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●  The United Fresh Produce Association sent out its ballot for 2012 officers and board members today. This brought to mind whether United might still merge with the Produce Marketing Association. Leaders representing these two major trade associations have been quietly meeting off and on for a number of months. If a deal is to be struck, I would think it might happen around United’s convention in Dallas, set for the first week in May. While I think a merger or consolidation would be a good thing, odds remain against it happening. One major stumbling block involves the future handling and funding of government relations for the nation’s produce industry in Washington, D.C.  I think government relations work can be sorted out and would hope an opportunity is not lost to reduce the number of meetings and conventions; to better coordinate work on public relations and nutritional education; and to combine food safety and other areas of technical expertise.

● Lost amidst the good times had by some in Cartagena, was the good news that the United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will go into force May 15. Tariffs on many of our country’s exports to Colombia will drop to zero that day, including those on apples, pears, and cherries, all now subject to a 15% ad valorem duty. Colombia, with some 45 million people, is already an important receiver of our fruit. For example, it alone has taken, to date this shipping season, twice the number of apples from Washington State than have been sent to the European Union.

●  Would you rather have the value of all the peaches grown in Washington State in 2010 or an oil painting of three peaches by Adriaen Coorte? In this case, the crop, at just over $5 million, beats the Dutch master’s oil painting described as “Three peaches on a stone ledge with a Painted Lady butterfly,” which sold at a Bonham auction in London last December for $3,216,300.

POLITICAL PAST: “Everybody goes about “electing” here; enthusiasm for Palmerston…is very great. It is frightful to think what torrents of balderdash will be emitted, and what a pack of scurvy hounds will be at last returned, as the ‘Collective Folly of the Nation’…”  From a letter by Thomas Carlyle, March 26, 1857, commenting on a British parliamentary election.