Washington City IX
By CHRISTIAN SCHLECT, PRESIDENT, NORTHWEST HORTICULTURAL COUNCIL
The current multistate outbreak of listeria linked to whole cantaloupes grown on a farm in Colorado will certainly serve to accelerate FDA’s current work on proposed food safety regulations for produce. So far thirteen people are thought to have died as a result of this outbreak, which is being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What comes next on immigration in Washington, D.C. is in the court of the chairman of the House’s Judiciary Committee. E-Verify has passed in his committee, but Chairman Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas) has promised to hold at least one additional hearing on labor-intensive agriculture’s needs for a reasonable guest worker system. After this is all settled by the Judiciary Committee, the Republican leadership still will need to decide if it desires to bring the contentious matter of E-Verify to the full House for a vote this fall.
Three of the top politically-appointed trade positions at USDA are unsettled. President Obama announced yesterday that he did intend to nominate Michael T. Scuse, formerly of Delaware, as undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services. Meanwhile the current holder of the post of deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, Darci Vetter, is out on maternity leave. Acting temporarily as administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service is Suzanne Heinen, a career professional.
On Sunday, I will be flying to Washington, D.C. to attend the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Public Policy Conference. A number of side meetings are held in conjunction with this annual conference, including one on Monday of United’s Government Relations Council, of which I am a member. Here, federal policy problems confronting the nation’s produce industry such as E-Verify, food safety, and the Farm Bill will be discussed. Solved is another question.