By Clint Thompson
Legislative visits can serve as a valuable message from agricultural organizations to their representatives in Washington D.C.
For the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA), its message to Senator Jon Ossoff earlier this month emphasized the need for legislative help pertaining to various challenges that farmers like Aries Haygood and Bill Brim face in Georgia.
“In this age of Zoom and everything else, we talk to folks all the time, but the chance to get somebody out on a real farm and see real farm conditions outside the beltline of (Washington) D.C., that’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Chris Butts, executive vice president of the GFVGA. “Sarah (Eisemann), who came down from Senator Ossoff’s office, was an impromptu thing we put together. But for her to be able to spend three to four hours on a couple of farms was great and really helps her get a better understanding at the challenges those farmers are facing and seeing those challenges in person.”
Those challenges involve the H-2A program and the unfair, steady rise of imports that’s putting added pressure on specialty crop producers in the Southeast. Having a legislative representative see the impact these challenges are making every day was an invaluable experience that Butts hopes he and his farmers can continue to take advantage of.
“To sit on a farm or sit in a farmer’s truck when you’re looking at 200 or 300 acres of bell pepper production and realizing that without a reliable labor force, that investment’s going to sit out and rot in the field. Seeing it in person and correlating it to those issues, you can’t replace that with 10 office visits,” Butts said. “I don’t care how many zooms you do, you’re not going to get your boots dirty. The chance to jump up in a dusty pickup truck, drive around a farm and get out in a field and actually see crops, yeah, you can’t replace that.”
Eisemann visited with GFVGA past president and onion producer Aries Haygood, as well as Cliff Riner, in a trip to A&M Farms in Lyons, Georgia, an onion operation. She also visited with Brim at Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia and toured his diversified farming operation.