American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) member Robert Woolley, Dave Wilson Nursery, Lake Road, Hickman, Calif. testified recently at a House Agriculture Subcommittee on livestock and horticulture field hearing on behalf of the U.S. nursery and greenhouse industry. His testimony covered issues relating to the state and future success of the specialty crop industry. The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC). Congressmen Richard Pombo (R-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) were also present.
Woolley, a deciduous fruit and nut tree nursery stock grower, described the U.S. nursery and greenhouse industry as a bright spot in specialty crop agriculture and a commodity group that ranks in farmgate value ahead of major crops such as wheat, cotton and tobacco. “The economic value of the entire green industry was recently estimated to reach $147 billion, which translates to a lot of small and family farms adding up to big business,” said Woolley.
He addressed the growing labor and immigration crisis, stating that employers have met their legal obligations, yet a considerable majority of the agricultural workforce lacks work authorization. Growers and producers are at grave risk of losing their workers to enforcement, and shortages are beginning to be reported in some sectors. “The present situation has resulted from years of bad laws and failed policies,” reported Woolley. “To be truly successful, agricultural labor reform must recognize the interdependence of various segments of agriculture and that labor issues and needs are not the same in all segments.”
Reform legislation must address the workforce that is here and allow for safe and legal future flows “if widespread disruption — or even destruction — of our agricultural economy is to be avoided,” said Woolley.
Woolley next discussed how funding for existing clean plant programs will be dramatically reduced in the near future. He said that effective clean plant programs are essential to preventing catastrophic pest and disease problems and maintaining U.S. agricultural competitiveness. He considers federal funding for the establishment and maintenance of a National Clean Plant Network one the industry’s highest priorities.
Woolley’s testimony covered the following legislative and regulatory issues, some of which are currently before the members of the committee:
Woolley ended by thanking the members of the committee for considering these important issues during this hearing. “Not too far from here in 2000, Congressman Pombo chaired the very first hearing held on glassy-winged sharpshooter that brought together federal, state and local regulators and resulted in the successful program we now have. It is this emphasis on practical solutions that we look for in the next farm bill,” Woolley concluded.