By Dustin Wright
Sentinel Managing Editor
SEMINOLE — Western Peanut Growers Assoc. officials are anticipating a large turnout Friday at the Seminole Conference Center, as the group will play host to an agriculture roundtable featuring three sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives and a former chairman of the U.S. House Ag Committee.
Friday’s roundtable discussions and a keynote address from current U.S. House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Midland) is slated for an 11:30 a.m. start at the newly constructed City of Seminole operated facility, located at 801 N. Main St.
“We are anticipating a large crowd to be in attendance for this meeting because agriculture is important to so many in this area,” said Robbie Blount, Executive Director of the Western Peanut Growers Assoc.
Along with Conaway, Texas Dist. 19 Congressman Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock) and New Mexico Dist. 2 Congressman Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs, N.M.) are anticipated to be in attendance for Friday’s meeting. Additionally, former West Texas Congressman Larry Combest — who formerly served as Agriculture Committee Chair and now champions the agriculture industry in the private sector — is slated to make an appearance Friday.
Friday’s meeting is slated to begin with an 11:30 a.m. luncheon, with the conference anticipated to begin shortly following, according to information provided by the WPGA. Prior to the start of the conference, members of the WPGA will host the organization’s annual business meeting, which is slated for a 10:30 a.m. start inside the Seminole Community Center.
Blount stated she anticipates agriculture and civic representatives from across the West Texas and southeastern New Mexico region to be in attendance for Friday’s event, which is believed to be the first time three sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives has visited the Seminole community.
In a statement recently released by his Washington office, Conaway stated Friday’s meeting should presnet a “great opportunity” to hear from area producers as federal legislators begin crafting their 2018 Farm Bill.
“I’m looking forward to joining the Western Peanut Growers for their Ag Issues Conference later this week,” said Conaway. “This presents a great opportunity to meet with local farmers and hear from them as we begin the process of crafting the 2018 Farm Bill.”
Typically enacted every five years, the U.S. Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation serves as the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the U.S. federal government under the purview of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Currently, the Agricultural Act of 2014 is governing federal farm programs through the 2018 calendar year. The legislation authorized $956 billion in spending over a 10 year period, according to the online source Wikipedia.
Beginning in 1933, farm bills have included titles on commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, and marketing, to name a few.
Echoing Blount’s statement, Shelly Nutt, Executive Director of the Texas Peanut Producers Board stated Friday’s meeting was “crucial” in the development process of the new federal Farm Bill, and has been promoting the WPGA-organized roundtable as an opportunity for producers in the area to both educate themselves and voice their comments and concerns.
“It’s such an important event for everyone involved,” said Nutt. “It gives area producers a chance to participate and educate themselves about the (agriculture) issues and voice their opinions on what they feel should be included in the next Farm Bill.”
Arrington, whose district includes Gaines County — said he was “enthusiastic” and “hopeful” for the development of a new Farm Bill where farmers and ranchers were placed first.
“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to work on building a stronger farm bill in my first term,” said Arrington. “I am honored to have the guidance and mentorship of many of the strongest voices for agriculture in our region: our current chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and fellow West Texan, Mike Conaway; Larry Combest, who fathered one of the best farm bills we’ve ever had; and our neighbor to the west, Representative Steve Pearce. As someone who is part of the next generation of agriculture advocates in our nation’s capital, I’m in great company and I’m excited to join them at such an important event.
“I’m enthusiastic and hopeful that we’re going to get farm policy to a point where we’re putting our farmers and ranchers first, allowing them to compete globally on an even playing field. A strong and prosperous agriculture business leads to a strong and prosperous American economy.”