The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy secretary, the chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a U.S. congressman and several produce industry leaders are scheduled to speak at the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual policy conference.

Kathleen Merrigan, the deputy secretary of agriculture, will speak Oct. 2, the second day of the three-day Washington Public Policy Conference, according to a news release from Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh.

Merrigan will discuss the stalemate of the 2012 farm bill and how programs that are set to expire will affect the fruit and vegetable industry. She also will address other issues and opportunities facing the industry and share perspectives on working with the government to build a stronger fresh produce industry.

Martin Regalia, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief economist, will speak Oct. 3, the final day of the conference. Regalia will discuss the U.S. economic outlook and how national issues and the global economy will affect U.S. businesses.

Also scheduled to speak is U.S. Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who will join United Fresh members for a town hall discussion. Farr, a longtime produce advocate who represents Monterey County and the Salinas Valley, will analyze the prospects for the farm bill, immigration policy and food safety and nutrition initiatives in a highly divided Congress.

The conference also will feature several Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance leaders, including:

  • Barry Bedwell, president and chief executive officer of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League and chairman of United Fresh’s government relations council;
  • John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Potato Council and Alliance co-chairman;
  • Dennis Nuxoll, vice president for federal government affairs of Western Growers (Tom Nassif, Western Growers’ president, is an alliance co-chairman);
  • and Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and an alliance co-chairman.

More than 500 industry leaders are expected to attend the Washington Public Policy Conference. For more information, visit