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House Agriculture Committee Republicans Hit the Lone Star State

Last week, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-15), led a Congressional delegation to Texas for a week-long tour of the Lone Star state. Highlights of the visit included a Farm Bill listening session in Waco, followed by a visit to McAllen to learn more about the challenges facing farmers and ranchers on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Forestry in Focus — On Monday, Chairman Thompson was joined by Congressmen Pete Sessions (TX-17) and Ronny Jackson (TX-13), as well as members of the Texas Farm Bureau for a road trip to East Texas to visit a logging site in Crockett, a visit with Texas Forestry Association, and more.

Down On The Dairy — Tuesday morning started with a tour of E&D Jackson Dairy in Waco. David Jackson has been a dairy farmer for nearly four decades. E&D Jackson Dairy milks 640 cows and includes a diversified business with beef cattle, stocker calves, and a grass business. He also serves on the national Dairy Board, Dairy Max Board, and is Chairman of the Cross-Country Water Board. While the Jacksons run an impressive operation, the family dog, Bella, stole the show.

Four Generations Of Farming — Later that morning in McGregor, Chairman Thompson met with Kevin Huffman, a fourth-generation farmer whose family-run operation provides sustainable harvesting services as well as field and feed analysis to help fellow farmers make the most informed decisions possible as it relates to their crop.

Best Of The Best Beef — Tuesday concluded with a visit to Swingin 'B' Ranch, owned and operated by Mackie and Norma Bounds. The couple specializes in Beefmaster cattle, a breed that is a cross between Hereford cows, Shorthorn cows, and Brahamn bulls. In 2013, Swingin' 'B' Ranch was awarded Breeder of the Year at the Beefmasters United Convention.

Science, Technology, and Innovation — Jared Ranley kicked off Wednesday's itinerary with a tour of his cattle company. Not only is Mr. Ranley a rancher, he is also a veterinarian and spoke at length about the importance of science, technology, and innovation when it comes to things like disease traceability and animal health.

In Listening Mode — After a great visit with the Texas Farm Bureau, the House Committee on Agriculture hosted its third bipartisan Farm Bill listening session in Waco, Texas. The event drew approximately 300 people from across the state. Stakeholders shared their concerns and priorities on a range of issues, including crop insurance, conservation programs, research programs, nutrition, and more. Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation joined a Congressional delegation including Chairman "GT" Thompson (PA-15), Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-17), Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08), Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04), Rep. Kat Cammack (FL-03), Rep. Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Rep. Tracey Mann (KS-01), and Rep. Jasmine Crockett (TX-30).

On The Border — After a successful event in Waco, Members traveled down to McAllen to visit Texas' 15th Congressional District, home to Committee freshman Rep. Monica De La Cruz. The day started with meetings with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, where officers detailed the working relationship between the department and American farmers and ranchers. Joining the Chairman was Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08), Vice-Chairman of the Committee, and Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04), Chairman of the Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology Subcommittee.

"Bugs, Drugs, and Thugs" — Carlos Rodriguez, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Port Director at the Pharr International Bridge, directed a great tour for members. While Director Rodriguez joked that they inspected cargo for "bugs, drugs, and thugs," special emphasis was placed on agricultural inspections and how CBP works with USDA on pest identification of new species. Last fiscal year, the Pharr International Bridge ranked second on the southwest border and eighth in the nation for agricultural imports.

Speaking Of Bugs...  Abel Exparza of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) provided valuable background on the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program. Cattle fever ticks are a major threat to the industry, destroying red blood cells, inducing fever, enlarging the spleen and liver, and ultimately resulting in death for approximately 90% of infected cattle.

Help Wanted: Agricultural Labor Challenges — The Texas trip concluded with a roundtable discussion featuring South Texas farmers and ranchers to discuss the challenges that a lack of reliable, legal, year-round labor poses to their specific commodities.