WASHINGTON, June 5, 2017 - Women involved in the agriculture sector from across the country descended on the nation’s capital this week for the American Agri-Women’s annual Legislative Fly-In. As they prepared to visit legislators and agricultural influencers, the group on Monday hosted three speakers for their 24th Annual Symposium, this year centered on “National Security and Rural America.”

First up was Kimmi Lewis, a Colorado State Representative and the manager of Muddy Valley Ranch. Lewis talked about her hope for new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation. She walked though the history of COOL and noted that many commodities such as lamb, chicken, goat, fruit, vegetables, peanuts and pecans still benefit from COOL. Congress repealed COOL for beef and pork in 2015 after the World Trade Organization found the measure discriminated against products from Mexico and Canada.

“I raise beef and I’m proud of it,” Lewis said. “I would like to have USA beef labeled.”

In making her case, Lewis cited the recent tainted Brazilian beef scare and an increase in consumer interest in where food comes from. Labeling U.S. beef and pork as U.S. products would ensure a superior, safe product for the consumer, according to Lewis.

“If we want to try to get COOL back, we somehow have to work through the NAFTA talks,” Lewis said. The North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico is being renegotiated after President Trump threatened to withdraw from the 23-year-old treaty.

Lewis was followed by Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, who spoke with high hopes for continued deregulation and removal of red tape under Trump. Like Lewis, Sgamma was optimistic about the president’s plans, claiming that “regulation was used as a weapon” in the Obama White House. Lewis had said of Trump, “Every day since he’s been elected, it’s been like Christmas.”  

Sgamma noted that demand for crude oil has grown tremendously and that the U.S. is now right there with Saudi Arabia, tied as the world’s top exporter of the fuel, much of which comes from rural America. She also noted that exporting oil keeps global prices low, which in turn keeps prices at the pump low. Plus, Sgamma said, exporting oil creates and keeps jobs here in America.

“There are still so many regulations to stop production of oil and natural gas, energy, renewables as well, mining, timber harvesting, and of course ranching and farming on public lands. We really have an opportunity to roll back some this red tape now,” Sgamma said. “It is much better now than it would have been with a third term of the Obama administration but we still have a lot of work to do.”

The event concluded with remarks from Lawrence Kogan of Kogan Law Group, P.C. He discussed the ways in which he said the federal government policies related to Native American tribes and wildlife management could have harmful effects on the nation’s food supply and national security.

After the symposium, AAW members were planning to meet with government officials and agricultural influencers at the EPA, and at USDA agencies, including the National Agricultural and Statistics Service and the Farm Service Agency.

AAW member Ruth Jensen, who helped plan the event, noted that each year the symposium features a new topic.

“We are really concerned with how we can play a role in keeping the nation’s agriculture safe,” Jensen said. “One of our founding mottos is, “Our nation is only as strong as its ability to feed its people and military.”’