Keeney praised the ability of AMS employees to implement new plans, such as the Oct. 1 merging of the fresh and processed divisions of the fruit and vegetable inspection service.
The AMS had about 1,800 employees in 1987; there are about 1,100 now. The workload has stayed about the same but the workforce has been reduced because of technology, more efficient management and fewer administrators, Keeney said.
Keeney said the Obama administration supports the fruit and vegetable industry, from nutrition education to changes to school meals and the promotion of local and regional food systems.
Keeney predicts an expanded role by the AMS in providing food safety audits, particularly for smaller growers. He believes fresh fruit and vegetable purchases for the school lunch program will increase and suggested there will be continued expansion and use of commodity research and promotion programs.
He said the AMS will be in good hands with Chuck Parrott taking over the deputy administrator post.
“(Chuck) will be a terrific person to lead the program,” he said.
Keeney said he and his wife will move to Outer Banks of North Carolina, near Mateo, within a couple of months.