● The Organic Trade Association is boosting the idea of a multicommodity federal promotion and research program for organics. While a lengthy process is required by USDA before any such national program is authorized and made operational, the OTA’s initiative—which would require the collection of mandatory assessments on the organic industry—already is opposed by some Pacific Northwest shippers of organic apples.
● Chuck Benbrook, who in national agricultural political circles is well-known as a high-profile policy advocate for organic farming and sustainability, landed in late August at Washington State University. Dr. Benbrook, an agricultural economist, is now an off-campus WSU research faculty member. You may expect many controversial media releases and press accounts to be sparked by this new representative of Pullman’s land grant institution.
● Leanne Skelton was one of the small team assembled by the Food and Drug Administration to write a produce safety rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act. After having been “detailed” from USDA, she now has returned to the South Building of the Department of Agriculture and will work as a food safety specialist for the Agricultural Marketing Service. In this capacity, the capable Ms. Skelton, among other duties, will act as a communications bridge between USDA and FDA on food safety regulatory issues involving fruits and vegetables.
● I attended the Produce Marketing Association’s annual convention in Anaheim over the past weekend. Nothing much was said about the collapse of merger talks between PMA and United. The attitude seemed to me one of going forward as if nothing much had happened. Accordingly, I expect PMA to continue to intensify its public policy presence in Washington, D.C.
● The United Fresh Produce Association’s next annual convention will be held in San Diego in mid-May of 2013. It has announced that its 2014 convention, to be held in conjunction with the Food Marketing Institute’s tradeshow, will be in Chicago on June 10-13. The 2014 date and location pose two potential problems: 1) United’s convention will now be in direct conflict with the Pacific Northwest’s fresh cherry season, and 2) Apple industry leaders will be called to Chicago twice in two months, as USApple’s Outlook Conference is traditionally held in the Windy City in August.
● Political Movie: Lincoln opens in movie theaters on November 9. A Steven Spielberg film, it stars actor Daniel Day-Lewis and is based on an award-winning history book: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2006).