The Score: Virginia Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, Growing Hemp, Pension Crisis

This week on The Score – What did Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue say when he met with Virginia farmers? Is there a future for industrial hemp? Can farmers meet the challenges of today’s agricultural sector? Will a crisis in pensions lead to economic failure?

Agriculture Round Table
Denver Riggleman Sonny PerdueThis past Monday, August 26, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited Roslyn Farm in Albemarle County at the invitation of Fifth District Congressman Denver Riggleman. Perdue and Riggleman hosted a round table with about two dozen farmers and agricultural business owners. The purpose was for the stakeholders in the agricultural sector to bring to Perdue’s attention the problems and challenges they face. Secretary Perdue was posed questions about crop insurance, H-2A visas for seasonal workers, access to banking for hemp farmers, communications between farmers and USDA agencies like the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), among others. (See the whole conversation here.)

After the hour-long discussion with Fifth District farmers, Secretary Perdue and Congressman Riggleman answered questions from the news media. The Score was there to record the whole conversation, and I was able to pose the first question, which I characterized as a softball, to get things going. I asked about USDA’s role in helping emerging economies that are trying to expand or improve their agricultural sectors. That was followed by questions about ethanol, EPA regulations, and how the agriculture sector can recover from the Trump administration’s disastrous trade policy.

Follow the Secretary of Agriculture on Twitter at @SecretarySonny and Congressman Denver Riggleman at @RepRiggleman.

Virginia Agriculture
Bettina Ring Agriculture Forestry VirginiaOne of the participants in the round table discussion at Roslyn Farm was Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. After the press conference with Congressman Riggleman and Secretary Perdue, I pulled her aside to ask a few questions about the agriculture sector in Virginia.

I started by asking about the challenges faced by Virginia farmers, and then we talked about some of the innovations that will help the farm business grow and prosper in the future. I also asked her about cooperation between the federal USDA and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

You can find Secretary Ring on Twitter at @AgForestryVA.

Hemp Crops
You may have noticed that Secretary Perdue, Congressman Riggleman, and Secretary Ring all talked about hemp. Growing hemp in the United States was illegal for a long time but under the most recent federal farm bill, it became legal across the country.

During the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, I had a chance to interview author Doug Fine about his 2014 book, Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, in which he expresses his enthusiasm for the many uses of industrial hemp. Fine is also the author of Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution (2012) and Not Really an Alaskan Mountain Man (2004).

Author Doug Fine can be found on Twitter at @organiccowboy.

Pensions on the Brink
Our next two guests are both Young Voices contributors.

Anyone who plans to live past retirement age has thought about how they will pay their bills in the future, when they are no longer working. Many people will rely solely on Social Security. Others have pension plans provided through their employers.

Many of these pension plans are on weak ground, according to Jen Sidorova, a policy analyst at the Pension Integrity Project of the Reason Foundation, based in New York. Her research on the state of pensions in the United States offers cause for concern. She recently wrote “New York City’s Pension Debt Could Push It to Bankruptcy” (Reason magazine) and “The public pension crisis is an especially big threat to women” (Los Angeles Daily News). In an essay for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), she explained: “I Immigrated to the US to Pursue the American Dream, Not to Pay for Your College Degree.”

Follow Jen Sidorova on Twitter at @Jen_Sidorova.

Hemp Regulations
To close out this week’s episode of The Score, we return to the topic of hemp – industrial hemp, hemp farming, banking for hemp growers – which was addressed briefly in our first half hour by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Congressman Denver Riggleman, and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring.

For a deeper dive, I tuned to Jacob Rich of the Reason Foundation, who was a guest on The Score in May 2019 talking about policy aimed at stemming the nationwide opioid crisis.

I asked Jacob to provide some basic information about hemp, including its legal status as well as its uses.

We spoke by telephone on Thursday and sometimes our connection was less than perfect. Listen closely, however, and you’ll learn as much as I did from our conversation.

Jacob’s recent articles include “Sorry FDA, grotesque cigarette labels won’t keep anyone from smoking” (Washington Examiner), “Colorado, legalizing drug checking kits will save lives” (Pueblo Chieftain, with Molly Davis), and “Medicare for All Means Innovation for None” (RealClearPolicy).

Jacob Rich is on Twitter as @jacobjamesrich.

Next week The Score will be back with more news, reviews, and interviews, including some Q&A with politicians at the annual Buena Vista Labor Day parade. Be sure to tell your friends where to find us and join the conversation in the comments section, below.

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