Arizona lawmakers are considering a bill that seeks to do away with state licensing for a wide variety of professions, trades and positions — including packers of fresh produce and other foods.
With the state being No. 2 in the nation for production of lettuce and leafy greens, the deregulation legislation could compromise food safety for millions, according to some in the fresh produce industry.
“I’ll get right down to it. The concern is food safety,” said Shelly Tunis of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association when she testified before during Arizona’s House Commerce Committee.
“We need to know everybody who touches that fruit and vegetable as it goes along the line, and that starts with the people that put it in the box. This license helps with traceback.”
Also opposing the bill is the Arizona Citrus, Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Council, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. The council is urging Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to retain licensing for produce packers.
The governor is the driving force behind the push to eliminate licensing for a diverse group including food packers, landscape architects, engineers, geologists, driving school instructors and yoga teachers. The proposed legislation has a dozen sponsors and co-sponsors in the Arizona House and Senate — 11 of them are Republicans.
House Bill 2613 advanced out of the House Commerce Committee recently on a 5-3 vote that followed party lines.
Supporters say discontinuing licensing will make it easier for people to get jobs. Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, introduced HB 2613. He contends state licensing does not guarantee honesty or quality of work.
On the other side of the aisle and the issue, Rep. Stephanie Mach, D-Tucson, told the Arizona Republic she voted against the bill because it would make drastic changes that would eliminate “many consumer protections.”
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)© Food Safety News