Apr 26, 2017
Growers talk ag needs with President Trump, Secretary Perdue

Maureen Torrey with Torrey Farms of Elba, New York, participated in a roundtable discussion on April 25, at the White House with President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue regarding the policy needs of rural America and the agriculture industry. Torrey is a United Fresh Produce Association member and former chairman of the board.

The meeting set the stage for the President’s Executive Order, signed the same day, that establishes an interagency task force to examine a wide range of issues affecting the quality of life in rural America. According the to the White House, “The task force is ordered to identify legislative, regulatory, or policy changes to promote American agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America.” The task force is set to convene within the coming weeks.

“I believe the President appreciates how important agriculture is to the overall well-being of this country,” Torrey said. “He said that he understands how important it is for farmers to be viable in the marketplace and it was encouraging to hear him tell Secretary Perdue that, with respect to immigration enforcement, workers who are here and have not caused any problems, but have been productive workers, should not have anything to fear.

“I was also pleased to hear him acknowledge that the current federal ag guest worker program, H-2A, is broken and needs fixing. It was also good to hear him say that there needs to be a year-round solution to agriculture’s labor needs and to hear him talk about the need for a skilled ag worker program.”

The Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity will consist of representatives of agencies across the federal government and is required to issue its recommendations within 180 days of the signing of the Executive Order.

Growers from across the country participated in the Farmers Roundtable. Photo: United Fresh

The Farmers Roundtable featured more than a dozen growers and representatives of the agriculture community who discussed with President Trump and Secretary Perdue a variety of topics, including agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural investment and infrastructure, labor issues, and the Farm Bill. Participants in the roundtable included:

• Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former Oklahoma House member, Lindsay, Oklahoma
• Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
• Hank Choate, Choate’s Belly Acres, Cement City, Michigan
• Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, Ohio
• Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, Georgia
• Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, Minnesota
• Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Fanning Springs, Florida (also farms in the state of KS)
• A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce, Newport Beach, California
• James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, North Carolina
• Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and farmer, Spirit Lake, Iowa
• Jose Rojas, VP of Farm Operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, Colorado
• Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, Colorado
• Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, New York
• Steve Troxler, NC Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, North Carolina

Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy, said United Fresh will be engaging with the Task Force and other policymakers and officials to ensure the priorities of the fresh produce industry are part of the Task Force Report.

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