● A powerful court decision handed down this past Friday involving Noel Canning and the National Labor Relations Board made page-one headlines in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal over the weekend. The United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia Circuit) decided that an NLRB ruling against Noel Canning was invalid since President Obama had improperly named three of its five members by way of “recess” appointments. This sets up a United States Supreme Court review of the conflicting constitutional powers of our government’s Executive and Legislative branches. What does this have to do with the tree fruit industry? Not much. Except it is interesting to me this high profile case originated with a Yakima, Washington, based beverage firm (Noel Canning) and the firm’s local labor lawyer is Gary Lofland, a friend of mine. Mr. Lofland, who was on the brief submitted to the Court of Appeals, is now affiliated with Halverson Northwest, a newly named law firm with many tree fruit industry clients. In fact, two of the original founders of what is now known as Halverson Northwest are Alan McDonald, who later became a federal district court judge, and Bud Applegate. Both are now deceased. Judge McDonald, in addition to having a brilliant legal career, was fond of the Yakima Valley’s agriculture, and he later made personal investments in the local apple industry. Mr. Applegate had a business law practice that involved representing many in local agriculture, including my own family’s orchard during my youth.
● Immigration is a center issue of the new Congress and for President Obama. Eight U.S. senators have now announced a bipartisan approach that will spark serious legislative attention. The details from the eight are sketchy, but border control, employer sanctions, a foreign worker program, dealing with those millions of aliens already here, and so forth are covered. The contours of a solution are here, but the specifics of an achievable plan are still down the road. I hope to learn more next week when I am back in Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the National Council of Agricultural Employers.
● Capital cant: “Kabuki theater” has become a phrase adored by political observers in the media. It sounds intelligent and exotic and yet is easy to pronounce. One says it, then stops and with some condescension explains that this phrase is a reference to old Japanese drama, where the actions of kabuki theater actors are highly stylized and their motives often hidden to the audience. Thus a good way to describe a process where legislators find it necessary to publically yell and shout, yet every one of these same elected yellers and shouters already quietly know the likely political outcome.