It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, at last, the end of the beginning.
On Friday, March 23, 2007, the California Leafy Green Advisory Board accepted the metrics to be used in the marketing agreement’s verification program.
It has been a long road to get to this point, and the many people from United, WGA, private industry, academia, etc., that contributed to this document should receive much appreciation. It has been tireless and difficult work.
Which is why, for the good of the industry, it is very important that this whole matter be handled well from this day forward. A few points to consider:
It is important that the board not give off any notion that it does not accept responsibility for the substance of the GAP document. The consumer press will run with this, as will political enemies of the industry, who will see it as an attempt to evade responsibility.
Some very well intended board members want to say that they perceive the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement’s role is to verify and certify that the signatories of the agreement follow GAP guidelines developed by industry and revised by industry. That it is the industry and not the board that adopts the GAPs.
But this position won’t hold. The CMA clearly states:
“Leafy Green Best Practices” or “Best Practices” means the commodity specific leafy green best practices document and the requirements contained therein, prepared by industry scientists, and reviewed
and approvedby state and federal agencies, scientifically peer reviewed by a nationally renowned science panel and adopted and/or amended by the Board.
So the agreement clearly says that the GAPs are to be adopted by the board, and it clearly gives the Board the power to amend the GAPs.
The Board must claim full ownership of these GAPs, as if the Board wrote them itself. Anything short of that will lead the consumer press to perceive the industry is looking for wiggle room to avoid any GAP shortcomings.
We need to get communications efforts up to speed and fast. The information that the GAP documents have been accepted is not secret. It is posted on the CDFA web site. The industry has to be out front on these things with press releases, every board member with talking points, etc.
We got lucky this time, but the consumer media abhors a vacuum, and if we don’t fill the airwaves with our position, we are likely to wake up one day and find the airwaves filled with the views of those who do not wish the industry well.
We need to start working on new GAPs for next season. We were fortunate this year and weren’t pilloried for WGA’s secret panel. We shouldn’t count on such good fortune next year. The Board should make clear that it wants to get next year’s revision approved in plenty of time to plan the Salinas season. It is imperative that the Board make clear that we are on a “continuous improvement” program
Fresh Express is funding its research, PMA has announced a new research initiative to be run through U.C. Davis — these scientists need to all be on board so that the latest research can be fed right into GAP revisions. An open hand must be extended to NRA and FMI so they know that their input is valued.
We don’t have to pretend that we have all the answers or that we have solved all food safety problems forever. We have to be proud of the process we have gone through and defend that work while acknowledging that the work is never done.
To all the Board members, the industry owes a vote of thanks for their service. With the acceptance of these metrics, the real work is about to begin.