● The merger talks between the Produce Market Association and the United Fresh Produce Association have failed. It appears that the break point was over who would lead a combined trade association: PMA’s board is said to have wanted its own Brian Silbermann to be the designated CEO, while United’s board favored a more open selection process. In my opinion, this is a weak reason to blow up a good idea that would have led to the elimination of one redundant national convention, and the better coordination and rationalization of produce industry efforts on a range of policy issues from food safety, to crisis management, to nutrition, to government relations, and beyond. All this positive potential was wiped out over one executive position. Meanwhile, I note that this week, SUPERVALU stores of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, announced the layoff of some 800 executives.
● Federal issues watch: The new Farm Bill is now at the scheduling mercy of Speaker John Boehner, while FDA’s overdue draft produce food safety regulations are still stuck somewhere within shouting distance of the White House. Meanwhile, federal tax rates and budgetary deficit decisions too treacherous to resolve will be put off for what likely will be an execrable post-election session of the 112th Congress.
● Award for best of media/blog lines last week on the nonbrowning GMO apple. Winner is blogger Jill Ettinger: “If Arctic apples make their way into the food chain, it begs the question: what will happen to Apple Brown Betty recipes?” Second place to an unknown headline writer at the New York Times: “Keeping an Apple Snow White.”
● More evidence that the U.S. Department of Commerce is politically a backwater. I wager few have at the tip of their tongues the name of the cabinet level officer who has led it for the past three weeks since Secretary John Bryson, the one-time cofounder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, resigned on June 21 in the wake of an automobile accident. Drawing a blank? The answer is Acting Secretary Rebecca M. Blank.