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.
Nebraska Producers Discuss Farm Policy with Committee
NEBRASKA CITY, NE – House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson today convened a field hearing in Nebraska City, Nebraska to review the 2002 Farm Bill. Twelve members of the Committee attended today’s hearing and heard from two panels of witnesses about a variety of farm policy issues including commodity programs, the farm economy, renewable energy, rural development, and conservation.
“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, they must be equipped with an adequate safety net. As we travel throughout the nation, the feedback we receive from producers will give 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,” said Chairman Goodlatte in his opening statement.
The agriculture industry contributes more than $9 billion to Nebraska’s economy each year and employs 21 percent of all Nebraskans. The hearing was hosted by members of the Nebraska delegation including Tom Osborne and Jeff Fortenberry at the Lied Conference Center.
“World Trade Organization negotiations hang over the consideration of a new farm bill and there is considerable concern as to how quickly a new farm bill can be written while these WTO concerns are out there. I think we need to go ahead with the farm bill and try to shape the WTO negotiations as best we can rather than be in a reactive mode,” said Rep. Osborne.
“Agricultural entrepreneurship, ag-based renewable energy production, and creative conservation are three emerging opportunities that will help shape agriculture and federal farm policy for years to come. Our rural landscapes are ripe with entrepreneurial opportunity. Farm policy should recognize this dynamism and its potential to strengthen farm families, rural communities, and the preservation of resources,” said Rep. Fortenberry.
Several witnesses representing Kansas and Iowa agriculture also testified at the hearing.
“It was a pleasure to hear about the role of the next farm bill and its importance to the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Rarely do we have an occupation in which sons and daughters, moms and dads, and grandparents work side by side. We need to write farm policy which allows this to continue,” said Rep. Moran.
“Today’s testimony has made it clear that program payment dollars transfer directly into higher land prices and no one testified that they couldn’t make a living under the current farm bill. This honest and candid feedback is exactly what we need to hear as we prepare to talk about the next farm bill,” said Rep. Steve King.
At least 100 members of the community attended the hearing including local producers, agribusiness leaders, and agriculture officials. Committee Members included: Chairman Goodlatte, R-VA, Frank Lucas, R-OK, Jerry Moran, R-KS, Tom Osborne, R-NE, Steve King, R-IA, Randy Neugebauer, R-TX, John “Joe” Schwarz, R-MI, Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE, Ranking Minority Member Peterson, D-MN, Stephanie Herseth, D-SD, John Salazar, D-CO, and Lincoln Davis, D-TN.
"Once again, our Committee has gained key insights by going where we can hear directly about the real experiences of real producers. Besides addressing their own economic challenges, our witnesses today highlighted the need to assess our agricultural policy in light of our nation’s security in the world. Today’s hearing, along with the others we have conducted in the field, have given us an excellent start on the long road of developing new farm bill policies,” said Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson.
“I was pleased to be in Nebraska today to hear about neighbor producers’ ideas and insights regarding the next farm bill, especially the need to seize opportunities within farm policy to advance renewable biofuels in a way that can positively affect family farmer profitability and revitalize rural communities,” said Rep. Herseth.
This is the fourth in a series of hearings the Committee will conduct around the country. The Committee will conduct hearings in various regions of the country to gather feedback from producers representing all areas of agricultural production in the country.
Testimony from today’s witnesses is available on the Committee website. The full transcript will be available on the website in four to six weeks.
Mr. Ed Wiederstein, Corn and Soybean Producer, Purebred Angus Producer, Audubon, IA
Mr. James Vorderstrasse, Sorghum, Wheat and Soybean Producer, Hebron, NE
Mr. Justin Knopf, Wheat, Sorghum, Soybean, Corn and Alfalfa Producer, Gypsum, KS
Mr. Dennis Richters, Corn, Soybean, and Seed Producer, Utica, Ne
Mr. Blake Hurst, Grain Producer and Ornamental Grower, Tarkio, MO
Mr. Danny Kluthe, Pork Producer, Operator of Methane Digester, Dodge, NE
Mr. Vern Jantzen, Dairy, Corn, Sorghum, Soybean and Hay Producer, Plymouth, NE
Mr. Bill Siebenborn, Dairy Producer, Trenton, MO
Mr. Todd Eggerling, Cow-Calf Producer and Grain Farmer, Martell, NE