● Immigration reform legislation has passed the U.S. Senate, but now faces tough times in the House. Unlike in the Senate, there is no clear set of respected leaders in the House of Representatives who want to make this reform happen–and many who want to see it fail. Most observers think the Fourth of July recess will be extremely important: will members going back to their districts take flack or receive praise for inactivity on immigration reform?
● The Farm Bill is in a position somewhat like immigration reform. Big high profile legislation, with a clear margin of passage in the Senate and then derailment in the House. Again, we may know more on how this issue will be dealt with after the elected officials return from their mid-summer break.
● Transitions: The White House announced on June 27 that Krysta Harden will be nominated as deputy secretary of agriculture. Originally from Georgia, Ms. Harden is a longtime agricultural policy veteran in Washington, D.C. and will work more effectively, in my opinion, with traditional agricultural groups than the previous occupant of the number two job at USDA, Kathleen Merrigan. Jamie Shimek, who has worked capably for Senator Patty Murray (D/Washington) for about eight years on agricultural and other policy issues, is set to join the Department of Energy as deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs. Tyler Wegmeyer, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau and a good advocate for the nation’s farmers, is the rare policy person who is actually going back to the family farm. June 28 is his last day at AFBF.
● The Center for Produce Safety held its Produce Research Symposium earlier this week at the Wegmans Conference Center in Rochester, New York. Wegmans is one of the premier regional grocery store chains in our nation and the top officials of the family-owned Wegmans were excellent hosts for this annual event. I was there primarily to attend the CPS board of directors meeting on Monday, June 24, and to meet informally over the course of the conference with such food safety leaders as Dr. Samir Assar of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Dr. Bob Whitaker of the Produce Marketing Association, Dr. Linda Harris of the University of California/Davis, and Leanne Skelton of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Next year’s symposium will be held June 24-25 in Newport Beach, California.
● While Rochester was a pleasant place, air travel to and from this upper New York location proved challenging. My flights were delayed or rerouted due to such things as late arriving connecting flights, thunderstorms in the Midwest, airplane equipment repairs, traffic control delays occasioned by heavy volume at certain airports, and mandatory downtime related to the length of work of flight crews. Such were the friendly skies.