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CDFA Numbers Challenged

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, February 9, 2007

The CDFA issued a press release saying that handlers representing 70% of volume had signed the new California Marketing Agreement. They later told the Pundit that they were up to 85 percent.

But CDFA won’t release names and some are questioning its methodology:

SENATOR CALLS ON CDFA TO JUSTIFY THEIR STATISTICS

Statement on leafy greens included figures skewed in favor of leafy green industry

SACRAMENTO — Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Food-borne Illness, today called upon the California Department of Food and Agriculture to explain to legislators and the public how they arrived at statistics used to support their implication that a program being pushed by the leafy green industry to avoid state regulation enjoyed strong support among processors.

While the Associated Press reports that, as of February 7, only 24 out of 170 processors — or 14% — had signed an agreement that they would follow best practices intended to prevent further deadly E. coli outbreaks caused by leafy greens, CDFA issued a news release touting the support of handlers representing 70% of California leafy greens. Florez characterized the statement as “more than a little disingenuous,” adding, “Consumers would not read CDFA’s announcement to say that, in fact, less than one in six processors have signed on.”

Concerned with the discrepancy in figures, Florez called on CDFA early today to explain how they arrived at the conclusion that 70% of California leafy greens are handled by those 14% of handlers who signed on to the marketing agreement.

When staff was unable to provide the basis for their numbers — which appear to be skewed toward industry — by late afternoon, Florez wrote to CDFA secretary A.G. Kawamura asking for clarification, saying, “I fail to understand how the Department can issue a press release with statistical information and cannot provide the legislature with the justification for these statistics. This is unacceptable and speaks to the credibility of the agency.”

Florez requested a response to his inquiry by 5 p.m. today. As of the sending of this release, no response had been received.

The Pundit doesn’t typically agree with the State Senator, but he is correct on this one. CDFA can’t just spew numbers. It has to explain its methodology. Where did it get these market share statistics?

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