For the second week, International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) members testified at key hearings in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the produce industry. The June 7 hearing, “How the Farm Bill Works for Specialty Crop Producers,” was held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research,
“Our members, with their first-hand experience of both policies that work and those that do not, make the best advocates before members of Congress as they head into Farm Bill negotiations,” said IFPA VP of U.S. Government Relations Rebeckah Adcock.
Charles Wingard, VP of field operations at Pelion, S.C.-based Walter P. Rawl & Co., testified on priorities critical to the growth of the specialty-crop sector, including insurance, conservation and the climate, nutrition, research, organics, and trade.
“The current implementation of AGI [adjusted gross income] limitations disproportionately prohibits specialty-crop producers from participating in certain USDA programs in a meaningful way and potentially inhibits specialty-crop producers from participating in disaster programs,” said Wingard. “USDA programs that require a means test for participation should be based on income derived from farming and be flexible enough to account for the variety of structures, accounting methods and other special considerations for specialty-crop producers, not just their AGI.”
Wingard also prioritized support for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), noting that “SCRI addresses the critical needs of our industry by awarding grants that support research and extension that address key challenges of national, regional and multistate importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional, contained-environment and organic production systems.”
IFPA members also testified at May 31Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing “From farm to table: Immigrant workers get the job done.”
Kroger Expanding E-Commerce SNAP EBT Payments Across Several Banners
The Kroger Co. is making it easier for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to order groceries online as it brings e-commerce electronic benefit transfer (EBT) payments to its Fred Meyer, Smith’s and QFC banners.
The expansion includes Fred Meyer and QFC stores throughout Oregon, Idaho and Washington, as well as all Smith’s locations. Customers can create an account through the respective grocer’s app or through their websites, then add an EBT account number as a new card under the “My Account” and “Wallet” options. Online EBT payment can only be used for SNAP-eligible products.
“Thousands of Fred Meyer and QFC shoppers place digital orders every week. Now, we are opening our digital grocery shopping experience to more people, with fresh, affordable food conveniently available through pickup or delivery,” said Tiffany Sanders, corporate affairs manager. “Fred Meyer and QFC believe in being Fresh for Everyone, and this is another important way we are connecting our neighbors to the foods that will help them live healthier, thriving lives.”
Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic region, which covers stores in Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, began accepting online SNAP payments in April.
eGrowcery, developer of a white-label e-commerce platform, and Auto-Star Compusystems Inc., a provider of point-of-sale and retail management solutions, are now offering retailers a fully integrated solution incorporating the capabilities of both companies. The partnership aims to improve the way that grocery merchants and other retailers connect with shoppers, as well as to increase store operations performance and to enhance the digital supply chain.
“Retailers understand the importance of controlling the relationship with the consumer, and our partnership with Auto-Star helps them do just that,” said Patrick Hughes, CEO of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based eGrowcery. “Together, our solutions create a complete platform for both connecting with shoppers and operating a very efficient digital retail ecosystem.”
Auto-Star’s Star-Plus software provides grocery, pharmacy and natural health retailers with such customized features as customer loyalty, inventory control, payments, reporting, e-commerce and mobile delivery.
“The combination of eGrowcery and Auto-Star solutions create great synergies for retail users, from the integration of transaction log data to the back-end payment activity,” said Robert Symmonds, president and CEO of Medicine Hat, Alberta-based Auto-Star. “The integration streamlines operations, enhances customer experiences, and drives growth, creating a dynamic synergy where all stakeholders see benefits through more effective management of the whole customer journey.”
eGrowcery recently joined forces with Freshmart, a natural food retailer with seven stores in Puerto Rico, on a customized system focusing on prepared and fresh food, along with fulfillment options that include store pickup and integrated delivery to start.
Independent Grocer RF Buche Receives NGA Spirit of America Award
The National Grocers Association (NGA) has presented its Spirit of America Award to fourth-generation South Dakota independent grocer RF Buche, in recognition of his commitment to the independent grocery industry and his work in his community. Buche, president of Wagner, S.D.-based GF Buche Co., received the award during NGA’s Fly-In for Fair Competition, held June 6-7 in Washington, D.C.
“RF Buche has demonstrated that independent grocers play a central role in expanding food access in rural, remote and underserved communities,” noted Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “His extensive efforts toward fighting food insecurity, as well as his advocacy for antitrust reform, exemplify his commitment to our industry and the essential role it plays in feeding our nation.”
Buche testified before the House Rules Committee on his company’s efforts to tackle food insecurity. These include stocking a trailer with healthy foods and essential products for communities on tribal lands and other remote places, and offering temperature-controlled food lockers in areas with limited access to grocery products, allowing residents to order groceries online or with a smart device using SNAP, debit or credit.
Established in 1982, the Spirit of America Award honors industry and community leaders in the areas of community service and government relations on behalf of the independent supermarket industry. NGA has given the award to such luminaries as Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.
Indies Come to DC for NGA’s 2nd Fly-In for Fair Competition
The National Grocers Association, the trade association representing the independent grocery industry, kicked off its second annual Fly-In for Fair Competition on June 6 in Washington D.C.
The event began with advocacy training to prepare NGA members for their congressional meetings on Wednesday, June 7. Led by Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Management Foundation, the training showed NGA members how to get the most out of their meetings.
“NGA members know firsthand how a lack of antitrust enforcement and excessive swipe fees are hurting their business,” noted Christopher Jones, SVP of government relations and counsel at Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “By completing this comprehensive advocacy training, attendees will be better able to effectively communicate their needs during congressional meetings.”
Attendees also heard from Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, on the all-important subject of competition; James Glueck, of the Torrey Advisory Group, and Barbara Hiden, of the American Beverage Association, on how to navigate lobbying in relation to the Farm Bill; and political analyst, commentator and best-selling author Chris Stirewalt, on 2024 presidential politics and what its impact is likely to be in the nation’s capital.
“I know attendees will find this information valuable as they make their way to the halls of Congress this week to advocate for the interests of the independent grocery industry,” said NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara (pictured).
Constellation Brands Appoints SVP of Global Talent
Constellation Brands has tapped Kirk Santos as SVP, global talent. He is tasked with leading the beverage alcohol company’s new end-to-end global talent function that aligns with its strategy and DEI initiatives.
Santos joins Constellation Brands from his most recent role as global VP of talent management and VP of HR, financial services, at shipping company Pitney Bowes. Previously, he served as director of talent management and organizational development for the North America Beverages unit at PepsiCo. During his career, he has also held leadership roles at IBM, Caesars Entertainment and L’Oreal. He earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from Baruch College and a master’s degree in strategic management and human resources from Long Island University.
“The recent creation of our end-to-end global talent function is one component of a broader evolution of our HR operating model designed to enable the ongoing growth of our organization,” said Kris Carey, EVP and chief human resources officer at Constellation Brands. “Kirk’s extensive HR experience aligning people and talent strategies to business needs makes him an exemplary leader to head this new team and talent-first strategy.”
Santos welcomes the opportunity. “I am thrilled to be joining Constellation’s talented HR organization and look forward to the opportunity to lead the global talent function and strategy in this next chapter of growth for the company,” he remarked.
Based in Victor, N.Y., Constellation Brands will report its first quarter fiscal 2024 earnings on June 30. In May, the beer, wine and spirits company acquired a minority stake in the alcohol-free sparkling beverage brand TÖST.