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NASDA Conference Bring State Agriculture Leaders To Kentucky

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks to NASDA members in Louisville.

State agriculture leaders from across the country advocated for farmworker visa reform, more grant funding for hemp research, and free-flowing interstate commerce at an annual conference this week in Louisville.

The nonpartisan National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, also known as NASDA, held hybrid meetings and had Q&As sessions and discussions, hearing from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Directors, commissioners and secretaries of state departments of agriculture across the country on Wednesday voted to adopt several policies to advocate for as an organization, including reform on labor issues and trade.

One such policy change adopted by NASDA emphasized that states shouldn’t create regulations that disrupt interstate commerce of agricultural goods. Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said one such example of state regulations on agriculture is a ballot measure passed in California that could require livestock farmers outside the state to retrofit enclosures to give animals more living space to be able to sell animal products in California.

“I think that this resolution really aimed toward saying, look folks, if you're going to tighten up or make serious regular regulatory changes in one state, it shouldn't affect the ability of other states to sell into neighboring markets,” Quarles said.

The ballot measure has recently been under fire from meat industry trade groups, while animal rights groups have championed the measure. Quarles also pointed to another example where a bill pushed through Congress in 2016 nullified a law in Vermont that would have required genetically modified ingredients to be clearly labeled on products in the state.

NASDA adopted policy introduced by Quarles advocating for agribusinesses to address vulnerabilities to cyberattacks given the threat of disruption to the nation’s food supply and the threat of stolen intellectual property, according to a spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Meatpacking giant JBS said this summer the company had to pay $11 million to hackers in a ransomware attack this summer.

The organization also adopted policy advocating for temporary, seasonal visa programs for farmworkers year-round visas.

Quarles finished his year-long tenure as NASDA president at the conference. He said ultimately it’s up to the federal government to implement much of what NASDA is advocating for at the state level.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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