Farm Bill Session: If You’re Not at the Table, Then You’re Probably on the Menu

Web AdminGeorgia

By Clint Thompson

If you’re not at the table, then you’re probably on the menu. That is the thought process that producers and Ag leaders have when events like a Farm Bill listening session are held. If they aren’t present to voice their concerns to legislators in charge of crafting the next Farm Bill, they could find themselves and their concerns left out.

Farm Bill listening session
Photo by Clint Thompson/Shows Sam Watson speaking at the Farm Bill listening session last Monday.

That is why two Georgia specialty crop producers/state legislators attended last Monday’s session in Newberry, Florida. They wanted their voices heard.

“The Farm Bill is going to guide us for the next several years, so it’s important to make sure that we’re here and that our voice is heard and represent agriculture in Georgia. If you’re not here, then you can’t get a word in,” said Sam Watson, Colquitt County vegetable farmer, who also serves as president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and as a state senator. “That’s why we’re here, to be able to testify and let them know what our problems are. Hopefully, they can address some of this going forward in this next Farm Bill.”

Watson’s main concerns stem from rising imports, unfair trade and labor. The current Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) increases was a focus of his testimony.

“We’ve had these new additions with the AEWR increase and our wage increases. That’s just going to make it harder for our growers to stay in business,” Watson said.

Russ Goodman, a Georgia blueberry grower and state representative, concurred with Watson’s sentiments about the importance of producers communicating with the House Committee on Ag. Imports continue to be a source of contention among he and fellow blueberry producers.

“I think it’s very important for the leaders in Washington and the policy makers to know what we as growers are facing on the farm and to know how it’s impacting rural communities. I’m just thankful to be here to have the opportunity to talk a little bit on behalf of the farmers that I represent, not only in the state senate, but those in my community, and hopefully, let them know the issues that we’re dealing with, especially with trade, regulation, cost of production and everything else,” Goodman said.

Goodman added that there were 17 million pounds of blueberries in the domestic market three weeks ago, with 12.5 originating from Mexico.