Tom Stenzel, United Fresh Produce AssociationAt the recent United Fresh convention in Dallas, I was asked whether one individual could really make a difference in advancing public policy issues important to the produce industry, when Washington seems to be in such gridlock.
Too often, industry members leave it to their associations to fight through the labyrinth of Capitol Hill.
But in this election year, you’ll never find politicians more willing to listen to your views right now as they seek your financial support and vote in November.
Our team in D.C. is great at outlining the broad policy goals of our industry.
But it is you in the farms and packing sheds, the distribution centers and processing plants, the restaurants and supermarkets, who drive home what these policies mean to you in your own community.
Despite the gridlock, this week the U.S. Senate is actually due to begin consideration of the 2012 farm bill, a monumental step forward for the fruit and vegetable industry.
In these challenging political times, the Senate bill put together by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., garnered a strong bipartisan vote in the agriculture committee, and now needs 60 senators on board to move forward.
United Fresh and our partners in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance strongly support the Senate Agriculture Committee bill and have urged its passage by the full Senate.
For fruits and vegetables and other specialty crops, the bill takes important steps in continuing funding of critical priorities such as Specialty Crop Block Grants, pest and disease exclusion programs, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable School Snack Program.
While a modest part of overall spending, these programs would invest some $4 billion in enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops in the next farm bill.
The contest between President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney is certainly important, but neither one of them will be voting on the farm bill over the next several months.
I ask each of you to get involved in your individual Congressional election. Reach out to support the incumbent if they’ve done a good job, or jump on board with a challenger who promises to listen to your needs as a produce business person.
The relationships you build today just may help shape your business future tomorrow.
I also ask you to team up with colleagues throughout the produce industry to magnify our voices.