● Yesterday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (Democrat, Washington) visited Yakima, with one of her stops being at the Yakima Valley SunDome for the 2012 Ag Expo.  That afternoon, I joined a few invited local farmers and agricultural association representatives and met with the senator in the midst of this sparsely attended trade show. With the senator, those of us from the fruit industry stressed the need for federal help with harvest labor, irrigation water, and export markets. For the latter, we highlighted (1) the economic value of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program, and (2) our thanks to her for votes in favor of Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

● Senator Cantwell, in her second full term of office, is the only senator in the Pacific Northwest up for reelection in 2012. Her last campaign resulted in a 57 percent to 40 percent victory over her Republican challenger.

● Active participation in coalitions sometimes requires quick decisions on whether or not to travel. The Crop Protection Coalition, which works on methyl bromide registration issues, was able to secure a long-sought meeting with officials at the USDA in Washington, D.C., for January 17.  As a result, CPC chairman Jim Cranney of the California Citrus Quality Council yesterday called for a formal meeting of this national coalition immediately prior to an afternoon meeting at USDA’s Jamie L. Whitten Building. As our industry, especially cherry exporters, has a keen interest in keeping available quarantine uses of this fumigant—which are threatened due to international climate concerns—today I booked a flight back east, with departure a week from next Monday.

● January 4 was the date set by Congress for the Food and Drug Administration to issue proposed standards for produce safety. While we understand that these proposed standards have been drafted by FDA, they apparently still have not been cleared by the Administration for publishing in the Federal Register.

POLITICAL FRUIT: “On the campaign trail, distancing himself from the dreaded Washington insider label,

[Rick Santorum] has highlighted his Pennsylvania roots. In August, at a campaign event in Iowa, he  handed out samples of ‘Pennsylvania Presidential Peach Preserves,’ which he claimed were made by his family from peaches they picked off their trees back home. But as the Roxborough-Manayunk, Pennsylvania Patch pointed out on Tuesday, there’s not a peach tree to be found anywhere near the Santorum home in Penn Hills.” Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, January, 4, 2012.