As the dust fully settles from the merger, members of the fresh produce community are looking to International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962 to address a number of issues critical to the industry going forward.
“The IFPA has made strides in providing leadership and networking in the areas of sustainability and DEI, so I’m hoping for continued improvement there,” says Jin Ju Wilder, vice president of marketing and business development at Vesta Foodservice BB #:125924 in Santa Fe Springs, CA.
“I think there’s still room to grow IFPA’s role in advancing knowledge and use of technology in agriculture,” she continues. “And there’s opportunity to help with marketing acumen to improve industry performance overall.”
For Kevin Brooks, chief revenue and marketing officer at Procurant BB #:355257 in Watsonville, CA, technology needs some attention, pointing out an array of concerns and opportunities regarding technology, from security to artificial intelligence.
He insists the produce industry is way behind on these issues compared to other industries—like still talking about how to connect EDI (electronic data interchange) systems rather than about leading-edge issues. “I’d like to see a more modernized view of technology as a whole.”
Kenny Lund, executive vice president of Allen Lund Company, LLC BB #:107465 in La Canada, CA, says he would like to see the organization get more involved in political issues, not only at the national level, but in producing and importing states like California, Florida, and Texas.
He notes that state regulations have a big impact on farmers, transportation, and other components of the produce supply chain, citing climate regulations in California, which he describes as unrealistic and onerous for trucking and logistics companies like his.
Cathy Burns, CEO of IFPA, acknowledges the breadth of companies comprising the industry from farm to table and that they represent a key component of IFPA’s success going forward. Fortunately, she says many industry members have already stepped up.
“In addition to our programs and events being oversold, we are very blessed to have an overabundance of members who want to help IFPA lead and grow its influence and relevance by serving on our many councils, committees, and task forces,” she says.
So, it would seem, as IFPA nears the end of its second full year of existence, most are positive about the merger and what has been accomplished so far.
Of course, there’s much more on IFPA’s plate for 2024 and well beyond—and most industry insiders believe the merger gives the new organization a better chance of succeeding on all levels.
Mike O’Brien, vice president of Monterey Mushrooms, LLC BB #:116075 in Watsonville, CA, is optimistic about the future but has a caveat: “The association has a transformational leader in Cathy Burns, and great staff, but we must understand that we in the produce and floral industry are IFPA. The membership and volunteer leadership drives the strategy and execution—so don’t sit on the sidelines.”
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.