This week’s Open Mic guest is Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. Washington has directed a large sum of funds to close the digital divide between urban and rural residents and adequate broadband coverage, but there’s no single agency working to coordinate efforts across the government. Bloomfield reports progress in many areas, but a process of red tape that sometimes stands in the way of major accomplishments toward expanded coverage. Labor and supply chain issues are also providing obstacles to expanded coverage in many areas of the country. Managing the expectations of the underserved remains a challenge for the industry.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Glen Smith, chairman and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration. While the farm economy balance sheet is in no way as challenged as in the early 1980s, Chairman Smith suggests there are developing similarities. Smith says there are active farmers today who survived the farm crisis four decades ago and yet others who’ve not experienced the financial pressure that comes from high interest rates. Smith explains the need for a farm safety net and discusses the need to support young and beginning farmers as well as make solid investments in rural America.
This week’s Open Mic Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member John Boozman. The Arkansas Republican says the Russian-Ukraine conflict is disrupting a major food production region and exacerbating global hunger. Boozman says it is time for Washington to act, not only addressing the immediate needs of starving people but enhancing opportunities to encourage American farmers and ranchers to step up production to meet global shortfalls. Boozman is encouraged that an upcoming committee hearing on new farm policy will include a southern perspective on production, sustainability, and climate-smart farming practices. Boozman favors the Senate version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act and would like to see the legislation approved in short order.
This week’s Open Mic guest is U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Despite the many challenges facing the nation and the global economy, McConnell remains optimistic. With the mid-term elections looming this fall, McConnell holds little faith for significant legislative action this year. He is critical of the Biden administration’s trade agenda and believes the U.S. could step up to fill Europe’s energy needs heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. McConnell supports additional global food aid and acknowledges the global events challenging the nation’s farms and ranches.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Jim Sumner, president and CEO of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. After record losses to U.S. poultry in 2015 from highly pathogenic avian influenza, the disease is wreaking havoc again around the globe. Sumner says the biggest losses have come in laying hens. Some 150 detections have been reported in commercial flocks in 29 states, but wild bird detections have been three times larger than the previous round of the disease. Sumner says the supply of turkeys for Thanksgiving could be challenged if the disease continues to spread. Finally, Sumner reflects on his career and discusses the challenges of labor and shipping in the poultry industry as well as frustration with the remaining trade embargo with Cuba.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Betsy Ward, president and CEO of the USA Rice Federation. All of the U.S. ag industry is faced with inflationary pressure and supply chain issues this year, but Ward says the nation’s rice growers aren’t seeing higher prices for rice largely due to a lack of global market access including unfair trade practices from India. She says growers would like better direction from the Biden trade team and wishes Congress would step in with policy to help growers offset higher production costs in 2022. Ward believes rice growers have made tremendous strides in sustainable production practices while maintaining a nutritious food product and wildlife habitat in fields across the mid-south and west.