WASHINGTON, D.C. — While it clipped the agenda of the Washington Public Policy Conference, the government shutdown was perhaps good timing for produce industry leaders to express their frustration with government inaction.
More than 500 attendees came to Washington D.C. for the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 United Fresh Produce Association’s grass roots advocacy event.
Industry leaders are impatient with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C. on issues like immigration, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association.
“They are tired of the inactivity in Washington D.C. on these issues we’ve been saying are at crisis levels,” Guenther said.
United Fresh urged industry lobbyists to share that frustration with Congress, he said.
One encouraging development is that farm programs may be a part of upcoming budget negotiations, which may signal the farm bill will clear final hurdles to passage, Guenther said.
Changes in the WPPC agenda,including the relocation of the Fresh Festival, a no-show by Let’s Move executive director Sam Kass, and cancelled visits to Capitol Hill and to Food and Drug Administration headquarters, were made necessary by the first government shutdown in 17 years.
Still, Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh, said WPPC attendees were able to talk about the need for a new farm bill and comprehensive immigration reform in than 100 meetings with lawmakers.
Because no lawmakers had no committee meetings to attend and little other business because of the government shutdown, many had face-to-face meetings with WPPC teams marching on Capitol Hill on Oct.1.
While the produce industry isn’t going to fix gridlock, Stenzel industry leaders who marched on Capitol Hill also expressed the need for bipartisanship.
“It’s time for Republican and Democrats to learn to work together,” he said. “We’ve got to get on with the business of the people, and that’s something all of our members are carrying forward to Capitol Hill.”
The government shutdown caused some meetings with members of the House of Representatives to be cancelled on Oct. 1, and the complete slate of planned WPPC meetings Oct. 2 with members of the Senate were cancelled because of the shutdown.
Ben Wiers, Wiers Farm Inc., said his group that marched on Capitol Hill had a meeting with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, while four other meetings with Ohio representatives were cancelled because of the government shutdown. “Both sides need to come together so the country can move on,” he said Oct. 1.