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Schlect Chris blog post ● This fall’s disruptions of ocean shipping–that have lacerated our tree fruit exports–beg for some type of long-term remedy. Unionized longshoremen should not have the kind of economic clout that can be misused to so deeply harm our growers, other innocents, and, in general, the entire U.S. economy.

One idea, being advanced by the economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, is for laborers and employers at ports to be placed under the federal Railway Labor Act, which apparently is much more protective of the smooth flow of commerce than the present law governing labor disputes at ports, the National Labor Relations Act. We will be looking to do our part in promoting this idea to see if it might be able to gain some traction in Washington, D.C., since many companies and business sectors, well beyond our tree-fruit industry, are also now suffering.

● Representative Doc Hastings (R/Washington), who did not run for re-election and, thus, retires at the end of this year, was given the high honor of handling the House’s debate from the speaker’s chair over the final major bill of the 113th Congress. On Wednesday night, he gaveled down passage of HR 83, the federal government’s spending bill for fiscal year 2015.

● A good friend, Mike Wootton, will retire from Sunkist Growers, Inc. at the end of this year. His work on federal government relations for this large citrus cooperative will be taken over by the capable Rayne Thompson, who once was administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, in the early part of the Obama Administration. Before coming to Sunkist, almost two decades ago, Mr. Wootton worked on Capitol Hill as a respected Hill staffer.

● Mary Coppola has filled the empty inkwell left on the desk of the departed Ray Gilmer at the United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, D.C. Ms. Coppola became United’s senior director for marketing communications on November 24. Speaking of United, it seems odd for it to expand to include floral as a new membership category, as was announced in October.  While this may serve to boost its membership revenues somewhat, it is hard to believe this will not divert attention from the existing needs of the present core membership of United, that is those companies involved with the growing and selling of fresh fruits and vegetables.