(Nov. 18) Coalitions.

That was the buzzword at the 77th annual Western Growers convention Nov. 10-13 in La Quinta, Calif.

That’s also a message Thomas Nassif has preached since he ascended to the presidency of Newport Beach, Calif.-based association earlier this year.

The importance of coalitions for the fresh produce industry has never been greater. Nor have coalitions been needed on more fronts.

Take, for example, the fight for funding for the 5 a Day campaign in the highly competitive battle for share of the stomach. Getting all groups under one umbrella and sending out a consistent message is the only way for this program to enjoy the success it deserves. Moves clearly have been made in this direction, but it’s just as clear that more needs to be done. As Bruce Peterson, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of perishables for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., warns, “Fragment the dollars and fragment the message.”

The same can be said of spreading the produce industry’s message on Capitol Hill, thus ensuring access to foreign markets, working to make trade fair as well as free and giving farmers the freedom to do their job.

It’s obvious to all that by working together, the produce industry can accomplish much more than by focusing on the narrow interests of a specific group. Under the leadership of such groups as Western Growers and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, such thoughts are being put into action.

Now others in the industry should climb aboard the bandwagon in the unified march toward change in getting out the word about the healthful and economic benefits the industry brings to consumers and to the nation.