WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Sunday, October 16, Chairman Bob Goodlatte led a bipartisan delegation of Members from the House Agriculture Committee to the Louisiana Gulf Coast on a tour to view the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The delegation toured port facilities, examined food distribution operations, viewed crop and livestock loss, and met with agricultural producers.
“The gulf coast region has been hit hard by two major hurricanes and is going to need federal assistance at several levels. The best way to make sure that the resources are targeted properly is for us to see this area firsthand. I am pleased that Members from both sides of the aisle share my commitment to making sure that the relief effort is targeted and managed as efficiently as possible,” said Goodlatte.
The delegation’s first stop was a visit to port facilities on the Mississippi River, a transportation artery critical to the nation’s commerce. It is estimated that 60-70 percent of the nation’s grain moves through ports on the Mississippi River and the delegation heard accounts of the problems and challenges of the transportation bottlenecks resulting from the hurricanes, in addition to the impact on producers upstream from the port facilities.
“While the Mississippi River itself continues to be a major hub of commerce, port facilities and agri-business are currently plagued by a number of problems that include a shortage of barges, workers and truck drivers at a critical time in the nation’s grain harvest,” noted Goodlatte.
The next stop for the delegation was a visit to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana which has served 23 Louisiana parishes for the past 22 years. The Members were particularly impressed by the food bank’s work and the critical role they are playing in helping the area to recover from the impact of the hurricanes.
“The work being done by the dedicated staff and volunteers of Second Harvest in New Orleans is a tremendous demonstration of the potential partnership that can exist between a well-organized grassroots organization and the federal government. Before the hurricanes, the food bank was providing food to over 350 agencies, distributing approximately 14 million pounds of food to Southern Louisiana each year. In September alone they moved 7 million pounds of food and grocery product,” said Goodlatte.
Prior to meeting with producers, Members of the delegation took an aerial tour of the Lafayette area to assess the damage done to cropland and livestock pastures. They saw land badly damaged by wind, salt water and other environmental damage, the impact of which will be felt for years to come.
“I don’t think anyone can possibly imagine the impact these hurricanes have had on the region and on production agriculture unless they see it firsthand. We saw fields flattened by winds and inundated by salt water. We heard accounts of homes swept from their foundations and we saw trees broken like toothpicks. Of course, the full story can only be told by those whose lives and livelihoods have been forever altered by these storms,” said Goodlatte.
At their final stop, Committee Members met with producers who discussed the problems and challenges they are facing and their need for congressional assistance. Among these individuals were representatives from the cotton, grain, cattle, forestry, fruit and vegetable, seafood and other industries.
“The gulf coast region is very important to the nation’s commerce and the effects of the recent hurricanes will be felt throughout the economy in the prices paid for food and fuel. In the brief time we met with producers, we heard some very compelling testimony,” said Goodlatte.
Members of the delegation included Reps. Frank Lucas, Jerry Moran, Gil Gutknecht, Randy Neugebauer, Jeff Fortenberry, Bob Etheridge, Stephanie Herseth, and G.K. Butterfield. Reps. Charles Boustany and Charlie Melancon joined the Members in Louisiana to tour some of the facilities.
Caption: Chairman Goodlatte and Members of the delegation tour the port facilties in New Orleans, LA. It is estimated that 60-70 percent of the nation’s grain moves through ports on the Mississippi River.