Is the fruit and vegetable advisory committee coming back?

11/14/2013 10:18:00 AM
Tom Karst

ParrottBringing back the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee after more than a two-year absence has been a goal for industry lobbyists.

It also is a goal for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Charles Parrott.

With about a year on the job as deputy administrator for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Parrott said he wants to establish the committee as soon as possible. Parrott succeeded Bob Keeney, who retired as AMS deputy administrator in October 2012 after more than a quarter century at the USDA.

The industry advisory committee — which last met in March 2011 — has been inactive since the USDA announced it was seeking nominations for a new version of the 25-member committee in mid-2011. The USDA never appointed members to the committee, which started in 2002. The group advised agriculture secretaries on nutrition programs, farm bill funding, commodity purchasing, Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act regulations and other industry issues.

The committee disappeared for a time, Parrott said, because of an internal review of the agency’s nearly 100 advisory committees. New AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo agrees with the need for the committee, Parrott said. ”We are going to make that happen very shortly,” he said.

Industry lobbyists have been asking USDA to bring the committee back, said Laura Phelps, president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Mushroom Institute.

“It is an excellent strategy for USDA to stay in touch with what is going on on the ground in the produce industry,” said Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communications for the United Fresh Produce Association. “We would be among the first in line to submit some names for consideration.”

As a 17-year veteran of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act program, Parrott in 2001 become Keeney’s associate deputy administrator of AMS. Those years with Keeney allowed Parrott to step into the deputy administrator’s post with no learning curve, Phelps said.

Parrott helped oversee the integration of the fresh and processed products divisions into an integrated Specialty Crop Inspection Division, effective in Oct. 2012. That integration will allow consolidation of five fresh and processing offices and perhaps more to come.

“Over the course of the first five years, that will save us more than $1 million,” Parrott said.

Advising Canada on ways to establish financial protection for produce sellers will be on the agenda for the next year, Parrott said.


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