● Leon Panetta was announced by President Obama today to be his nominee as the next Secretary of Defense. If confirmed, the present director of the Central Intelligence Agency would replace the retiring Robert M. Gates. In the mid-1980s, I worked on agricultural immigration issues with Mr. Panetta, when he served as a congressman from California. A proposed amendment known as Panetta/Morrison (the Morrison being Sid Morrison of Washington state) was then a key part of the debate that led to passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Mr. Panetta is an outstanding public servant whom I greatly respect.

● Coincidently, Robert Gates, the current leader at Defense, is scheduled to be a commencement speaker on May 7 at Washington State University in Pullman.

● Federal marketing orders are administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. This week, two issues of interest emerged from this normally quiet backwater of government: (1) A strong pear grower vote in favor of continuing Federal Marketing Order 927 was announced. As a practical matter, this means the Pear Bureau Northwest will keep in business. And, (2) USDA agreed to go forward with a national leafy greens marketing order. This was pushed by California agricultural interests desiring a way to set a national system of food safety standards for leafy greens. It will be interesting to see whether this food safety approach to using federal marking orders, which are normally used for promotional or statistical purposes, proves successful.

● This Sunday, I travel to the Big Easy for the annual convention of the United Fresh Produce Association. In addition to the normal activities of such a national convention, I will be participating in side meetings including ones of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance and of United’s Government Relation’s Council. Food safety issues will also be a focus of my work in New Orleans. Not whether my shellfish in the French Quarter is tainted, but what is the latest with GlobalGAP; United’s harmonization process; traceability; and, adherence by major retailers to the concept embodied by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

POLITICAL FRUIT: “The True Finns’ leader, Timo Soini, might just be the euro zone’s first openly euro-skeptic premier on Monday. ‘How come they can’t see the euro doesn’t work?’ he asked of its defenders in an interview earlier this year. ‘If a melon and an apple each wear the same size baseball cap, everyone can see that just doesn’t work.’ The European edition of The Wall Street Journal, April 15-17, 2011.