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Schlect Chris blog post● Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday his long-awaited appointment of 25 members to the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, a private-sector committee that provides advice to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Only one person on this national advisory committee is from the Pacific Northwest: Paul Newman of Washington state’s Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers/Columbia Valley Fruit. Two others are from Michigan’s apple industry: Diane Smith of the Michigan Apple Committee and Helen Dietrich of Ridgeview Orchards. My hunch is that the reason there are two apple people from Michigan, none from New York, and only one from Washington state might have something to do with the fact that the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Senator Debbie Stabenow, represents Michigan. And why it took over three years to reconstitute this dormant committee is an inexplicable political mystery.

● Members of Congress are likely to head out of town on Friday (more likely late Thursday) for their traditional August recess, and will not return to the banks of the Potomac until September 8. If I read the schedule correctly, there will be only ten legislative work days left after this Friday before the mid-term general election on November 4.

● One of the wonders of the lobbying world of Washington, D.C., is the number of different jobs one might have over the course of a career. Last week, an announcement came across my desk that the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (yes, there is such a group) had hired Patrick S. Atagi as vice president of advocacy and external affairs. Mr. Atagi is from Oregon.
I first met him when he worked for Senator Mark Hatfield (R/Oregon). Later I worked with Mr. Atagi when he was on the government relations staff of the then United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association. He then jumped to political jobs under two Republican secretaries at USDA. Afterwards he dropped from my sight, but apparently was with the World Chlorine Council. Now if I have a pallet question, I know who to call.

● Planning is afoot by the U.S.-China Agriculture and Food Partnership (AFP) for a symposium to be held in Beijing this fall. The Northwest Horticultural Council is a member of the AFP, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. If all goes well, the symposium will take place the same week in November as a scheduled APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit to be attended by, among other political leaders, President Obama.