The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association had the distinction to be in Washington, D.C. the day they shut off the lights, so to speak.

Now the focus for many is to figure out the pathway to get the lights back on.

As of now, both the House and the Senate have passed different versions of the farm bill.

The House took a unique approach to passing the bill by approving separate SNAP, or the nutrition program, and farm program bills. On Sept. 28, the House voted to marry the two bills so now they have one bill that can be conferenced with the Senate.

For the specialty crop industry both the Senate and the House have good provisions. Funding is provided for block grants, research and marketing programs. We are now waiting for the House leadership to appoint a conference committee to meet with the Senate conferees to negotiate a final bill.

Most House offices were not optimistic that any immigration reform can be passed before the end of 2013, but most felt a bill is possible in the first quarter of 2014. The Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The House has five bills ready to go to the house floor for debate, but the leadership must decide when that will occur. The bills that have been passed out of committee and ready for debate on the House floor include:

• Border security;

• Internal intra-structure for internal security;

• High tech worker visas;

• Ag worker program;

• Mandatory e-verify.

In spite of the government shutdown, more than 500 members of the produce industry marched on Capitol Hill Oct 2. The March on Capitol Hill, hosted by United Fresh, is the highlight of an annual Washington Public Policy Conference, and conference attendees intended to see it through.

United Fresh reported there were 44 teams making visits to United States House of Representatives members on the day of the government shutdown, representing 35 states and Canada. Though some offices did close, the vast majority of the House of Representatives stayed open and kept working.

Conference attendees headed to the Hill after direct updates and insight from Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman Austin Scott, and Congressman Kurt Schrader.

Among the group of Georgians attending ‘the Produce Industry’s Most Powerful Public Policy Event’ included Jamie Brannen, Curry and Company, Charles Hart, Fresh Plants, Bill Brim, Lewis Taylor Farms, Brian Jenny, Naturripe, LLC, Greg Leger, Leger & Son, Inc., Duke Lane, Lane Southern Orchards, Kevin Hendrix, Hendrix Produce, and Carol Anne Mitchell, the 2013 Georgia Watermelon Queen.

GFVGA Staff at the conference included Charles Hall, Beth Oleson and Samantha Tankersley.

GFVGA executive director Charles Hall was pleased with the group’s progress on Capitol Hill, regardless of the environment. “We had really thorough conversations with Georgia’s congressmen on passing a farm bill, coming to action on immigration reform, and important considerations for FSMA regulations.”

For more information from GFVGA, click here.

For information on the Washington trip from United Fresh, click here.

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