The United Fresh Washington Policy Conference was held in Washington DC last week. This is an annual conference that brings together the entire produce industry to share its voice with the government. It brings together growers, packers, shippers, packaging companies, transportation companies, commodity associations, and everyone else involved with putting fresh fruits and vegetables on the table. It is where the industry learns about day to day issues as well as issues that are going to impact the future of the industry. It is where individuals march on Capital Hill and have face to face conversations with Representatives. The industry voices their concerns, their hopes, their successes, and their ideas that will help shape the industry and keep the farms, the companies, the sellers and American families healthy and viable.
In order to ensure our businesses are here tomorrow and around for the generations to come, companies and individuals have got to make a commitment to participate. A conference like this costs money and daily duties to businesses and families are left behind. However, this is critical – It’s what has to happen to be successful in the future.
Have a Voice
We can discuss and debate issues all day. However, if we want something done about them, we have to do more than just talk to each other in the coffee shop every morning. We need to be talking to the people that we voted for in order to really get things done. We have an obligation to make sure that the decision makers are educated and understand the ramifications of their decisions to our industry.
How are our elected Representative supposed to know how these issues affect us? How they affect jobs? How they affect the environment? How they affect health? How they affect national security? How will they know – - – If we don’t tell them.
Immigration policy – Millions of dollars of fresh produce won’t be harvested this year because there is not enough labor. Reform is urgently needed in the form of a guest worker program. This has been an issue for years, and there has yet to be any progress.
National School Lunch Program/Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – The mandatory 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetable serving per meal has a chance to be repealed this year as many schools have issues with the execution, cost and limited choices for students. However, as this policy stands now, many children have access to fresh fruits and vegetables who otherwise wouldn’t.
These are just a few of the hot button issues that we were able to discus with lawmakers – knowing there are no easy answers and many sides to each story. The Representatives and their teams were eager to listen and ask questions. Some issues they were passionate about, and some we had to push – which is our job. The folks in Washington have a lot on their plate, and many factors for each issue to take into consideration. As we were told in an opening Keynote presentation, if we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu.
We are made up of many
“We” is made up of individuals. It’s not made up of other people who have more time on their hands to do “this sort of thing”. In order for our industry to thrive during challenging times, WE have to make our voices heard. It’s up to us. We have to be a team of many. We don’t all have to agree on the specifics of how everything is handled, but we do have to understand that we can each, individually make a difference.