WASHINGTON -- Top leaders of the Produce Marketing Association met with
members of Congress and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials the week
of May 10 to voice support for immigration reform, food safety and boosting
consumption of fruits and vegetables.
PMA has ramped up its presence in Washington in recent years and is now
viewed on Capitol Hill as an authority for "real world information that's
credible," PMA President Bryan Silbermann told The Produce News May 15.
Mr. Silbermann joined PMA Chairman Bill Schuler, president and chief
executive officer of the Castellini Group of Companies, and Tom O'Brien,
PMA's Washington representative, to honor Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) at a
Capitol Hill luncheon.
Sen. Feinstein is a strong supporter of the Center for Produce Safety at the
University of California-Davis and a vocal advocate for her proposed
legislation, the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits & Security Act (S. 1038),
a bill that would help farmers in securing a legal workforce, he said.
When leaders of the produce industry are sitting across the table from United
Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez at a luncheon to honor the AgJOBS
champion, "that's a pretty powerful statement," said Mr. Silbermann, who
noted the strong coalition in favor of workforce changes.
Other meetings on Capitol Hill focused on the stalled food safety legislation,
the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), which passed a Senate committee
in November but has yet to be scheduled for the Senate floor. After meeting
with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, "not a single person was
against food safety legislation," he said.
PMA leaders also met with USDA officials, including Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, to lend support for ways to boost fruit and
vegetable consumption through the salad bar initiative and the school lunch
USDA officials discussed the need for training to make sure that food workers
are up to speed on food safety guidelines as the government helps finance
salad bars in schools; they also discussed USDA's role at the June 23 produce
research symposium to be held at the Center for Produce Safety. At the
daylong event, the center plans to release the results of 11 CPS-funded
research projects, and USDA is sending high-level officials to the event,
according to Mr. Silbermann.