Nassif and Stuart shared concerns about the failure of Congress to address immigration reform.
“Grower-shippers are in a horrible position when it comes to the work force,” Stuart said. “We must figure out both a short-term and a long-term solution to ensure that our producers have a stable work force.”
A major roadblock, Nassif said, is that political leaders are already focused on winning the 2012 elections, adding that elected officials should put aside their differences for the sake of growers.
“Let’s for the short term put the pathway to citizenship on hold,” Nassif said. “Let’s solve the labor problem first.”
Keeney urged attendees to become more proactive in the wake of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“The tasks mandated in the new law represent the greatest challenge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ever had — and those are the FDA’s words,” Keeney said. “It’s very important for all of you to work closely with us where you see issues, where you see opportunities for us to be better than we are today or to do something differently.”
His agency is working closely with the FDA, he said, and while AMS is not a food safety agency, “we do have expertise in a number of areas because we have boots on the ground.”