● Initiative-522, on labeling genetically-engineered foods, failed this week (55.83% to 45.17%) in Washington state. I thought it would pass, but apparently the well-funded anti-I-522 campaign was successful in pointing out to voters the many flaws in this proposed retail labeling measure. It did carry Seattle’s King County by a good margin, but for once the other counties outvoted the Emerald City. I do not think this defeat is the death knell for mandatory GMO labeling. Look for major food companies to try to secure federal legislation on this subject; both to answer a rising number of consumer critics and to avoid costly defensive political campaigns waged state by state.
● Status report: hopes for comprehensive immigration reform this year continue to fade given the political animosity that exists between the White House and members of the majority in the House of Representatives; with a Senate/House conference on the Farm Bill now convened, there is a decent chance for enactment of this long delayed legislation by the end of December.
● Tom Foley died last month at age 84. My predecessor at the Northwest Horticultural Council, Ernie Falk, took me on a introductory trip back to Washington, D.C., soon after I was hired in 1980. One of the offices visited was that of Tom Foley, then the majority whip in the House of Representatives. Mr. Falk knew Mr. Foley from the days when he (Mr. Foley) was a staffer to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. While Mr. Foley’s Spokane-based congressional district held mostly wheat, he always viewed his political interests to include all of the state’s crops and his door was always open to those representing the tree fruit industry. Over many future trips I saw Mr. Foley occasionally, but more frequently met with his wife, Heather, who served as an unpaid member of his staff, or such other top aides as Gene Moos and Nick Ashmore. The last time I talked to Mr. Foley he was the United States ambassador to the Chrysanthemum Throne and was back in Washington, D.C., escorting the prime minister of Japan on a state visit to our country. I happened to see Ambassador Foley at the University Club during this trip and suggested if he were free on that Friday night he should attend “Potlatch”, the Washington State Society’s annual dinner. As it happened he was; and that is how the former Speaker of the House of Representatives spent his Friday night at “Potlatch,”courtesy of a ticket provided by the Northwest Horticultural Council.
At his memorial service on October 29 in the U.S. Capitol Building, there was a flood of bipartisan appreciation for Mr. Foley’s political career and life. As one commentator later wrote, it was the rare memorial in that town where nobody had to lie.