The architect of Obama Administration’s “buy local” movement, one of the most important “deal makers” in the United States Senate, and one of the most recognizable faces in the House of Representatives will address attendees at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Public Policy Conference in September. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan will speak at the conference’s Wednesday Keynote General Breakfast Session, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will address congressional visit attendees after Wednesday’s luncheon session, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) will join the United Fresh’s political supporters Wednesday night for dinner to benefit United FreshPAC, the association’s political action fund.

“The produce industry is in a very unique position,” says United Fresh president Tom Stenzel. “We are currently invested in the outcomes of many important discussions on Capitol Hill; from locally-grown, energy, climate change, and food safety, to labor, immigration, and child nutrition. Having this caliber of lineup to address many of these important issues, the Washington Conference provides our attendees, the tools needed to continue tackling these issues. Deputy Secretary Merrigan, Senator Graham, and Minority Leader Boehner are each at the core of these debates in Washington and having them speak to the industry is a fantastic opportunity.”

The addresses by Merrigan, Graham, and Boehner will headline the first day of the Washington Public Policy Conference, September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel on the banks of the Potomac River. During the three-day conference, attendees will gather to discuss food safety, farm labor, nutrition and consumption, locally grown, and other priority issues for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. During the annual March on Capitol Hill, industry members will have the unique opportunity to meet in person with lawmakers and staff, discuss food safety policies with FDA officials, hear from key Cabinet officials, and engage in face-to-face dialogue with President Obama’s executive team.

This year’s conference will also include the return of the Management Resource Center, where attendees can research and explore new solutions and technology providers, and the popular Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill, a favorite among industry members and congressional staffers alike. During Fresh Festival, House and Senate lawmakers and their staff join attendees to sample the various fruits and vegetables the produce industry has to offer. In addition to Fresh Festival, the conference will also include a New Orleans-themed cruise up the Potomac River to benefit United’s A Salad Bar in Every School campaign. As part of the build-up to the United Fresh 2011 convention and expo in New Orleans, guests will enjoy Dixieland jazz, dinner, and waterfront views of Washington, D.C., all while raising funds to provide salad bars to schools in New Orleans and nationwide.

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