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USDA begins national leafy greens hearings

By The Packer

MONTEREY, Calif. — Major grower-shippers made their case before federal regulators for a national leafy greens marketing agreement at a daylong meeting Sept. 22.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture started its first meeting in series to be held nationwide aimed at gathering input on the proposed plan from growers and shippers.

A panel of six USDA representatives heard more than eight hours of testimony from a variety of groups both backing and opposing the proposal. The officials asked pointed and detailed questions about the proposal the industry put before them earlier this year.

Joe Pezzini, chief operating office for Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif., the first witness to testify, told the panel the national agreement will help reduce the risk of another outbreak and the number of redundant audits growers must comply with now.

“The leafy greens industry believes (USDA) is the most appropriate agency” for overseeing the propose agreement, Pezzini, who is chairman of a similar agreement in California, said in his remarks.

USDA is seeking comments from the industry to determine whether there is enough interest and support to enact a voluntary national agreement.

The national agreement, as proposed, would be similar to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement enacted after the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to bagged spinach. Arizona handlers are covered under a similar agreement.

The proposed national agreement would cover a range of leafy green commodities: arugula, cabbage, chard, cilantro, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, parsley, radicchio, spinach and spring mix.


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