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.
Smith, Combest Pledge to Scrutinize CRP Rule, Conservation Subcomittee to Hold Hearing February 26
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oregon Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, reacted cautiously today to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) final rule on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), warning that farmers of winter crops have been adversely affected by USDA's tardiness in issuing the rule and need quick guidance from USDA to prepare for Fall planting.
(Audio tape featuring Smith and Combest commenting on the final CRP rule is available by calling (202) 226-3977. Their comments play twice.)
"USDA got off on the wrong foot by taking so long to issue this rule, and that's led to a fair amount of skepticism. Farmers need leeway to make planting decisions, and they should ideally have more time than they do. Folks who grow winter crops are in a real jam. They need this process to play out entirely in 60 to 90 days or they will really have their hands tied. I just met with the Oregon Wheat Growers yesterday, and they are very, very concerned," Smith said.
"This committee has a duty to carefully scrutinize the new CRP rule, and we will not be shy about exercising that responsibility. If USDA can't get its act together and provide some certainty for farmers of winter-planted crops, then this Committee may well have to act," Smith warned.
Congressman Larry Combest (R-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research, which has jurisdiction over CRP, joined Smith.
"CRP has been one of the most successful programs that Congress has created to protect environmentally fragile soils. Congress reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining a strong CRP in the 1996 Farm Bill. It is now critical that USDA implements the new CRP in a manner that will keep those fragile soils protected, and we will examine this regulation in fine detail to make sure that occurs," Combest said.
Rep. Combest's subcommittee will hold a hearing on the new CRP rule on Wednesday, February 26th, at 10:00 a.m., in room 1300 Longworth House Office Building.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, is heavily dependent on agriculture. Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District, which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and the Permian Basin. Committee on Agriculture, U.S. House of Representatives 1301 Longworth Building, Washington, D.C. 20515