AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — This year’s Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association convention opened with discussions of critical issues pressing Florida’s grower-shippers.

Opening day of FFVA convention grapples with issuesDuring the Sept. 23 meetings, growers heard the latest on immigration and health care reform.

They also learned how they could better market their products to capture the attention of young people who are more interested in food than other generations.

During a Sept. 23 labor session, Monte Lake, a Washington-based agriculture lobbyist and attorney with CJ Lake LLC, discussed immigration bills in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“The H-2A program is basically our safety valve,” he said. “It’s very easy to get despondent. We have no choice but to be vigilant and keep the pressure on our members of congress. We won’t get a perfect bill.

“We have a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate and a conservative house,” Lake said. “We have to come up with something that is substantially better than the status quo that allows you to run your business as you need to and can be enacted into law.”

Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based retail analyst known as the Supermarket Guru, discussed how produce can benefit from changing consumer trends.

He said the Baby Boomer generation is big enough to reunite Cheech and Chong, who promoted Fiber One bars.

“Produce, you’re stronger than Fiber One bars,” Lempert said. “We often blame candy and soda companies for obesity. But they’re really smart marketers. I would find the smartest person at Coca Cola and hire them to do your marketing. If we really want to change behavior, it’s not just pointing fingers at candies and sodas. It’s offering alternatives.”

This is the 70th year of the convention.