● FDA took to the highway this week for an informational tour of the fruit and vegetable industry of the Pacific Northwest. Starting in Boise on Monday morning, a large group comprising regulatory officials and educators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, land grant colleges, and state departments of agriculture made its way to Oregon and then as far north as Wenatchee before concluding its produce food safety tour on Thursday in Yakima. The principal federal officer responsible for the enforcement of the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA deputy commissioner Mike Taylor, was present and was noticeably attentive to the significant problems–not the least of which is irrigation water quality–looming for orchardists in light of proposed federal regulations aimed at implementing FSMA. The Northwest Horticultural Council hosted a dinner Wednesday evening for these visitors.
In my opinion, while FDA will be open to adjusting provisions of its proposed produce food safety regulations, it will be quite difficult to convince the agency to change its basic regulatory framework to that of a commodity specific approach. But we will continue to try. The deadline for formal comments on the proposed rules is now November 15.
● The Produce Marketing Association has chosen Cathy Green Burns as its new president. Once she begins work this December, she will report to Bryan Silbermann who stays on as PMA’s chief executive officer. Green Burns is a person with deep roots in the retail side of the industry, being a former president of Food Lion. My guess is, if she works out, she will become Mr. Silbermann’s replacement when he eventually retires from PMA.
● Next Wednesday I head to Chicago for USApple’s Outlook Conference. Tagging along at the conclusion of this annual crop forecasting gathering are a number of apple industry meetings. For example, I plan to attend USApple’s Public Affairs Committee, which meets next Friday afternoon, and will stay for its board of directors’ meeting to be held on Saturday morning. As Nancy Foster departs at the end of August, who will be the next leader of USApple will certainly be a question on many minds.