Locally grown produce will be a major focus of the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual Washington Public Policy Conference Sept. 14-16 in Washington, D.C.

“We’re having a locally grown discussion with attendees, and we’re giving them some ammunition to discuss the energy and momentum locally grown has provided the industry when they visit with their members on Capitol Hill,” said Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications at Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh.

Public policy conference to discuss locally grown
Public policy conference to discuss locally grown

Gilmer

“The value or challenge of the locally grown trend depends on the company. Many smaller or regional companies are probably seeing interest from their buyers in locally grown produce, especially if those buyers are trying to satisfy customers who are specifically looking for local product.”

Gilmer said larger, national suppliers may view demand for locally grown produce as a challenge for meeting year-round contracts.

The idea of the focus on locally grown at the conference is to keep the locally grown category central to discussions about the upcoming farm bill, Gilmer said.

“With the farm bill coming up in the next year or so, we want to make sure locally grown is portrayed in the best, most advantageous light as farm bill discussions get fired up,” he said. “We don’t want anything in the farm bill that would sidetrack the momentum and excitement we’ve seen in locally grown.”

Gilmer said attendees can play an important role in shaping those discussions.

“We’re still trying to get feedback from our membership and our board to see what the best approach would be,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that locally grown is something that is generating value in the industry and we want to make sure that nothing happens from a legislative or regulatory standpoint that would get in the way of that.

“Serious farm bill talks are still weeks or months away, and there’s plenty of time to see where we stand with that and what our message to Congress is ultimately going to be.”

Conference organizers will put together a list of “talking points” for members to take to their congressional delegations, Gilmer said.

“We want to make sure Congress knows that the industry sees this as a huge boon for increasing consumption and the resulting nutritional benefits that this is going to have,” he said.

More information on the conference is available at www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc.