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 VA Farmers in Goodlatte's District
STAUNTON, VA – Chairman Bob Goodlatte today convened the ninth in a series of field hearings the House Committee on Agriculture is holding to examine federal farm policy in anticipation of writing the 2007 Farm Bill. Approximately 250 producers and agriculture officials attended the hearing in Staunton, Virginia, located in the heart of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District which Goodlatte represents in Washington.
There are 47,600 farms in Virginia, averaging 181 acres in size and employing more than 48,000 full-time and part-time workers. Taken together, agriculture and forestry are Virginia’s number one industry, contributing more than $47 billion to the state economy annually and representing more than 15 percent of total employment.
“In addition to being one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, the Sixth District is also one of the most agriculturally diverse. From corn and grains to vineyards and orchards to livestock and specialty crops to forestry products, the Sixth district has a diverse and dynamic agricultural portfolio. I am very pleased to be here today in Staunton to hear firsthand from my producers about the issues and challenges they face in running their operations here in Virginia,” said Chairman Goodlatte in his opening statement.
Two panels of witnesses appeared before the Committee and provided a broad overview of Virginia’s multi-faceted agricultural economy. Farm bills are typically written every five years and encompass a variety of programs including nutrition, energy, marketing, commodity, rural development, and conservation.
“Visiting with agriculture producers in Chairman Goodlatte’s home district has provided the Committee with new perspectives on the farm bill. The farm bill must reflect the diverse needs of our nation’s producers to ensure that the agriculture industry continues to thrive and grow, and the testimony we heard today will help us achieve that goal,” said Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson.
Fourteen members of the Committee attended today’s hearing including: Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA; Collin Peterson, D-MN, Frank Lucas, R-OK; Jerry Moran, R-KS; William Jenkins, R-TN; Steve King, R- IA, Randy Neugebauer, R-TX, Michael Conaway, R-TX, Jean Schmidt, R-OH, Mike Sodrel, R-IN, Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson, D-MN, Bob Etheridge, D-NC, Dennis Cardoza, D-CA, Stephanie Herseth, D-SD, and John Salazar, D-CO.
Testimony from Monday’s witnesses is available on the Committee website, and the full transcript will be available on the website in four to six weeks.
Mr. Cecil E. “Sonny” Meyerhoeffer, Poultry Producer, Hinton, Virginia
Mr. Dan King, Poultry Producer, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Mr. Gerald A. Heatwole, Dairy and Poultry Producer, McGaheysville, Virginia
Ms. Margaret Ann Smith, Cattle Producer, Lexington, Virginia
Mr. Ernie Reeves, Cattle Producer, Mt. Solon, Virginia
Ms. Emma French Randel, Wine Grape Producer, Edinburg, Virginia
Mr. Phil Glaize, Apple Producer, Winchester, Virginia
Mr. Tom Sheets, President, Hardwood Lumber Producer, Fishersville, Virginia
Mr. Billy Bain, Peanut Producer, Dinwiddie, Virginia
Mr. Robert Hall Spiers, Jr., Cotton Producer, Stony Creek, Virginia