The mission of the conference was to have participants meet with over 200 members of Congress, their staff and regulatory officials to educate policymakers in the nation’s capital. In three words: engage, advocate and collaborate.
Education is an essential component of advocacy. Considering the 16% and 35% turnover rates in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, it’s important that these offices understand the legislative, regulatory and initiative challenges facing every part of the agricultural supply chain. It’s also crucial that they understand the sector’s impact on jobs, growth and consumer demand.
Artemis’ passion for working towards a more stable, sustainable and profitable supply chain compelled us to join the conference. We’ll never stop fighting to widen our customer’s profit margins.
The question is how can we, as a community, communicate the concerns and challenges of our industry? By advocating for the support of our farmers. As was said by many people, many times over the course of the conference, “Advocacy is a daily effort and, just like our crops, needs regular care and feeding.”
There is power in numbers, which is why this past week so many industry cultivators and innovators joined together to share the following key points around immigration reform, trade policy and child nutrition.
We discussed the topic of labor, which as everyone knows is a both complex and vital link in the supply chain. Conference participants argued for broad reform of the H2A Temporary Agricultural Employment of Foreign Workers agreement, and to work with our industry to pass new legislation that provides an effective solution for our labor crisis. That includes viable guest worker programs, transitions for current agricultural workers who are not currently in accordance with legal requirements, and the protection of growers who are working with their local governmental agencies to meet those requirements.
We also discussed trade, namely the effect of tariff rates and NAFTA policies and access to global markets. We also explored the passing of trade agreements like the USMCA, and how they can help or hurt expand the development of new market opportunities around the world that benefit the fresh produce industry.
As the back-to-school season draws to a close, it was important to also bring up the role of child nutrition. As of today, 90% of USDA fruit and vegetable purchases are not fresh. We argued the importance of protecting children’s access to fresh produce through state school programs like the FFVP and maintaining serving requirements in school meals around the country.
Of course, alignment on issues is not always easily achievable. But an agreement to push forward the conversations around these challenges and issues is the first step to implementing solutions. Artemis met with the offices of Representatives Elis Stefanik, Nydia Velasquez, Jose Serrano, Paul Tonko, Jerry Nadler, and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand. The staff members of each office agreed with us on that point. Policies, people, process and politics with integrity and intention will build a stronger agricultural supply chain.