(Feb. 4, 2:51 p.m.) What's notable about the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association's annual Produce Solutions Conference is that the topics can shift like the wind. Whatever issue is most timely typically is good fodder for discussion.

And there's no topic more timely these days than the recessed economy.

This year's topic at the conference, slated to take place March 19-21 in Nashville, is "How to manage market disruptions."

With that in mind, this year's conference focuses on two primary topics, said Julia Stewart, PMA's public relations director: What's going on with the economy and how it's affecting the fresh produce industry - and how that affects consumer behavior.

"The reason we picked those topics," Stewart said, "is that PMA realizes times are hard. But we believe some of the most brilliant innovation can occur during times of hardship."

There are forums on "The World in Which We Now Operate," and "Economic Influences on the Industry Today."

But the conference goes further than just touching on those topics, Stewart said.

"It's not just about feeding you information and then leaving it to interpretation," she said. "We have learning forums, which are discussion groups that take place after hearing a speaker speak. And we make sure every link in the supply chain is represented in a discussion group."

"All have the chance to analyze and synthesize the information and process it into practical application," she said.

Stewart said her organization was excited about the speakers scheduled for the conference. Michael Sansolo, a former executive with the Food Marketing Institute, is scheduled to moderate a forum titled "Change is inevitable . . . Resistance is Futile!" focusing on creative solutions in helping businesses navigate through tough economic times.

Trends analyst Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill., has been invited to moderate a panel on how the economy is changing consumer behavior. PMA's chief science officer, Bob Whitaker, hosts a food safety forum on the first day of the conference.

"Our events always feature a lot of networking and relationship building," Stewart said.

The register-early-and-save deadline for the conference is Feb. 6. The deadline for an early-bird discount on hotels is Feb. 17. The last day to register for the event is March 2.