WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee has a familiar face as its new chairwoman and new issues to consider.

Industry advisory group hears about numerous issues


During first of a two-day meeting here March 30, the committee voted Maureen Marshall, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y., as the committee chairwoman and Michael Hollister, vice president of sales and marketing at Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, Calif., as the vice-chairman.

Marshall, an 11th-generation grower, was the chairwoman of the first industry advisory committee, appointed by then-Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in February 2002.

“I’m excited to be back,” to fellow committee members. “I have a passion for this industry.”

The first day’s agenda included remarks by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Rayne Pegg.

Merrigan led efforts to establish the fruit and vegetable advisory committee as USDA AMS administrator in the Clinton administration. She told the committee the agency is trying to figure the right way to proceed on a national leafy greens marketing agreement.

“We need to figure out the role of the small and midsize player,” she said.

Mike Durando, chief of the Marketing Order Administration Branch, briefed the committee on the status of the national marketing order. In addition, the committee heard an update on license fee increases for the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act by Bruce Summers, associate deputy administrator of the AMS fruit and vegetable programs. Summers described progress on clarifying trust protection for suppliers who enter into extended payment arrangements.

Industry advisory group hears about numerous issues
Tom Karst

Jin Ju Wilder, (from left), president of Coast Produce Co., Los Angeles, Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce for Schnuck Markets, St. Louis., and Kathy Means,vice president of government relations and public relations for the Produce Marketing Association, discuss industry issues March 30 at the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee meeting.

Cathie McCullough, director of the food distribution division of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and Ron Ulibarri, acting branch chief of the AMS commodity procurement branch, reviewed commodity procurement activities, including the first purchase of baby peeled carrots for school feeding programs.

Committee member Lisa McNeece, vice president of foodservice and industrial sales for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Grimmway Farms, said she was happy to see the agency is purchasing baby peeled carrots in the wake of fresh-cut apples buys. The agency is expected to announce successful bids of carrots April 2.

“We will crawl before we walk, but I’m excited,” she said.

Lucas Knowles, special assistant to the office of the undersecretary, described the activities of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. Meanwhile, Chuck Parrott, associate deputy administrator of USDA AMS fruit and vegetable programs and Loren LaCore, program analyst for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, described the agency’s farm-to-school initiative.

Leanne Skelton, a USDA senior policy analyst on loan since last year to the Food and Drug Administration, described her work with the joint USDA/FDA food safety initiative. Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for foods with the FDA and Jim Gorny, senior advisor for produce safety in the FDA’s Office of Food Safety, also updated the committee on pending produce safety regulations from the agency.

Agenda items planned for the committee on March 31 include comments about traceability and good agricultural practices harmonization from Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.