The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on Oct. 8 with Bryan Silbermann, president of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association. Read the entire chat at thepacker.com/freshtalk.
1:45 p.m. Tom Karst: I wanted to get your reaction to the dustup again with the Environmental Working Group. They put out a press release and a letter objecting to the specialty crop block grant California awarded to the Alliance for Food and Farming. What was your initial take when you saw that?
1:50 p.m. Karst: Is there a double- edged sword in trying to point out the hypocrisy, so to speak, in what EWG is saying? Is there a danger in that it seems the media isn’t perhaps interested in the campaign as the conflict?
1:51: p.m. Silbermann: I think if we bury our heads in the sand as an industry and as public agencies and we say we are not going to set the record straight because we fear it is going to attract attention and controversy, and then we never ever get a chance to set the record straight. That’s going to be one of the themes I am going to talk about in my state of the industry remarks. I feel very strongly about it, and I will have more to say about it because that’s typically the way that production agriculture has chosen not to respond to this kind of attack.
1:55 p.m. Karst: We’ll look forward to hearing more about what you will say in your state of the industry address. What are you most excited about for the upcoming PMA?
1:57 p.m. Silbermann: It is always a great opportunity to get together with 15,000-plus of your closest friends. For PMA, the show is sold out, and we squeezed about a dozen additional booths on to the floor because of the demand so we are busting at the seams. Preregistration numbers are really great, and buyer numbers are way up in all categories — retail, foodservice operators, distributors, wholesalers, you name it. So numbers are great, booths are great, and PMA’s international attendance is looking really strong. We have a partnership with the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and we have buyer delegations from more than two dozen countries, everything from Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland, Venezuela and Vietnam. These are official delegations and we have people from a whole bunch of other countries. The other thing I wanted to touch on in the state of the industry is that although we are still in a turnaround phase in the economy, I see some signs of tremendous brilliance coming down the pike in the marketing efforts of some of the organizations in industry and I’m going to be highlighting those. I think there are some segments of our industry and some organizations that have really started to get it and are doing much more to sell their product and less to tell people why they should be eating their products.
1:59 p.m Karst: Will the trade gain a better understanding of where they stand with PTI?
1:59 p.m. Silbermann: I think the leadership of the PTI is really important. I think the advances that are going to come out of the meeting to do with the voice pick agreement are really important. We said back in April, when we issued a statement from the associations involved, that we were recommitted and reorganized and I really thing that is what you are going to see. There will be greater awareness, more understanding of PTI. I think some of the people who have made the most noise outside of PTI because they haven’t been involved I think getting those folks engaged and understanding the benefits should be a big help.