(Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, sent the
following remarks to association members following the mid-term elections
Tuesday, Nov. 2.)
On Tuesday, Americans exercised one of our most cherished rights by
participating in free, fair and open elections of our nation's congressional and
state leaders. And what an election it was. With a net change of 60 more
Republicans in the House of Representatives, and at least six in the Senate,
we're going to see a very different Congress-- and relationship with the
president -- for the next two years.
I know some are talking about more gridlock, but I am a bit more optimistic. I
think the vote shows that most Americans felt that the president and
congressional Democrats overplayed their mandate from 2008. That was an
exhilarating election in which many people took huge pride in the first
African-American elected president. But not everyone bought into the policies
and government intervention that "one-party rule" unveiled in the past two
years. Yes, Republicans became the party of "no," mostly to slow things down.
But now with more balanced government, I sense a real possibility of more
civil debate on the major issues facing our country, and maybe even a bit of
cooperation to get things done. No question, we have a very polarized
Congress that views the role of government very differently. But the debate of
contrasting ideas is really the hallmark of American government; the
Founding Fathers didn't always agree either. I personally believe voters
reacted to being told what to do in a "top-down, we know better than you"
way. Some of that was perception, and some reality. But it doesn't sit well with
most of us.
Having differing views is not what creates gridlock. It's the unwillingness to
debate those views and have real votes to see who wins. Let's hope debate
comes back to Congress and we have a roaring contest of views on solutions
to our challenges. I for one would really enjoy a real debate on the House or
Senate floor, followed by a vote to see whose vision has carried the day.
Enough of the Kabuki theater, where going through the motions replaces
doing their real job.
For the produce industry, we will be losing several friends who have been in
the trenches fighting for us for many years. Over half the moderate
Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee lost their races or are
retiring. And 35 House members who supported us as co-sponsors of the
Specialty Crop Farm Bill will be going home. Once the dust settles, we'll be
thanking these allies personally. Yet this is now an opportunity to cultivate
new relationships and carry our industry's message to legislators from rural
America to the inner city. We can be united in bringing more fruits and
vegetables to kids to fight the obesity crisis. We can be united in working for
sound, science-based food safety standards. We can even be united in
tackling the challenge of assuring a legal, reliable workforce that harvests and
packs the fruits and vegetables we consume every day.
Congratulations to all the candidates who have committed to public service in
the next Congress. I'd like to ask every United Fresh member to write to your
congressman and senators today. Offer your congratulations, thank them for
their service and tell them that you are counting on them. We all have a lot of
work to do, so let's get started.