Thanksgiving is a day that we as a nation take time out from our busy lives to gather with family and friends to give thanks for our many blessings. America’s first Thanksgiving celebration is traced to 1621 in Plymouth, Mass.
After an exceptionally difficult first year in the New World, the pilgrims overcame a lack of adequate food and housing, illness and the bitter cold. Their fall harvest was a success and the pilgrims feasted and celebrated for three days with the Wampanoag people.
Over time, a custom developed among settlers to have Thanksgiving celebrations to mark the end of harvests and at other times of the year during which they wanted to give thanks. Here in Central Washington, we have a bountiful harvest of agricultural products for which to be thankful. From apples to cherries, potatoes to asparagus and beef to wheat – our region’s farmers are working harder than ever to produce a diverse variety of top-quality foods that are enjoyed by consumers worldwide.
However, in spite of the incredible advances made in American agriculture since the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, we cannot take for granted the continued successes of American farmers and ranchers. Most recently, government overreach by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is threatening our growers’ ability to continue to stay in business and continue to help feed people around the world.
The Food and Drug Administration has recently proposed changes to federal rules that govern the way all fruits and vegetables are grown and harvested. There is no question that we all want to ensure the United States has the safest food supply in the world. However, I have serious concerns with the administration’s one-size-fits-all approach, which subjects all growers of fresh produce that may be eaten raw to the same requirements.
I think we can all agree that lettuce and apples are grown in completely different ways — the most basic difference being that one grows in the ground and the other on trees. In addition, lettuce has been a source of food safety outbreaks in the past while there has never been a known food safety problem with fresh apples in history. Yet, if implemented, these regulations would impose the same stringent requirements on growers of both.
Some of these requirements are simply unworkable in Central Washington. Specifically, I am concerned with water quality standards and testing requirements that are unachievable for open ditch irrigation systems like what we have in the Pacific Northwest – and unnecessary for low-risk crops like apples, pears, cherries and mint that are already produced safely.
It only makes sense to me that new requirements should be imposed only on those products that pose a risk to consumers, and should take into account how individual crops are grown. Otherwise, growers that have safely produced quality fruits and vegetables for decades may be forced out of business – pushing production to other countries.
Early settlers came to America in search of freedom – one of the most fundamental values of our great nation. However, increasingly burdensome government regulations are interfering with our everyday lives and are slowly eroding these very freedoms.
These cumbersome new requirements are not practical and they inhibit the entrepreneurial spirit of rural America. It is for this reason, I am urging the Food and Drug Administration to find a more common sense approach and ensure the United States maintains the safest food supply in the world.
When I sit down with my family and friends this week, I will be thankful for having the privilege of representing Central Washington in Congress. I will continue my work to protect our freedoms as Americans and to ensure that our children and grandchildren’s generations will be better off.
Rep. Doc Hastings represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District, including part of Okanogan County.