(April 28) The spectrum of government relations is taking on a broader role at the Produce Marketing Association.

For Kathy Means, a 15-year PMA veteran, the switch is all encompassing.

Means, who most recently was vice president of issues management, is now vice president of government relations for the Newark, Del.-based group.

Instead of spending a quarter of her time helping the industry connect with government, as in the past, she now is dedicated to that.

“The produce industry is being regulated more strongly. We’re going to see more of that in food safety and security,” Means said. “Whether it’s in offering comments on regulatory issues or helping push a certain bill, we’re responding to a need from our members, and from those in Washington who need industry experts to talk to them about issues.”

PMA’s newfound regulatory footing may seem in stark contrast to the sort of unspoken agreement that has evolved between the group and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, whereby United handled advocacy at the government level and PMA saw to marketing and supply chain issues.

But Means said there will be cooperation between the two groups.

“Any time it makes sense for us to work with United we’ll be doing that,” she said.

Tom Stenzel, president of United, declined comment.

The reason for PMA’s shift can be found in its membership.

Only 27% of PMA’s 2,400 member companies are also members of United, she said.

To Means, and the PMA board, that seemed like a message that its membership’s government relations needs could be better addressed. Despite the fact her issues management department had been doing some government and regulatory work since 1990, Means said, “It has not been very visible.”

As for now, PMA does not intend to hire a dedicated lobbyist but can draw upon such resources when needed, she said.

“We’re not going after every piece of legislation that affects produce, but more those that are marketing related or central to the supply chain,” she said. “We’ll approach those on a case-by-case basis.”

A main thrust, she added, will be in pushing self-regulatory measures, to keep the industry out of the government’s crosshairs.

PMA’s ongoing outreach to regional produce associations now will include government relations as well.

“We want to work with other groups to bring them programs about government affairs and self-regulatory issues, as well as public affairs,” she said.