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STATEMENT OF HON. B. F. SISK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
OF THE 12TH DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Sisk. I will take a very short time. I realize that time is of the essence here.
I have a short statement and then will ask permission of the committee to enter a more lengthy statement later if it will be permissible.
Mr. Hagen. That permission is granted.
Mr. Sisk. The reason for the legislation, at least, my original bill, H. R. 7760, came about through some problems that we have in the fig industry due to the importation of a very sizable block of fig paste, particularly from other areas of the world.
In conversations with Senator Holland, of Florida, who is much concerned with a similar situation in the citrus industry, why it was generally decided that both commodities, both products of citrus as well as figs, should meet the same standards of quality as were required of the domestically produced fruits. So that on May 24 which I believe is generally about the same time as a similar bill was put in by Senator Holland in the other body, I introduced H. R. 7760 calling for the inclusion of citrus fruits, sliced figs, figs and fig paste, actually as an amendment to section 8e, and calling for the same regulations and sections and so on as are already provided for certain commodities under that same section.
I understand that at the time the report was issued by the Department of Agriculture, there was a minor amendment suggested which, certainly, I want to say that so far as the fig people are concerned which I represent, it is completely acceptable. It is simply a clarifying amendment wherein we use the term "sliced figs," and they suggest that it be "sliced dried figs," so that there be no question about the fact that we are speaking of a dried fruit.
So, certainly, so far as the fig people are concerned, that is completely acceptable. And I might say, Mr. Chairman, that shortly thereafter there was considerable interest on the part of various commodity groups particularly, I recall my colleague, Congressman Saund was very much concerned about the date situation, and in discussions at that time he discussed the immediate inclusion of dates, and I know he has introduced a bill which does include dates. And, also, shortly thereafter was the interesting concern of the shelled walnut people. And, also, they have been included in companion bills.
Of course, it is my hope that this bill can move forward as expeditiously as possible.
So far as I know there is no objection to the bill from any source. I know I understand we have the support of the National Conference of Commodity Organizations, as well as all organizations across the country concerned with these specialty crops. And with that in view we do feel that it would be helpful and that there is no justification for permitting imports to come in under any regulation or any standard of quality different from that requirement by the domestic producers.
With that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks on it.
I would like to say, Mr. Chairman, we do have some people from California that I am sure that the chairman is aware of and I am happy to have them and they will want to speak.
Mr. Hagen. I think you are a little optimistic in saying there is no opposition. I notice my colleague, Mr. Anfuso, has in his possession some communications of opposition and he would like to ask you a question.
Mr. Sisk. I will be very happy to answer them.
Mr. ANFUSO. I appreciate the reason for your introducing this amendment, this type of legislation. But when you say there are no objections, my colleague is absolutely correct in stating that I have received a great number of objections.
Mr. Sisk. If you will permit me then to say this, I do not know of any objections, I might say.
Mr. AnFuso. These objections come from business people and from the large consuming area of New York City. These people feel that giving a monopoly to the fig people in California is going to eventually hurt the consumers.
These people, also, say that consumers, by and large, prefer the fig> which they are buying from such countries as Turkey, Portugal and Greece.
I am not completely convinced at all I want you to know that; I say I have an open mind but I am wondering whether this is the time when we should prefer one industry here in America to the detriment, not only of our consumers, but, also, to the detriment of our international relations with such strong allies part of the NATO setup as Turkey, Portugal and Greece.
Those two factors, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Sisk, have been called to my attention and I am somewhat disturbed by them. I thought I would let you know why I feel the way I do.
Mr. Sisk. Mr. Chairman, if I might comment on my colleague's statement, this bill provides for no limitation on imports. It in no wise affects imports in any way except to require that they meet the same standard of quality as fruit produced domestically in the United States. And I cannot for the life of me, see any justification, in fact I would feel that the importers of New York or any other area would be on very weak grounds to state that they desire to bring in a commodity that was less pure or less healthy than is required of our domestic producer.
That is all this amendment does, I might say to my colleague. It has nothing to do whatsoever with restriction of imports. It simply requires that this commodity coming in be just as pure, be as clear of insects and impurities as is required of our domestic producers.
Mr. ANFUSO. There has been a question raised that these imported figs are not as healthy and not as pure. I have never heard of any such thing before.
