We walked out into the onion fields and saw how the farm’s drip irrigation system works. Clinton explained that the onions are taken out of the ground and cured in the desert sun, which kills off bacteria. With adequate scientific support, practices like this may be possible alternatives to meeting the proposed E. coli limit for irrigation water.
We shared barbecue that night with the Wissel family, joined by other representatives of the onion industry and other growers, in addition to state agriculture officials from all three states that we are visiting this week. On the family’s patio, we had the kind of dialog that we’d been hoping for, sharing observations, concerns and background.
The Wissels’ farmhouse is in a beautiful setting; it looks like an oasis. After we said our good-byes, we traveled to our next stop in Ontario, Oregon, passing orchards, hops, onions and other fields. We saw sprinkler, drip and furrow irrigation systems. All the growers and food producers we’ve met so far are very proud that they’ve created this lush farmland out of hard, dry dirt. And they have a right to be proud.
Our goal is to acknowledge that achievement and to work with them in developing standards that work for food safety and are also adaptable to all kinds of produce and growing conditions.
Keep watching this space. I will be filing more FDA Voice blogs to keep you up to date on what I’m learning here and in my travels to New England next week.