(Sept. 28) WASHINGTON, D.C.—This is the silly season of politics, and not a lot is going to get done, said Steven Anderson, chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association.

That was the dilemma for many in the produce industry as they lobbied Congress Sept. 12-15.

Anderson explained that with elections only weeks away, politicians are mired in politics and that interferes with efforts to pass controversial legislation, including immigration reform.

Anderson, who spoke at the annual public policy conference of the United Fresh Produce Association, said the restaurant industry, like produce, needs workers, including immigrant workers.

He pointed to estimates that show a labor shortage in coming years among the 15-24 age group.

Yet, the restaurant business is projected to continue to grow and add jobs.

“The need for workers is going to worsen,” he said. “We expect a 15% job growth over the next 10 years.”

He said the restaurant trade now numbers more than 900,000 locations and accounts for about 10% of all employment, or about 12.5 million restaurant and foodservice workers.

“We are the fastest growing segment of the food industry,” he said.

He said there appears to be public support for immigration reform that would allow temporary workers into the U.S.

Several congressional staffers, who briefed produce officials on the legislative process, echoed the feeling that little lawmaking will get done until after the November elections that will create a brand-new 2-year Congress, the 110th.

“Lawmakers are scared about re-election,” said Kasey Gillette, legislative aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “Nobody wants controversy.”

Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy at United Fresh, said that in a new Congress all legislation will have to start again beginning next year.