Revamped Texas convention focuses on water, food safetySAN ANTONIO — Bringing the industry together with an emphasis on family was a major draw for attendance for this year’s Texas Produce Convention.

About 400 people attended the annual event Aug. 7-9, sponsored by Mission-based Texas International Produce Association, Texas Vegetable Association and Texas Citrus Mutual.

“That’s a higher attendance than we’ve had in maybe a decade,” said TIPA president Bret Erickson. “We couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout.”

Part of the revitalization of the show included dropping the traditional casino night in favor of an awards banquet and concert featuring country music star Rick Trevino.

“Our chairman Ed Bertaud was a big proponent of refreshing the event,” Erickson said. “Moving the awards to the evening gave them a lot more exposure and attendance.”

This year’s Texas Citrus Mutual Special Award went to Earl Neuhaus of Weslaco-based Neuhaus & Co. and the Texas Vegetable Association’s Award of Merit went to Bernie Thiel of Sunburst Farms, Lubbock.

The convention also reflected the ongoing evolution of the Texas International Produce Association, with exhibitors from cities including Laredo and Pharr in the Rio Grande Valley looking to expand their presence in the import business, Erickson said, as well as a strong presence from customs brokers.

“Our membership is up 30% over last year,” he said.

Workshops focused on the primary issues for both Texas producers and importers.

Water, immigration reform, the Food Safety Modernization Act and healthcare reform took center stage.

“It was a small enough venue where attendees were able to ask questions, in more of a one-on-one workshop atmosphere,” Erickson said. “It made the information very relatable.”


Good, bad water news

Attendees also heard from state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A&M University about the state’s water situation. Currently on track for the most severe drought on record, weather patterns show neither exceptionally good news nor bad news for Texas producers.

Pacific Ocean weather patterns do not indicate an El Niño or La Niña for this winter, Nielsen-Gammon said.

“The good news is that means we should have near normal rainfall this winter,” he said. “We should have a neutral winter, but the period of drought susceptibility is still strong.”