Hillary Clingstone, Henry Kiwifruit and other peace ambassadors - The Packer

Hillary Clingstone, Henry Kiwifruit and other peace ambassadors

08/20/2014 03:08:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstRussia cut off its nose to spite its face, but now it is looking to stem some of the bleeding.

In slapping sanctions against agricultural imports from the U.S. and the European Union in early August, Russia’s tried to deliver a one-fingered salute to the West in response to European and U.S. visa restrictions imposed on Russia travelers for its support rebels in the Ukraine.

Russia’s blacklist of agricultural products was weakened slightly in late August, however, as the Russian government made exceptions to the blacklist for seed potatoes, sweet corn and onions.

While seed potatoes, sweet corn and onions are not apples, pears and grapes, perhaps the latest move by Russia is a sign that it will someday soon be willing to beat a retreat from its hasty action. Perhaps by the middle of the Siberian winter, fruit starved consumers in Russia can make their voices heard and bring a needed end to Russian grandstanding.

The great thing about pears from Oregon, apples from Washington and grapes from California is that they find consumers who love them, no matter the country, no matter the flag, and no matter the ideology. In the truest sense, American fruit serve as some of our best ambassadors of peace. Trade in farm produce should serve to build bridges between peoples, not be used as weapon to tear them down.

We need more international drive-by fruitings and less of the other kind. Listen up Vladimir; either lift the sanctions or face the ALS ice bucket challenge.

The trade sanctions by Russia against the West hurt Europe more than the U.S., and the European Commission is making allowances to help export-dependent sectors.

While the U.S. government and the USDA have stepped up support for specialty crops in recent years — we think of specialty crop block grants and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for Schools in particular — Europe still does far more for their fruit and vegetable producers.

The European Commission recently announced “exceptional support measures” for European Union producers of perishable fruits and vegetable, if they do say so themselves.

One European bureaucrat said the emergency support measures — market withdrawals for free distribution of produce, compensation for non harvesting and green harvesting — take into account Russian restrictions on imports of EU agricultural products and the resulting surplus of fruits and vegetables. Total budgeted amount for market support through the end of November is pegged at a hefty $169 million.

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