(June 17) The Bush administration’s plan to move the U.S. Customs Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service into the proposed Department of Homeland Security doesn’t appear to harm the produce industry.

But in light of past government encounters and some mishandled domestic war-on-terrorism functions (notably the mess that is airport security), industry groups would be wise to keep close watch on the change.

It’s been pointed out many times that quick border inspection is vital to perishable items like fruits and vegetables. And the industry relies heavily on foreign workers — even legal laborers face delays getting across the border.

Of most industry interest and concern is the direction of APHIS. Efficiency in this group is important, not only in keeping harmful pests out of the U.S., but also in working with foreign markets and their pest concerns about U.S. produce.

The Homeland Security Department will have to filter through many voices and recommendations. The industry must be diligent to ensure it is one of the voices that is heard.