Trade promotion authority, the farm bill, and the H2b guest worker program topped the list of issues that a Louisiana Young Farmer’s and Rancher’s group discussed with Louisiana’s Congressional delegation during their annual visit to Capitol Hill in March this year.
The YF&R group armed themselves with information at the American Farm Bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C. AFBF’s Executive Director of Public Policy Dale Moore told the seven YF&R visitors the federal budget will likely control much of their legislative agenda during this visit. Kassie Berard, a St. Martin parish sugar grower, said making in-person visits to Capitol Hill can make tremendous impacts back home.
“The misconception was that they would never listen and they make their own decisions and that’s just not the case anymore,” Berard said. “I had to be educated on exactly that they do want to listen to the issues and the things that we have to say because we are educating them about issues back home that we are having.”
The group also focused on issues during visits with Louisiana’s two freshman representatives: Ralph Abraham, (R-5th District) and Garrett Graves (R-6th). Abraham, who sits on the House Ag Committee, explains that farmers in the fifth district tell him that the EPA is a thorn in their side.
“We are having to fight tooth-and-nail to not allow them to make a pond a puddle, a ditch something they want to control,” Abraham said. “The Fifth District I represent is the largest row-crop district in the nation, so I have got to be very vigilant for our farmers and I’ve got to be very good for them.”
Similarly, Rep. Graves intends to educate other members of congress in an attempt to protect the interests of farmers and families who grow several unique crops.
“We have to reach out to other members of congress and explain to them the importance of these industries and help to open up other opportunities for those farmers to sell their crops not only in the United States but around the world,” Graves said.
Grain Marketer Christy Ingram sells crops around the world. Ingram hopes to convince 4th District Congressman John Fleming to expand markets for Louisiana rice and other grains to overseas markets such as Cuba.
“There is grain that can be bought and I have to have a market to sell it to,” Ingram said. “The markets currently are limited as far as truck, rail, and barge and if we were able to have more opportunity to sell that crop we could better opportunities for the growers.”
Creating new opportunities for growers prefaced the meeting with freshmen Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who defeated long-time Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. Grain producer Josh Moore said he sought relief from an expansion of defined water bodies included in the Clean Water Act.
“‘Navigable waters’” is kind of a loose definition and the EPA is trying to control all water sources,” Moore said. “We have breaks, ditches, ponds, and sloughs that run through our property. They are not necessarily navigable, but if the EPA has their way—who knows? They may classify them as that and what are we to do when they control our water and water structures?”
Louisiana young farmers and ranchers met with every member of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation or their staff over a two-day and half day visit to Capitol Hill.
In a meeting at Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) office in Washington, D.C., the YF&R group shared their concerns on a number of agricultural issues such as the federal guest worker programs, the estate tax, and the farm bill. Vitter, who sits on the Senate Judiciary and Banking Committees, says he will focus on Louisiana agriculture in his bid for the governor’s mansion.
“Just a few weeks ago in my governor’s campaign I had a leadership forum on the ag economy in Alexandria,” Vitter said. “I invited leaders from all around the state. About 25 were in the room for a really good discussion about how we support and expand that really important part of our economy.”
According to published reports, Vitter has raised more campaign funds than the other Republican candidates for governor. Voters will decide the governor’s race on October 24.