● I attended United Fresh 2013 last week in San Diego, the annual convention and trade show of the United Fresh Produce Association. Over the years the number of both attendees and exhibitors has slowly declined at this traditional event. The trade show floor now is more weighted to firms offering food safety, traceability, equipment, and such solutions than booths of commercial produce companies or commodity promotion organizations. It is still an important event for the nation’s fruit and vegetable industry, but is altered from what it was once.
● To my way of thinking, the best convention speaker in San Diego was Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” political program. He was slated to be with Mika Brzezinski, but his partner was a no-show, probably due to the hot political news week (IRS targeting conservative groups; AP reporter subpoenas; etc.). The former Florida congressman cited the lack of personal relationships among political leaders of both parties as one of the fundamental causes for the harsh climate that has seemingly permanently settled in over the District of Columbia.
● In the future, United probably will not be devoting as much effort to the diaphanous concept of “sustainability.” Burleson Smith, the one hired to handle this issue a few years back, will soon be leaving United’s Washington, D.C. staff. A lack of continued special funding for this effort and the difficulty of advancing new standards that many members oppose, I think, were the reasons for this change. In the end, the project was simply unsustainable.
● I could not escape the Farm Bill even in sunny San Diego. The long awaited measure worked its way through committees of both the House and the Senate last week. Today the Senate starts floor debate on its version, while mid-June appears when the House will schedule it for consideration by the entire membership. To his credit, Robert Guenther, the government relations leader at United, stayed in Washington, D.C. for that important legislative week and, among other things, worked to coordinate conference calls to update and gather advice from people working on this issue through the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance. Such as myself and others who were situated in a high rise convention hotel, close by to an ocean marina stocked with yachts and sailboats.
● Political Fruit: A present member of the British parliament, Jesse Norman, has written a fine book entitled “Edmund Burke: The First Conservative.” It is, in part, a biography and, in part, comments on the political theory of democratic governance. How can you not want to read about one “who was an orator of huge power and unending invention, so that James Boswell once said, ‘It was astonishing how all kinds of figures of speech crowded upon him. He was like a man in an orchard where the boughs loaded with fruit hung around him, and he pulled the apples as fast as he pleased and pelted the Ministry…”‘