The USDA continues with its plan to update each of the 168 U.S. Grade Standards for fresh fruits and vegetables. NAPAR carefully evaluates each proposal and files comments on the changes as they are proposed. Changes are often proposed at the urging of particular grower groups. These groups are generally highly motivated and well-organized on their key issues. As USDA proposes these changes, it receives a flurry of comments from the affected grower groups explaining why a particular change is critical to their business. NAPAR, on the other hand, is the only organization representing the needs of produce receivers on these issues. Our vigilance has often stopped or greatly reduced the negative impact that some of these grade changes would have had on your business operations. One current example has to do with table grapes.
In the fall of 2007, the USDA withdrew its proposal to provide an additional 10% allowance for shattered grapes in consumer containers for shipments en route or at destination. It was a major victory for NAPAR members – as well as consumers – and an example of the value our organization provides.
NAPAR was the only organization to stand against this proposal, sought by the powerful Western Growers Association, the California Grape and Tree Fruit League and other producer groups who petitioned and heavily lobbied USDA. But NAPAR, on two separate occasions, filed comments with USDA warning that the proposal would result in a serious dilution of the grade and result in lower quality grapes being sold to consumers, thus being harmful to receivers. Rather than the 12% total tolerance for shatter, the change could have resulted in a possible total tolerance of 25%.
While the agency decided not to move forward with the proposal at the time, its proponents requested consideration of a compromise version. Once again, NAPAR said no and commissioned a food safety laboratory to conduct microbiological tests on shatter vs attached table grapes. These tests confirmed that shatter grapes are more susceptible to microbiological contamination and NAPAR included this, with other key information, in our comments to USDA. NAPAR also convinced several retail chains of the importance of this issue and assisted them in filing their own comments. USDA eventually withdrew its 5% compromise proposal.
Table grapes are but one example of NAPAR’s achievements over nearly three decades. It’s a record that continues to build as we work on behalf of produce receivers when rules and standards are considered by the government that will affect their businesses and the products they provide to retail customers, and ultimately, consumers. Here are a few other accomplishments.