● Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration released two of its proposed regulations implementing FSMA, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. They deal with the safety of produce and food facilities. Setting aside the merits of the proposals, what was interesting to me was the choreographed release. FDA successfully controlled the media message by releasing the lengthy documents on a Friday and then holding explanatory conference calls for the media and other interested people on very short notice. The upshot was that there was only laudatory press for FDA’s regulatory actions over the weekend. The national media focus was how government was protecting consumers rather than whether more intrusive federal regulation was actually needed at the orchard level.
● Another point about FDA’s proposed rules: The possible merger between the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association collapsed last summer. Since we do not have one united national produce industry organization, we will be working with both PMA and United as each—separately—tries to develop comments to FDA.
● Informal news sources are spreading word that The White House is on the brink of announcing the nomination of out-going Governor Christine Gregoire (D/Washington) as the new administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We shall see if this trial balloon soars or collapses.
● The chance for quick work on a new Farm Bill in the 113th Congress is melting away. There remain hard feelings among agricultural leaders, such as Congressman Collin Peterson (D/Minnesota), about how the current Farm Bill was partially extended in the dark hours of the last Congress and also the reality that there are many new members who will want to have their say on this complex bill. Perhaps most important is the looming budget deficit issue and how its resolution will impact the way any new five-year Farm Bill can be structured and funded.
● Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D/Washington), a member from the Seattle suburbs and former Microsoft executive, has been named to the House Agriculture Committee. The entire committee has about 44 members, with only two of these from the Pacific Northwest: Ms. DelBene and Kurt Schrader (D/Oregon).
● The U.S. Postal Service has set next Thursday, January 17, as the date for its release of a new set of four stamps featuring apples (Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Baldwin). The nationwide release ceremony will be at the Yakima, Washington, Post Office on Washington Avenue.
● Next week takes me to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of USApple’s Public Policy Committee.