● The United Fresh Produce Association held town hall meetings in both Wenatchee and Yakima this week. Two of its staff, Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy, and Dan Vaché, vice president for supply chain management, brought local fruit shippers current on federal policy issues and the status of the Produce Traceability Initiative.  Mr. Guenther is based in Washington, D.C., while Mr. Vaché, resisting the siren song of the Capital, resides in Redmond, Washington.

● Western Growers, an association representing produce growers and shippers in Arizona and California, has named Dennis Nuxoll as its new vice president for government affairs in its Washington, D.C., office, replacing Cathy Enright, who left in October to become an executive with BIO, the biotechnology industry’s federal lobbying arm. Mr. Nuxoll, an attorney, has former employment ties both to Senator Max Baucus (D/Montana) and the American Farmland Trust. The NHC works closely with Western Growers on many overlapping policy issues.

● President Obama, in his State of the Union address last month, among other things, asked Congress for the power to consolidate several federal trade agencies and programs. On the winning side of the coin, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service was exempted from the president’s plan. The obverse of this same coin found the Office of the Special Trade Representative thrown into this proposed consolidation. FAS and USTR each have distinct core trade functions, and I think it in the interests of increasing United States agricultural exports for each to keep their current identities. Blending a small, nimble, and effective USTR with the large, leaden, and bureaucratic commercial trade programs of such as the Department of Commerce and Small Business Administration makes little sense to me. The likelihood of President Obama’s trade reorganization plan being accepted by this Congress? In my opinion, near zero.

● No word yet on exactly when proposed food safety rules for produce will be published in the Federal Register. The Food and Drug Administration was supposed to get these out for public review by January 4.

POLITICAL FRUIT: “But government didn’t shut down the banks. They didn’t shut down the financial service industry. So when you compare these [with the airline industry bailout after 9/11], it’s not apples to apples, Mitt, and that’s not a fair comparison.” Rick Santorum in the CNN Republican Debate in Arizona on February 22, 2012.