Tom Karst ( The Packer )

Larry Waterfield, The Packer’s retired Washington, D.C. Editor, alerted me to recent expansive coverage in The New York Times of a New York apple grower.

The +3,000 word story, written by Steve Eder and published Dec. 27 is headlined “When Picking Apples on a Farm With 5,000 Rules, Watch Out for the Ladders.” The subhead speaks to the heart of the story, “Produce growers represent a textbook example of what businesses describe as regulatory fatigue. President Trump is tapping into the discontent.”

The story focuses on the regulations faced by Indian Ladder Farms, a 300-acre fifth-generation family operation near Albany, N.Y.

Federal inspectors visited this fall to check on the firm’s compliance with the migrant labor rules, but that is just the beginning of a litany of regulations the apple farm faces.

Regulations on pesticide applications, use of ladders in the orchards and of course food safety rules also are highlighted.

From the story:

“This is life on the farm — and at businesses of all sorts. With thick rule books laying out food safety procedures, compliance costs in the tens of thousands of dollars and ever-changing standards from the government and industry groups, local produce growers are a textbook example of what many business owners describe as regulatory fatigue.”

The story describes the demands retailers like Whole Foods, Walmart and Costco put on growers, particularly related to food safety and produce handling. The story also speculates about how the produce safety rule will affect smaller growers.

Author Baylen Linnekin (“Biting the Hands that Feed Us How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable”) is quoted by the Times, dismissing the idea that food safety regulations would lead to significant improvements in food safety. He predicts in the piece that more fresh produce will be grown by large domestic producers who can afford to comply with the regulations.

The Times coverage is well done, though it lacks input from United Fresh or the Produce Marketing Association.

With the anti-regulation momentum already generated Trump administration, it will be interesting to see if there will be a pivot point ahead by federal officials seeking to roll back some of the regulations described as a “textbook example” of regulatory fatigue.