● Last week, I spent time in Wenatchee with Dr. Jim Gorny and Bob Keeney, both from Washington, D.C., and speakers at the annual meeting of the Washington State Horticultural Association. Mr. Keeney directs fruit and vegetable programs at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, while Dr. Gorny is a key member of the produce food safety team at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Coincidently, earlier in their careers, but at separate times, both worked on the staff of the United Fresh Produce Association, where I first became friends with each of them.
● The Food and Drug Administration has submitted its proposed rule for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables to other agencies of the federal government for review, including the Office of Management and Budget. This is the last step prior to having it published in the Federal Register for public comment. Surprisingly to me, it now looks like FDA might meet the January 4 deadline set by Congress in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act for this proposed rule’s publication. ■ If you think FDA’s rules and enforcement have little relevance to our commercial tree fruit industry, you might want to read the press release issued last Wednesday by Snokist Growers, Inc., a Yakima-based agricultural cooperative, which has entered chapter 11 proceedings in federal bankruptcy court.
● USDA/AMS is responsible for a number of government food purchase programs, including the national school lunch program. While it will adjust its purchase standards to meet or exceed any final rule on produce safety issued by FDA, AMS now appears open to working with the produce industry to avoid any unnecessary duplication of costly food-safety audits.
● The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Monday to take up a high-profile immigration case out of Arizona. The question for the justices to decide revolves around the permissible extent to which Arizona and other states may create and enforce local laws that conflict with federal immigration policy. The final decision by the high court, likely to be made known before the general election in 2012, will certainly impact the nation’s heated public debate over immigration policy. ■ Meanwhile, today’s Wall Street Journal reports that illegal immigration from Mexico has hit a four decades low.
POLITICAL FRUIT: “As for other spending cuts? The low-hanging fruit has already been plucked or otherwise identified as necessary for deficit reduction.” Jeanne Sahadi, CNN Money, November 30, 2011.