Willoway Nurseries, Inc.

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Agriculture Roundtable

Tom Demaline
Photo credit: AmericanHort

On April 25, 2017 Willoway president Tom Demaline joined 13 other representatives from the agriculture industry to meet with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. President Trump wanted to meet with representatives of the AG community so that they could hear first hand what our areas of concern are and how they might be able to support our efforts. He also signed an Executive Order in the meeting establishing an "Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity" to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities. Secretary Perdue will oversee the task force that will be looking into regulatory issues that unnecessarily encumber agriculture production, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation or increase the cost of food.

The meeting lasted about an hour. It opened with the signing of the Executive Order and then we got to business. The round table conversations were focused around four areas with labor being the number one priority. Unanimously, the group agreed prior to the meeting that lack of legal labor and a guest worker program that supports the needs of agriculture was the number one priority. The President addressed everyone's labor concerns and said he will look into ways to find a workable solution to the issues with the current workforce. We also discussed the H2A guest worker program and the issues producers have with the government red tape, unfair wages calculations and the program needing to be expanded to a 12-month capacity to support the dairy and livestock segment of the industry.

Another area discussed was how AG can help with the trade deficit by exporting more of our agricultural products to countries where we import large amounts of consumer goods and materials. He strongly feels that the United States is not being treated fairly in the world marketplace with undue tariffs and import restrictions on US products. The reduction of regulatory burden was also a hot topic. The President feels the government needs to enforce standards that keep our food safe, ensure workers are treated fairly and take care of the environment. However, there is a point when government regulations are over reaching and serve no purpose other than increasing the cost of doing business, restricting production and driving up costs. We also discussed the need to improve America's rural infrastructure with improved roads and better broadband coverage.

Video originally posted on President Trump's Facebook page

After the meeting, Tom had this to say:

"It was a honor to be selected to sit at the Farmers Round table and represent the horticultural industry. No matter what your political views are, I hope you can agree this is a historic event for agriculture. Not since the Reagan years has a president attended a formal meeting with agriculture leaders to better understand our issues. The door has been opened and we have been given the opportunity to make our world a better place. However it is up to us to make it happen. This administration will support a common sense solution but they aren't going to do it for us, nor do we want them to."

Tom Demaline
Photo credit: USDA