Congressional Representative Filemon Vela (D-Texas) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), both members of the House Agriculture Committee, are headed to South Texas Saturday (Sept. 17) to tour the region and speak with area farmers and ranchers about issues facing agriculture in the coming year.
Rep. Vela, a native of Brownsville, and Rep. Peterson, the senior ranking member of the House Ag Committee, are both considered friends of South Texas agriculture and are considered to be assets to South Texas farming and ranching within the House Agriculture Committee and other committees related to agriculture. According to Jose Borjon, liaison for Congressman Vela's office in Washington, D.C., Vela and Peterson will be touring Jon Whatley Farms in Odem on Saturday and attending a barbecue, which gets underway at 6 p.m. An informal session with area farmers and ranchers will follow.
Rep. Vela says agriculture roots run deep in South Texas with many communities originally founded as ranching and farming towns. He points to his own family ties with farming and ranching traditions, saying his roots date back generations to a time when Macedonio Vela and his wife, Mercedes Chapa, who immigrated to South Texas from Mexico, established the Laguna Seca Ranch with land purchased from John and Salome Balli McAllen. The ranch is steeped in South Texas history and considered to be the site of first citrus orchard in Hidalgo County.
AGRICULTURE REMAINS VITAL TO SOUTH TEXAS
"Today, as South Texas becomes more urban, ranching and farming are still vital to the region’s economy. Numerous crops are grown in District 34 including sorghum, citrus and cotton with a yearly economic impact of over $2 billion," Vela says. "As a member of the House Agricultural Committee, I am committed to supporting policies which allow South Texas farmers to prosper."
Vela also has two subcommittee assignments related to agriculture. He sits on the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, which has jurisdiction over programs and markets related to cotton, cottonseed, wheat, feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice, dry beans, peas, lentils, the Commodity Credit Corporation, risk management (including crop insurance), commodity exchanges, and specialty crops. He also sits on the Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit, which has jurisdiction over livestock, dairy, poultry, meat, seafood and seafood products; inspection, marketing, and promotion of such commodities; aquaculture, animal welfare, and grazing; rural development; farm security; family farming matters; and agricultural credit.
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As the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, Peterson has worked to develop several farm bills and says he already has been laying down groundwork for the next Farm Bill in 2018.
"I’m happy to return to Washington, D.C. [after the break] and work on issues that are important [to agriculture]. I met with representatives from Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) [last week] and discussed the challenging financial situation many farmers currently face and how risk management tools can be strengthened to address their needs. We also talked about what changes could be made in the next farm bill in light of lower commodity prices facing producers today."
Both Vela and Peterson say they are committed to making the 2018 farm bill more responsive to the ever-changing challenges of farming and ranching and say they hope by meeting with farmers and ranchers in meetings like the one scheduled in Odem, they will be able to better represent them on the issues that matter the most.
Officials of the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association (STCGA) say the meeting Saturday in Odem is particularly important as we enter the election season and anticipate possible congressional action during the lame duck session.
"It is also time to begin planning for the next farm bill debate that will likely start next year," said Jeff Nunley, Executive Director of STCGA.
The organization was founded in 1963 by a group of South Texas farmers and allied industry leaders who saw a need to organize and represent area agriculture. Since that time, the association has been involved in many issues of local, state and national interests. Nunley expects many members of the organization will be attending the Saturday meeting in Odem with hopes of providing valuable information to the Representatives Peterson and Vela concerning the need for stronger legislation to support agriculture in South Texas.