Arizona Farm Bureau (AZFB) Board President, Stefanie Smallhouse and National Women’s Chair, Sherry Saylor, met with Senator Martha McSally in Washington DC on July 9, 2019. During the meeting, the two AZFB leaders brought up several important issues regarding agriculture in the state of Arizona: agricultural labor, rural broadband, DCP infrastructure, and the USMCA.
For years Arizona agriculture producers have struggled with the acquisition of a skilled labor force for their respective industries. I say a skilled labor force because not everyone can work in this industry and not everyone has the knowledge or training. Farmers and ranchers in Arizona have depended upon foreign labor for decades because domestic workers have not generally been interested in these jobs. The H2A program is currently the only Ag Visa Program in the U.S. and most of agriculture cannot participate in the program due to its deficiencies. The AZFB is working hard to get this situation resolved in the form of national legislation.
Farm Bureau makes a regular trek to the U.S. Capitol including special trips like this where an AFBF Council Of President's meeting took place. Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse, AFBF Women's Leadership Chair Sherry Saylor and Farm Bureau member Amy Gerak met with Senator McSally on issues critical to Arizona agriculture.
Agriculture and technology are not mutually exclusive concepts. Many agriculture producers run their business and even their heavy machinery just by the touch of a cellphone or tablet. Gone are the days where producers can work disconnected from the world. It is imperative for them to have the most up to date and fastest internet access and cell phone reception on the market. Current legislation calls for increasing the capacity for rural broadband. This would allow for internet and cellphone carriers to expand cell towers to allow for more coverage in rural areas. The widespread uses of this expansion would greatly increase the agricultural economy and the external benefits for the producers is unlimited.
Earlier this year the Drought Contingency Plan was passed within the state of Arizona and then at the federal level. The focus now is on the funding and implementation of the proper infrastructure for the Pinal County irrigation districts. The engineering feat will engage the drilling of new wells to sustain the Pinal County farmers when the elevation of water in Lake Mead drops to a critical level. These wells will allow the producers in the county to maintain their businesses and not fallow as much land as predicted without the benefit of the wells.
Finally, and importantly, our members had the opportunity to discuss the USMCA! This revolutionary free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada is the springboard to future trade negotiations in the Pacific. It is crucial that Congress ratify this agreement. Not just for the benefit of the United States but for the benefit of Mexico and Canada as well. Many businesses and industries are depending on this free trade agreement for their livelihood. It is the fairest and most advantageous agreement between the three countries in recent history. We cannot overemphasize the importance of ratifying this trade agreement. The ratification will send an encouraging message all around the world that the United States stands unified and is ready for business!
We are thankful for the great working relationship we have with the office of Senator McSally and are proud to represent our agriculture members across the state. We are always happy to help our farmers and ranchers and better their lives in every possible way. However, everyone needs to do their part! Reach out to your congressional members about the USMCA. Voice your support and let it be known that without free trade our economy will wither on the vine!