Aug 18, 2021National Potato Council keeps eye on infrastructure reform
Recently, the Senate took two major steps forward on the Biden administration’s priorities for economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Bill includes $550 billion in new spending for roads, rails, bridges, commercial seaports, waterways and water infrastructure. It was passed 69-30 by the Senate and now faces an uncertain schedule in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she will not take up the bill until a larger Reconciliation Bill is passed.
“It is very positive that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate were able to join together to pass such an important priority for American agriculture and the economy as a whole. The potato industry is dependent on a modern infrastructure system in maintaining our competitiveness both domestically and internationally. We urge the House to move forward rapidly on a similar bipartisan basis,” said National Potato Council (NPC) President Dominic LaJoie.
Immediately following the bipartisan action on infrastructure, the Senate’s Democratic Majority moved forward on a partisan budget resolution that sets the framework for a coming debate on a Reconciliation Bill. This budget resolution, passed with only 50 Democratic votes, sets the overall spending levels across the government including agriculture where $138 billion will be dedicated to the jurisdiction of the agriculture committee. It is anticipated that attempts will be made to use this process of “reconciling” differences between current spending and the new budget resolution to also change federal policy in areas such as immigration and tax reform.
NPC is strongly opposed to the undermining or elimination of beneficial tax provisions that family farms rely upon to maintain their competitiveness. The NPC Board met in late July an unanimously passed a resolution in regard to that opposition.
Reps take aim at skyrocketing international shipping
This week, a bill was introduced in the House to address the skyrocketing pricing and lack of container availability for agricultural ocean freight shipments. The bill, sponsored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-California) and Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota) intends to prioritize agricultural exports and address instances where price gouging has occurred.
“Our industry ships 20% of its production to foreign markets with a huge share traveling by ocean freight. The crisis in availability and pricing is negatively impacting all of America’s agricultural exporters and this bill is an indication of just how dire the situation has become. NPC appreciates the attention of lawmakers and the Administration in urgently addressing this crisis,” said Jared Balcom, VP of Trade Affairs.
Earlier in the week, Secretary Tom Vilsack tweeted his concerns over the crisis and urged the Federal Maritime Commission to take immediate action consistent with its jurisdiction and authority.
Farm labor reform complicated by Reconciliation Bill
Efforts to resolve the agricultural labor crisis have been complicated by the partisan Reconciliation Bill that kicked off this week. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have been working on a bipartisan basis to improve on the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
That bill was approved by nearly every Democrat in the House and 30 Republicans. It seeks to provide improvements in all three essential areas for ag labor reform: Legalizing the current workforce, making the H-2A guestworker program serve the current and future needs of agriculture and greatly increasing security.
However, it has been suggested this week that the budget reconciliation process may be used to address one or two of these areas; legalizing the current workforce and funding smart technology for border security, including possibly mandatory e-verify. This may leave the guestworker reforms element behind.
“Senators Crapo and Bennet should be commended for working across party lines to secure the future of labor dependent agriculture and its essential workers. We encourage the Senate leadership to allow them to do their bipartisan work. Attempting to solve the ag labor crisis in pieces will only lengthen and intensify this dire situation,” said Kam Quarles, NPC CEO.
Potato LEAF program accepting applications
The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF) is now accepting applications for the 2022 Potato Industry Leadership Institute (PILI). PILI provides tools to help growers and industry members develop as leaders and motivate them to commit their time and energy to the betterment of the U.S. potato industry.
The Leadership Institute is a ten-day program that provides an overview of the U.S. potato industry, the challenges and issues beyond the production sector, and the roles of the industry’s state and national organizations in maintaining a positive business climate for potato growers.
The 2022 program will take place in California and Washington, D.C., Feb. 23-March 4, 2022.
All applications must be submitted electronically through the Google Form by Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Confirmations of participation will be sent by Nov. 12, 2021.
If you have any questions about the application, program or about how many guaranteed participants your state receives, please email [email protected].
Potato Expo presentation ideas sought
Submissions for Potato Talk sessions are now being accepted for Potato Expo 2022 in Anaheim, California, through Sept. 10. All sessions will be 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes of one-on-one questions and answers. Sessions can be a single speaker or panel discussion.
Potato Talks is a cultivator of ideas and inspiration. Throughout the show the stage is the center of activity featuring engaging discussions, non-stop discussions, lively talks and entertainment—all centered around potatoes and potato production. We are seeking proposals that showcase new advancements in production agriculture, uncover on-farm solutions, focus on current trends, or ignite inspirations.
Members of the Potato Expo community will be invited to vote on the submission topics they find most interesting. All proposals must be submitted by Sept. 10, 2021. Accepted submissions will be notified by Oct. 15, 2021. Find the application here.
Please send all questions regarding the Potato Talk sessions at Potato Expo to [email protected].
— National Potato Council