Mr. Sisk. Of course, there I beg to disagree with my colleague. There have been grave questions raised. As the gentleman probably knows in my district I have practically the fig industry of the United States.
I realize it is not of big importance to the country, but it is to the fig industry in my area. And my colleague from California, Mr. Hagen, has some figs.
This has been a rather controversial point, the fact that a great deal of the fig paste and dried figs that are imported do not meet the standards of quality so far as purity is concerned, so far as insect count and things of that kind are concerned, as is required of our domestically produced figs.
That is all, as I say, that we are asking for in this instance. I appreciate the gentleman's feeling with respect to restrictions of imports. I do not entirely agree with him—but that is an entirely different matter, but in this there is nothing that would reduce imports but simply would require those imports to meet the same quality standards, as we understand it.
Mr. ANFUSO. Would you say if we passed your bill that we would automatically decrease the imports from Turkey, Portugal, and Greece?
Mr. Sisk. It does not necessarily follow at all, I might say, Mr. Anfuso.
Mr. ANFUSO. You do not think it would follow?
Mr. Sisk. I say it would not necessarily follow. It depends. If some of the imports, for example, a shipment coming in under inspection proves to contain above the normal count of insects or impurities, yes, that would be turned down. But I am sure that my colleague will agree with me that he would not want his consumers to have pawned off on them a commodity that was impure as a food because that is all it does do, is to go into food.
Mr. ANFUSO. I mentioned besides the consumers concerned that they get the best figs and they are getting them as cheaply as possible and they get those kinds of figs which suit their taste.
Mr. Sisk. That is exactly, I might say to my colleague, what we are proposing here, I believe, is protection for his consumers.
Mr. HAGEN. I would like to note for the record we, also, have present Mr. Hill who is a member of the Agriculture Committee and Mr. Teague of California, a member, and Mr. McIntire of Maine, a member.
Do you have any questions?
Mr. TEAGUE. Not at this time, Mr. Chairman. As a member of this subcommittee I do not suppose I should be in a position of prejudging this matter, but nevertheless I have and I would like to state for the record that Mr. Sisk is exactly right and Mr. Anfuso's correspondents do not understand the situation and are wrong.
Mr. Hagen. Thank you very much.
I would like at this point to submit for the record a report from the Department of Agriculture, dated January 15, 1958, over the signature of True D. Morse, Acting Secretary, with reference to H. R. 7760, Mr. Sisk's bill, and it approves the principle of the bill with the suggestion for clarifying language which you mentioned. (The report referred to is as follows:)
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
Washington, D. C., January 15, 1958. Hon. HAROLD D. COOLEY, Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
House of Representatives. DEAR CONGRESSMAN COOLEY: This is in reply to your request of May 29, 1957, for a report on H. R. 7760, a bill to amend section 8e of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 to include any citrus fruit (limes and grapefruit are now included), sliced figs, dried figs, and fig paste in the list of the commodities for which imports thereof must be regulated by grade, size, quality, or maturity in the same manner as the handling of part or all of the domestic commodity is regulated.
We do not object to the passage of this bill. The principle of equivalent quality regulations on the domestic and imported fruits appears to be sound.
It is suggested that the bill be clarified to show that the language “any citrus fruit” is intended to mean that import regulations apply only to the specific citrus fruits which are domestically regulated rather than to all citrus fruits when any citrus fruit is regulated. The principal citrus fruits added by this bill are oranges and lemons, and marketing orders covering the shipment in fresh form of these commodities are currently in operation. Imports of fresh oranges and lemons are very small in relation to domestic production.
The proposal to add sliced figs, dried figs, and fig paste would result in the first semiperishable and semimanufactured items being added to the commodities for which imports are subject to regulation under section 8e of this act. It is suggested that the term "sliced figs” be changed to read “sliced dried figs." Domestic marketings of dried figs in all forms approximate 20,000 tons annually, and current imports approximate 8,000 tons annually. Most domestic figs as well as imports are marketed in the form of fig paste.
Imported figs and fig paste are now subject to inspection by the Food and Drug Administration, but we understand that such inspections are made only on a selective basis and some lots may enter the country uninspected. If figs and fig paste were added under section 8e, inspection by the Department of Agriculture at port of entry would be mandatory when imported figs and fig paste are regulated. This would mean that every lot would require inspection and the cost of such inspection would be charged against the importer.
