National Editor Tom Karst recently chatted with Bob Keeney, deputy administrator of fruit and vegetable programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service. Read the entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.
3:01 p.m. Tom Karst: You helped to lead a session or two at the Jan. 30-31 stakeholder meeting of the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council. What do you take away from the meeting?
3:01 p.m. Bob Keeney: We were quite fortunate that one of issues that was defined by Canada and the U.S. had to do with the financial protection issue that the two countries and the two industries have been dealing with probably over a decade now.
What we have been seeking on behalf of the U.S. industry is a similar provision in (Canadian) regulations that would protect sellers in the case of slow pay and bankruptcy of buyers.
There is no provision currently in their licensing and arbitration system and also in the Dispute Resolution Corporation, which is a private corporation. There is no provision in the DRC that really addresses this issue.
For the U.S., of course, the industry has been able to avail themselves of the (USDA PACA) trust protection plan since the mid-1980s and that has really ended up returning millions and millions of dollars to the industry that otherwise would not have occurred.
There is a desire on the part of the Canadian industry, there is a desire on the part of the U.S. industry and the U.S. government and we believe too — that because of this cooperation council — there is a desire on the part of the Canadian government too to come to grips with this issue and seek some options that can be implemented, hopefully within a year or two.
3:03 p.m. Karst: So you were pleased with the meeting?
3:04 p.m. Keeney: I think both sides are dedicated to this and we are going to work through this over the next few months. By the end of March, there will be a report that is being issued by a private company that was contracted by the Canadian government to take a look at what the structures are in Canada from a regulatory and legal process to see what options are available to implement such a program in Canada.
We are looking forward to the end of March report, and the report itself will drive a lot of our discussion from that point forward.