The Great Rural America Paradox
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau
A wise man once said that rural America has become viewed by a growing number of Americans as having a higher quality of life, not because of what it has, but rather because of what it does not have, like traffic, crime and crowds. This sentiment can be seen in the growing number of urban transplants that have made their way toward greener and more spacious pastures.
But, while many Americans equate living in the country with a simpler way of life, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that poverty in rural America is increasing, while opportunity continues to decline because of limited education, healthcare and broadband services. So, rural America being defined by what it does not have can also be a negative.
It’s the great rural America paradox.
Read Bob Stallman’s complete article…Its another good one! Worth the time.
Regulations Would Require Sweeping Changes to Farm and Ranch Practices, Increase in Legal Liability to Farm and Ranch Families
For many, farming and ranching is a family tradition, involving two, three or more generations as well as extended family. But proposed Department of Labor requirements for farm and ranch employers and restrictions on what youth can do on the farm would put that tradition at risk.
The lessons learned on the family farm instill respect for the land and animals, persistence, discipline and hard-work.
A new website, Keep Families Farming (http://www.keepfamiliesfarming.com/), gives you the chance to have an impact on this rule. The Keep Families Farming website allows you to submit comments that will be used to show the Department of Labor and the White House the importance of the family farm and the way this rule would fundamentally change the way of life in rural America.
Because DOL is no longer accepting public comments, the Keep Families Farming website has been established to support the legislative effort on Capitol Hill, where this issue will almost certainly be voted on this summer. Your messages to the website are a critical component in building support for the effort to protect family farms.
We are asking you to submit your story of life on the farm and ranch by submitting comments through the Keep Families Farming (http://www.keepfamiliesfarming.com/) website.
Add information specific to your farm and ranch with personal examples to add impact to your comments, such as:
- As an agricultural producer, I support and provide a safe working environment for my children, young workers and all employees.
- The Department of Labor rule does not take into account the unique organization of family farms being owned and operated by many members and generations of one family.
- Farms and ranches provide a unique educational and training experience to learn about horticulture, animal care & welfare, equipment operation, environmental protection among other unique opportunities found exclusively on a farm.
- Traditional farm activities performed by youth are threatened by this rule.
- Family members and other workers on the farm are protected by numerous laws and regulations. Parts of this rule represent regulatory over-reach. It does not recognize the unique structure of today’s family farm operations and the traditions that the family farm provides to all workers.
Click here to submit your comments against the DOL Youth Labor Rule. (http://www.keepfamiliesfarming.com/)
Why is the system not working…Well there are many factors and it’s not the law!
House Bil 2432 seeks to exempt Hawaii grown agriculture goods from the procurement system.
The law is not the problem!
In 2009 we helped pass a bill that became known as ACT 175 providing a price preference for Hawaii grown agricultural products and provided they could be purchased with the States procurement system to allow agricultural producers to benefit from any State or Federal procurement preference.
10 Reasons Why the System isn’t working!
- The Procurement system is very complicated, the forms are significant and the process is confusing.
- Multiple procurement lists exist in Hawaii including the electronic procurement system; but there are non electronic lists as it’s not mandatory to use the electronic system; each agencies chooses their method which means each vendor or producer must register with each list!
- Education, Lack of training for the industry and the departments on how to actually purchase & supply locally grown goods.
- After Act 175 was enacted the Procurement Office abolished the Hawaiian Grown provider list; removed all current vendors from the list with NO warning!
- Lack of a source list for Hawaiian Grown products.
- The window to submit a bid is very short and this is why we need training so our farmers are better prepared and widening the window will help. Longer time frame to submit or pre-bid meetings and planning.
- Scope of the bid is too large. Narrow it to a few schools or region……..yes, it will mean more paperwork for the procurement office but if goal is to increase locally grown, isn’t that a way the system can help make this happen?
- Policies take years to implement. The small business preference was passed in 2005! The policies were only beginning to be written in 2009 and started implementation in 2010!!
- Communication — if the state is serious about buying local, work with us to make it happen; If we are wrong about meeting other procurement requirements, show us. We can change but we need to understand. At one time, the procurement officer told us local purchase preferences made no sense since we were exempted. So if thatwas true, why are we now being told we should be exempt.
- ACE….Asses, Communicate & Educate= ACE!! If you have no idea where you’re at, then you have no idea how to plan! Communication is critical for industries to succeed in Hawaii and Educate; educate the procurement officers, the ag producers and the industry!
We understand why the system isn’t working, what we don’t understand is why we cant work together to make this work!
How can we fix this?
- ACE….Asses, Communicate & Educate= ACE!! If you have no idea where your at, then you have no idea how to plan! Communication is critical for industries to succeed in Hawaii and Educate; educate the procurement officers, the ag producers and the industry!
- Even our largest growers will have difficulty meeting the needs; implement contracts that work for Hawaii!
- Create models for procuring goods using fair practices and creative contracts.
- Understand this is a process. If the system is understood and farmers know they can meet the price points, they can grow to meet the market. So they may not qualify now but could in another year or two.
