We all remember that United established its current organization in 2006, when the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association merged with the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association.
Tom Stenzel has long served in United’s leadership and as a voice for the produce industry in Washington.
United Fresh has partnered with PMA on many produce industry initiatives throughout the years.
For example, the two groups were both involved in establishing the Produce Traceability Initiative. I think the industry would be better served by having United focus on influencing public policy, its historic strength and main purpose.
When the merger talks ended last July, The Packer reported that the question of who would be in charge was the major sticking point.
The PMA board wanted Silbermann to be the leader of the combined group while the United board wanted the position to remain open, creating a possibility for Stenzel to assume leadership.
The Packer even humorously proposed holding a reverse Dutch auction-style contest between Silbermann and Stenzel to decide which fellow should lead the group.
Bryan Silbermann and Tom Stenzel exercise a huge influence on behalf of our industry. I can understand why the issue of who would be in charge of a combined group became a sticking point.
But I suspect I am not the only one in the industry that thinks we would be better served if:
- PMA regained its focus on helping retailers sell more produce;
- United focused on public policy; and
- PMA directed funds toward United’s policy activities.
I am convinced the industry would be better served if one group relentlessly focused on increasing produce consumption and sales.
One major area in which the two groups could merge is to combine the two trade shows into one.
If the United Fresh show were to merge into a division of the PMA show, it would create one super show. I suspect that attendance at such a show would be outstanding and members of the two groups would be pleased with the savings in time and money of attending one show instead of two.
Another industry observer has suggested that a revenue sharing mechanism could make one national funding mechanism for the two groups, eliminate duplication, and keep two separate boards.
I would encourage serious conversation around such a proposal: a plan to keep PMA and United separate while staying focused on their original purpose to serve our industry.
Anthony Totta is vice chairman of Lee’s Summit, Mo.-based FreshXperts.
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