Milestones in GFVGA History
Click the year to view annual State of Association reports beginning in 2012.
- August 22, 1996 – The official organizational meeting of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association held at the Rural Development Center in Tifton, Georgia.
- Initiated the organization’s first Policy Statements on legislative issues concerning labor and country of origin labeling and helped defeat state legislation requiring ‘expiration dates’ on fresh produce.
- Established a task force to study an economical solution to removing mulch plastic.
- Joined the ‘5-a-day’ program.
- Established the GFVGA Worker’s Compensation Program in 1998.
- Purchased a Trade Show display for use by GFVGA to help market Georgia fruit and vegetables.
- Campaigned and supported passage of Referendum A to exempt fruit trees from ad valorem taxes.
- Established the GFVGA Marketing Sponsors program
- Held the ‘First-Ever’ GFVGA Winter conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Savannah.
- Initiated ‘on-the-farm’ tours for retail buyers from major grocery chains.
- Organized the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Foundation to raise funds to support educational and research projects.
- Secured $350,000 from the Georgia legislature to support fruit and vegetable marketing which has continued each year until 2010.
- Developed an association ‘logo’ – the State of Georgia outline with assorted fruits and vegetables in the foreground.Established the GFVGA web site . . . www.gfvga.org
- Established a third party pesticide registration program for growers to be able to use a broader array of products.
- Introduced the Georgia GAP program for GFVGA members to have their farms CERTIFIED as following food safety standards. Organized the first state pavilion at the PMA in Philadelphia with over 2100 square feet of exhibit space.
- GFVGA was successful in receiving a specialty crop grant to support the Georgia GAP program
- Relocated the Winter Conference from the Hyatt Regency ballrooms to the Savannah Civic Center with the conference also hosting the Georgia Watermelon Annual Meeting.
- Initiated efforts and successfully worked with other regional associations to pass the 2002 Farm bill that included several produce related provisions.
- Expanded the Third Party pesticide registration to a Section 24c Label Program in cooperation with Syngenta, Inc.
- Initiated an industry coalition with the Georgia Peach Council, the Vidalia Onion Business Council, the Georgia Blueberry Association, and the Georgia Pecan Growers Association to provide governmental affairs representation in Washington through the services of Robert Redding and Associates.
- The Winter Conference was officially named the SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in cooperation with the Georgia and South Carolina Peach Councils and more than 15 other commodity organizations
- Expanded GFVGA’s national presence working with the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association on several initiatives including the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization and the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004.
- The SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable conference was moved across the river to the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center to allow for continued growth and expansion.
- Began work and discussions with United and a number of other organizations to create the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Coalition, with GFVGA serving as a member of the Steering Committee.
- Hosted the largest Georgia Pavilion ever, 4400 square feet, when PMA was held in Atlanta.
- Contracted with Sherry Sparks to provide a central information exchange with other associations regarding labor and immigration reform issues.
- GFVGA chaired the Research Working Group for the Special Crop Farm Bill Coalition to recommend policy on research direction in the 2007 Farm Bill.
- Provided southeastern leadership in the Farm Bill debate which lead to the passage of the 2007 legislation with the largest allocation of funds to the specialty crops sector in the history of Farm Bills.
- Provided support and endorsement for the creation of the Georgia commodity commission for Vegetables.
- Endorsed a Transportation Program for GFVGA members in cooperation with C.H. Robinson and Western Growers Association.
- More than ever before GFVGA provided testimony, comment letters and other input on a number of regulations and policies coming out of Washington including 2008 Farm Implementation, soil fumigant buffer restrictions, food safety regulations and research funding.
- Established a crisis management team and plan to address the tomato fiasco in the summer of 2008 and as a result, GFVGA has developed a plan to address these needs in the future.
- Served on several national task forces including a Food Safety Harmonization Task Force, tomato Matrix Task Force, and the National Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Task Force.
- Continued SE leadership on national organizations and initiatives including the United Fresh Board of Directors, various Food Safety task forces and other activities
- Received a $170,000 Block Grant for education, research and promotion to increase specialty crop competiveness in Georgia.
- ‘Strategic Growth for the New Decade’ initiative was approved by the Board in December of 2009. This program will increase member services, improve member communication and broaden member education opportunities in the new decade.
- The ‘Strategic Growth for the New Decade’ initiative was announced at the Southeast Regional Conference in Savannah in January. The new GFVGA logo, web site and educational programs were officially premiered.
- The association’s launched a new educational brand Grower Regional Educational Applied Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Workshops coordinated two programs ‘Surviving a Product Recall’ and ‘2011 Soil Fumigation Application Regulations’. In addition, the Expense Audit and Recovery Program were initiated as a new member service.
- GFVGA Board held its first Leadership Briefing in February to identify goals and objectives for the association in the New Year.
- GFVGA has a seat on the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance Steering Committee that will determine the policy directions and recommendation in the 2012. In addition GFVGA is Chairing the Research Working Group to recommend policy to the SCFBA Steering Committee.
- This will be known as the year of immigration reform, when Georgia became the ‘Poster Child’ for what can happen when e-verify and enforcement legislative is passed without an adequate guest worker program. GFVGA was at the forefront with the press and elected representatives as the voice of the fruit and vegetable industry in Georgia. Hundreds of stories and interviews were released in the press concerning the problems growers were having dealing with the lack of harvest labor due to HB87.
- GFVGA, along with several other agricultural organizations, commissioned a research study to determine the economic impact of the Illegal Immigration Reform Legislation. The study reported on seven crops (blackberry, blueberry, Vidalia onion, cucumbers, squash, bell pepper, and watermelon) and determined over 80% of the growers experienced labor shortages. The study reported on 47% of the planted acreage in 2011 of these seven crops. If all of the planted acreage in Georgia had experienced the same loss as the surveyed acreage, growers would have lost over $140 million in unharvested crops and the state of Georgia’s economy would have been impacted by $370 million dollars.
