First Lady shines bright for fruits and veggies - The Packer

First Lady shines bright for fruits and veggies

02/28/2013 02:21:00 PM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstThe fresh produce industry needs you, Mrs. Obama.

As the third anniversary of the Let’s Move campaign (Feb. 9) came and went without much fanfare, some have suggested First Lady Michelle Obama was retreating from her post as America’s top veggie advocate. The first lady had been quiet for some time now, after all. But the silence will be short-lived. The first lady is scheduled to speak March 8 at a meeting of the Partnership for a Healthy America.

What’s more, she just penned an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled “The Business Case for Healthier Food Options.”

Michelle is back.

The collective “we” - growers, shippers, wholesalers, retailers, the random trade journalist, etc. - may not like Obamacare, the Environmental Protection Agency or new food safety regulations. But the produce industry will never tire of seeing First Lady Michelle Obama speaking up for broccoli and spinach. Never, ever, stop talking about healthy foods, Michelle. Never mind about us; it’s about the kids.



In other friendly developments, watch for the USDA’s evaluation of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program by mid-March. The report should be good news for advocates of the program.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce Association, said the 2008 farm bill included $3 million for an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program. The USDA gave the contract to ABT Associates but their report is yet to be released.

Also, big kudos to the upsized effort to bring hundreds of salad bars to California schools. The planned United Fresh media event May 15 at the San Diego convention center to announce the donation of record numbers of salad bars (more than 300 and rising) is another bookmark in what has been an incredible ongoing campaign for the entire industry.



 In my Feb. 20 conversation in Washington with industry lobbyists, one said the month of March is going to be “horrible” because of the uncertainty of sequestration cuts. While Congress could sort through budget issues with a March 27 deadline for a continuing resolution, some measure of cuts are coming. Lobbying work is hard because every program and priority is under the shadow of sequester cuts.

How will the farm bill cuts be decided on? Will traditional farm subsidies take the hit, or will it be shared by all farm bill programs?

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