WSPC Representatives Attend Annual Policy Conference
Washington State Commission Executive Director Chris Voigt, along with Commissioner and Skagit Valley grower Darrin Morrison and former Commissioner Lynn Olsen of Othello represented the Washington potato industry among the 295 produce industry leaders at the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association's Annual Washington Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC.
Attendees heard insights from top administration officials, members of Congress, and policy, communications and food safety experts. Before heading to Capitol Hill for visits with congressional leaders, WPPC participants heard from one of the nation's most influential legislators, Senator Tom Harkin (IA), the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Known around the industry as the "father" of the fruit and vegetable snack program, Senator Harkin discussed ways the produce business can work together to ensure specialty crop provisions are included in the 2007 Farm Bill and emphasized his desire to see the fruit and vegetable snack program in every elementary school in the country.
"It is always good to participate in a national forum like this," said Voigt. "It enables you to see where national consensus is, what others are doing and be part of a larger voice. We also get the opportunity to visit Congressional offices and bring Senators. Representatives and their aides up to date on specific issues they have taken an interest in."
In Hill visits the WSPC delegation joined others in voicing the industry's perspective on key produce policy issues, including increased funding for the fruit and vegetable snack program, inclusion of a specialty crop provision in the 2007 Farm Bill, reform of the current WIC program, boosting research dollars and ensuring a sound Farm Bill policy.
The three visitors from the real Washington visited with Governor Gregoire's Federal Policy Advisor, the National Potato Council, and with staff from the offices of Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Representative Larsen, Representative Hastings and Representative McMorris. Issues of state concern focused on harvest fuel tax relief, uniform food labeling, current potato research appropriations, next year's Farm Bill and the Odessa Aquifer.
In his first address to a national produce group, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez emphasized the Administration's continued commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, urging the audience not to back down from this challenge and to keep fighting for a comprehensive reform package from Congress.