- Communication — if the state is serious about buying local, work with us to make it happen; If we are wrong about meeting other procurement requirements, show us. We can change but we need to understand. At one time, the procurement officer told us local purchase preferences made no sense since we were exempted. So if that were true, why are we now being told we should be exempted?
- DO not change the LAW….NO preference is available if you exempt the product this includes minority owned, small business and any others that exists both at a State level or Federal.
- Fix the lack of data made available by the State procurement office; this lack of data on local purchases is fixable.
- DO NOT EXEMPT local ag products….If we go back to the exemption; nothing protects our producers for fair purchasing; they will be dependent on local relationships with every facility & each purchaser to buy their goods.
The issue is complicated and it takes time but we can’t change the law because we have failed to educate and find a process that works for Hawaii.
BIFB TESTIMONY on HB 2432 for 02.02.2012
Below is Big Islands Farm Bureau testimony on HB 2432
TESTIMONY on HB 2432
RELATING TO PROCUREMENT
Hearing: Friday February 03, 2012 @ 8:00AM
Conference Room 312
Rep. Tsuji Chair, Committee on Agriculture
Rep. McKelvey, Chair, Committee on Economic Revitalization & Business
Aloha Chairperson’s and Committee Members
We STRONGLY OPPPOSE HB2432 Relating to Procurement and ask that you kill this bill today with no amendments to the administrative rules.
My name is Lorie Farrell; I am the Executive Director for the Big Island Farm Bureau (BIFB); We are the largest general agriculture organization on Hawaii Island; striving to be the Voice of Agriculture and represent over 600 agricultural members & producers on the Island of Hawaii.
We are unique in representing all agricultural commodities & utilize our diverse membership base to direct our policies. The Big Island Farm Bureau is comprised of the individual farm bureau chapters on the Big Island and we are directly related to the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and affiliated with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
BIFB Strongly Opposes any change to the Procurement code that removes the preference for Hawaiian Grown agricultural products and/or exempts Hawaiian agricultural commodities from the Procurement system.
We strongly support increased use of locally grown agricultural products, fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and poultry products in our schools and other public institutions. This will truly be a significant step towards increasing our levels of self- sufficiency if we can overcome the obstacles involved in the procurement system!
In 2009 the State enacted ACT 175; giving Hawaiian agricultural products a price preference and removing the exemption. BIFB was a key participant in that process our farmers and agriculture producers knew the system was broke and unfortunately it still is; the law is not flawed, nor is the preference; it’s the administrative implementation and education about the Hawaii procurement system that is the real obstacle.
If you modify the Hawaii Administrative Rules that are requested in this the bill, our agricultural producers will not be able to take advantage of any price preference for bidding purposes or have a competitive advantage because agricultural products will be exempt from the procurement code. The goods must be purchased using procurement procedures for any preference to apply. This includes the small business preference rule that permits an agency to identify certain contracts for competition among small businesses or requires a large business to subcontract with small businesses to provide the products; this Act passed years before Act 175 in 2009 and it took the administration years to implement the polices. If it takes years to implement any type of preference; how can anyone say ACT 175 doesn’t work? The process & polices are in their infancy and have not been fully implemented. This preference helps cultivate a leveler playing field and creates additional market opportunities for Hawaii’s farmers and small businesses; shouldn’t we all support and facilitate the use of such preferences to retain as much money in Hawaii for Hawaii?
Any preference for Hawaii agricultural products provided by statute; provides no benefit to agricultural producers,…unless the administrative rules remain UN-changed….
Hawaii cannot exempt its locally grown agriculture products from the procurement guidelines without risking Federal reimbursement and losing any preference available under the State & Federal Procurement system. Locally grown agricultural products, beef, dairy, fruits and vegetable’s MUST be purchased using the procurement system to receive any benefits, protection or preferences under HRS and administrative rules.
The state says, “We support local farmers.” Farmers think, “It’s not what you say; it’s what you do and what you purchase.” Farmers shake their heads; as an industry we know that the more fresh vegetables we import; the more inspectors we need and the higher the risk of invasive species. We have more endangered species in Hawai‘i than in the rest of the United States and on average we import 100 new invasive species each year to Hawaii with a few diseases thrown in to make it worse.
Our farmers and ranchers have tried to work with the procurement system and can speak to the shortcomings of the system. Focus now should be on working with the procurement system to make it a reasonable process for Hawaii’s agriculture producers to navigate.
Assistance to farmers on how to travel through the system should be a priority. HFBF supports a program that partners with the State Procurement Office to develop programs that work for Hawaii and training sessions for farmers and ranchers to enter the system. We have farmers and ranchers that our ready NOW and have been ready; but they need to understand the opportunity, the system and identify crops that can be grown and produced at the fair prices.
Our Keiki & Students want fresh salads, local fruits, vegetables and other local options. The demand exists. We respectfully ask that you kill this bill today and help us request that State procurement Office work together with Hawaii’s agricultural producers to provide training classes to enter into this complicated system.
Thank you for this opportunity to address this important issue. If there are any questions,
Please contact me via email or phone at (808)557-2780 or 885-8015.