(April 24) The proposed merger of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and the International Fresh-cut Produce Association makes sense.

IFPA can ride the coattails of United’s strong government-relations focus, while United gains a larger membership and more clout.

Both organizations put heavy resources into technical and scientific research and related protocol, some of which is unnecessarily being duplicated.

Much would be saved in office expenses and other day-to-day activities.

Their annual conventions have different goals and little overlap in exhibitors, meaning the groups see value in maintaining separate events, both of which contribute monetarily to ongoing operations.

But cut beneath the surface of the proposed United Fresh Produce Association, and some questions emerge.

For instance, the absence of an advocate dedicated solely to the fresh-cut industry could prove troubling for some value-added processors.

Take the not-so-hypothetical case of a food safety scare in which growers and the government blame allegedly faulty practices by fresh-cut processors. Who would stand up for processors in a merged organization that leans more toward growers? With no IFPA around, the new United may find itself riding the fence in such a situation.

And consider the issue of your time.

Both United and IFPA say the merger will not result in a consolidation of trade shows, considering that they’re locked into agreements through 2008.

But the industry continues to make clear it can take no more trade shows, and that many existing ones are too close together.

While there is little overlap in exhibitors, the overlap in companies that attend both shows may be more pronounced. Firms may find themselves strapped to devote attention to both events. Furthermore, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association annual convention falls in the same general April/May time period as the United and IFPA shows.

The new United would be smart to quickly address member concerns about trade show proliferation.

Membership dues will have to be synchronized, too. United has a maximum of $15,000 per company, while IFPA’s is $10,000.

While undoubtedly other questions will be raised, the merger seems to have enough positives to outweigh its negatives.

Members of the new United would find an organization that is eager to help solve problems and be responsive to member input. And the organization would be financially in a better position to meet those obligations.