A Recent Visit to Washington, D.C. with SCFB

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 - 8:49pm

Loni Rikard

SCFB Member and Family Farmer

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC with Marshall Thomas of the SCFB Government Relations Division and Urbie West of Pickney’s Produce in Beaufort.  The purpose of our trip was to meet with our elected officials and tell our farming story, talk about the struggles that we face and what we need from Washington.

We met with Representative Joe Wilson and the staff of Representatives Trey Gowdy and Mark Sanford. We also met with the staff of Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham. During our meetings we discussed several upcoming issues affecting agriculture including GMO labeling, the transportation bill, Waters of the U.S. and immigration reform. Because we traveled the week following the SC Flood, a lot of our conversations were centered on disaster relief for agriculture. We talked with our elected officials about how we had been impacted on our farms, how SC agriculture as a whole had suffered devastating losses, and the assistance we are going to need in order to rebound, rebuild and replant in SC.

President Winkles was also able to schedule a meeting with Val Dolcini, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency in Washington, D.C. to discuss disaster relief. We met with Mr. Dolcini and four of his key staff members about the flood and what we as farmers needed to do from that point forward. Although the news wasn’t overwhelmingly positive at that point, we were extremely grateful for the opportunity to sit around the table and discuss our options with them.

I think the most important thing that we can do is to develop and maintain a personal relationship with our elected officials on the national, state and local levels. We need to keep an open dialogue with them about the issues that affect us. They don’t only need to hear from us when there is an upcoming vote on a tough issue or a problem; we also need to communicate that we appreciate their support for agriculture when things are good. The SCFB Government Relations Division does an excellent job of maintaining that relationship, but it goes so much further when they can hear directly from the farmers. I learned a lot on my trip to Washington, D.C., and hope to be able to go again. I would encourage anyone else who has the opportunity to go to please do so.

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