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FPAA addressing industry concerns

NOGALES, AZ — Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, described some industry concerns being addressed by his Nogales-based association.

Jungmeyer was interviewed before he attended the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal.

But, speaking in general terms favoring the free trade agreement, he noted a “powerful story” exposed by businesses in the United States, Canada and Mexico that are often invested in the other North American trading countries. This integration of the supply chain shows a confident, progressive way of thinking, and shows a business rationale that North American businesses understand the need for predictable supplies and pricing. This value is attained by investing in the most productive, efficient sourcing locations.

Like other businesses, Jungmeyer noted that the produce industry may make a dangerous assumption when dealing outside the industry, assuming “that people know who you are and know your story.” That is usually not the case, and industry leaders need to assure that NAFTA negotiators do understand the strength and position of international produce trade.

An important spokesman for U.S. agriculture has been Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (R), who is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Jungmeyer said that Roberts “has been knocking on the president’s door a lot. He can explain the big picture.” Jungmeyer has been encouraged over the last several weeks because of the committee chair’s enlightening the president on U.S. agricultural trade issues.

Jungmeyer’s understanding is that Trump has become “more flexible” and “is more open to keeping the agreement” than he was months ago.

As to produce operations in his own backyard, Jungmeyer said, “I continue to be amazed by the building in Nogales.” There has been a vast amount of new cold warehouse construction in Nogales to meet increased demand. “Despite the rhetoric on NAFTA” as potentially bringing a bad strike against produce exports to the United States, in Nogales, “people are looking at the industry as a long-term investment. It’s a testament to the optimism of the people in the industry and how hard they work to build up their family-owned companies.”

On another topic, Jungmeyer said FPAA continues to educate its membership on the details of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

FPAA’s food-safety educational sessions have been sold out, but “the one in early December was not sold out. That tells me that the industry now has enough people who are trained.

“For our members, almost all are required to be compliant now,” he added.