I live in a small, rural town, and I get my mail at the local post office. To give you an idea of the size of this town, the only other buildings of note are the school, the town hall and the town offices/fire department. The postmaster knows everyone by name, and I think some people use him as a sort of substitute therapist. He’s very friendly and any time I have a package, he’s always got it ready at the counter by the time I walk through the door.
The U.S. Postal Service has been consolidating operations and trying to maximize efficiency, and I got a notice in my post office box a while back that indicated they were trying to decide what to do with my post office. They offered a survey on which I could choose various options, such as time slots when the office would be open, or whether I wanted home delivery. They also scheduled an informational meeting so people could get their questions answered.
I was dismayed by the notice. I looked over the survey. But I didn’t fill it out and return it. I didn’t attend the informational meeting. I have no idea what the end result of the process was. All I know is that I’ve still been stopping in at the post office at my usual times, and I’ve been able to retrieve my mail, and the postmaster is still smiling behind the counter. If it is going to shut down, I won’t be aware of it until I’m rattling the doorknob with my nose pressed up against the window, wondering why I can’t get in.
Speaking of wondering, you may be doing that yourself at this moment, asking what the moral of this story is. As you’re all aware, the FDA is in the midst of hammering out the new produce safety rules in accordance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (you can read more about that on page 6). And they’re looking for input from growers. The rules are going to happen, and there’s no stopping that. But you can influence how they’re implemented and what they address.
The point of my little tale is: Don’t be like me. Obviously I had a lot less at stake in that scenario, but I still should have put in my two cents and stayed on top of the matter, because it had the potential to affect me (and still could – who knows where my bills and annoying credit card offers might be delivered tomorrow?). Produce safety is a far more complex issue, with more widespread impacts. I’m sure FDA officials have done their best, but they can’t think of everything. Speak up. Get involved. You’ve got a chance to make a real difference, so take it. You may not succeed at getting things exactly the way you want, but if you remain silent, it’s guaranteed that your opinions, knowledge and experience will have no effect on the outcome.