In the United States and in Washington, we are fortunate to have an abundance of agriculture. We are even more fortunate to have the hard-working men and women who work to keep food on our tables. Keeping our food supply chain stable – especially in times of crisis or distress – is critical to ensuring the health and safety of all Americans.
As any farmer will tell you, weather conditions and seasonal changes can make or break a harvest for almost any crop. While we can’t control Mother Nature, we can ensure our producers have access to other critical aspects of farming like healthy soil, agriculture technology, labor, and water.
Robust agriculture research is ongoing right here in Central Washington at the research and extension sites of Washington State University, the nation’s leading USDA-funded research university. This research results in findings to develop new, innovative ways to produce food, as well as maintain and improve the health of our crops.
Producers across the nation understand that without reliable labor, our agriculture industry will crumble. Yet, our country hasn’t passed meaningful agriculture labor reform since 1986. When the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, we took a long-overdue step to help stabilize our agricultural workforce, and I continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to provide assurance to our farmers that they will have access to legal labor.
In addition to my legislation, I continue to work with growers to find new avenues to help labor shortfalls and provide certainty for farm operations. I recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging that he continues efficient H-2A visa application processing during times of crisis. Secretary Pompeo responded by announcing that H-2A visa processing will receive preference despite currently reduced staff and hours at U.S consulate offices.
Perhaps the most important element for food production is water, and in our region, we realize just how precious this resource is. Without water storage and supply infrastructure like dams and irrigation canals, our district would not exist as it does today. We must update and maintain this critical infrastructure to ensure our farmers can continue their work.
It is important to remember – perhaps now more than ever – that food security is national security.
The United States Department of Homeland Security recently released its guidance that designates agriculture and food as “critical infrastructure” during global emergencies, ensuring that our food supply and those in the industry can maintain supply chains to feed every American.
I co-authored a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Perdue asking for increased safeguards for our fruit and vegetable producers and requesting that USDA continue to provide availability of our high-quality produce for families in need.
Without farming, we wouldn’t have the food that is distributed throughout our state, our country, and the world. But the food supply chain doesn’t stop there. Our farms’ bounties pass through several industries before they reach our markets, grocery stories, and – eventually – tables. Processors, manufacturers, packers, and shippers all play a vital role in securing our access to nutritious food. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to feed our families with the certainty we often take for granted.
From farmers and farm workers to grocery store employees, we should be thankful for our hardworking “food heroes” today and every day. Our security as a nation depends on our ability to produce our own food, and I will continue to work in Congress to ensure our agriculture and food industries remain strong.