This week’s Open Mic guest is Tom Stenzel, President and CEO at United Fresh Produce Association. Specialty crop growers have faced a number of challenges in adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stenzel says his members are hopeful for financial assistance but also liability protection from a new relief package from Washington. A disruption of the traditional supply chain is just one of many obstacles his growers face on top of a shortage of farm workers and dwindling water supplies. United Fresh Supports the Farm to Family Food Box program and shares a different view than other growers of the USMCA trade agreement.
This week’s Open Mic guest is California’s 20th District Representative Jimmy Panetta. Central Valley farmers have suffered the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and he supports recent amendments to the CFAP program and extended signup dates. In this interview, Panetta discusses the ongoing challenge of protecting farmworkers in the state and the need for additional federal assistance for PPE, housing and additional testing. Panetta cites the increased strain on food banks as a reason to support a temporary increase in SNAP benefits and offers thoughts on the USMCA trade deal and the challenging relationship with China.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Sarah Frey, President and CEO of Frey Farms. As this year’s winner of the Woman in Produce Award from the United Fresh Produce Association, Frey is a shining example of a true entrepreneur who saved the family farm and grew a business that encompasses a variety of specialty crops grown in multiple states. In this interview, Frey offers her thoughts on the challenges of seeing ag labor reform in Washington, the shortfalls of the recently enacted USMCA, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought permanent change to the food retail sector. The author of a new book, “The Growing Season” which will be released later this month, she shares her thought about developing future leaders in agriculture.
This week’s Open Mic Guest is Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes. The nearly century-old company has recently formed a multi-year partnership with Microsoft and has helped to form a new coalition to lobby Washington for increased access to broadband in rural communities. Recognizing a lack of healthcare in rural communities and a lack of investment in technology for schools, Ford says the digital divide isn’t a rural issue, it is an American issue. Ford says Land O’ Lakes is working to provide data-rich insights to help farmers achieve improvements in profitability and sustainability.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Dr. Gary Adams, President and CEO of the National Cotton Council. A trade dispute with China and the COVID-19 pandemic have wrought tremendous economic disparity on not only cotton farmers, but the sum of their supporting industry. The closing of retail outlets has plummeted consumer clothing purchases. With all eyes on the next round of financial aid, Adams says federal support is key to helping the industry survive until market demand is restored. Adams says sustainability is a top priority for NCC and says they’re hopeful for a new EPA label for Dicamba for the 2021 growing season.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Dr. Barbara Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. State ag leaders have renewed their call for federal assistance to respond to the needs of farmers, ranchers and rural communities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is also calling for expanded rural broadband coverage, the expansion of domestic and global markets and worker protection standards. She reports on efforts to expand meat processing and discusses the opportunities and challenges of the infant U.S. hemp industry.