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INDUSTRY VIEWOINT: 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!'

Let me be the first to echo what the iconic sign at the end of Las Vegas Boulevard has said for years: "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!"

The 2009 United Fresh convention and expo promises to be the best yet. We look forward to a house packed with attendees fully immersed in new technologies, innovations and solutions that will revolutionize the produce industry.

Over the next week, United Fresh will address and explore anything and everything that affects your produce business -- from the latest products to the newest techniques to the most pressing policies on Capitol Hill.

With specialized workshops on ways you can increase produce sales through the Women, Infants & Children program and the national rollout of the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable School Snack program, and our town hall discussion of the recently proposed National Fruit & Vegetable Research & Promotion Board, this week promises to show new ways to grow your business. We will have express educational sessions right on the show floor to give you an inside look at topics ranging from food safety to tips from our award-winning retail produce managers on how to sell more fruits and vegetables.

On Wednesday morning, April 22, we'll hear from business magnate Steve Forbes, who will share tips for growing your business during these uncertain times, and we'll unveil the new United Fresh Issues Scan 2009, our annual research on how food safety, the environment and social issues are affecting produce shoppers.

When the trade show is open Wednesday through Friday, you'll want to make time to visit our new Produce Traceability Demo Center, a 10,000-square- foot working display where you can explore the most cutting-edge technology and best practices to navigate the ins and outs of the Produce Traceability Initiative.

As you meet with exhibitors, I think you'll be amazed at the new product offerings, new technologies and enhanced services being provided by many of our members, even in these tough economic times. Then, stop by the United Business Marketplace & Membership Booth to vote for the best new products offered at the show this year. We'll display the winners on Friday morning, as selected by your votes at the show.

Rounding out the week, there's no more important topic facing our industry than the need to harmonize and benchmark produce safety standards and audits. The duplication and inefficiencies in this area are too costly to sustain, and our new Global Conference on Produce Food Safety Standards is the place where we'll set a new course.

The conference will feature representatives from all of the major standards- setting agencies in government and the private sector, as well as auditing groups from around the world. Join us to help set the direction forward on harmonization.

It's a busy week for sure, but don't think we'll keep you locked up all the time in the great city of Las Vegas. A host of networking events from our opening night party on Tuesday at Tao Beach to our Chairman's Awards Banquet on Thursday will give you those fun and professional opportunities to meet new colleagues and customers.

United Fresh 2009 is a place for our produce community to come together to learn, see new products, and share ideas that will help grow our individual businesses and take our industry to new heights.

(Tom Stenzel is president of the United Fresh Produce Association.)