A cotton field in the middle of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is a long way from Washington, D.C., but an East Valley cotton farmer is bringing his industry — and Arizona’s agricultural values — to the nation’s capital this week.
Kevin Rogers, a Mesa resident and fourth-generation farmer who works the reservation’s fields, will attend a series of meetings and conferences dealing with agricultural issues and regulations that will affect farmers here in the Valley and across the nation.
Rogers said he and others likely will discuss the safety of the nation’s food supply among other topics.
"To be dependent on other lands for your food can be a scary thing. I believe it’s important to have a safe, dependable food supply that’s produced here in the United States," Rogers said. "Every year, we grow more and more dependent on other countries for food and fiber. We have to decide if we’re OK with that."
Rogers’ opinions carry the weight of thousands of Arizona farmers and ranchers who elected him president of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, a group with more than 5,000 members.
Earlier this month, he was elected by leaders of farm bureau chapters across 13 Western states to the board of directors of the American Farm Bureau, the national affiliate whose membership tops 5 million farmers and ranchers nationwide.
The organizations lobby elected officials, government bodies and regulatory agencies on behalf of agriculture on the state and national level.
Rogers also is vice president of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and a member of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Air Quality Task Force, a cadre of hand-picked appointees from across the country. It is these two groups that bring him to Washington this week.
"Although there’s no official Arizona Farm Bureau work, as president I always wear that hat. I make sure that our farmers and ranchers have good representation," Rogers said.
Rogers bring his Arizonan and Western viewpoints to air quality meetings that started Thursday and continue today.
The Environmental Protection Agency is developing rules for agricultural operations as part of the Clean Air Act.
The air quality task force is helping shape those guidelines "so that whatever rules the EPA comes up with are common sense things that us farmers and ranchers can do without being put out of business," Rogers said.
This weekend, Rogers will attend the National Cotton Council’s annual conference, also in Washington, where discussions will focus on issues particular to cotton. Rogers, who grows cotton on more than 3,000 acres of leased Indian community land, called this year’s cotton crop "average."
The wet weather late in the season put a damper on the harvest while a glut of cotton worldwide has kept prices low, he said.
But Rogers and his family, who operate farms across the Valley are proud to grow a crop that Arizona’s famous for.
"The quality of Arizona and California cotton is exceptional. This is used for nicer garments and high-thread count sheets. Our cotton is exported all over the world," Rogers said.