Cathy Burns, former CEO of PMA, and now CEO of International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962 says she’s proud of IFPA and its achievements so far.
“In coming together, we were able to leverage the combined expertise of our legacy organizations while supporting our members with the services, insights, and connections they seek to grow their businesses—and ensuring that our role and voice as an industry has an even greater impact,” she says.
At the time the merger was announced, PMA and United Fresh outlined seven strategies that would dictate the combined group’s activities.
The first three of these strategies included serving all sectors of the global fresh produce and floral supply chains and growing global membership and participation; providing expertise and business solutions in all aspects of the industry, from food safety and supply chain management to sustainability and technology; and conducting government advocacy.
Then there’s bringing all sectors of the diverse supply chain together to support efficiency and profitability; engaging with global bodies and allied organizations on free trade, standards, harmonization, and global consumption growth; and enhancing business-to-business sales and marketing connections across the supply chain.
The last and perhaps most pivotal tenet calls for creating consumer demand to increase sales and profitability for its members.
Retooled events and programs
In the two years since the merger was approved by the members of both groups, progress has been made in many of these areas.
For example, the organization has reimagined its events, including the sizeable annual expo in October, the Global Produce & Floral Show, which replaced PMA’s Fresh Summit.
When announcing the Global Produce & Floral Show, Burns noted that the effort was not meant to be the Fresh Summit under a new name, but instead was a completely rethought show in keeping with the goals of the new organization.
This trade show is still supplemented by smaller events throughout the year, many of them international, including the new version of United Fresh’s Washington Public Policy Conference in September, with a simplified name: the Washington Conference.
Kenny Lund, executive vice president of Allen Lund Company, LLC BB #:107465 in La Canada, CA, says he appreciates the continuation of the annual Washington conference, which he believes was one of United Fresh’s strongest initiatives. This shows the new organization is “speaking for the growers and not just the retail side,” he explains.
“Sellers and receivers and growers have different needs,” he goes on to say, and appreciates that IFPA has been “dedicated to making sure it’s cognizant of the outcomes of both.”
In September 2022, the IFPA’s Foundation for Fresh Produce—which replaced the United Fresh Start Foundation and the Center for Growing Talent by PMA—announced it would fold the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) into the program.
Effective January 1, 2023, PBH became part of the Foundation for Fresh Produce, coming full circle from its origins as an offshoot of PMA.
The mission is not new: the previous foundations were created to improve consumption and access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while providing plenty of educational materials for retailers and consumers along the way.
The “Have A Plant” movement from PBH continues post-merger and may expand into other territories outside the United States, though not everyone is enamored with the tagline—believing it causes confusion for consumers with plant-based alternatives to meat.
Another facet of IFPA is boosting its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), developing a DEI Toolkit, and launching a new mentoring program at the 2023 IFPA Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference in Orlando.
In addition, IFPA expanded the reach of its volunteer leadership councils, adding both sustainability and controlled environment agriculture.
Lobbying and funding
Since the merger, IFPA, like United Fresh before it, is continuing to make its presence known in Washington, DC with lobbying efforts.
Mike O’Brien, vice president of Monterey Mushrooms, LLC BB #:116075 in Watsonville, CA, cites several recent accomplishments, including six of IFPA’s eight proposed Fruit and Vegetable Moonshot recommendations being incorporated into the White House’s final national nutrition strategy.
He also mentions IFPA leadership on three White House-endorsed commitments in support of these strategies, release of the group’s comprehensive economic impact report, and receiving government funding for various initiatives including talent attraction and development, expanded food safety education, and climate-smart agricultural practices.
The climate-smart funding, which could total as much as $15 million, was attached to a pilot project called “A Vibrant Future,” meant to incentivize specialty crop growers to adopt sustainable production techniques.
Produce companies supporting the pilot project include Bland Farms, LLC; Wm. Bolthouse Farms, Inc.; Calavo Growers, Inc.; Driscoll’s, Inc.; Limoneira Company; Monterey Pacific, Inc.; Sun Pacific Marketing Cooperative, Inc. and more.
This is an excerpt from the cover story in the September/October 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.