Sonny Perdue confirmed as next Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture “The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) thanks Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken for voting for Governor Sonny Perdue’s confirmation as the next U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “Secretary Perdue is a needed voice for agriculture as the new administration addresses issues like trade, regulatory reform, agriculture labor and the next farm bill. We look forward to working with the new Secretary to address issues facing Minnesota farmers and ranchers.”

Secretary of Agriculture

A late-afternoon confirmation vote on Monday means Sonny Perdue is finally Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Agriculture. (photo from the washingtonpost.com)

“Now that we have our Secretary of Agriculture in place, we look forward to getting down to business to address serious issues that the Secretary has committed to working on as well as filling other key roles in the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Paap.

 

Minnesota Farm Bureau – Farmers ● Families ● Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureau associations across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. Join Farm Bureau today and support efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, www.fbmn.org.

 

For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.org, www.Facebook.com/MNFarmBureau or www.Twitter.com/MNFarmBureau.

Farm Bureau President Duvall Talks Ag Issues

The 98th American Farm Bureau annual convention is going on this week in Phoenix, Arizona. Once a year, Farm Bureau members come together in one location to learn and talk about the future of agriculture. Farm Bureau voting delegates will also debate policy and put together the Farm Bureau policy platform on important Ag issues for the coming year.

Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall talks Ag issues

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall addresses reporters during a press conference at the 98th Farm Bureau annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona. (photo from oklahomafarmreport.com)

Farm Bureau President and Georgia farmer Zippy Duvall spoke to reporters on Sunday during a press conference in Phoenix, tackling several issues important to agriculture. One of the first questions dealt with the lengthy search for the next Secretary of Agriculture. Duvall wanted the candidate selected a little quicker, although he seems encouraged by the fact that the Trump team has interviewed a good number of excellent candidates. What happens if the President-elect would happen to pick someone who doesn’t have an extensive Ag background?

“At this point, I’m not worried,” Duvall said, “I have full faith in the new president picking the right person. He’s looked at many different people, a lot more than we expected him to look at. We just think he’s doing a thorough review.”

 

 

As far as the reason it’s taken so long? Duvall said he honestly isn’t sure and anything he would add is speculation. “I’m honestly not sure whether he’s had people who just weren’t interested,” Duvall said, “or whether he’s had so many good candidates he can’t really pick which one he wants.”

 

 

 

One of Trump’s main talking points in the campaign was building a wall along the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico to help control illegal immigration. A good number of those same immigrants are vital to agriculture getting its work done every year. Immigration will be one of the biggest ag issues the Farm Bureau will keep an eye on in 2017. Duvall is hoping some kind of compromise on immigration can be reached so agriculture isn’t short on labor, especially at harvest time.

 

“If you look at the increase in H2A applications over the last few years,” Duvall said, “we’ve had a tremendous increase in that area. The demand for workers is there and we also know that the American people aren’t going to do that work, otherwise, they already would have started.”

 

 

 

He adds, “We want to give them an opportunity to stay here and work. It comes down to a moral and a safety issue. Their families are here and we have to do the right thing.”

 

 

 

Trade will be another of the biggest ag issues to keep an eye on this year. One of the biggest concerns agriculture has with the incoming president is his stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade agreements in general. Duvall says after talking with the Trump team, the President-elect has a better understanding of how important trade is to agriculture.

 

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to sit down with the Trump team and talk about the workings of a trade treaty that is friendly to agriculture,” Duvall said. “My discussions with the Trump team before the election went like this: ‘we’re concerned about Mr. Trump’s opinion on trade.’ That’s what we told them. He seems to be negative on trade  and agriculture is very dependent on it for up to 30% of our income.”

 

 

 

“This won’t be the first time a new president appeared to put us (Ag) at risk,” Duvall added. “Yes, we are nervous about that (trade wars). We do want America to stand up and have a backbone, but you have to be really careful about how you do that because you could destroy our industry if you don’t do it right.”

 

He added, “We’re there at the table trying to have those conversations.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third-party response to the presidential debate

Did you even notice there’s a third-party candidate for President? I thought you might find this interesting, especially if you’re one of what appears to be a growing number of people who aren’t happy with the two major-party candidates for president. Here’ s the response of another presidential candidate in case you were looking at other options. Let me know if he’s on the right track or if they guy is one can short of a six-pack? I honestly do wish there was one perfect candidate we can all agree on, but….

MY STATEMENT ON THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE:

I heard Donald Trump describing a country I don’t recognize, and I heard Hillary Clinton writing checks we can’t possibly cash.

third party

Gary Johnson is a former Governor of New Mexico and a Libertarian third-party candidate for president. (photo from gofundme.com)

I suspect a great many of the millions who watched the debate did so in the hope that they would be inspired. With the possible exception of partisans on the extremes, I also suspect they were disappointed.

Americans don’t want their children and grandchildren to inherit a $20 trillion debt, and they didn’t hear anything [last night] that will keep that from happening. Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump are afraid to tell the truth about spending. It’s easier to just promise more of it and send the next generation the tab.

Americans believe in the Constitution and the protections it’s supposed to provide. Mr. Trump appears willing to ‘frisk’ those protections away if they get in the way of his version of fixing things. There was a time when Republicans believed in free trade and creating jobs through growth, not protectionism. What happened to that?

