As I sit down to write this column, I’m having trouble deciding exactly where to begin. So much is going on in the industry right now. For starters, the latest foodborne illness outbreak involving cantaloupe has received a lot of attention and labor issues are again coming to the forefront.
As many will recall, it was barely a year ago that Jensen Farms in Colorado first issued a voluntary recall of its cantaloupes after being linked to a multistate outbreak of listeriosis. Fast forward several months and this summer, there was another foodborne illness outbreak involving cantaloupe. This time, however, it was Salmonella that was traced back to a farm in Indiana.
Also in August, the “Show Me Your Papers” provision was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, GA, which could greatly impact labor forces in that state. Plus, mandatory E-verify is not too far in the distant future for Georgia growers with more than 10 employees. (The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association is planning educational sessions this fall to help growers prepare for E-verify. Go to www.gfvga.org for more information).
Know Your Stuff
It goes without saying that food safety and immigration are two hot topics in the agriculture industry and future decisions on the course of law in these areas likely will be made, in part, by the next president. With the election less than a month away, I’ve heard people from both sides of the aisle say that this will be the most important election for a variety of reasons. At the very least, the outcome will impact you as decisions also will be made on other important topics, such as ag regulations, estate taxes, and the Farm Bill.
As my father used to say to me when I was a kid doing my homework: “Study hard. Sometimes even the smallest of details will be on the test.”
To understand the details small or otherwise, means becoming informed on the subject matter. For example, do you know where President Obama and Governor Romney stand on the issues impacting ag? If you are uncertain or need to learn more, United Fresh Produce Association posed questions on the produce industry’s top issues to both candidates. To find out their responses, go to www.growingproduce.com/article/30883/candidates-comment-on-produce-industry-concerns.
Public Policy Conference
Coincidentally, earlier this month United Fresh hosted its Washington Public Policy Conference where, rest assured, the topics mentioned here and others are thoroughly discussed. As I am writing this before attending the event, be sure to look for conference coverage on GrowingProduce.com
and American Vegetable Grower’s eNews in the coming weeks.
At the conference, I not only present the annual Grower Achievement Award — this year’s recipient is Steven Lyles Farms in Las Cruces, NM — I have the privilege of being part of the “March on Capitol Hill” with growers and other industry representatives, discussing the topics that are critical to fruit and vegetable growers.
From where I sit, it is time to drill down to the details. The only way to make a difference regarding the issues impacting your operation is to get informed and get involved.
It’s not too late. You still have time to prepare for this “test.” Contact your senators and representatives and let them know where you stand on the issues.