By Marcus Peterson & Tamra Spielvogel
It came as no surprise to attendees of the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit that agriculture is one of the few sectors in the country running a positive trade balance. The annual summit is the only national meeting dedicated to state and provincial committee, caucus or chamber leaders with an interest in agriculture and rural policy. Legislative leaders from 47 states and seven Canadian provinces attended.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman opened the summit focusing on the importance agriculture has played in keeping his state’s unemployment rate at a low 4.1 percent. Legislators were also briefed by U.S. House and Senate Agriculture and Energy Committee staffers on the upcoming legislative landscape and reauthorization of the “2008 Farm Bill.” They met with U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as other key USDA and White House staff, to discuss critical agriculture challenges facing rural communities. Other sessions discussed rural energy, animal welfare, invasive species, food safety, and farmland taxation.
The meeting provided state and provincial lawmakers with new tools to help cultivate thriving rural communities and keep agriculture profitable. The summit was co-hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Council of State Governments (CSG), and was held in Washington, D.C., January 6 – 8th.