Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Committee Hears From New York's Agriculture Producers
CANANDAIGUA, NY – House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte today convened a field hearing in Canandaigua, New York to review federal farm policy. Roughly 130 local producers, agribusiness leaders, and agriculture officials attended the hearing. The Committee heard from two panels of witnesses about a variety of farm policy issues including specialty crops, forestry, crop insurance, world trade negotiations, research, and dairy issues.
This was the Committee’s eighth hearing in a series of field hearings to gather producer feedback about current farm policy in preparation for reauthorizing the 2002 Farm Bill. This omnibus agriculture and farm legislation encompasses a variety of programs including nutrition, energy, marketing, commodity, rural development, and conservation programs. Three more Committee field hearings are slated to take place next month in Minnesota, Indiana, and Virginia (information about the hearings will be forthcoming).
“The Committee has had the privilege of hearing from a wide variety of producers in various regions of the country, and in each place we hear something unique about the effects of farm policy in that region. Today, we heard about the issues facing farmers in New York, which is incredibly diverse in its agricultural production. The information the Committee gathers at these hearings will help us as we begin to consider the next farm bill and we look forward to continued dialogue with our farmers and ranchers as we move through this process,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
In 2004, New York’s agricultural production returned more than $3.6 billion to the farm economy. Dairy production is the state’s leading agricultural product and accounts for one-half of all agricultural receipts. New York ranks third in the nation in dairy production. The state also ranks third in the nation in wine and juice grape production. New York also produces a variety of specialty crops, livestock, fruits and vegetables, and traditional row crops including hay, soybeans, corn, oats and wheat.
“I was incredibly pleased with the substance of the testimony and the huge turn-out by our community at the field hearing,” said Rep. Randy Kuhl. “The Committee had a very productive trip to Canandaigua, and I look forward to using the testimony of the witnesses to help us craft the next farm bill.”
“The current farm bill includes some programs that are important for northeastern agriculture. What we've heard in past field hearings around the country confirms that the farm bill is working well. Although there is always room for improvement, a farmer-friendly spirit is the Farm Bill's greatest success and we must maintain that focus,” said Rep. Tim Holden.
The hearing was held at the Inn at the Lake Conference Center in Rep. Randy Kuhl’s district, New York’s 29th Congressional District. Committee Members included: Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA; Jerry Moran, R-KS; Robin Hayes, R-NC; Steve King, R-IA; Randy Neugebauer, R-TX; Randy Kuhl, R-NY; and Tim Holden, D-PA.
Testimony from Saturday’s witnesses is available on the Committee website. The full transcript will be available on the website in four to six weeks.
Mr. Ron Robbins, Crop and Dairy Producer, Sackets Harbor, New York
Mr. John Lincoln, Dairy Producer, Bloomfield, New York
Mr. Lew Gardner, Dairy Producer, Galeton, Pennsylvania
Ms. Sue Keister, Consulting Forester and Forest Landowner, Wayland, New York
Mr. John Martini, Winegrape Producer, Penn Yan, New York
Mr. Jim Bedient, Wine and Juice Grape Producer, Branchport, New York
Mr. Mark Nicholson, Apple Producer, Geneva, New York
Ms. Maureen Torrey Marshall, Fresh Market Vegetable and Dairy Producer, Elba, New York
Mr. Bob Nolan, Vegetable Producer, East Patchogue, New York
Mr. Tom McCormick, Potato and Dairy Producer, Bliss, New York