Sep 29, 2022
Produce industry celebrates Tom Stenzel’s service

More than 150 fresh produce industry and association leaders met for a dinner at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Tom Stenzel’s three decades of service to the industry.

The celebration capped off the International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Conference on Sept. 28.

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In attendance to honor the former United Fresh Produce Association president and CEO and IFPA co-CEO were Rep. Jim Costa (California), former United Fresh board members and member leaders, legacy United Fresh staff and fellow agriculture and food association colleagues.

IFPA CEO Cathy Burns began the program by reflecting on her close relationship working alongside Tom for 15 years. In her remarks, Burns praised Stenzel for his steadfast commitment to advance the produce industry, while highlighting just a few of his many accomplishments throughout his three-decade career.

“Our industry needs more dedicated leaders like Tom, a fearless leader who truly cares not just about the industry, but more so, the people in it,” Burns said. “His tireless dedication over the decades is legendary and we are all better for it.”

In March 2021, Tom and Cathy achieved a longtime goal for the fresh produce industry by helping launch the International Fresh Produce Association, a new association formed by the combination of United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association.

Additional industry icons paid tribute to Stenzel’s unique and storied career, including former chairs of the United Fresh board, including Alan Siger (the first chair Tom worked with at United Fresh), Reggie Griffin and Brian Kocher, current chair of IFPA’s U.S. Government Relations Council. Past United Fresh Executive Vice President Victoria Backer and past United Fresh board member Will Steele also addressed Tom and guests.

Over $100,000 in individual donations and proceeds from the dinner will be contributed to IFPA’s The Foundation for Fresh Produce.

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Tom joined the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association as president and CEO in August 1993. Just two years later, Tom led United and a coalition of industry groups to amend and modernize the Perishable Agriculture Commodities Act (PACA) in 1995.

That same year, Tom led United to create The Washington Public Policy Conference, which continues today as the leading opportunity for the fresh produce industry to engage with policy makers. Additionally, with support from DuPont (now Corteva), Tom and the United staff launched the Produce Industry Leadership Program. More than 250 industry leaders have graduated from the program, which is still active under IFPA.

In 2006, under Tom’s leadership, United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and International Fresh-Cut Produce Association merged to form United Fresh Produce Association.

In 2008, Tom united various specialty crop associations to ensure the farm bill benefited both the produce industry and the public, by increasing access to fresh produce as well as supporting research to help the industry.

Three years later, in 2011, Tom was named the president of the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), an organization of produce trade associations focused on improving the supply chain efficiency of the fresh produce industry through developing, implementing, and managing harmonized international standards. That same year, Tom was appointed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100, comprised of leaders of trade associations in various industries that represents the interests of association members before the U.S. Chamber’s board of directors.

In July 2015, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman appointed Tom to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) that advises the secretary of agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative on the administration of trade policy.

In 2016, United Fresh and PMA assembled an industry work group to develop an ethical charter (released in 2018) to promote responsible labor standards across the produce and floral industries. This was a major effort between United Fresh and PMA, and it laid the groundwork for a close working relationship between Tom and Cathy and their associations, culminating in the coming together of PMA and United Fresh to form IFPA in 2022.

In April 2022, Tom launched The Stenzel Group, a consulting firm supporting the fresh produce industry in strategic management, government relations, customer development and adoption of new technologies.

—IFPA

Top photo: Tom and Kathy Stenzel enjoy hearing from long-time produce industry colleagues during a celebration of Tom Stenzel’s service to the industry. Photos courtesy IFPA.

Middle photo: Tom Stenzel (center, with blue handkerchief) and former chairs of the United Fresh Produce Association.

Bottom photo: More than 150 colleagues and friends give former United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel a standing ovation.




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