Secretary Sonny Perdue visits World Ag-Expo
Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, visited the World Ag-Expo in Tulare, CA, on February 13 for a town-hall-style event with local agriculture community members. Rob Nash, American Pistachio Growers Director of Government Relations, was in attendance, along with several APG members. Secretary Perdue spoke to the audience about his experience as a farmer in Georgia and covered issues facing farmers in California—regulations, funding, labor, and water. He then went into a question-and-answer session.
Secretary Perdue spoke on the Trump Administration’s efforts to cut regulations in a smart way, specifically citing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). He stated that the regulations need to increase health and safetybut in a way that is not problematic to the normal process of growing. Additionally, the Secretary highlighted the President’s call for $200 billion in direct infrastructure investment, 25 percent of which is to be used for rural agriculture. When asked, Perdue did not think that California’s sanctuary status would affect any infrastructure investment.
Following the town-hall meeting, Secretary Perdue, along with Congressmen Jim Costa (CA-16), David Valadao (CA-21), and Jeff Dunham (CA-10), toured the exhibits at the expo. Rob accompanied the group on the tour. The tour was led by APG’s own Brian Watte, who was serving in his capacity as President of the International Agri-Center Board.
New Year Brings New Promises from Government Leaders
These promises are condensed into short speeches, often interrupted by applause from supporters and silence from the opposition. In keeping with tradition, we've listened to the State of the Union from President Trump and the State of the State speeches addressing California, Arizona, and New Mexico, from their respective governors. In each of these speeches, plans were outlined on what these leaders plan on pursuing over the next year. It's important to take note of what might affect pistachios and the ag industry, including trade, infrastructure, and water just to name a few.
Of course, as policy is debated, these agendas may be amended or abandoned altogether; however, these speeches are good indicators of where the debates are heading. While the speeches covered a wide array of issues, below is a short analysis based upon issues of heightened importance to APG members.
President Trump Gives First State of the Union
In his first State of the Union, President Donald J. Trump stuck with his “America First” theme, highlighting the elimination of regulations and the major tax reform achieved in the final weeks of 2017.
The President expressed a desire that trading relationships with other countries be “fair and reciprocal,” and he promised to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones. Additionally, the President touched on immigration and laid out the four pillars of his plan:
- Path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age
- Fully secure the border
- End the visa lottery
- End chain migration
The State of the Union also included a call for Congress to pass legislation that would generate at least $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investment. It's promising that the President specifically cited waterways when stressing the importance of infrastructure investment.
Governor Brown Gives Last and Final State of the State
Making a historic 16th and final State of the State speech, California’s Governor Edmund G. Brown centered on a theme of California playing the role of leader. He highlighted the efforts his administration has made toward curbing climate change, specifically citing the State’s cap-and-trade program, the final version of which was considered a victory by the agriculture industry.
With so many questions currently surrounding the California Water Commission and the water storage projects currently vying for funding, it was promising to hear the Governor speak of the importance of being able to capture and store rainwater overflow.
Governor Brown also doubled-down on his desire to move the California WaterFix forward, commonly known as the “twin tunnels project.” Just recently, due to lack of funding and enthusiasm for the project, the Governor proposed changing the two-tunnel project to a single tunnel and possibly adding the second at a later time.
Arizona's State of the State
Governor Ducey's last State of the State before embarking on a re-election campaign.
Giving his final State of the State before asking the Arizona voters to re-elect him for a second term, Governor Doug Ducey made education reform his high priority, declaring that 80 percent of new budget priorities would be for public education. Arizona can likely expect this to take up much of the Governor’s bandwidth through the year and into the election in November.
With regard to past accomplishments, Governor Ducey cited his administration’s success in eliminating “needless state regulations,” including 676 last year alone. His message to resisters: “The train is leaving the station. Get on board, or you’re going to get left behind.”
He highlighted the importance of trade with Mexico, stating that the cooperative relationship Arizona has developed with the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora. With water being a growing issue in the state, the Governor warned that responsible water policies would be needed to avoid “sharing in California’s water crisis.” While no specific policies were put forward, Governor Ducey called for “responsible policies” to help avoid a future water crisis.
Ducey ended his speech with a call for unity and read the following quote from Abraham Lincoln: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
New Mexico Governor Delivers Her Final State of the State
With her second term coming to an end, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez gave her final State of the State address, with a focus on crime, education, and the economy. Citing a budget surplus of over $330 million dollars, Governor Martinez hinted at the idea of returning some of that money to taxpayers, possibly providing tax cuts. She then asked the New Mexico legislature to “finally tackle comprehensive tax reform this session.”
She also praised the state for its more hands-off approach to regulation by regulating “when we needed to, not simply because we had the power to.” Finally, the Governor applauded her administration for how infrastructure investments were made, specifically citing “big water projects throughout the state.”
Grower Training Opportunities
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety rule, which requires one designated supervisor to undergo their training is now in effect. In compliance with the new rule, APG is sponsoring a Produce Safety Rule training seminar at the end of March for current APG members. The class is expected to reach capacity quickly, so register as soon as possible.
APG has also teamed with other agriculture associations and government agencies in sponsoring grower training sessions on “Heat Illness Prevention” and “Sexual Harassment Prevention.”