Having served as a former member of the House Agriculture Committee, and former ranking member of the Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, it was a main priority for me that Congress pass and implement a 21 st century farm bill that represents the innovative and diverse American agriculture industry and is focused on healthy food production, community building and economic development. In 2014, I was a member of the conference committee that worked on the FARM Bill and I'm proud of what we accomplished to benefit not only Oregonian farmers, but all of America's agricultural communities.
In Oregon, we produce traditional agriculture crops, but we are primarily a state of family farms that grow specialty crops. Specialty crops, like vegetables, fruits, nursery crops and organics, account for less than five percent of harvested crops across the country and receive only a fraction of funding from existing farm bill programs. However, specialty crops represent nearly half of all domestic farm gate crop value. In a twenty first century global economy it is going to be difficult for American agriculture to compete with countries that do not have our environmental standards, pay sub-minimum wages and receive significant national subsidies. However, we can compete by innovating, encouraging value added production and illustrating to everyday folks the dietary and economic value of buying American crops. In the current farm bill, Congress must build on the strengths of American agriculture and promote investments in research, marketing and conservation.
Strong farm policy must pave the way for the future of American agriculture, not revel in the past. If American agriculture is to remain the standard bearer of how agriculture should benefit a society it must present itself in a better light to the American public. We must continue to understand the importance of value added production of specialty crops, and invest in research opportunities and appropriate insurance support for farmers with a suitable amount of skin in the game. The future of American agriculture rests on these ideas to produce the best quality food in the world in the safest manner possible.