The headlines are all about hearing testimony on a variety of subjects but the pace is picking up on California citrus related priorities as well. The changeover in staff, let alone members, in the House necessitated U.S. citrus industry leaders coordinating on staff briefings in the House and Senate this past week. CEO’s from Florida and Texas Citrus Mutuals were joined by Wonderful Citrus, Sunkist, and former CCM CEO Joel Nelsen for “box lunch staff briefings” on the hill regarding ACP & HLB. “Sustaining Congressional support for all the programs related to this insidious disease was the objective,” Nelsen states. On Tuesday of this week representatives from the Senate offices for Florida, Texas, & California attended the briefing; on Thursday it was House offices treated to a box lunch and state specific information.
But that’s not all. CCM partnered with the California Fresh Fruit Association and California Farm Bureau to sponsor an Ag Labor Summit for House and Senate offices. A unified story was represented regarding the need for a guest worker program that removed farm worker and family vulnerability, that recognized we can import food or individuals to harvest domestically produced product and that was a Congressional choice that needs to be made. A briefing session was held noting the issues that needed to be discussed and those that were non-negotiable. A panel consisting of varied parties participated, all of which was designed to showcase a united front from a diverse agricultural sector. “Jamie Johansson from the California Farm Bureau was the designated California representative and he did an outstanding job outlining the principles we in California believed were sacrosanct and those we were willing to discuss,” states Nelsen. Attendance at the session was deemed very good.
But there’s more. California offices were briefed on CCM trade objectives ranging from competitive disparity in our domestic market specific to offshore imports, the explosion of citrus imports from Chile and other producing nations and the cost differential that allows domestic market share for the California industry to be undercut. “I believe this Administration can be a partner for a solution on a problem that now exists before it becomes a crisis and ultimately a disaster for our industry,” Nelsen reports. “The action for other business sectors such as aluminum and steel along with automobiles plus agricultural specific topics such as tomatoes and olives leads me to believe that our industry, working together, can achieve a balanced trade program which includes acknowledgment for comparative disparity.”