Summer is drawing to a close, and producers are readying for the fall season. It’s the perfect time to spend a few days connecting with fellow growers and allied trade companies, networking and getting up to speed about the issues that keep you up at night. I hope you’ve already registered for FFVA 2011, our annual convention, set for Sept. 18-21 in Palm Beach.

As always, this is “your” convention. The lineup of educational sessions, speakers and activities is based on comments and feedback we’ve solicited from our members. Producers have told us which issues matter most to them … issues that have the potential to drastically affect how they do business.

FFVA 2011 will feature just the right mix of serious discussion of industry topics, outstanding networking opportunities, and great leisure activities such as golf and fishing. FFVA offers all of this in a stellar coastal setting: The Ritz- Carlton in Palm Beach.

Monday convention kick off

After a series of board and committee meetings, the full convention will kick off on Monday, Sept. 19, with a “state of the industry” update from key Florida ag leaders. Following that will be the first Issues Forum of the convention: “Food Safety and the FDA—Where We Go From Here.”

Mike Taylor, the Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for foods, will discuss how the agency is tackling rule-making after Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act last year. The law gives FDA increased authority to address food safety and places a greater emphasis on prevention rather than recall and product traceback. It’s a critical issue that affects the entire food chain.

Tuesday: A full day packed with activities

Tuesday, Sept. 20, is a full day, and you won’t want to miss a single minute. The day starts bright and early with the traditional, popular Cracker Breakfast. Keynote speaker will be well-known pollster and analyst Scott Rasmussen, founder of Rasmussen Reports and frequent commentator for major news outlets on politics and public opinion. Rasmussen promises to give us insight into how Americans feel about all manner of timely topics, including the economy, politics and social issues.

The second Issues Forum, “Water Policy: Quality and Quantity Issues.” will provide an overview on what lawmakers and regulators are doing to protect water supply in Florida and the implications of state and federal water policy for your operations.

At Tuesday’s annual Awards Luncheon, FFVA will honor several noteworthy individuals in the industry: Legislator of the Year, Merchandiser of the Year, Researcher of the Year and the George F. Sorn Scholarship winner.

Throughout the day, the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation will hold its annual Silent Benefit Auction. The array of items up for bid will include travel packages, sporting event tickets, collectibles, gift baskets, wine and more. Bring your checkbook, because the proceeds will benefit a worthy cause: FFVA’s new Emerging Leaders Development Program.

This new endeavor seeks to identify up-and-coming leaders of the association and give them the knowledge and tools to be able to effectively advocate for Florida agriculture. In fact, members of the first class of the program will be attending the convention.

A banquet dinner will wrap up the day, followed by entertainment and dancing.

But wait—there’s more

But wait (as they say on TV commercials)—there’s more … FFVA has changed up the schedule this year and will close the convention with the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation Golf Tournament and the annual fishing tournament.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed course at beautiful Bear Lake in West Palm Beach is the setting for the golf tournament. And anglers will be able to tell some fish tales after their fishing excursion in the deep waters off Jupiter. Awards luncheons will follow each event.

Throughout the convention, there are fun events planned for spouses and guests as well, including “Art With an Appetite.” It’s a unique activity that offers participants the chance to tap their inner artist and produce their own “masterpiece.”

All of this takes place at one of the most luxurious resorts in Florida—the Ritz- Carlton in Palm Beach.

If you haven’t registered for the convention and made your hotel reservations, do so today. FFVA 2011 will be here before you know it. For more details and to register, go to http://ffva/com.

Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at (321) 214-5206 or lisa.lochridge@ffva.com.