United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association has tentatively scheduled a Dec. 13 meeting at its headquarters office in Alexandria, VA, to discuss the recent Hunt's Points Produce Terminal inspection scandal.
United's Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Robert Guenther extended an invitation to Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Kathleen Merrigan to attend along with other USDA officials.
United, which represents the interests of producers, distributors, shippers, processors, brokers, and wholesalers, believes the open forum will provide a constructive and useful dialogue for all parties involved.
USDA officials responded to the scandal that the USDA had "taken immediate steps to restore control over the Hunt's Point inspection office." This includes bringing in senior program officials and highly experienced inspectors to maintain service, provide continuity in inspection operations, and restore confidence in the inspection service.
Merrigan has also outlined to the UFF&VA that it will begin random follow-up examinations of previously inspected loads, better screening of job applicants, more extensive training and rotation of inspectors, a new database to look for inconsistencies and irregularities in grading, and heightened reviews by headquarters personnel.
Merrigan asked produce companies who have been harmed to file PACA claims, which should be allowed for nine months from the date of the arrests, or July 27, 2000.