Brian Kocher, president and CEO of the Castellini Group of Companies, Wilder, Ky (from left), Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh, Mark Klomplein, president and CEO of the United Potato Growers of America and Raina Nelson, senior vice president of supply chain for Renaissance Food Group, Rancho Cordovo, Calif. spoke at the Washington Conference Sept.16. ( The Packer )

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is power in unity.

At the “Venture Beyond the Fresh Produce Aisle” session at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, industry leaders on Sept. 16 said unity and persistence of messaging on Capitol Hill will lead to success.

Robert Guenther, senior vice President of public policy at United Fresh moderated the session, and industry leaders shared lessons learned from presentations earlier in the afternoon.

Speakers and panelists earlier in the day included:

  • Krysta Harden, executive vice president of global environmental strategy for Dairy Management Inc. and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture;
  • John Downs, CEO of the National Confectioners Association;
  • Dawn Sweeney, CEO of the National Restaurant Association;
  • Michael Dykes, CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association;
  • Jon Mosif, federal U.S. government relations director for McDonald’s Corp.; 
  • Lee Sanders, senior vice president of government relations and public affairs for the American Bakers Association;
  • Tres Bailey, senior director of federal government affairs for Walmart Stores Inc.;
  • Randy Russell, United Fresh legislative counsel from The Russell Group; and 
  • Charles Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

The biggest lesson from the presentations is the power that resides with the alignment of interests, said Brian Kocher, president and CEO of the Castellini Group of Cos., Wilder, Ky.

“When we are together as an industry, there is tremendous power,” he said. “So whether it’s us in the industry or collaboration with other groups, that’s where we make a difference.”

Kocher said there is strength in constituents visiting members of Congress, rather than only paid association staff. 

“They want to hear from you, they want to hear from a voter, they want to hear from an employer, they want to hear from people who are in their jurisdiction and what matters to them,” Kocher said.

Having a unified voice is critical, said Mark Klomplein, president and CEO of the United Potato Growers of America.

“Sometimes the alternative (to a unified message) might be status quo,” he said. “Sometimes that’s not always bad, but in many cases, that can be far worse.”

Raina Nelson, senior vice president of supply chain for Renaissance Food Group, Rancho Cordovo, Calif., urged the industry to adopt Krysta Harden’s advice about listening when the industry marches on Capitol Hill.
“Listen with a true open mind, and don’t try to fill in the blanks for them,” Nelson said. “Try to learn something and hear how people think, and perceive our industry to be.”

Visits on Capitol Hill are Sept. 17-18.

“I think that we are set up for a great couple days on the Hill,” Nelson said.

 
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