Our military men and women and their families deserve leadership they can trust to not send them into harm’s way to intervene in conflicts they can’t possibly resolve and which may or may not have a clear U.S. interest. They didn’t get any reassurance [last night]. Americans want our military to protect us, not put their lives on the line to chase someone’s agenda.

We deserve better, but what we saw [last night] was a promise that the bickering, the pandering and the polarization will continue. America is already great. It’s great leaders we are lacking, and I don’t think we found them on the stage [last night].

Maybe that’s why Google searches for Gary Johnson are off the charts right now.

-Gov. Gary Johnson

CHIP IN to help put a third podium on the stage in October: https://www.johnsonweld.com/debate_day

There’s also a third-party (fourth party?) candidate named Jill Stein. When did we as a country decide that we should only have two political parties in Washington? Why can’t we have more than two? How has choosing the “lesser of two evils?”

Consumers will feel the pinch of the immigration debate

“The debate over the nation’s immigration policy is one of the more political and complex debates there are right now,” said Kristi Boswell, Director of Congressional Relations at the American Farm Bureau.

While the debate rages on, agriculture is paying close attention to the process of establishing a new policy. If the nation’s farmers can’t find a reliable supply of workers to harvest crops, it would put America’s food supply and overall security at serious risk.

Americans who don’t live on a farm or have any close connection with agriculture may not know that agriculture relies on a steady supply of immigrant workers.

Kristi Boswell

Kristi Boswell is the Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington D.C. (Photo from the Farm Bureau website)

“Currently, 70 percent of our immigrant work force is not authorized to work in the United States,” said Boswell. “We also have a flawed guest worker program (H2A) that is expensive and burdensome, and it only supplies 4 percent of our workforce because of that cost and complexity.”

“Our farmers crave stability, and this is only going to come through responsible legislative immigration reform that provides solutions,” said Boswell.

Chandler Goule

Chandler Goule is the Senior Director of Programs with the National Farmers Union in Washington D.C. (Photo from www.biofuellawconference.org)

“I would say agriculture is the silent partner that gets hurt the most in this debate,” said Chandler Goule, the Senior Vice President of Programs at the National Farmers Union. “For those who say we should send all immigrants home, I’d like to see what their grocery bills look like in a few months. Immigrant labor gets the crops out of the fields and into the grocery stores.”

“I would love to say Americans would come and do this work,” said Boswell. “I think it’s safe to say that most people don’t want their children to become a crop worker. The wages are very competitive, peaking around 20 dollar an hour during harvest, but it’s very hard work and seasonal in nature.”

The H2A program presents challenges to farmers because of the way it’s structured.

“A producer tells the government how many employees he needs, then those folks come in and you pay them a set wage for a certain amount of time,” said Jordan Dux, the National Affairs Director for the Nebraska Farm Bureau. “It’s too stringent in the way it’s regulated, because if you’re employees finish work early, then you as the farmer still have to pay them for that contracted period.”

Jordan Dux

Jordan Dux is the Director of National Affairs with the Nebraska Farm Bureau (Photo from www.nefb.org)

“There’s not a lot of flexibility there for farmers because of the way it’s regulated,” said Dux. “They’re trying to make it a one-size-fits-all program for all of agriculture, and it doesn’t work that way.”

Agriculture is a hard business to lump under one umbrella. “Agriculture is a unique business in the way that different products are produced,” said Dux. “If you can build in flexibility within any program, that’s going to be beneficial for anything, including tax policy, farm programs, and anything else, it always works better.”

The need for flexibility stems from the fact that immigrant labor touches many different types of agriculture. “The issue definitely touches hand-labor intensive ag the most,” said Kristi Boswell. “It really does hit all of agriculture, including specialty crops, strawberries, citrus. You have apples, lettuce, and really, the entire produce industry relies on immigrant labor.”

“On the livestock side, dairy is very labor intensive,” said Boswell. “You have feedlots and pork facilities that require a lot of labor. Custom harvesters also use a lot of H2A labor as well.”

A lack of immigrant labor is causing some serious problems in agriculture fields across the country.

“We have a Farm Bureau member in Texas that literally had to shred 10 acres of squash because he didn’t have the labor force to get it out of the fields,” said Boswell. “That’s heart wrenching.”

Chandler Goule said, “It’s true. We have a segment of society sitting on government programs in agricultural areas that are more than capable of going out there and working in the fields. They won’t do physical labor.”

“The immigrants from the south will come and do all of the labor,” said Goule. “It’s a conundrum. That’s why I think it’s important for agriculture to remain in the debate.

“Everybody is so worried about the amnesty part of the debate,” said Chandler. “If they don’t do this right, agriculture will be hit first, it will be hit the hardest, and then you’ll see the true impacts of it because it will hit the consumer.”

“You’re used to going to the store and finding everything you need,” said Goule. “When we can’t get it out of the field and it’s rotting, you’re either going to see more imported food, which could come from a country that doesn’t have the same safety standards for food and vegetables, or you won’t find the product, period.”

Check out more Midwest Farm news at www.MidwestProducer.com