Colleagues double as expert resources

11/01/2013 09:50:00 AM
Tom Stenzel

Tom Stenzel, United Fresh Produce AssociationTom Stenzel, United Fresh Produce AssociationWhen we think of experts, we often think about high-priced consultants and others we hire to advise our businesses.

But my experience with the United Fresh Produce Association’s volunteer leadership groups tells me we don’t have to look far for experts among us.

At United’s recent Washington Public Policy Conference, produce leaders were able to conduct more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and their staff, despite coming on the first day of the infamous government shutdown.

Those meetings were important to continue driving our industry’s messages on the need for immigration reform, passing a new farm bill, and ensuring sound food safety policy.

But, there were also other meetings that week that were equally important — the meetings of United’s market segment boards and expert councils.

Our industry faces some tough challenges, and I’ve found there’s no better expertise to solve those challenges than when industry members come together to share their perspectives, experiences and solutions with one another.

I have many close colleagues among chief executive officers who manage different industry trade associations in Washington. When we share ideas and talk about our own challenges as association leaders, those friends often remind me how the produce industry is unique in competitors’ willingness to share expertise for the common good.

Of course many associations have boards and committees, but I see a deeper level of trust and engagement when members of the produce industry come together.

United’s volunteer leadership structure is unique, bringing together nearly 500 industry representatives in different leadership positions, from different disciplines and different business types. As an association working to serve the total supply and demand chain, our universe of members is truly diverse.

Since we know that different market sectors have different needs, the board of directors established many years ago market segment boards focused on serving specific sectors of our industry.

Today, grower-shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesaler-distributors, and retail and foodservice leaders all engage regularly in driving business solutions with others in their specific segment of our business.

But there are also many issues that are cross-cutting across our entire supply chain, requiring a focus within a professional discipline or area of expertise. Here, expert councils bring together professionals who share common expertise and responsibility for addressing a specific area of the produce business.


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