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 Holds Final Farm Bill Field Hearing in Indiana
SCOTTSBURG, IN – Chairman Bob Goodlatte convened the Committee’s final field hearing to review federal farm policy in Scottsburg, Indiana on Monday. The Committee held a total of 11 field hearings in various regions of the country to gather feedback from America’s farmers and ranchers in preparation for reauthorizing the 2002 Farm Bill later next year. Since the Committee’s first field hearing in early February, roughly 120 agricultural producers testified before the Committee throughout the field hearing series. Committee Members will take the information gathered from the hearing into consideration as they begin the farm bill debate in early 2007.
“To ensure that American agriculture remains competitive and that our producers can continue to provide fellow Americans with a safe, affordable, and wholesome food supply, we must make sure that our producers are equipped with an adequate safety net,” said Chairman Goodlatte. “As we’ve traveled throughout the nation, the feedback we’ve received from our producers has given us a good sense of how these policies work in practice and what improvements can be made within the budgetary constraints we face in Washington.”
Indiana agriculture from farm, food and forestry products contributes roughly $25 billion to Indiana’s economy. With 59,000 farms, 65 percent of the Hoosier state land is dedicated to farming. The agriculture sector employees 16 percent of the state’s population and produces $5.5 billion in cash farm receipts. In 2003, Indiana farmers ranked in the top-five for corn and grain production, top-five in soybeans production and top-ten for tobacco production according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I was proud to welcome the House Agriculture Committee to Indiana. I found the hearing to be informative. I was especially encouraged by the focus on the Farming Flexibility Act and the opportunity to reform the farm bill to include greater freedoms for farmers in 2007,” said Rep. Mike Pence.
The hearing was held in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, represented by Congressman Mike Sodrel, the Committee’s newest Member. “I am glad that the Ag Committee was able to come to Southern Indiana to see first hand the accomplishments and hear the concerns of our hard working Hoosier farmers and producers,” Rep. Sodrel said. “I am confident the Members of the Committee will carefully consider the suggestions made at the hearing so that government regulations and policies will support and encourage our domestic agricultural economy.”
Two panels of witnesses testified before the Committee representing agricultural producers in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. All of the field hearings have included testimony from agricultural producers. The Chairman intends to convene several hearings in Washington, D.C. this fall to gather information from industry and interested organizations.
“The information we heard from Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio producers on Monday will help the Committee create farm policy that addresses the diverse needs of American agriculture,” said Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson.
Twelve Committee members attended yesterday’s hearing including: Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA; Frank Lucas, R-OK; Jerry Moran, R-KS; Mike Pence, R-IN; Steve King, R-IA; Jean Schmidt, R-OH; Mike Sodrel, R-IN; Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson, D-MN; Tim Holden, D-PA; Bob Etheridge, D-NC; Charlie Melancon, D-LA; and Rick Larsen, D-WA.
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. Randy Koetter, Forest Landowner, Hardwood Lumber Producer, Starlight, Indiana
Mr. David W. Howell, Tomato, Watermelon, Corn and Soybean Producer, Middletown, Indiana
Ms. Julia Hersey, Apple Producer, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mr. Rodney Hager, Cow-Calf, Corn, Soybean, Wheat and Hay Producer, Orleans, Indiana
Mrs. Kaye Whitehead, Hog, Cattle, Corn, Soybean, and Wheat Producer, Muncie, Indiana
Mr. Hampton “Hoppy” Henton, Jr., Tobacco, Corn, Soybean, Wheat, Cattle and Freshwater Prawn Producer, Versailles, Kentucky
Mr. Eric Wolfor, Corn, Soybean and Wheat Producer, Fayetteville, Ohio
Mr. Ernest H. Brames, Corn, Soybean and Hog Producer, Huntingburg, Indiana