Spanberger, Plaskett make debuts before agricultural journalists


Two House Agriculture subcommittee chairwomen — Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, and Delegate Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., of the Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee — met today with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists.

The journalists rarely meet with subcommittee leaders, but the office of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., made them available as part of his effort to give the subcommittees a bigger role now that the Democrats are in the majority.

Spanberger noted that on her subcommittee one of her priorities to find out the “root causes” of forest fires.

A former Central Intelligence Agency officer, Spanberger said she and her husband could not have moved back to her home area in Virginia’s 7th District if it did not have broadband internet service that would allow him to work from home.

But she said that broadband service varies dramatically by county in her district, and that one of her highest priorities to improve internet service throughout rural America.

Spanberger also noted that she serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and said that even though they seem different, the Foreign Affairs and Agriculture committees are “interlinked completely.”

President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have not only hurt agricultural exports but “the farmer who needs to buy new farm equipment,” she said.

Exports, she added, are “foundationally important, not just to the livelihood of farmers” but to the whole American economy.

Plaskett told the journalists that the Virgin Islands were once considered the breadbasket of the Caribbean and were “owned by seven nations,” not for their beaches, but for their land and strategic location.

In the 1960s, she noted, an oil refinery was built and the people of the Virgin Islands lost interest in farming.

“Now there is a resurgence of interest in agriculture,” she said, noting that the productivity of Virgin Islands agriculture can be seen at its AgriFest held each year on Saint Croix around the Presidents Day holiday.

Plaskett said she believes regulation and transparency about regulation are the keys to consumer confidence in biotechnology.

“We don’t want Americans to be fearful” about what has been approved by U.S. government agencies, she said.

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