ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association has sketched in detail a proposal for one unified trade show for the produce industry, which would replace the two separate conventions now offered by United and the Produce Marketing Association.
In a letter dated Oct. 3, United chairman Tim Fleming Sr. suggested that the proposed "SuperProduce" show be a joint venture between United and Newark, Del.-based PMA. The joint venture, with a separate governing board, could possibly be incorporated, Fleming said.
"We believe that our combined efforts with a single show could grow into an outstanding international event that is much greater than the sum of its parts," read the letter, which was addressed to Jeff Gargiulo, chairman of PMA.
The letter followed a meeting of United's board of directors in Washington in conjunction with United's public policy conference.
Under United's proposal, the governing board of the unified trade show would consist of board members from both associations, as well as current exhibitors and individual members from the two groups.
That board would seek industry ideas about the best time to hold the show, the best location and other issues. The board would also address the best ways to deal with current contractual obligations that each group has concerning future shows, according to the letter.
While Fleming did not discount the possibility that the two associations could merge completely and form one national organization, he repeated United's position on the issue of government relations, which had been a point of contention in early negotiations.
"We believe, and our members have made abundantly clear in the past month, that our present full-time commitment to advocating the interests of commercial sellers of produce before Congress, federal regulatory agencies, the media, advocacy groups and other opinion leaders is an essential service provided by United," Fleming wrote.
"This function must be at the core of any national produce organization created by a potential merger between United and PMA," he added.
Fleming said United would also only accept a merger that was based on "the coming together of partners in good faith."
"Jeff, if this is going to work, it simply has to be the fair, balanced and friendly merging of two industry partners, not the takeover of one or the other," Fleming wrote.
While a meeting between board members of PMA and United was scheduled for this weekend, at the venue of PMA's convention and exposition in San Diego, Fleming suggested the two trade groups plan a more comprehensive meeting.
"It seems premature to expect resolution in a hurried one-hour session Saturday afternoon before your convention," Fleming wrote.
In an interview with SN, United president Tom Stenzel said he would like to see both boards meet for a day-long discussion, away from the distractions of a convention.
Bob Carey, president of PMA, told SN that the PMA board would take up the issues raised in Fleming's Oct. 3 letter over the weekend. Gargiulo will make a comment about the current status of merger discussions during the convention, he said.