Arriving in Congress just after the November election, I was disappointed to see the brinksmanship and hyper-partisanship that defined the 112th Congress and earned it the dubious distinction as one of the least productive ever. I am hopeful that with this new Congress, we can break the gridlock and do better. I look forward to doing my part to accomplish this.
Businesses and working families need policy that provides them with the clarity and visibility they need to plan and invest for the future. It's time to stop budgeting 90 days at a time or waiting until the last minute to tackle critical issues.
We need to take a balanced approach to solving our fiscal challenges by drafting a budget to reign in unnecessary spending while preserving targeted job-creating investments. With the debt ceiling temporarily lifted, we have an opportunity. While the compromise wasn't perfect, it opens the door for a bipartisan effort to pass a sustainable budget with less of the hostage taking that dominated the last Congress.
We must also work on other issues to help get our economy on track. Much of the real work in Congress takes place at the committee level and I'm pleased to have been named to the agriculture and judiciary committees. I sought these assignments because of their oversight of issues critical to businesses and communities throughout Whatcom County and our region.
Agriculture is a key part of our local economy. Whatcom has more than 1,400 farms worth approximately $326 million, and is the nation's leading producer of red raspberries. We're home to a large number of dairy farms and are a major producer of other specialty crops. Serving on the agriculture committee will position me to be a strong voice for Whatcom's local farmers and food producers.
That starts with passing a farm bill. Dairy farmers count on it for programs that help stabilize the dairy market in ways that protect both consumers and producers. Our berry and specialty crop farmers depend on investments to assist in opening new markets for their products both domestically and abroad. They also rely on partnerships with local universities such as Washington State University's extension in Bellingham to help improve efficiency, assure food safety and combat pests and diseases.
These programs in the farm bill are critical job-creating investments that ensure we have a vibrant agricultural industry and that our food is healthy, abundant and affordable.
Additionally, whether it's small or large farms, berry or dairy producers, I hear consistently from our local agricultural community the need for a clear and predictable regulatory environment. On the agriculture committee, I'll work tirelessly to streamline regulations while still protecting our natural resources.
In the judiciary committee, I'm in a place to have a meaningful impact on other issues key to economic growth, immigration and protecting public safety.
It is time for Congress to reform our broken immigration system. That reform should be comprehensive, humane and practical. Representing a border district, I know it's important to keep our borders safe, but we cannot rely on an enforcement-only approach.
Our policies must recognize the enormous contributions that immigrants have made in our communities. I support an earned path to citizenship for those who are already here and working. For young people brought here as children, we should pass the DREAM Act so they have an opportunity to pursue their goals and get a great education. Reforms must support the workforce needs of our local employers, including long-term and seasonal agricultural workers, as well as highly trained technical workers.
The judiciary committee will also be taking up legislation to protect all victims of violence. I'm a co-sponsor of legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a successful law that has helped reduce the annual instances of domestic violence by 50 percent.
During my tenure as the state director of the Department of Revenue, I pushed for policies that would close what has become an internet tax loophole that gives out-of-state, e-commerce retailers an unfair advantage over local businesses. As a member of the judiciary committee, I'll continue to fight for these proposals that encourage fair competition and local job growth.
It's going to take a lot of work to make progress on these difficult issues. With determination and a willingness to look past partisan divides, I believe it's possible. During my campaign, I said that I was a workhorse, not a show horse, and we need more workhorses on these issues. We must focus on results, not rhetoric if we hope to break the gridlock.
Over the next two years, I look forward to serving Whatcom County and working with you to develop policies in Congress that spur job growth, build safe communities and rebuild the foundation for a strong economy.
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D., was recently elected to the 1st District that includes nearly all of Whatcom County outside Bellingham, plus portions of King, Snohomish and Skagit counties.