Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western Growers Association, is a tireless and effective defender of the interests of his constituency. Thus, it was not surprising when in the midst of all the efforts to get the spinach market going again, he raised the issue of what the Federal government was going to do to make sure foreign growers meet the same requirements for enhanced food safety protocols that are now being imposed on his membership.
It is a fair question. Food safety is expensive, and you can’t have a “level playing field” if only some players have to follow certain expensive protocols. But it is a difficult issue for the government to do much about for two reasons:
The new industry action plan is voluntary — not mandatory. Under WTO rules, it would be very difficult to enforce a mandatory regulation against foreigners when US producers are not held to the same standard.
The new plan does not apply to producers outside of California. Without a doubt, WTO rules would preclude holding a foreign nation to rules tougher than are required of New Jersey, Colorado, Maryland, etc.
So the obvious question for western growers are these: Does WGA favor expanding the program to cover all spinach growers throughout the United States, and does WGA favor making the rules mandatory as well as voluntary?