Food safety, trade agreements and reducing transit times were among the topics on the agenda

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) hosted its Spring Policy Summit on 14-15 March, bringing together industry leaders, policy makers, and experts to discuss critical issues facing the fresh produce industry.

FPAA spring summit

The summit featured a diverse range of speakers and panel discussions covering topics such as food safety, trade agreements, the economic benefits of trade, and reducing transit times for fresh produce shipments.

Following a welcome from Lance Jungmeyer, president of the FPAA, the keynote address was delivered by ambassador Doug McKalip, chief agricultural negotiator for the US Trade Representatives, who shared his insights on US-Mexico trade and the economic importance of the relationship.

Dr Gary Williams, emeritus professor of the Argibusiness Food and Consumer Economics Research Center at Texas A&M University, addressed the state of the industry and its economic impact. FPAA Chairman and Vice president of Sales for Crown Jewels, Rod Sbragia, was the moderator for this topic.

Diego Ley of Del Campo Supreme, Margarita Velez, Sonora economic minister and Sergio Lugo of AALPUM discussed the numerous challenges importers face with timely border crossings and how the industry can work with regulators to address challenges in the supply chain. This topic was moderated by Georgina Felix, director of operations and international affairs of the FPAA.

State Director for US Senator Mark Kelly, Luis Heredia, reported on the opportunities and challenges in Congress that impact Southern Arizona and the produce industry.

One of the highlights of the summit was the panel discussion on how the produce industry and USDA can work together to enhance programs like US marketing orders and grade standards.

The panel featured a team of experts from USDA, including Heather Pichelman, associate deputy administrator of the specialty crop division; Michelle Sharrow, director of the Market Development Division; and, Ryan Wilson, director of the Specialty Crops Inspection Division.

The USDA team was joined by industry leaders Javier Badillo of Fresh International, Jorge Donnadieu of Terra Fresh and John Pandol of Pandol Brothers. Industry participants discussed how certain grade standards or marketing orders currently don’t take into account evolving consumer preferences and variety innovations, such as in the case of specialised table grapes including Cotton Candy and Jelly Berry, for instance.

The first day of the summit included a working luncheon for the North American Food Safety Group, where industry and government experts across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada discussed efforts that advance cooperation and increased food safety outcomes. Jeff Hall, from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, and Georgius Gotsis, CEO of Veggies From Mexico,moderated this group meeting.

The topic of food safety carried over to the second day as Dr Mauricio Castelo of the US Food and Drug Administration and MC David Soriano, General Director of Aquaculture, Fisheries and Food Safety of SENASICA talked about their efforts to increase training, education, and other initiatives to help strengthen food safety efforts. FPAA member, Guillermo Martinez of Frello Fresh, moderated this discussion.

Participants at the summit also had the opportunity to learn from US Customs and Border Protection on how the agency is using technology to improve the efficiency and security of moving commercial goods, including fresh produce, at land ports of entry. Chris Sullivan, Director of Cargo Conveyance and Security Division of US Customs and Border Protection and John Sagle, Deputy Executive Director from the Agriculture Programs and Trade Liaison, US Customs and Border Protection shared insights on CBP visions for the future of trade facilitation,

“We are delighted with the success of our Spring Policy Summit, which brought together experts from across the industry to discuss critical issues facing the fresh produce industry,” said Jungmeyer.

“We look forward to continuing to work with our partners and policymakers to drive progress and promote the growth of the fresh produce industry in North America.”

The FPAA’s next big event this year will be the 54th Annual Convention under a new name and layout, the Southwest International Expo will be held 2-4 November 2in Tucson at Lowes Ventana Canyon.