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● A report to Congress was issue in February by the Food and Drug Administration on its foreign office program. Some interesting facts can be gleaned from the report’s bureaucratic prose (“engage more proactively,” “paradigm shift,” “embedding of staff,” “capacity- building”, and so on, and so forth). Examples: There are 300 ports of entry for products entering the United States. While 15 percent of our food is imported, some 50 percent of our fruit is.  FDA now has only 13 overseas posts, three of them in China—where  a total of eight Americans oversee all food and drug exported to our shores from the Celestial Empire.

●  Acronyms can facilitate communication or muddle it.  There is no confusion over “NATO,” and it would be senseless to write the North American Treaty Organization whenever that child of the Cold War is mentioned in print. But does “WA” refer to Washington state or Western Australia? Is “ICE” Germany’s high speed rail train that I saw when in Berlin for Fruit Logisitca, or Homeland Security’s immigration police? Is “TSA” the Transportation Security Administration or The Salvation Army? Is “PTO” an orchard tractor’s power take-off, or the U.S. Patent Trademark Office. Closer to home, is the “NHC”, the Northwest Horticultural Council or the National Hurricane Center?

● More annoying than muddling, is the love of legislators when introducing new bills to provide titles that may be converted to snappy acronyms. An example on February 8 from U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone (D/New Jersey) and Rosa DeLauro (D/Connecticut): H.R. 3984, “The Arsenic Prevention and Protection from Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012.” Or, “Apple Juice.”

● The only other federal bill in Congress this year with a focus on apples is H.R. 3914, a bill to amend the Export Apple Act to allow for bulk shipment of fresh apples into Canada without USDA certification. Bill Owens (D/New York) introduced this measure at the request of the New York Apple Association, which acted in coordination with the Northwest Horticultural Council. If passed, H.R. 3914 should relieve some apple shippers of unnecessary inspection expenses associated with hauling raw product across the northern border.