Tom Karst
Tom Karst

If a visitor from outer space came to earth and examined the tax documents of the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association, what conclusions would that alien draw? Could a visitor from beyond our world - let's call him Marty the Martian - possibly assist in helping to see the synergies of the two trade associations and facilitate a merger?

By the way, check out the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group poll on the potential United-PMA merger here. The question is, “If PMA and United Fresh don't end up merging, it will be because ...”

Back to Marty. Our scenario assumes the visitor would know how to decipher tax forms. Granted, that's a big “if.” Most earthlings are clueless about their tax code.

One of the first things “Marty” might do is try to find out what the organizations are all about. As he looks at the tax forms for both associations for the year 2009, his eyes are are drawn to Part I, question one: Summary: Briefly describe the organization's mission or most significant activities:

PMA answered the question like this:  "To connect, to inform, to deliver business solutions that enhance members' prosperity."  We do this through three vehicles - products, events and services. We offer a small product line that includes training modules for employees to guides that help our member(s) do their day to day jobs. Our events offer educational offerings that include the entire supply chain which includes an exposition component so that our members can showcase their products and services while making new contracts in the industry. We offer services such as our information resources center that allows our members to contact us and get answers to various questions.

In Part I, question one: United Fresh simply said: "Trade association for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry."

But wait, our extraterrestrial pal has more to go on than that. The government wasn't done asking about the mission of the associations and the associations are far from done in reciting their accomplishments.

Part III of form 990 is called a "Statement of Program Service Accomplishments: Question one asks the organization to briefly describe the organization's mission:

United Fresh said this:  United Fresh Produce Association is the industry's leading trade association committed to driving the growth and success of produce companies and their partners. United Fresh represents the interests of members companies throughout the global supply chain, including family-owned, private and publicly traded businesses as well as regional, national and international companies.

In answer to Part III, question one, PMA reprises the answer from the first question and inserts it here.

Our bug-eyed visitor might have to rub his bleary eye(s) at this point. When Marty is ready to resume, he will look at the next question in the tax form that seeks to draw more detail about the organization's activities.

Question 4 of Part III of IRS 990 tax form reads: "Describe the exempt purpose achievements for each of the organization's three largest program services by expenses .....

In describing their top three programs, United Fresh said: 

Member service: United Fresh’s membership works together to promote the advancement of the overall produce industry, the growth and success of individual member companies, and the highest level of quality produce delivered to consumers worldwide. United Fresh provides scientific and technical support in food safety and quality assurance; nutrition and health programs leading to increased consumptions of fresh fruits and vegetables; and innovative business strategies, education and training to grow produce sales and profitability through business and supply chain excellence.

Annual convention and trade show: With over 5,000 attendees, United Fresh provides a meeting place for industry members, customers, suppliers, and groups to attend educational programs and exhibits, exchange ideas and to network.

Public Policy:  United Fresh provides a strong voice before government and media to shape public policy and a fair business climate.

PMA also put their superlatives on display in describing their three largest programs. PMA wrote:

Fresh Summit - 18,000+ attendees Fresh Summit's main objective is to provide an all-inclusive learning and networking environment, ie, the place to go for industry solutions " In addition, Fresh Summit will provide ample opportunities to promote year-round value of PMA through cross-promotions, products and services sales as well as PR Educational value will be threaded throughout the entire event including the exposition, educational workshops and general sessions, and tours.

 Education and value delivery should focus on current issues affecting the produce industry, merchandising techniques to increase consumption, integrating the supply chain, and unique cutting edge marketing concepts, as well as introduction of the newest products, services and ideas available Fresh Summit will deliver immediate applicable value including but not limited to customized programs, tours, merchandising areas, training, networking opportunities, demonstrations, and contest.

By delivering exceptional value, meeting member needs, and offering implementable solutions, Fresh Summit will continue to grow in attendance, number of booths, as well as provide an avenue to increase membership recruitment and retention.

Member Relations - 2100 company members PMA, as a vertically integrated international trade association has a very diverse membership base With members representing 45 different countries around the world and all segments of the supply chain.

Food Service Conference -1500+ attendees The Foodservice Conference & Expo (FSC) is a three-day learning and networking opportunity focused on bringing foodservice professionals together to learn about produce industry issues and topics, see the latest products and services, and strengthen relationships FSC was introduced by PMA in 1982 and has been held in Monterey, California most of its life.


TK: Marty has some work to do in evaluating how these two organizations might find a future together. With the exception of the public policy component, it appears these two groups have a lot in common, with both trading claims of the industry’s “leading” association and the “place to go” for industry solutions. His next quest: take me to your leaders….

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