(July 18) The produce industry’s highest profile committee may be in trouble.

Amid perceived agency ambivalence toward industry advisory committees and recent publicity about lapses in fiscal oversight at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there was some industry concern in mid-July about the fate of the fruit and vegetable industry advisory committee.

Maureen Torrey, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y., and chairwoman of the 23-member Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, said she delivered a letter to department officials in early July asking for reauthorization of the committee, whose members were appointed by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in February 2002.

Alisa Harrison, press secretary for Veneman, said July 17 that the decision was in process, but she could not confirm whether or not the committee would be reauthorized.

Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington D.C., said July 17 he was optimistic the committee would be reauthorized.

“We are counting on it to be reauthorized, and there no reason why it shouldn’t be,” he said. “I think they would be hard-pressed to eliminate this.”

Torrey said Sept. 30 is the tentative date for the next advisory committee meeting, but the committee won’t meet again if the USDA doesn’t act. The committee first met in April 2002, then again in September and most recently in April.