Watermelon group forms new mission statement, works on grades
Orlando, Fla. — The National Watermelon Association aims to shape the watermelon industry for future generations.
Bob Morrissey, executive director of the association, said that sentiment represents the new mission statement for the organization.
In his Feb. 22 address at the NWA’s annual convention, Morrissey said its mission statement hasn’t been updated since the late 1980s, before the National Watermelon Promotion Board was established.
“Our old mission statement was all-encompassing and was this big, long paragraph that quite honestly was difficult to remember,” Morrissey said.
“A mission statement is supposed to be a brief statement that incorporates who we are, what we do, and who we do it for.”
The NWA’s new mission statement is “Shaping the watermelon industry for future generations.”
“It makes all the sense in the world, and our executive committee chose this one far and above all of the other options,” Morrissey said. “We will be pushing this, incorporating this, and following this as our mantra from here on out.”
Topics of focus
Ag labor, food safety, trade and trucking regulations are four “front-burner” issues for the NWA in Washington, D.C., Morrissey said.
He said the Senate is expected to introduce an ag labor bill in early spring that should be attractive for farmers, and he encouraged association members to lobby for the bill when it is introduced.
Morrissey said the NWA continues to work with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on electronic logging device issues to make some additional rule changes that will better adapt the regulations to perishable commodities such as fresh produce.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed in 2011, needs a “tune up,” Morrissey said.
“There are things that we have learned that don’t work, there are things that we have learned that aren’t part of it,” he said. “We still don’t have the definition of farm correct yet; we’re still working on that a number of other things.”
Finally, Morrissey said a group primarily composed of southeast U.S. growers are looking at the USMCA and looking at how it will negatively affect trading for fruits and vegetables in the South.
Grade standards refresh
Morrissey said the association is beginning work on updating U.S. Department grade and quality standards for watermelon.
“The (USDA standards) do not reflect the current crop that’s planted, harvested, packed, shipped and purchased by consumers anywhere in the U.S.,” he said.
The association has contacted the USDA and established a grade standards committee, with chairman Jordan Carter, director of sales and marketing for Leger & Son, Cordele, Ga.
The first step in the process is updating a library of visual aids on watermelon quality conditions for inspectors.
“Our goal is to get that entire library updated, hopefully by the beginning to mid summer,” Carter said.
The association’s grade standards committee will communicate with NWA members to gather ideas on how the grade standards should be changed.
Morrissey said the group plans to redefine its annual marketing award to put more weight on promotions done in July.
“One of the things that we accomplished 13 years ago was we went to our friends in Congress and they designated the month of July as National Watermelon Month,” he said.
During July, at least 15 states are shipping watermelon and the f.o.b. price tends to be low compared with other months.
“We can impact the demand by taking advantage of (National Watermelon Month) and so we’re going to redefine our marketing award so that we can focus on who had the best promotion — whether it’s a retailer, a wholesaler, or distributor, or a marketing company — during the entire month of July and took advantage of this opportunity.”
Starting in April, the NWA is going to offer researchers the opportunity to post watermelon-related research projects and findings on a global database that will be housed on the NWA’s research page at https://www.watermelon.ag/.
The database will be open to the public, Morrissey said.
With donations still coming in, Morrissey said NWA members donated $91,200 to the Warriors for Freedom Foundation as of early Feb. 22. That is up from the $45,000 collected for the group at the NWA convention last year, he said.
Morrissey said he was hopeful NWA donations to the Warriors for Freedom Foundation would total $100,000 at the convention.
Morrissey said he has nominated Major Edward Pulido, a founding member of the Warriors for Freedom foundation, for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Though many people are considered for this award and it will be “huge rock to push uphill,” and urged NWA members to write letters of support for the nomination.
“I’ve never met anybody that is more dedicated to the veterans in this country than that man,” Morrissey said.