Southeast grower show tackles Obamacare, food safety

01/14/2014 06:51:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Timely issues including Obamacare and food safety helped draw growers to the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Ga.

Duke Lane Jr. of Lane Packing and David Gombas, United Fresh Produce Association,Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Duke Lane Jr. (left), president of Lane Packing LLC in Fort Valley, Ga., is recognized by David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, as a member of United Fresh’s 19th produce industry leadership program class. Lane received the recognition at a Jan. 11 awards breakfast. Co-sponsored by the LaGrange-based Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association and the Columbia-based South Carolina Peach Council, the Jan. 9-12 show also saw record attendance.

A little more than 3,000 attended, about the same as last year, said Charles Hall, the association’s executive director.

Hall said a Jan. 9 “Obamacare and your business” forum drew high turnout.

“The new health care law’s still somewhat vague and still in transit,” he said. “It’s hard to know what will be or will not be enforced, so it’s hard for business owners to do a lot of planning.”

The law appears to represent an extensive change, particularly in regards seasonal workers, Hall said. Under the law, growers are required to offer health insurance for seasonal workers, he said.

During a Jan. 10 session, David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., updated growers on the Food Safety Modernization Act and how the new Food and Drug Administration rules should affect grower-shippers’ operations.

Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference During a Jan. 11 awards breakfast, Gombas recognized Duke Lane Jr., president of Lane Packing LLC, dba as Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, Ga., as a member of the 19th United Fresh produce industry leadership program class.

The association honored Cliff Riner, Vidalia onion area agent and coordinator of the University of Georgia’s Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center in Lyons, Ga., as the recipient of the Donnie H. Morris Award of Excellence in Extension. The award is presented in memory of Donnie Morris, a longtime supporter of the Georgia cooperative extension service and former association president.

The council awarded Tom Beckman, a peach breeder with the Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Ga., as its 2014 Mr. Peach.

James Cooley, owner of Strawberry Hill USA, Chesnee, S.C., was recognized for winning the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award for 2013.

For related coverage, see Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers elect officers

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