without farmers there would be no civilization
Update from WAFLA and Cherry Institute Conferences
Central Washington feeds this nation and our high value crops bring in money from foreign markets and help strengthen alliances with other nations. Mike Hullet, CEO of Farm Fresh Direct said at the 80th Cherry Institute’s Summit that if a farmer addresses congress they listen. We have a representative in congress that claims to be a farmer and nobody listens to him! Under our past president and our current representative in Central Washington, challenges facing the farmers of CD4 and this nation have increased and yet the republicans in congress talking points are few: Consumer costs, Immigration and Food Security. And these are discussed in the most narrow of context and most emotionally divisive manner.
- Foreign Policy/ Markets
- Climate Change
- Small farms (farmers)
- Food insecurity
- Costs and supply chain
Farmers carry the entire cost and risk of their endeavor without knowing if they will be successful or not. How many businesses take such a leap?
At the 80th Cherry Institute Summit in Yakima a speaker announced that in the short term the US will import 50% of its produce!*
What I believe to be true:
- Foreign policy and markets damaged under Trump and COVID demand more attention by this administration to reestablish and expand our markets.
- Under the Trump administration, and with the support of CD4 Representative Dan Newhouse, the US pulled away from its allies and markets. The result has been devastating for our higher end produce which benefited from a strong Asia market. Even though we have the superior product, other countries were quick to fill the gap.
- Water in Central Washington is currently sufficient, but water projects to ensure water security will not get the funding required with Rep. Dan Newhouse in office.
- Water will always be contentious, however upgrading and finalizing water projects will go a long way to creating efficiencies through conservation, more effective allocation and management thus repairing damage done by overuse of water while expanding our AG industry. Our irrigation systems have sections that are 100 years old and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The Columbia Basin Water Project has been slow walked and is still not complete after over a half century. Completion of this project would provide water for 300,000 additional acreage for farming, replenish the Odessa Aquifer, provide clean drinking water, reverse deep well drilling, and through water savings, damage done to lands can be repaired.
- Climate change is real, but with a Rep Dan Newhouse we will continue to fight to get funding and support for new crop research and to maintain our growing sustainable energy industry
- CD4 Representative Dan Newhouse has continuously fought to roll back advances in sustainable energy for reliance on fossil fuels. He has written legislation such as the American Energy Independence bill to undermine our sustainable energy industry and lobbied with other states to advance their energy programs over ours. Newhouse has voted and will continue to vote against funding for programs and services for farms and citizens. Washington State University along with other universities and farm organizations continue to be our support for research efforts.
- Small farmers are always at risk because policy and interest is focused on big agriculture. I have no issue with big ag as long as small farmers receive equitable treatment and our food supply is not put at risk
- Small farms are essential for food security. Small farms will maintain diversified food products to keep the variety of our food more plentiful and creating a network of independent farmers makes for a safer environment. Factory farms if they fail, it fails completely. Look at recent failures in our meat supply chain.
- Immigration is critical to our economy and the growth of this nation
- The H2A visa is what we have and it seems to work well, but the burden on small farms is disproportionately heavy. Large farms are able to process Visas, manage compliance and provide for housing, transportation, HR and other costs. However, small farms where the owner is the key source of labor the addition of all these other costs and responsibilities is crushing. The H-2A visa process is not necessarily quick and significant advanced planning is required. As the program develops it will likely incur more, not less oversight which further burdens small farms. As an example the cost of building housing for a H-2A visa worker is estimated at $15,000 per person. For a small farm wanting 20 employees this means an immediate outlay of $300,000 along with the troubles of permitting, construction, maintenance, utilities and all the other costs and effort needed to maintain the housing. There is no thinking in place to assist small farms with these additional costs, skills needed and resource constraints.
- Food insecurity is real; with the US looking to import an increasing amount of our produce the risk grows
- It was reported at the 80th Cherry Institute summit that half of our produce will be imported in the very near future. This is the opposite of food security. Farmers must be profitable and still be competitive with foreign grown crops. This excludes seasonal crops imported during off growing seasons. Small farms lack the margins and the flexibility to withstand stagnant or declining prices. They also are not able to manage crop loss. Insurance pays for part, but it does not keep the farmer whole. The US must take seriously the need to create an environment where our basic food needs are met with sufficient diversity in crops and risk mitigation in the supply chain.
- Costs and supply chain are not understood well and require a further review
- Packing house costs are about equal to all other costs of production combined. Farmers have no control over packing houses. The packing houses pay the farmers at some time in the future and the farmers get what they get. So when we look at ways to make farming more efficient it is important to look at all the factors that feed into cost. Currently the factor getting most, if not all, the attention is field labor costs. There are legions of lawyers, accountants and politicians looking for ways to suppress wages, but I have yet to run across anyone reviewing a packing house invoice. I absolutely do not have anything against packing houses, my concern is that if we truly want to help farmers we need to explore all aspects to find answers.
The answer to our needs is seldom a simple and straightforward answer. What drives public opinion is often emotional and narrow, such as Rep Dan Newhouse blaming food insecurity on China owning 90,000 acres or Biden coming after our water. With clear messaging and solutions in focus we can make things better. Do not believe what you hear, believe what you know.
*If anyone is interested I have the speaker decks from the recent WAFLA in Wenatchee conference and the 80th Cherry Institute Summit in Yakima.
|Apologies upfront for this being English only. Post election I am looking for Spanish language support and it is a big ask to have someone translate this much text. If you know of anyone that will help please let me know. Thank you.
Mobilize has a series of events upcoming:
Fox Action Project – What Activists Can Do To Fight DisinformationThursday, January 26⋅5:00 – 6:30pm Link to join: https://www.mobilize.us/join/22362844/1:095802c08b16e9556f7b81e155c36877e31a7cea66c775af6e767b553bda3e8a/
Lunchtime Meeting w/ Sen.Murray’s & Sen. Cantwell’s Staff in Seattle and Virtual with several dates to choose from https://www.mobilize.us/mobilize/event/377852/
Just in! I received a phone call from Ulises Navarro, a community activist in the Tri Cities, with information that the Pasco City Council is granting land to industrial use rather than for homes. As it was explained to me this land is important because the homes and people would support downtown Pasco and its small business community. I feel strongly about providing affordable housing, preserving our town centers and supporting small businesses. Please contact the Pasco City Council to express your concerns or questions.