"I was very impressed with Chairman Goodlatte," said R.D. James, a cotton gin owner in New Madrid. "Not only with him listening to us, but also with his educated responses."
James said he has attended similar round table discussions in the past, and it was evident the chairman had done his homework and learned about industries such as cotton and rice, which aren't grown in his home district in Virginia.
Gary Branum, a rice farmer in New Madrid, agreed. "It's great to have someone in the position they (Emerson and Goodlatte) are in willing to listen to someone in the position that we're in."
Several people attending the discussion also verbalized their comfort with Emerson and Goodlatte serving on the Agriculture Committee, which will be writing a new Farm Bill, which will go into effect Oct. 1, 2007. State Rep. Peter Myers Sr. was one of these.
"Don't let OMB (Office of Management and Budget) and environmentalists write the Farm Bill," he urged. "We don't need to be importing food like we're importing oil"
The Agriculture Committee wants people to voice their opinions before the 2008 Farm Bill is written. "We want to hear from virtually any group that wants to have input in this process," Goodlatte said, adding that he listened to opinions in three other states last week. "Writing a Farm Bill is a mighty difficult thing to do - you have many viewpoints going in one bill."
Goodlatte aims to keep the Farm Bill intact for the six years it operates. Farming is a high-risk business, since farmers can't control the weather or the market, so they should be able to count on a consistent government policy, he said.
Emerson agreed. "This is your opportunity to weigh in on anything you want," she told the group, which was one of the first to give their opinions.
Charles Kruse, president of Missouri Farm Bureau, served as a moderator during the question and answer session. "We're proud of our agriculture here, and today, I know there are going to be some people who are going to ask some good questions, because I know they feel passionate about farming," he said.
Members of several agricultural associations in the state, including Missouri Farm Bureau, the American Soybean Association, the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the USA Rice Federation, the Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Cotton Council, Missouri Rice Council and Delta Center Advisory Board, as well as local farmers attended the discussion.
Concerns ranged from addressing value - added agriculture, Country-of-
Origin Labeling, a disaster fund for crises such as the current drought, recognizing cotton seed as a commodity and finding a way to encourage young farmers were suggested to take into consideration in the next Farm Bill.
Emerson pointed out that thanks to the Energy Bill signed last week, commodity oils from cotton will begin being used soon. "It will hopefully expand the number of ethanol and biodiesel plants in Southeast Missouri," she said.
Chris Matthews of Matthews Cotton Company asked Emerson and Goodlatte to work on a policy to allow migrant workers to continue coming to the U.S. to work, in spite of the growing concern of terrorism.
"If they're not OK to come and work in the U.S., I have real problems," said Matthews, who has had the same group help in the gins for the past six years.
Goodlatte assured the committee is working on a new policy, which will hopefully result in a guest-worker program, rather than giving amnesty, with migrant workers becoming citizens in two to three years.
Attendees also expressed their appreciation with the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed into law early last week. This agreement will result in more fair trade between the United States and Central American countries.
Also attending the discussion Friday was Missouri Director of Agriculture Fred Ferrell, who gave an update of his two-day tour of Missouri with Gov. Matt Blunt last Wednesday and Thursday. "We should be very grateful," he said of the five-inch rain farmers received about a month ago. There are several farmers in Missouri who aren't so fortunate, and will only be harvesting 50 percent yields, he said.
It is important for people to know that good, dedicated people like Goodlatte are in charge of writing the next Farm Bill, Emerson said, declaring her confidence in him at the helm of writing the bill.
Friday's discussion marked the beginning of Congresswoman Emerson's week long annual farm tour in Southeast Missouri. She plans on making the area stops this week, including Beggs Farms in Blodgett, the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo and Diebold's Orchards in Benton.