This week’s Open Mic guest is Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo. A year ago, Missouri’s 4th District struggled with massive flooding and now is mired in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other rural communities in the nation, Hartzler says nearly every facet of their economy has been beset with adversity from the virus. Hartzler supports another round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program support for farmers and ranchers and has appealed to USDA officials to assist commodities that she feels weren’t equitably compensated in the first round of assistance. Hartzler supports legislation that would allow USDA to provide funds to segments of the ag industry that have yet to see financial support. Hartzler supports the Farms to Families Food Box Program and believes growth in global trade agreements is the best way to help farmers overcome the COVID crisis.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Andy LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association. Many believe consumers have a new appreciation for farmers and the overall food supply chain following the COVID-19 pandemic. While the world hopes science delivers an answer to the disease, some of those same consumers push back against new seed innovation that can lead to a more secure food supply. In this interview, LaVigne discusses challenges the industry faces with new trade agreements and an influx of dollars being invested in the food and ag sector. He reports on the “mystery seed” packages and outlines how governments and consumers can help farmers achieve sustainability and food production goals.
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.