● Last Friday, I attended a breakfast meeting in Yakima hosted by the William D. Ruckelshaus Center’s advisory board. (The center is a joint effort of the University of Washington and Washington State University that fosters collaborative public policy.) About 35 people were present: most notably, Bill Ruckelshaus (age 80) and Slade Gorton (85). It was nice to meet both of these men who have done so much positive in the public sphere over their long lives. Each looked healthy, as they remain active in the hunt for good political solutions to intractable problems. It is hard to believe that forty years have passed since Mr. Ruckelshaus resigned his Justice Department job rather than execute President Nixon’s orders to fire Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal.
● The dance of immigration reform legislation has commenced. Most in production agriculture are supporting a U.S. Senate compromise on foreign workers; another approach is being floated in the House by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R/Virginia). My worst fear? A final bill that includes greater enforcement on employers, such as mandatory E-Verify, but fails to include an efficient and affordable program for the future employment needs of labor intensive agriculture.
● With much hoopla in 2001, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service first activated the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. This committee met two times a year and its activities were closely covered by the national produce industry’s trade press. New members for two-year terms were solicited in June of 2011. Then the whole effort went into a black hole. What has happened to this re-chartering intended for 2011-2013? From the outside, it appears it has been smothered in the political arms of this Administration. The only question for me is whether this a deliberate act of killing an unwanted advisory committee or death by simple ineptitude?
● I am set to travel to Washington, D.C. the first week of June for a meeting of the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee to USDA and USTR. Since former Trade Representative Ron Kirk has now returned to Texas, speculation is hot that a law school friend of President Obama’s, Michael Froman, soon will be appointed to this post.
● Capital Cant: Someone in Washington, D.C. often “speaks truth to power.” This usually refers to some bureaucrat saying something unpopular directly to a superior. It has an heroic tinge, belied by the fact that often the bureaucrat being lauded has full civil service job protection. I prefer Thomas Carlyle’s formulation of this sentiment, written in 1830, about his deceased sister: “..[she may have] spoken stern truths to the ear of Tyrants, had she been called to that work…”