● The House Committee on Agriculture approved by a bipartisan vote of 35-11 its version of the Farm Bill late Wednesday night. H.R. 6083 now is poised to go before the full body for debate and a vote on passage. When will this happen? As soon as Speaker Boehner decides to schedule the floor time.

● Most of the issues of special interest to the nation’s fruit and vegetable sector—such as research and export promotion (MAP)—were handled satisfactorily in the Agriculture Committee’s final work.  One disputed issue was the opening of USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to “all forms.”  The United Fresh Produce Association and others are upset that this will take the focus off “fresh” for this school snack program.  “All forms” is a term that encompasses fresh, canned, dried, and frozen. So if you are a canned pear supplier you support the acceptance of “all forms”; while if you are a fresh apple shipper, you oppose it.

● H.R. 6083 also includes provisions amending the Apple Export Act in regard to bulk shipments to Canada (requested by New York Apple growers and supported by the Northwest Horticultural Council); calling for a study to be conducted by USDA on the feasibility of crop insurance coverage in food safety recall situations; and directing USDA to upgrade its policy oversight of export issues.

● On the GMO front, USDA filed notices today in the Federal Register requesting public comment on several genetically engineered agricultural products, including one for the non-browning Arctic Apple. The New York Times has published a balanced story by reporter Andrew Pollack on the matter: interestingly, it has already this morning generated over 200 reader comments.

POLITICAL PAST: “I saw Cooper, late Mayor of New York. He said very earnestly, alluding to the Local Government Bill: ‘We tried government by the boards in New York sixty years ago. The result is that we found it impossible.  The only power left now to Aldermen here is giving franchise to apple stalls.’”   From the diary of Sir Cecil Spring Rice, March 30, 1888.