U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez stood on top of the largest grain elevator on the West Coast, which is also the tallest structure in Vancouver, to survey the district she serves Thursday afternoon. The Interstate 5 Bridge, soon to be replaced, loomed over the water. Skyscrapers and condos, some new and some half-built, dotted the waterfront. A lone barge rolled down the Columbia River. And to the north, Clark County looked still beneath dense rain clouds.
The smell of warm grain wafted through the cold, drizzly air. The congresswoman yelled over the roar of machinery to ask Rob Moravec, maintenance manager for United Grain Corp., about the complex operations of the United Grain Export Terminal below, the oldest and largest grain export facility on the West Coast.
Perez, a Democrat from Skamania, and U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small toured the sprawling facility at the Port of Vancouver. They visited to highlight the Biden administration’s stated commitment to increasing access to trade and creating new economic opportunities for producers and businesses in Washington and across the country, according to a news release.
Before ascending the grain elevator, Perez and Torres Small met with United Grain Corp. President and CEO Augusto Bassanini in the control room down below. He said many of United Grain Corp.’s new customers are “thanks to the funding and investments” that the federal Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program provided United Grain Corp.
“And not only to ourselves, but the region, the producers and everybody that we serve along the way,” Bassanini said.
Following the tour, Perez and Torres Small attended a roundtable to speak with local producers and growers.
Perez said she wanted to visit the port because the 3rd Congressional District includes more inland ports than any other district west of the Mississippi.
“It was really important for me to bring the deputy secretary out to see how integral these facilities are to our producers, and to see up close how it’s going to impact our growers,” she said. “Having folks in the administration from the Department of Agriculture see and understand the challenges on the West Coast is really important, and so having Xochitl Torres Small and USDA being so willing to learn about the issues facing Southwest Washington is really important to me.”
The visit was one of many stops on Torres Small’s multiweek college tour throughout the United States. So far, she has visited multiple campuses in at least seven states to highlight how the Biden administration is working with land-grant universities to advance rural prosperity, climate-smart practices, competition and sustainability, according to a news release.
Before stopping in Vancouver on Thursday, Torres Small visited Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., to see firsthand how the college is working with the USDA to advance climate-smart practices and sustainability. She also spoke about investments made by the USDA that support OSU by providing cutting-edge agricultural research, scholarship opportunities and food science programs, according to a news release.
“It’s clear that investments in infrastructure matter, and identifying opportunities to expand and diversify our trade is crucial to continue to support our farmers who feed our country,” Torres Small said after descending the grain elevator.