By MATTHEW WEAVER
Representatives of three Spokane area agricultural companies shared their stories with local business leaders during a recent forum.
Tom Stachecki of Angus Meats, Craig Higashi of Spokane Produce and Mike Conway of Latah Creek Wine Cellars spoke during a program put on by Greater Spokane Inc., the city's chamber of commerce and economic development council.
The program is designed to educate members of Spokane's business community about the economic impact of agriculture in the region.
"It's significant," said Jay Allert, chair of the organization's AgriBusiness Council during the morning program. Agriculture represents 13 percent of the state's economy and employs 160,000 people. About $15 billion worth of products moves through the state's ports, not counting the products that move through the Port of Portland.
The speakers addressed what they'd like to see in regional agriculture in the future.
Conway would like to see less government intervention.
"It seems like all of the agriculture businesses are a point of attack anymore," he said. "It's hard to do business with as many regulations as they put on all of us."
Higachi said he would like to see a broadening of the "local" definition and an understanding of what needs to be done to provide a high-quality and safe products. He'd like to see similar standards for everyone "so there's no issues as far as a small guy (who) might do something that could compromise the whole situation," he said.
Small producers are exempt from some food safety regulations.
Stachecki wants to see the food industry work together. His company has worked to pair its meats with vegetables and work with restaurants to develop new products.
Consumers are looking for convenience and safety, and fewer cooks are preparing food from scratch, he said.