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United Meets With Challenges Ahead

As the industry prepares to assemble in Chicago for the upcoming United Fresh Produce Association trade show, the last one to be regularly located in Chicago, United Fresh announced its new board of directors:

United Fresh Announces
2007 Board Officers and Members

Emanuel Lazopoulos to Assume Chairmanship;
Tom Lovelace Nominated to Serve as Chairman-Elect

Washington, D.C. — Chairman of the Board Development Committee Matthew Caito, Imagination Farms, has announced new officers and Board members elected to serve on the United Fresh Produce Association Board of Directors, effective at its May 5, 2007 meeting.

Ascending to Chairman of the Board is Emanuel Lazopoulos, Senior Vice President, North America, Sales, Marketing and Product Management, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, FL. Lazopoulos started his career in the produce industry in 1979 with Castle & Cooke, now Dole Food Company, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business from the University of Delaware. His progression through the company culminated in the position of Vice President of Sales for Dole Fresh Vegetables. He then moved to Salyer American Fresh Foods as Vice President of Sales and executive committee member. He subsequently worked for DNA Plant Technology before becoming one of three Managing Directors who founded and co-owned NewStar Fresh Foods, LLC in Salinas, CA. In June 2003, Lazopoulos joined Del Monte as Vice President of Fresh-Cut and after two years was promoted to his current position. In his present capacity, he oversees North American sales and marketing programs, as well as management of all Del Monte’s products imported or grown in North America. Lazopoulos is also one of the founders in the Pessagno Wine Group in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County.

Elected as Chairman-Elect is Tom Lovelace, Executive Vice President, McEntire Produce, Columbia, SC. Lovelace has over 30 years experience in the fresh-cut produce and quick service restaurant industries, and now serves as Executive Vice President of McEntire Produce, a fresh-cut processor, tomato re-packer and vegetable wholesaler. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Performance Food Group and Chairman/CEO of Fresh Express from 1995 to 2004. During that time of rapid consolidation, PFG acquired Dixon Tom-a-toe, Redi-Cut Foods and Fresh Express. Prior to joining PFG in 1995, Lovelace spent nine years with Coronet Foods involved in both its fresh-cut processing operations and its bulk iceberg growing/shipping business in Salinas. He began his career with McDonald’s Corporation, spending 16 years with the company in an operations and supply chain management capacity.

Current Co-Chairmen, Maureen Marshall, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc. in Elba, NY; and Mark Miller, President/Owner, Fresh From Texas, San Antonio, TX, will hold the office of Immediate Past Chairman, and remain on the Board and the Executive Committee for one year.


In addition, Steffanie Smith, President, Deli/Prepared Foods, Taylor Farms, Salinas, CA, will continue to serve as Secretary-Treasurer.


The following industry leaders have been elected by the membership to serve on the United Fresh Board for a two-year term beginning May 2007:

Charles Hall
Executive Director
Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
LaGrange, Georgia

Hall is Executive Director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, a role he has held since 1996. He is also the CEO of the Association Services Group, an association management firm focused on agriculture related commodity organizations. Hall began his career at Georgia Agrirama, State Museum of Agriculture where he served as chief executive officer for the 75-acre living history museum. He then became Director of Member Services for Georgia Farm Bureau Federation. In 1985, Hall joined Paul French & Partners, where he served as COO for 10 years. Hall has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Georgia, Athens. Currently, he is the director of the UGA Ag Alumni Association Board and a member of the Association Management Company Institute Board of Directors for the Georgia Society of Association Executives.

Ashley Rawl
Director of Sales and Marketing
Walter P. Rawl & Sons, Inc.
Pelion, South Carolina

Rawl is Director of Sales, Marketing and Product Development for Walter P. Rawl & Sons in Pelion, SC. As a child, Rawl spent summers working in the farm fields alongside other family members in a business started by his grandparents in the 1920s. After earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Clemson University in 1994, he joined the company full-time and has been influential in its progression to a major grower/processor/shipper of quality fresh vegetables. Rawl is a 1997 graduate of the Produce Industry Leadership Program, and is a current member of the United Fresh Government Relations Council. He is a past president of the Leafy Greens Council and a past board member of Southeast Produce Council. In 2006, he was named by PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine to the “40 under 40” list. He is active in a variety of other national and state organizations, including the South Carolina Farm Bureau Association, SC Young Farmer Committee, and Future Farmers of America.

Mitch Smith
Director US Quality Systems Agricultural Products
McDonald’s Corporation
Nampa, Idaho

Smith is Director of U.S. Quality Systems for Agricultural Products for McDonald’s Corporation. In this role, he ensures that McDonald’s quality requirements for potatoes, oils, produce, fruit and nuts are applied, maintained, validated and enhanced to provide consistent food safety and quality to the McDonald’s system. Smith is responsible for assuring that McDonald’s quality expectations are met for more than two billion pounds of raw potatoes, 80 million pounds of salad mix, 100 million pounds of green leaf and iceberg lettuce, 54 million pounds of apples, 30 million pounds of tomatoes, 6.5 million pounds of grapes and 4.2 million pounds of walnuts. A 27-year veteran of McDonald’s, Smith previously held a variety of positions in quality assurance and purchasing both for the United States and markets abroad. Prior to joining McDonald’s, he worked with Simplot, as well as Del Monte’s fresh and frozen potato and produce facility.

