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Gregoire, Newhouse
Take Ag Issues to D.C.

by Editorial Board
Tri-City Herald, June 16, 2009

There's justifiable excitement over the recent 48-hour journey to the other Washington by Gov. Chris Gregoire and a large delegation representing agricultural interests.

It was the first time, according to state Agriculture Secretary Dan Newhouse, who was in on the excitement, that a sitting Washington governor had undertaken such a trip.

There had to be a certain familiarity to it.

After all, when she called on the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gregoire was face to face with her predecessor, former Gov. Gary Locke, who was chosen by President Obama not long ago for the Cabinet post.

"This is a first for us -- to bring a trade mission to Washington, D.C.," Gregoire said. "Washington is not always thought of as a state with a large agriculture industry. This trip was about meeting with federal leaders to strengthen our partnership and to bring a new understanding of the importance of our agriculture industry and the unique challenges we face in Washington state."

"It was a tremendously successful trip," Newhouse agreed.

"The governor and I led a delegation that was a cross section of the food and agriculture economy, including growers, shippers, retailers and policy experts. It was the first such mission on federal agriculture policy issues led by a governor of our state."

The delegation met with President Obama and number of Cabinet members, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Commerce Secretary Locke.

They also talked with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

They discussed the major issues that face agriculture out here -- from dam breaching to Mexican tariffs.

Gov. Gregoire opposes both.

Mexico has put a 20 percent tariff on potato, pear, cherry and apricot imports from Washington in retaliation for U.S. refusal to allow Mexican trucks on American roads, according to Herald McClatchy Newspapers Washington reporter Les Blumenthal.

That's big money. Washington growers ship $40 million worth of potatoes to Mexico annually.

LaHood told Gregoire a solution was hoped for soon.

Breaching dams, the subject that never seems to go away, is an extreme proposal to bypass four dams on the lower Snake River to help salmon recovery.

"We are not supportive of dam breaching," Gregoire said. "We need to try everything else first."

Locke told Gregoire the government would ask U.S. District Judge James Redden, in Portland, for another 30- to 45-day extension, to further review the Bush administration's plans for reviving the salmon runs.

All in all the journey to Washington, D.C., was a well-motivated trip that produced excellent progress on a number of issues, including migrant labor.

As Newhouse said on his website:

" ... The purpose of the mission was simple: Bring the voice of Washington's agriculture community to the nation's capital. In some ways, our message was a 30,000-foot flyover of Washington agriculture for the new decision makers of the Obama Administration.

"But we also dove into the thorniest issues of the day, questions that will impact the viability and profitability of agriculture in our state and across the nation."

Indeed so. Well done.

Editorial Board
Gregoire, Newhouse Take Ag Issues to D.C.
Tri-City Herald, June 16, 2009

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