● USDA has shuffled its leadership deck, especially as related to international trade policy. Sue Heinen, leader of the Foreign Agricultural Service, has moved across Independence Avenue to the Whitten Building to become acting deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. She is now deputy to Darci Vetter, who had been promoted to acting under secretary when Mike Scurse left this post for the number two position at USDA, that of deputy secretary. To circle back, the open position of administrator of FAS (vacated by the departure of the career professional Ms. Heinen) is now held by Phil Karsting, who formerly worked on Capitol Hill.
● The Farm Bill more likely than not will be voted on by the House of Representatives prior to the Fourth of July recess. The urban/rural alliance that has traditionally passed previous Farm Bills is frayed. With federal budget cuts necessary, rural interests grow more and more concerned that the funding priorities of the Farm Bill are being driven by urban nutrition and hunger advocates. They observe that traditional programs in direct support of farmers and ranchers–such as agricultural research–are being allocated a smaller and smaller part of the pie. In other words, a whole ton of scarce money is going to food stamps, and the major national agricultural groups are not amused.
● Norm Dicks, who represented Washington state in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 2013, joined Van Ness Feldman in May. His title is senior policy counsel at this law firm, which has offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C. I have worked with Van Ness Feldman for a number of years, primarily through its legal representation of the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition.
● The proposed food safety rule for imported produce is still not issued and is now about a year and a half late. I think that this is a sign of the foreign policy and enforcement challenges raised by the United States requiring specific and detailed rules for agricultural growing practices in other countries for food that we eventually import.
● On Sunday, June 23, I head to Rochester, New York, for a governing board meeting of the Center for Produce Safety and its annual two-day Produce Research Symposium.