By Emmalee Edwards, Craig County Young Farmers
On July 10-12, a group of Farm Bureau Young Farmers from Southwest Virginia took on Washington, D.C. to meet with Congressmen and organizations such as National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Animal Ag Alliance, and BIO. We spent July 11th on Capitol Hill, meeting with Congressman Garrett and Congressman Griffith.
We divided the group between the two congressmen; those in Congressman Garrett’s district met with him, and those of us in the 9th District met with Congressman Griffith. We had four key issues to bring to Griffith’s attention: electronic logging devices (ELDs), rural broadband access, trade tariffs, and the Farm Bill. Our time with our Congressman was limited as he had been called into an important meeting (top secret, of course), so we had only five minutes to discuss the first issue – the effect of ELDs on livestock transportation. The requirement for livestock haulers to use ELDs would be detrimental to beef cattle operations in the district, where the best option for feeder calves is to ship them via trucks from Virginia to Midwest feedlots. Griffith agreed that livestock haulers should be exempt from using ELDs, and is currently pushing for further reprieve from compliance for those transporting animals.
We discussed the remaining issues with Griffith’s Legislative Director, Kristin Seum, beginning with the importance of broadband access to farmers. Farmers need reliable access to broadband to be able to compete with other small businesses, for the utilization and improvement of precision agriculture, and first and foremost, for safety and emergencies in which it is imperative that farmers have adequate phone service should they need to call for medical assistance. Access to broadband for rural Americans, especially farmers, could potentially be the difference between life and death.
We expressed concern over the recent trade tariffs and the impact they may have on agriculture. Unfortunately, it seems Washington is also unclear of the “end goal” and “end point” of this trade war, but we made sure to note that, while fair trade is desired, the tariffs could result in the death of one or more American family farms. We made sure to thank them for supporting the Farm Bill, and Ms. Seum thanked us for voicing our concerns.
We never imagined we would see a result from our “AG-vocating” so soon. As we made our way home the next day, we were alerted to Congressman Griffith’s online newsletter, which stated that Thursday, July 12, 2018, just one day after we met with him and his staff, he supported a bill to expand broadband access, quoting several key points that we had made the previous day. It may be deemed a small victory to some, but it’s a pertinent reminder of how a few voices, melded together by one passion, and fueled by the desire to see change, can impact those who are prepared to listen and seek action. Our thanks go out to Congressman Griffith, Kristin Seum, and staff.