By Clint Thompson
Agricultural leaders and producers in the Southeast voiced their concerns and appreciation to members of the House Committee on Agriculture during a Farm Bill listening session held Monday in Newberry, Florida.
The conference room at the University of Florida Food and Agricultural Sciences-Newberry location was standing room only as farmers and industry leaders representing the agricultural sector spoke to Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, along with bipartisan members, including Rep. Kat Cammack (FL-03), Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09) and Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08).
Thompson, who has already hosted multiple listening sessions prior to this week, discussed the significance of coming to the Sunshine State.
“This was important to be here in Florida. This was not my first visit to Florida. We’ve done some roundtables and that type of thing over the past two years and four months since I came into leadership in the committee,” Thompson said. “It’s so important because we’re bringing the voices of American agriculture back to Washington and bringing it to the table so we can write a Farm Bill that, quite frankly, represents American agriculture. There’s a lot of similarities, challenges, that farmers, ranchers, foresters, processors are facing, but there’s some distinct differences as well. That’s why it’s important that we do this process.”
It was a humbling experience for Cammack, returning to her home district and hearing passionate testimonies from her region’s farmers.
“I think you could see just by the turnout of how significant this Farm Bill is, not just to the Gainesville community, not just to North-Central Florida but to the entire Sunshine State,” Cammack said. “In the room, we had over 200 farmers and ranchers. You heard some emotional testimony.
“The importance of this Farm Bill cannot be overstated. We have a huge responsibility in making sure that food security is national security and giving the support to our farmers and ranchers that they need.”
The afternoon was filled with testimonies about the recent challenging times that growers have encountered, related to inflation, rising input costs, unfair trade practices and labor concerns.
“Labor is a big issue, unfortunately. It’s tough. These are great jobs, but they’re tough jobs. I see a lot of farmers and ranchers that pay a lot of money to advertise but they just can’t get American help. That’s why these programs like H-2A, basically using legal foreign workers, are so important,” Thompson said. “And then inflation. Farming is a business, right, so it’s not so important what you bring in for money, it’s what you’re left with after you pay your bills. A lot of these commodities are close to being upside down with this record inflation. Sadly, prices go up quickly but come down very slowly. That’s something farmers are going to have to live with for a while.”