At the request of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Produce Marketing Association (PMA) representatives met with the secretary and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson June 15 to advise the administrator on the unique needs of the produce industry under her agency’s jurisdiction. PMA board of directors member John Oxford, president and CEO of L&M Companies, Raleigh, NC, represented PMA’s grower members during the meeting with Jackson and Vilsack. He was accompanied by PMA Executive Vice President & COO Lorna Christie.
Oxford – whose company operates across the U.S., Mexico, Central and South America and offers a broad array of fruits and vegetables – stressed to Jackson and Vilsack the great diversity of the produce industry that precludes a “one size fits all” approach to regulation. He urged the agency to seek greater partnership and cooperation with the grower community.
Oxford and Christie were among a small group of specialty crop organizations invited by Vilsack to the meeting at EPA headquarters. Vilsack facilitated the meeting to discuss how EPA and its regulation of pesticides and other environmental protections affect produce production. In his invitation, he requested that meeting participants provide firsthand, relevant industry experiences; participants included a range of national industry organizations and their grower representatives.
“I’m pleased USDA and EPA are seeking real-world perspectives on the complex matters related to producing highly seasonal, highly perishable products like fruits and vegetables,” said Oxford. “I was honored to have the chance to share from our vantage point in describing our company, our growing operations, and how Washington’s actions affect us. This meeting made it clear to me that PMA’s government relations activities are increasingly important to our industry’s future.”
After the meeting, Christie provided Vilsack’s and Jackson’s staffs with an advance copy of a report developed by the Alliance for Food and Farming that challenges activist groups’ ongoing misuse of federal pesticide residue data. She invited the agency to use the report’s findings to reassure consumers of the safety of fresh produce. The alliance’s report was sponsored in part by PMA.
“These efforts to needlessly frighten consumers run directly counter to the White House’s and USDA’s messages to increase fruit and vegetable consumption,” noted Christie. “We value the chance to discuss the fruit and vegetable industry’s needs, and appreciated the candid and frank discussion, and their interest in collaborating more in the future. We look forward to continuing the conversation in the future.”
Source: Produce Marketing Association news release