- An ‘Awards Breakfast’ was initiated during the SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference to recognize members of the Georgia fruit and vegetable industry that received national awards. At this inaugural breakfast, Dr. Stanly Culpepper, Wendy Brannen and Robert Dasher were recognized.
- GFVGA was recognized as the “2011 Industry Advocate of the Year” by United Fresh Produce Association during the Washington Public Policy Conference.
- Started a GFSI consulting service through the association’s food safety program.
- Initiated and provided support to start the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association (E.C.G.A.).
- GFVGA with other industry associations (landscape, restaurant, building and healthcare) helped in the organization of the Essential Economy Council to provide research for public policy discussions concerning labor.
- GFVGA was successful during the legislative session to secure funding for two UGA positions critical to the industry, a state specialist for small fruit and a specialist for vegetables. Due to budget constraints funding for these positions had previously been frozen.
- Board approved expanding the GFSI Consulting Program to include microbial testing plan development and sampling.
- Several members received recognition at the national level. Bill Brim was elected to the United Fresh Produce Consolidated Board of Directors. Jason Berry of Dole Berry Farms participated in a roundtable at the White House with President Obama. Duke Lane III became the third GFVGA affiliated applicant to be appointed as a UNITED Fresh Leadership Fellow following Beth Oleson (2011) and Jamie Brannen (2012).
- 2013 may be known as the year of food safety focus. FDA conducted food safety audits on several cantaloupe farms during the harvest season. The association attended and participated in numerous meetings with FDA officials including Assistant Commissioner for Produce Food Safety Mike Taylor. GFVGA submitted a lengthy document for commends to the proposed FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) regulations.
- The 2014 SE Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference broke 3000 in attendance numbers for its 11thannual event.
- The Georgia GAP Food Safety Program begun a rebranding process in early 2014. The goal of the rebrand was show that the program itself, which offers consultations services and food safety guidance, could adapt to all audit types and schemes, not just GAP certifications. The new name for GFVGA’s food safety program is now Produce Food Safety Services. With almost 3 full time consultants providing guidance to growers across the southeast, this event marked sufficient growth for the association and how it tends to the needs of its grower members.
- GFVGA continued representing the best interests of its members in the produce industry by visiting Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C. throughout the year. GFVGA hosted workshops to help growers better understand their responsibilities under the looming Affordable Healthcare Act and submitted two rounds of revisions to the FDA for the Food Safety Modernization Act.
- With the Board’s direction, the GFVGA reformed its membership structure and renewal dates in 2014. The new structure focuses on members as organizations instead of individuals. Membership fees increased slightly to accommodate for the removal of those individual members levels. The GFVGA also changed renewal dates from anniversary to annual, with everyone renewing in January, and offered a 2 year membership option with an overall discount.
- With the new membership structure and renewal dates in place, and the addition of the 2 year membership renewal option GFVGA was able to increase its 2015 membership dues revenue to nearly double the revenue from the previous year. Membership increased to 157 organizational members and 351 individual member contacts.
- GFVGA offered several educational workshops throughout Georgia, including a workshop focused on the development of a Food Safety Manual. This is the first time that the organization has been able to offer a workshop focused on creating an on farm food safety manual. The workshop was funded through USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants and was offered at no charge to GFVGA Member Farms.
- During 2015, GFVGA staff served on the planning committee for the Farm to School Conference, and developed a commodity video series that will serve as a resource for school nutrition directors and educators throughout Georgia to help them teach their students about Georgia Grown Produce.
On August 22, 2016 GFVGA celebrated 20 years as an organization.
- The 2016 SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference surpassed previous attendance and sponsorship records with 3505 attendees and over $150,000 in sponsorships.
The organization filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the growers in the Flint River Basin in response to the Georgia-Florida water wars.
GFVGA held their first Ag Labor Seminar with over 120 attendees. The workshop covered labor topics that included information on wage & hour audits, The Affordable Care Act and the H-2A program.
The association worked closely with Congressman Buddy Carter to highlight reform needed in the H2A program, including a delegation letter concerning changes needed, and meeting with Labor Secretary Acosta and high ranking DOL staff.
GFVGA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture hosted an on-the-farm visit (4 locations) visit by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to better understand how the FSMA regulations would be implemented ‘on the ground’.
PFSS Director Beth Oleson attended an ‘invitation only (12 people)’ review and evaluation of FDA Training procedures for FSMA implementation.
GFVGA joined forces with other southeastern and mid-west grower organizations affected by Mexican and Canadian imports in the NAFTA discussions for product dumping relief.
Work continued throughout the year in support of the Administration’s Perishable and Seasonability Provision in the NAFTA negotiations. Unfortunately, the provision failed and the new USMCA Agreement which was signed in November, 2018 leaving southeastern produce growers with no recourse for Mexico’s unfair trade practices.
Testimony was presented to the International Trade Commission on behalf of GFVGA by Georgia Ag Commissioner Gary Black, outlining the damage done to our industry by the excessive imports from Mexico with no recourse to fight their unfair trade practices.
Throughout the year GFVGA participated in hearings, committee meetings and provided letters of support for the specialty crop provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Bill passed and was signed by the President in December 2018.
Tremendous effort was put forth by GFVGA and other organizations to pass new agricultural worker legislation known as H-2C and introduced by Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlette of Virginia.
Efforts were not successful and Congress adjoined without considering the legislation.
GFVGA members were devastated by Hurricane Michael in October causing over $500 million in damage to fruit and vegetable farms – crops and structures.
GFVGA hit a new membership milestone crossing the 500 mark, ending the year with 535 members.