“The Next Farm Bill, Conversations in the Field,” a House Agriculture Committee listening session, took place on June 24 in Gainesville, Florida. After the session, representatives serving on the House Agriculture Committee gave comments on the session and some of the reoccurring themes that were brought up by the farmers who attended.
Florida Representative Neal Dunn commented on the complexities of creating a new farm bill, saying it takes a lot of compromise. Although creating the new farm bill is full of intricacies, it is important for members of the committee to hear the farmers’ input and be sure to take those details into account when creating the new bill. He also repeated Rep. Ted Yoho’s comment that the net income for farmers in the United States has gone down by 50 percent in recent years. “We’ve asked our farmers to take a heavy, heavy toll and carry a lot of the load for us. So, it’s time for us to help them a little more than we have been,” Dunn concluded.
U.S. Virgin Islands Representative Stacey Plaskett focused her comments on the importance of research and education in the agriculture industry and encouraging young people to continue farming. Plaskett emphasized the importance of incentivizing young people to continue farm work, adding that the members of the committee are working to address this issue. Plaskett also noted the importance of the bind between the farmer and the eater. “(We are working toward) making sure that America is able to provide nutritional value to Americans, so we can have the best and brightest minds and the greatest bodies to support this great democracy,” Plaskett said. She added that she is thankful for farmer input on the previous farm bill, because now she has a better idea of what worked well and what did not. Plaskett concluded by saying she hopes the new farm bill can be completed quickly and correctly.
Kansas Representative Roger Marshall said food is a national security issue that people take for granted. He stressed the importance of federal funding to help with virus issues throughout the country. “We talked about how your citrus industry here in Florida is being ravished by the HLB virus. We need to have federal funding to help work on these issues,” he said. Marshall added that crop insurance is an important asset to U.S. agriculture and he believes this is something that needs to continue. He also noted the stark similarities between the agriculture industry in Florida and the industry in Kansas. “(We have) so much in common. There’s so much uniting us here. So, I’m happy to be here and keep learning,” Marshall concluded.
California Representative Jimmy Panetta further discussed the similarities between Florida’s agriculture industry and California’s. He spoke about California’s specialty crop industry. “We have the same interests, especially when it comes to specialty crops. You realize what’s important to us in California is exactly what’s important to people here in Florida and Georgia, and that is our specialty crops.” He briefly discussed the importance of research to continue successful specialty crop production on the East Coast and on the West Coast.
The overarching theme of the listening session that was addressed by each representative was the issue of labor. Labor is something that is a concern for the entire U.S. agriculture industry. Rep. Marshall described labor as a crisis, saying it will bring about issues with immigration moving forward. Rep. Dunn said labor was among the few unifying themes of the listening session, and Rep. Panetta emphasized that labor is not just an issue, but an emergency.
Before the listening session, committee members were taken on a tour of the University of Florida (UF). During a special stop at the entomology building, they experienced a honeybee presentation and sampled fresh honey. Then, the committee members watched a presentation about pine borer beetles and the current research being done at UF.
There will be more listening sessions across the United States. However, this was the only listening session that will take place in the Southeast.
AgNet Media was proud to provide a live stream of the event. If you could not attend the session or could not catch the live stream, full audio of the session is provided on our website. It’s not too late to provide your input. Any additional comments can be submitted to HouseAgListens@mail.house.gov.
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