3:05 p.m. Karst: It is kind of fascinating to me about the various opinions about industry accepting more regulation and oversight from government related to food safety. There is more a comfort level for accepting regulation now, isn’t there? The industry wants to be involved in trying to remedy what has gone wrong.
3:06 p.m. Gombas: The people you are talking to, the people at the meeting are primarily Californian. In California, the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is looked on as a success. And there are a lot of parallels. LGMA was written in a hurry after the spinach and other E. coli outbreaks occurred that year. There was a strong sense of urgency in the industry and they all got together and wrote it quickly and then told everybody, “You have to do this.”
They put together a marketing agreement to enforce and they got the USDA and the California Department of Agriculture to be the auditors/enforcers of compliance. And that, they look as a success. It is arguable as to whether or not it is as successful as some like to think it is, because I think the folks at LGMA have still got an uphill battle with some of the buyers. You look at it, and for the time and what they needed to do, it was a success. So I think the cantaloupe industry, the folks who were actually calling for this, they looked at that and said we want to do the same thing.
3:07 p.m. Karst: The melon industry, like any fresh produce commodity, has a growing base that extends throughout the country. What will be the challenges in putting into place similar oversight/guidance throughout the country?
3:08 p.m. Gombas: This was brought up during the meeting, that the leafy greens industry in California all had very similar practices anyway. You are looking primarily Salinas and the desert, and practices are far more similar than they are different. I don’t know that that’s true for cantaloupes. I’ve heard all along that you have different handling, harvesting and growing practices in different regions. So that all has to be taken into consideration if you write a national, let along international guidance document. If they are going to do this quickly, I don’t know if you can do that quickly. You will have to call together a lot of individuals and they are all going to have to be open-minded in wanting to do this.