It is believed that enactment of the proposed legislation would result in an additional annual cost of about $2,000. This amount would be absorbed within existing appropriations.
The Bureau of the Budget advises that there is no objection to the submission of this report. Sincerely yours,
TRUE D. MORSE, Acting Secretary. Mr. Hagen. The author of the next bill is Congressman McFall.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN J. McFALL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE 11TH DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. McFall. I do not wish to take unnecessarily the time of the committee. Mr. Jim Boyce will speak on this particular legislation.
I wish to state naturally I am in favor of Mr. Sisk's bill and my own shelled-walnut bill. I feel that there should be necessary protection for consumers in the United States from poor quality imports, since they already have a protection for the domestic production. And I am sorry Congressman Anfuso had to leave.
He said there had never been any statement that the imported figs—and I would assume that he would make the same statement concerning walnuts—any statement that these imports do not meet the quality controls. And if this is true, then of course they would have no objection to this particular legislation, since it is merely a matter of setting up quality controls to protect the consumers against bad quality imports.
With that, unless there are any questions, I would like to submit that.
Mr. McINTIRE. Mr. McFall, do the fig producers operate now under a Federal marketing agreement?
Mr. McFall. I believe they do, but I am not familiar with the fig part of it. I know something about the walnut part.
I would like to have you reserve your question for Mr. Bryce. I think he can answer all of the technical aspects of it.
Mr. HAGEN. The walnut people, however, operate under a marketing order.
Mr. McFALL. Yes; that is right.
Mr. Hagen. Do you have a report on your proposal from the Department of Agriculture?
Mr. McFall. That is the report-I believe we have a letter which has been received and here is a copy of it signed by True D. Morse, Acting Secretary, addressed to Mr. Harold Cooley, chairman of the committee.
Mr. Hagen. Would you submit that to the reporter for inclusion in the record at this point? (The letter referred to is as follows:)
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
Washington, D. C., January 24, 1958. Hon. HAROLD D, COOLEY, Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
House of Representatives. DEAR CONGRESSMAN COOLEY: This is in reply to your request of July 26, 1957, for a report on H. R. 8845, a bill to amend section 8e of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (of 1933), as amended, and as reenacted and amended by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended, so as to provide for the extension of the restrictions on imported commodities imposed by such section to all imported citrus fruits, and to sliced figs, dried figs, fig paste, and shelled walnuts.
The Department has raised no objection to a similar bill (H. R. 7760), covering citrus fruits, sliced figs, dried figs, and fig paste, although it did suggest clarifying amendments, and has no objection to adding shelled walnuts to this list of commodities.
The addition of shelled walnuts, together with sliced dried figs, dried figs, and fig paste, would result in the first semiperishable and semimanufactured items being added to the commodities for which imports are subject to regulation under section Se of the act.
During the past 5 seasons imported shelled walnuts have constituted from 24 to 38 percent of the total supply of shelled walnuts annually available to the domestic market. Domestic shelled walnuts are now subjected to minimum grade requirements under the amendments to the Federal marketing order governing the handling of walnuts produced in California, Oregon, and Washington. The inclusion of shelled walnuts among the commodities subject to the restrictions imposed under section de would mean that imported shelled walnuts would be required to meet the same quality standards as are required of domestically produced shelled walnuts.
It is believed that the additional cost to the Department resulting from the addition of shelled walnuts to proposed legislation amending section de would not exceed $1,000 annually and would be absorbed within existing appropriations.
The Bureau of the Budget advises that there is no objection to the submission of this report. Sincerely yours,
TRUE D. MORBE, Acting Secretary. Mr. HAGEN. Does this endorse inclusion of shelled walnuts? Mr. McFall. It does; it has no objection. Mr. Hagen. We will have that made a part of the record. The next witness is Congressman John F. Baldwin from California.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN F. BALDWIN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS OF THE SIXTH DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Baldwin. I have not introduced a bill, Mr. Chairman, but I am here to testify in favor of the bill you have introduced, H. R. 9056, and the bill introduced by Mr. McFail, H. R. 8845.