|Happy to be on Capitol Hill focusing on agriculture.|
The time keeps flying by and it is hard to believe that the summer is coming to an end. I have spent a majority of my time the past two weeks traveling and working on various projects.
Farm Bureau is dedicated to their members including both farmers and insurance customers. With so many people across the state, you may be wondering how they connect with those members. Farm Bureau involves members through county board meetings, leadership programs, conferences, among other things. To help coordinate communication, Farm Bureau has ten field representatives that cover different regions around the state to connect the members on the ground to the office in Raleigh to keep everyone up to date on issues and make sure their voice is heard. I had the chance to ride with Milo Lewis for a day to learn about her role as a Field Representative. We went to various offices in Johnston County to debrief agents and other personnel in the offices on Farm Bureau structure and programs. These employees have direct access to all Farm Bureau members and it is important that everyone understands the mission of Farm Bureau, both as an insurance company and as a non-profit organization. Field reps work many hours to connect with members during the day, as well as, through county meetings in the evenings. They are a direct line of communication and an essential part of Farm Bureau’s network. On a personal note, I was happy to get the chance to ride with Milo, because she is one of a few employees at Farm Bureau that I have known for a number of years. When I started showing Angus cattle, Milo was a few years older than me and very active in our Junior Angus Association. Growing up in agriculture is a blessing in multiple ways, including the ability to develop friendships that will help you later on. Agriculture is an expansive industry, but yet, it is a small-world and I love being able to watch other farm kids find their path to make the agricultural industry better.
|Chief of Staff, Todd Poole, for Congressman |
Hudson. We had a great conversation about
As the weeks continued, I dove into agricultural topics with legislative staff members and built relationships with Congressmen and women in DC with Linda Andrews, NCFB National Legislative Director. Congress members were in recess this particular week (or some at the RNC), therefore, Capitol Hill was a little less hectic and we had more opportunities to sit down and talk with staff members. Linda and I spoke with legislative assistants in the offices of Senator Burr, Senator Tillis, Representative Rouzer, Representative Adams, and Representative Hudson (along with Chief of Staff, Todd Poole, in my Representative's office). These conversations were incredible to learn about the dynamic of Congress and the progress on various agricultural issues. I will try to capture the highlights of our conversations. We discussed topics such as the new GMO Labeling bill. This bill is not ideal to many legislative members or the ag world, but there was a need to implement a uniform rule that covers all states. This legislation requires all states to provide text, a symbol, or an electronic link to provide a disclaimer about bioengineered products in the package. The bill is a win for ag, because it helps keep production costs down for retail packaging and, ultimately, helps crop prices. In addition to GMO Labeling, I prompted questions regarding the future of the H2A farmworker program and shared my first hand experience of the program’s meaning to the farmer. Staff in Senator Tillis’ office understand the importance of this program to North Carolina farmers. He informed me that farmers should not expect to see a comprehensive bill due to the political environment of DC. However, they plan to try to pass smaller pieces of legislation to improve the program over time. In addition, I discussed a topic of top concern to me, the Veterinary Feed Directive, in all of the offices we visited. Congress passed this legislation last year and it will take effect in January 2017. VFD requires producers to obtain a veterinary prescription for antimicrobial feed additives, which play a digestive role in livestock species by increasing production efficiently. The new rule does not include prescriptions for injectable antibiotics, however, livestock producers show concern for the the addition of them to the list in the future. Antibiotics would no longer be available over the counter requiring a prescription from a vet. Antibiotics are expensive driving up the production cost and take time away from our, already, busy schedules. As a farm, we do not choose to use antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary to treat an animal's infection or illness, ultimately to save the animal’s life. Antibiotics are a hot topic in today’s media, but I want to assure consumers and lawmakers that, as a whole, livestock producers are careful with medication and follow directions on the medication label. It would be extremely difficult and inconvenient for producers to have to call on the vet every time an emergency arose, for example, on a Sunday afternoon. Currently, I do not believe we have enough large-animal veterinarians to take care of the demand every day of the week, at all hours of the day. As a responsible livestock producer, I expressed my concern to the staff and urged them to consider my point of view whenever the legislation may arise in the future. Linda and I had many conversations about various agricultural issues, but the highlights for me included the previous GMO Labeling, H2A Farmworker Program, and Veterinary Feed Directive. I challenge all of you reading to stay aware of agricultural issues and develop a relationship with your own legislative representation. Personally, I hope to continue growing these relationships in the future to be able to have more conversations with our Congressmen and women to share real-life stories and advocate for agriculture.
|Stanly County Farm Bureau Board member |
and my neighbor, Mr. Ronnie Burleson, in DC
with the Corn Growers Assn.
(A big thank you to Linda Andrews for taking time with me and arranging my productive trip to DC. She does a great job arranging meetings for many FB members advocating for ag in DC.)
I am looking forward to my last week at Farm Bureau, continuing every day learning about different aspects of the organization and agricultural advocacy.