Dozens packed the conference room at the UGA Onion Research Center to hear from Congressman John Barrow and to voice their concerns. Many say federal regulations are strangling American agribusiness.
"With all the issues we're facing, they're throwing more stuff on us to do and more things we have to pay for to produce safe food," said farmer Bo Herndon.
Barrow agreed that farmers need to know the details of any federal supports for agriculture so they can plan for the future.
"Each year, they bet the farm on what they're going to be able to do," the congressman explained. "They need to know what will be in place."
He also countered misconceptions that farm programs unequally benefit farmers.
"We have the lowest food costs among any countries in the world, far lower than other developed countries." Our farm programs are the insurance premiums to make sure we don't become dependent on big guys, corporate farms, or otherwise for our food and fiber supply," he added.
Local onion farmers, who rely heavily on temporary labor, voiced concerns over the federal program that is suppose to supply them documented migrant labor from Mexico. Farmers said the H2A program is cumbersome, inefficient, and costly.
"Often we get our workers 2-4 weeks later than when they were supposed to arrive and our crop is sitting in the field waiting for harvest," explained Alan Sikes. "Then, if they don't get their contracted number of hours, we end up paying them for time they didn't work."
Barrow said it will require bi-partisan support to get a bill that provides farmers will sufficient reform, even more support than it will take to save the country from the fiscal cliff.
Congressman Barrow will conclude his district tour on Thursday. The rest of his stops include:
Farm Bureau office, Tattnall County, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday
Harry's BBQ, Evans County, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday
Bulloch Agriculture Center, Bulloch County, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.