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.
Pombo Praises Increasing Consensus on Price Reporting
The Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture, led by Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA), held a hearing today to review issues surrounding mandatory livestock price reporting and its possible implications and benefits for both producers and packers.
In March, Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) joined with Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) in issuing a statement calling on both packers and livestock producers to sit down and explore the possibility that a workable solution could be achieved. For the last several weeks, key representatives of both these groups have been meeting in an attempt to reach a mutually beneficial solution.
"Hopefully, everyone involved understands that an agreement pounded out among themselves is certainly preferable to any 'solution' that Congress would impose on them," Pombo said. "Currently, they now have ownership of this process -- they are breaking down the barriers of suspicion and mistrust, and are examining and evaluating what the legitimate needs of the producer community are and how the packers can reasonably accommodate them."
"Nobody is more qualified to know better what will work than the affected parties themselves," Combest said. "Since we issued that statement, individual working groups have met together or talked in conference calls many times, and the process has led to a better understanding of each other's needs and concerns. I suspect the process has also helped each side refine their own goals as well."
Earlier this year, the full Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the subject of livestock prices which served as a catalyst for many of the issues reviewed today. Witnesses from both the packer and producer communities discussed what role mandatory price reporting might play in enhancing price discovery and transparency in livestock markets.
"In the end, just by putting this issue behind them, each side will be better off," Pombo said. "I want to commend all parties involved for the progress that has already been made, and to offer any assistance and encouragement I can to finish the job."
Pombo represents the Eleventh District of California, which includes San Joaquin County and a part of Sacramento County. Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and Permian Basin.