Last week I attended, along with about 500 others, the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual Washington Public Policy Conference. The partial shut-down that occurred with the end of the federal government’s fiscal year–Monday at midnight–threw something of a wrench into the event’s planned two-day schedule. Some officials were unable to participate, visits to the U.S. Senate were cancelled, and the conference closed earlier than expected on Wednesday morning. Notwithstanding these problems, I thought United did a good job in juggling its schedule and the week proved an exciting one to be in our capital city for anyone with a glimmer of an interest in public policy.
● Wednesday afternoon I participated in an Executive Committee meeting of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. NCAE, like many small and specialized trade associations, lives on a limited budget and is constantly on the edge financially. Individual growers and other employers of agricultural labor find it hard to contribute significant and regular annual dues money to a far off national trade association. Instead, many think that this type of funding should come from their existing local or sector-specific associations or commissions. I think this is the hard reality and that NCAE will never find its main funding base to be all the individual growers and farmers of our land. It must focus on being effective at federal agricultural labor policy, and not spend time chasing illusive members.
● Thursday was taken up with attendance at the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance’s Technical Committee meeting, chaired by Dan Botts of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. It was held in a conference room of the Capitol Hill office building owned by the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery. This MCFA meeting was affected by the partial shut-down in that a number of USDA and EPA people who work on pesticide issues had to cancel their planned attendance due to being placed on furlough. The icing on the cake was the announcement late during the meeting that access to our office building was being temporarily shut down as a precaution due to a nearby Capitol Hill incident involving a police shooting. (It turned out a deranged woman was killed by officers.)
● Status report: hopes for comprehensive immigration reform this year is fading, with the only chance for action being after mid-November; Farm Bill now likely to go to a Senate/House conference; and partial government shut-down apt to continue for most of October.
● The American Nursery and Landscape Association has announced it will merge with the Association of Horticulture Professionals. The new group will be named the American Horticultural Association, and be known as “AmericanHort.” For many years the Northwest Horticultural Council has worked closely with the staff of the ANLA, primarily Craig Regelbrugge, in conjunction with our mutual support of such groups as the North American Plant Protection Organization and the National Council of Agricultural Employers. We expect this positive relationship to continue when AmericanHort officially comes into being on the first day of 2014.