Farmers from the 5th Congressional district met with newly elected Congressman Tom Garrett in Nelson County on Monday to discuss several federal issues of importance. The fifth district is large, encompassing much of Southside Virginia and extending north all the way to Fauquier County. Some farmers traveled more than two hours for the meeting.
The three issues were regulatory reform, Farm Bill, and Labor. There was significant discussion on the labor issue, mainly the shortage of it and the bureaucracy of the H2A program. Given that there are complexities and delays with the H2A program, a documented guest worker program; many farmers like it because the labor is good and dependable. Congressman Garrett advised that he has become much more knowledgeable about the program since taking on his new role, and said that he would do his best to advocate for a more efficient process. The first hand examples of farmers using the H2A program was beneficial and included fruit and tobacco growers and horticulture enterprises. Regulatory reform was also discussed and we were pleased that work has already taken place in reducing some burdensome regulations.
Congressman Garrett voted in favor of H.R. 5 and H.R. 26 to ease some regulations and prevent agencies from essentially writing their own regulations and bypassing the legislative branch of government. The Farm Bill was the last item on the discussion and the farmers made sure that the congressman was aware that the majority of the Farm Bill funding was appropriated for nutritional programs such as SNAP, which he was aware of. Many Farm Bureau members would like to see the farm programs and nutritional programs separated to provide more transparency to the general public that farmers are not receiving the majority of the funds in the Farm Bill. However, many also realize the political reality that separation of those items could be challenging to get favorable votes from urban representatives for farm programs. Farm Bureau members also stressed the importance of the farm programs and that they should be workable and practical.
Farm Bureau periodically has these meetings with congressmen around the state. It is a great opportunity for congressmen to hear firsthand from farmers, get to more personally know their constituents; and it provides farmers an opportunity to meet with their congressman in the district about issues without having to travel to Washington D.C.
Through Farm Bureau, members get opportunities to meet with state legislators, congressmen, senators, and governors; and have expert staff on hand that are knowledgeable of the issues and lobby on members’ behalf in Richmond and Washington D.C. Membership dues of $40 is one of the best investments that farmers can have.
Until next time,