This week’s Open Mic guest is Mark Stewart, President and CEO of Agriculture Future of America. Following the vision of the Kemper Family of Kansas City, an agriculture youth development organization was born in 1996 to help in the evolution of future ag leaders and to support their spirit of entrepreneurship. Today, Stewart says that same vision has expanded to over 200 college campuses and 150 different agriculture majors. As the group celebrates 24 years, it plans to continue working on developing human capital, addressing racial diversity and aligning academic programs with employer needs. Stewart says the organization brings people together to build bridges and tries to entice young people to find their personal mission and find pathways for feeding the world more sustainably.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota Democrat may have failed in her attempt for the Oval Office but remains a staunch supporter of agriculture and rural America. In this interview, Klobuchar offers thoughts on the nation’s economy and what’s essential in any new COVID relief measure including support for farmers and small businesses as well as state and local governments. Klobuchar speaks to challenges remaining with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the biofuel industry, broadband and nutrition assistance programs.
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.