YAKIMA, WA – House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson yesterday convened a field hearing in Yakima, Washington to review federal farm policy. Roughly 75 local producers, agribusiness leaders, and agriculture officials attended the hearing. Seven Committee Members and three non-Committee Members of Congress attended Saturday’s hearing and heard from two panels of witnesses about a variety of farm policy issues including specialty crops, conservation programs, labor, and marketing issues.
This was the Committee’s seventh in a series of field hearings to gather producer feedback about farm policy in preparation for reauthorizing the 2002 Farm Bill. The Chairman and Ranking Member intend to hold roughly a dozen hearings in the field as well as several in Washington, DC before beginning the farm bill debate early next year.
“We’ve heard from a wide range of producers in various regions of the country and yesterday we heard about the issues facing farmer and ranchers in one of the most agriculturally diverse regions in the nation. A farm bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that must provide a safety net for producers, no matter what part of the country they call home. That is why it is so important to hear from a variety of producers so that we have the information we need to make informed decisions about the next farm bill,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
“This field hearing has given us a chance to hear directly from farmers in the Pacific Northwest about their experience with farm programs and their vision for future farm policy. As we have heard from farmers in other parts of the country, conservation, research, nutrition programs, and trade are among the many areas of importance for producers in this region, and their thoughts will help us as we write the next farm bill,” said Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson.
Washington’s agriculture industry accounts for a fifth of the state’s annual gross product and employs 173,000 people—more than any other sector in the state. Washington’s agricultural diversity, over 300 food, feed, and seed crops, is second only to California. Washington ranks first in the nation in its production of apples, pears, sweet cherries, carrots, and red raspberries.
“As the agriculture industry grows and changes, Congress must continue to invest in innovation to increase agricultural competitiveness. We must give farmers the tools they need to add value to their products and we must promote ways for our agriculture producers to benefit from increased export opportunities,” said Rep. Rick Larsen.
“With our predominance of specialty crops and unique water and environmental challenges—the needs of the Pacific Northwest agriculture community are far different than those of other farm areas. At the hearing, local growers had the opportunity to communicate their priorities with key Congressional leaders. I'm pleased the Committee is working with farmers, ranchers and agriculture producers from across the nation as a new Farm Bill is developed,” said Rep. Doc Hastings.
“Farmers and ranchers face enormous competitive and financial challenges. It’s in America’s interest to write a farm bill that invests in advanced research, provides a safety net for farm families, encourages access to new markets, fosters improved nutrition, and enhances conservation efforts. Given the vast varieties and volumes of crops we raise in the Northwest, it is important and helpful to have the Agriculture Committee here to listen to the concerns and suggestions of our farmers and ranchers. We appreciate the Committee’s concern in our regional agricultural issues,” said Rep. Greg Walden.
“I am thrilled to have Chairman Goodlatte and members of the House Agriculture Committee in Washington State for a Farm Bill hearing. The challenges facing agriculture and the issues that will be addressed in the 2007 Farm Bill are critical to the future success of our farmers and ranchers and rural communities. Agriculture is the number one industry in Washington State with 300 different commodities. In the 2007 Farm bill, we must have policies that will improve the ability of our farmers to be competitive—expanding markets, addressing trade imbalances, increasing funding for research, and other assistance to advance and develop new technologies,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris.
The hearing was held at the Yakima Convention Center, located in Rep. Doc Hastings’s district, Washington’s 4th Congressional District. Committee Members included: Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, Jerry Moran, R-KS, Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson, D-MN, Dennis Cardoza, D-CA, Jim Costa, D-CA John Salazar, D-CO, and Rick Larsen, D-WA. Other non-Committee Members included: Doc Hastings, R-WA, Greg Walden, R-WA, and Cathy McMorris, R-WA.
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. Larry Olsen, Apple Producer, Prosser, Washington
Mr. Kraig Knutzen, Potato, Pea and Wheat Producer, Burlington, Washington
Mr. Ron Rivers, Pear Producer, Parkdale, Oregon
Mr. Steven Danz, Asparagus Producer, Mesa, Washington
Mr. Mike Youngquist, Raspberry, Cucumber, Cauliflower, Strawberry, Spinach Seed, Cabbage Seed, Beet Seed and Green Pea Producer, Mount Vernon, Washington
Ms. Sharon Livingston, Cattle Producer, Long Creek, Oregon
Mr. Curtis Hennings, Wheat Producer, Ritzville, Washington
Mr. Larry Stap, Dairy Producer, Lynden, Washington
Mr. Pete Brentano, Nurseryman, St. Paul, Oregon