to transfer all 35 Henry's and Sun Harvest store locations, and a Riverside, CA, distribution center to a wholly owned subsidiary of Smart & Final Inc., a Los Angeles-based food retailer, subject to Whole Foods Market prevailing in the current lawsuit with the FTC concerning Whole Foods Market's merger with Wild Oats Markets and the actual closing of that merger. The Henry's and Sun Harvest stores are located in California and Texas.
ORADELL, NJ -- Armed with charming smiles, a wealth of information about kiwifruit and a cool kiwi-green sport utility vehicle, a team of young men and women are blanketing the New York metropolitan area to help spread the word about "Zespri" brand New Zealand kiwifruit.

The "Power Up" tour, sponsored by Zespri and The Oppenheimer Group, the brand's Vancouver, BC-based marketer, was one week into a six-week sojourn to New York-area retailers, where team members are holding sampling events to help raise awareness of the nutritional properties of the delectable orbs.

"Our goal basically is to increase consumption of kiwi while building awareness of both the green and gold varieties," Jennifer Poulson of The Oppenheimer Group said during a stop to The Produce News' headquarters office, here, where a lunchtime crowd enjoyed samples of both the green and gold varieties. "Overall, people are interested in learning more about kiwifruit, and are intriqued to learn that there are two varieties."

The tour is scheduled to run through Sept. 9 and will make stops at Fairway Markets, King Kullen, King's, Whole Foods, D'Agostino's, C-Mart and Gold City Supermarket locations.