April 2019
D.C. Fly-In addresses key issues facing potato industry By Kam Quarles, Guest Columnist

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue delivered the keynote address at the National Potato Council's 2019 Washington, D.C. Fly-In.

Kam-Quarles-National-Potato-CouncilIn late February, the potato industry gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual Washington, D.C. Fly-In. In the keynote address for the event, industry leaders had the opportunity to hear from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on the work the Department of Agriculture is conducting to move our industry forward.

Among the topics the secretary mentioned were trade, potato research, the agricultural labor crisis and ongoing efforts to restore science-based criteria in the nutrition programs.

Secretary Perdue also highlighted the value and importance of the Potato Industry Leadership Institute (PILI). The most recent PILI class was completing their work in Washington, D.C. after beginning the program in Portland, Oregon, and were in attendance for the secretary’s speech.

From left, National Potato Council President Larry Alsum, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, National Potato Council CEO John Keeling and Randy Russell of the Russell Group. Photo: NPC

Beyond the remarks from the secretary, Fly-In attendees also heard from political observers and television personalities A.B. Stoddard and Nathan Gonzalez about the 2018 election and how 2020 is shaping up. Then they departed for Capitol Hill to a business session in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Over the course of two hours, senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) addressed the attendees about the recently passed 2018 Farm Bill, trade issues, immigration reform and transportation challenges facing our industry.

Once the formal program was completed, producers from across the U.S. took to their individual House and Senate member offices to hold one-on-one conversations about key priorities to advance the industry. These meetings were joined by PILI participants, as they had just completed training in communication and advocacy during the week. These individual Hill meetings are the most important of the program’s events, as they allow the substantial grassroots network of our geographically diverse industry to fully express itself to policymakers.

In 2018, we had a very strong year in pressing for legislative and regulatory priorities to enhance the industry. They included: a new Farm Bill with major investments in specialty crop research and trade priorities, eliminating restrictions on potato access to the school breakfast program and positive regulatory action on electronic logging devices.

Looking forward, the 2019 Fly-In set us up for a strong push on key issues in the coming months. The emphasis for this year’s meeting was on the benefits that bipartisan problem solving can deliver. It was essential in seeing the Farm Bill to an overwhelming passage and to our success in the nutrition programs. From trade to ag labor to infrastructure, reaching across the aisle will be essential to future success.

We sincerely appreciate the time and effort that our attendees committed to this year’s Fly-In and taking that positive message to Capitol Hill.

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