Annual convention celebrates 70 years of serving Florida ag

08/06/2013 10:12:00 AM
Barbara Wunder

FFVA annual meeting logoAs the world struggled through a war, a group of Florida vegetable growers in 1943 decided to form a new trade association to deal with wartime problems, as well as challenging regulations, marketing, transportation, labor and other issues.

This year the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association will celebrate its 70th birthday at its annual convention, FFVA 2013, Sept. 23-25 at The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island.

Opening day

The opening luncheon and State of the Industry Update will feature Phil Lempert, well-known as the Supermarket Guru. Lempert is an expert analyst on consumer behavior, marketing trends, new products and the changing retail landscape. He’ll fill in participants on the trends coming to neighborhood supermarkets and what producers need to know about connecting with consumers.

The first issues forum of the convention, “Changes Ahead for Labor,” will address immigration reform legislation and how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect the agriculture industry.


Tuesday starts early at the convention’s traditional Cracker Breakfast. Retired Lt. Col. Robert J. Darling, USMC was in charge of organizing all logistical aspects of travel for the White House under former President George W. Bush when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001.

Darling acted as a liaison between the vice president, the national security advisor and the Pentagon, working directly with the National Command Authority. Darling wrote the book “24 Hours inside the President’s Bunker: 9/11/01: The White House,” which describes his experiences as a key player in the White House after the terrorist attacks.

The second issues forum, “A Focus on Food Safety,” will feature Leanne Skelton, chief of the Fresh Products Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service. Skelton, a 20-year veteran of USDA, also was on detail with the Food and Drug Administration for six months as she helped the FDA develop new safety regulations for produce.

Joining Skelton will be Samir Assar, director of the produce safety staff in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Since 2008, he has managed the development of FDA’s policy, regulation and guidance on produce safety, including those mandated by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

“New Varieties, New Markets,” is the third issues forum and will introduce participants to the Florida Foundation Seed Producers, a not-for-profit corporation that helps the University of Florida in the commercialization of plant inventions, including new varieties of fruits and vegetables.

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