August 23, 2010

Fairs: Time To Celebrate Hard Work

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The county, regional and state fairs that take place throughout the summer are far more than cotton candy, carnival rides, funnel cakes, musical acts and petting zoos. Fairs provide time to take a break, unwind and connect with neighbors. Most of all, fairs are a time to celebrate productivity.

The fun of fairs belies their value. Fairs are productive for the economy. The International Association of Fairs estimates a fair the size of the Eastern Idaho State Fair generates $6 million for the community. Local concessions gross more than $1 million in food sales. The fair has a history of hiring more than 400 people, and many of the concessions and other supplies, utilities, services, building materials and other items are purchased from local businesses.

The fair celebrates the productivity of the community. Young people across the country spend months preparing 4-H and FFA projects, learning from family members, friends, teachers and mentors. This hard work culminates at the fair in a showcase of their talent and efforts. Fairs also provide opportunities to enjoy the fruits of agriculture production and individual expertise as folks come together to show and sell livestock, demonstrate horsemanship and showcase artwork, photography, cooking, sewing and other talents.

Summer is a busy time on farms and ranches, but it is important to take time to celebrate the role of agriculture in our communities. Fairs provide this opportunity. The value of fairs is predicated on the continued viability of the family farm.

In Congress, this means working to enact legislation that helps keep farmers and ranchers in production, such as the American Family Farm Ranchland Protection Act designed to offer estate tax relief to assist farmers, ranchers and others with preserving family farms by helping families avoid the pressure to sell, break up or develop their property when it is handed down from one generation to the next. It also means obtaining more market opportunities for farm families through advancement of the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. It has been estimated that the free trade agreement negotiated with South Korea would boost U.S. exports of goods and services to South Korea by nearly $11 billion, and every $1 billion of agricultural exports supports nearly 12,000 jobs. Access to critical services, such as veterinary medicine, is also critical to livestock production, and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act would help end the shortage of rural veterinary medicine by eliminating taxes on programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas. I will continue to work toward enactment of these commonsense measures.

Often times, ensuring the strength of U.S. production also means pushing back on destructive legislation and policies. I am a cosponsor of legislation that would expedite policy to exempt milk storage facilities from regulations intended to prevent and mitigate oil spills. It is ridiculous to treat spilled milk like spilled oil. I also joined a number of senators, including Senator Jim Risch, in expressing concern with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed dust regulations that would be overly burdensome for farmers and livestock producers. There is no doubt that we must always strive to improve the environment, but there are many well-intended regulations that do not make sense on the farm, and if unchecked, could actually have the unfortunate consequence of pushing the best stewards off the land.

Hard work will continue long after the fairs are over to ensure that American producers remain strong. This hard work does not end at the farm. It takes our collective effort to best enable farm families to remain in production.