Jay Taylor
Taylor & Fulton, Inc.
Palmetto, Florida

Taylor is President of Taylor & Fulton in Palmetto, Florida. Founded in 1953, Taylor & Fulton is a grower, packer, shipper of fresh market premium tomatoes. He is also president of Tomato Man, Inc., North Florida Tomatoes, and Southern Machinery and Equipment, a John Deere dealership with locations in west central Florida. Taylor received his bachelors degree from the University of Miami. He is currently Chairman of the Board of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, and a member of the Board of the Florida Tomato Committee and Florida Tomato Exchange. He is Chairman of the Board of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, the second largest provider of affordable housing financing in the United States, and serves on the Boards of several banks.

Rick Urschel
Vice President, Operations
Urschel Laboratories, Inc.
Valparaiso, Indiana

Urschel is vice president of operations for Urschel Laboratories in Valparaiso, IN. Urschel Laboratories is a leading innovator in manufacturing size reduction equipment for the produce industry. Urschel received his bachelor’s degree in management from Purdue University and has been in the equipment and manufacturing industry his entire career.

In addition to the new Board Members, the following current Board Members will continue service on the Board — Nelia Alamo, Gills Onions; Ron Anderson, Safeway, Inc.; Rick Antle, Tanimura & Antle; David Barney, Bakkavor; Barry Bedwell, California Grape & Tree Fruit League; Matthew Caito, Imagination Farms; Charles Ciruli, Jr., Ciruli Brothers/Amex Distributing Co., Inc.; Brendan Comito, Capital City Fruit Company, Inc.; Peter John Condakes, Peter Condakes Company, Inc.; Richard Dahl, Dole Food Company; Matthew D’Arrigo, D’Arrigo Brothers Company of New York, Inc.; Pete Donlon, Earthbound Farm; Reggie Griffin, The Kroger Company; Alan Heinzen, Heinzen Manufacturing International; Mark G. Hilton, Harris Teeter Supermarkets; Lawrence Kern, Kern Associates; Bob Kistinger, Chiquita Fresh Worldwide; Bruce Knobeloch, River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC; James Lemke, C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.; Robin Poynton, One Harvest; John Shelford, Naturipe Farms, LLC; Victor Smith, Fresh Innovations, LLC; Walter Strickland, Strickland Produce, Inc.; Alan Temple, B & W Quality Growers, Inc.; Nicholas Tompkins, Apio, Inc.; Alessandro Turatti, Turatti Srl; Timothy R. Vaux, Vaux Group, Inc.; Robert Whitaker, Ph.D., NewStar Fresh Foods, LLC; Frederick M. Williamson, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

Board Members who will complete their terms of service at the May convention include: Gary Black, Condies Foods, Inc.; Elisa Spungen Bildner, RLB Food Distributors/FreshPro; Parker Booth, Fresh Express, Inc.; Ronald F. Carkoski, Four Seasons Produce, Inc.; Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission; Walter (Drew) Duda, Jr., Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc.; Jan Fleming, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company; Steve Grinstead, Pro*Act, LLC; Hugh Topper, H-E-B Grocery Company; and Michael J. Wootton, Sunkist Growers, Inc.

“I’d like to personally thank Matthew Caito and the Board Development Committee for their work this year in nominating an outstanding individual in Tom Lovelace to serve as Chairman-Elect, and five great new Board members who bring specific technical expertise and representation of very important constituencies to serve our overall membership,” said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. “I’d also like to thank those leaders who are concluding their service at this meeting, and truly honor them for giving back so much in their time and resources to serve our industry.”

This begins the process of scaling back the size of the United Fresh board, which had ballooned in size following the merger of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and the International Fresh-cut Produce Association. This accounts for 10 board members retiring from the board, while only five new members are being named.

It is interesting to note that, excluding processors, while five (or 50%) of the departing board members represent buying organizations — RLB, Four Seasons, Strube, Pro*Act and HEB — only one (or 20%) of the new board members comes from the buy side — McDonald’s.

The structure of the board will likely be very important as United’s board will be wrestling with important issues in the year to come. For example:

  1. The relationship with FMI is set for next year. The shows will be co-locating in Las Vegas, and United will add its FreshTech show to the mix. But the long term relationship is still up in the air.
  2. United’s board came out in favor of mandatory, federal regulation. But no legislation has been drafted, no industry consensus built. Next steps need to be identified and the industry has to be won over.
  3. We’ve dealt with the plans of the Western Growers Association to open a Washington, DC office here, here and here. It most likely symbolizes the expectation of a fissure over the issue of mandatory, federal regulation, with WGA favoring a marketing agreement or marketing order approach, done through USDA while United favors a form of regulation that is most likely to occur through the FDA. How will United’s directors deal with this potential industry fissure?
  4. At PMA’s last convention there was much talk about the possibility of a merger between PMA and United. We’ve dealt with the issue extensively. It is an old issue, but the priority of the industry to spend its funds on food safety is leading many industry leaders to be open-minded on this issue for the first time in many years.

Each issue is, itself, enough to challenge any group of industry leaders. We thank all the board members for being willing to serve. Taking on the responsibility of helping United and the industry grow and prosper is an important job. We are fortunate so many high caliber people have been willing to do this important work.

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