Bill Marler is unconvinced. "Industry does not like testing because it prompts recalls and recalls are seen by industry as embarrassing. I see testing and recalls as positive for both consumers and industry."
At least one lawmaker has launched a last-ditch effort to save the program. In a letter urging the Office of Management and Budget to restore funding to MDP, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D.-Connecticut, noted the program performed more than 35,000 tests on over 17,400 produce samples in 2011 alone.
"It is unacceptable for this valuable, cost-effective program – and the only program dedicated to improving our understanding of the bacterial contamination of produce – to be eliminated," Rep. DeLauro wrote. "A critical program like this should not slip through the cracks because of questions of where it best belongs."
A spokesperson for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service told ABC News today that the program is ongoing and there has been no word on its future status.
In the House appropriations bill, it was noted that the AMS may be better suited to focus on the marketing – and not the testing – of produce: "While food safety is a vitally important part of successfully marketing produce and other agricultural products, other Federal and State public health agencies are better equipped to perform this function."