When the members and leaders of the United Fresh Produce Association meet in April in Las Vegas, the occasion will be marked by a change in leadership.
As it happens ever year, the membership will recognize the transition of chairmanship as a new term starts for association’s board. Chairman Jim Lemke, senior vice president of sourcing for C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Eden Prairie, Minn., will complete his term, making way for incoming Chairwoman Steffanie Smith, chief executive officer for onion grower River Point Farms LLC, Hermiston, Ore.
Lemke’s term saw changes to United Fresh’s board and committee structure to better reflect the market segments that comprise the produce industry.
Lemke said his goal throughout his term was to consider the needs of the association through the new organization structure and seek input from different groups.
“It’s really been rewarding for me,” Lemke said.
There was no shortage of major issues to address during Lemke’s one-year tenure as chairman. Everything from continuing food recalls, government regulation, food safety, traceability and sustainability continued to dominate United Fresh’s priorities, Lemke said, and were the major focuses of his year.
Lemke said one of the major challenges he experienced over the previous year was working on the Produce Traceability Initiative.
The goal of the PTI, led by the major produce trade groups — United Fresh, Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association — is for full supply chain traceability from farm to retail stores by 2012.
The challenge, Lemke said, is working on a needed initiative that will add costs upfront before the benefits really become apparent. It remains controversial among members for that reason, he said, but would like to see the industry further ahead on the milestones than where most companies are at this point.
Working on United Fresh’s initiative to get a salad into every school was one of the high points of his term, Lemke said, and is a program he said Smith is keen to continue.