“Our time is now.”
That was the biggest them of International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962 CEO Cathy Burns’ State of the Industry presentation October 27 at the Global Produce & Floral Show.
It would be easy to dismiss this idea as a cliché but considering IFPA is just finishing its first year of existence, and looking at the agenda it has prioritized, I think the urgency is real.
Merging the two industry associations (United Fresh and PMA) into one, followed by the Produce for Better Health Foundation being absorbed into the IFPA Foundation for Fresh Produce, means the produce industry is finally speaking with one voice.
That voice demands attention and results.
“We are the best industry,” Burns said. “We’re on par with water and air. It’s time the world recognizes us.”
IFPA sent eight recommendations to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, and at the late September meeting, the Biden administration will incorporate six of them in its new nutrition strategy.
This has resulted in $8 billion in private and public sector commitments to improve the nation’s food system and citizens’ health through better diets.
“Poor diet is the leading cause of death worldwide,” Burns said, noting that only one in 10 Americans eats the recommended number of fruits and vegetables.
“What if more people knew the key to health is on your plate not in a pill?” she asked. “The solution to our health challenges are on the farm, not in the pharm.”
IFPA is in a position to demand and receive more visibility.
The next step is accountability.
With IFPA’s increasing influence in Washington, DC, it needs to hold government decision-makers accountable, so that funding better matches up with recommendations. That hasn’t been the case in a long time.
Burns made it clear that they will work with any leaders regardless of politics.
“IFPA is bipartisan: Buy produce and buy floral every day,” she said.
It’s a funny line, but it’s a good strategy, and it has a good chance to work because any politician can advocate for better nutrition without a partisan attack coming at them.
Likewise, IFPA members need to hold their association leaders accountable now that it speaks with one voice for the industry.
Increased produce consumption is the easiest scorecard. It’s certainly not only on IFPA leaders, but they’re in the best position to push the levers to make it happen.
And then it’s on growers, shippers, processors, transportation companies, retailers, and foodservice operators to deliver on that growing demand.
Judging by the innovation on display at the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show, the industry is ready.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote that of the seven strategies IFPA laid out, two stood out: demand creation and advocacy.
It’s clear from Burns’ State of the Industry address, and priorities throughout the year, that these are at the top for them as well.
“IFPA is not in this to simply change the game,” Burns said. “We are in this to change the world. And together with you – our members – we will. Because our time is now, right now. We cannot miss this moment.”