NOGALES, Ariz. — The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, a trade group of more than 100 members representing the produce and allied industries, will put a greater focus on advocacy and working with regulators and legislators in the coming years and less emphasis on promotional activities, said Lance Jungmeyer, who assumed the role of president in May.

“Mexico has more money than we could ever come up with to do promotions,” he said.

FPAA will continue to do some light public relations to promote the industry, Jungmeyer said, but for the most part, the association will focus on industry issues that affect its members.

For example, FPAA recently submitted lengthy comments on two major issues that impact imports — food safety and proposed changes to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

“It’s really important that we stay on top of these issues because they’re nuts-and-bolts issues that can affect the everyday business and the bottom line,” he said.

The FPAA expressed its objections to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration includes watermelons in the same category as cantaloupes, which can hold dirt and don’t have a smooth skin like a watermelon.

“We worked with the National Watermelon Association to show that the problems with food safety that apply to cantaloupes don’t apply to watermelons,” Jungmeyer said.

“Having watermelons in that category means they have to apply the same criteria even though it’s not warranted,” added Allison Moore, communications director. “If their inspections are truly risked-based, they need to take watermelons out of that category.”

FPAA also is trying to get out the message that imports should be treated the same as domestic products when it comes to pesticide and microbial levels.

Currently, “There is a more onerous burden on imports,” Jungmeyer said.

“Unless we have the same level playing field for everybody, then it’s going to undermine the whole intent of any food safety regulations or any food safety bill,” Moore said.

PACA is another issue that affects the whole industry, and a well-intentioned proposal to give sellers more than the current 30-day time limit to collect money owed them without forfeiting their PACA Trust rights could backfire, according to comments submitted by the FPAA.

The association would like to see buyers and sellers able to work out their own payment schedules without jeopardizing PACA Trust rights, Moore said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was reviewing comments this fall.

FPAA also is lobbying for some enhancements at the Mariposa Port of Entry.

When representatives visited Washington, D.C., in September, they expressed a willingness to the Food and Drug Administration to have a mobile testing lab at the border, Jungmeyer said.

Last year, a microbial lab and a pesticide lab were deployed to Nogales for one month each.

“It assures the industry that we are committed to safe produce,” he said.

The labs also reduce turnaround time for the test results, which is especially important for perishable food, he said.

FPAA also is working with members to get commitments for truck crossings starting an hour earlier in the morning and two hours later at night to reduce congestion at the border crossing, Moore said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is willing to implement a pilot program for extended hours but first wants a commitment from shippers to cross enough trucks during those hours to make the change worthwhile, she said.