Today and tomorrow, we have before us most of the undersecretaries of the Department of Agriculture. Each of these witnesses is responsible for an important mission area within USDA. Accompanying our witnesses are administrators who manage agencies and programs within these larger mission areas. These folks lead the network of nearly 100,000 USDA employees who carry out the laws that this committee works to enact.
We welcome each of you here today. I know that preparing for these hearings can be time consuming for witnesses who already have plenty on their plate. So, please know that your commitment of time and knowledge does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. We do appreciate you and the work that you do.
The primary purpose behind these hearings is to connect the members of this committee with the full bench at USDA. It provides an opportunity for our members to see—in one setting—how all of the various pieces of USDA fit together. It is an opportunity for our members to gain an even stronger understanding of the policies and issues they focus on by getting under the hood to see how all, or at least more, of the parts work. It is also an opportunity for our witnesses to gain a better understanding of our responsibilities and the issues and policies our constituents care about. In short, this is a good opportunity for constructive dialogue between members of this committee and the Department.
With implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill largely complete and with growing concern in the countryside about a sustained drop in commodity prices, it is important that the committee fulfill its vital oversight role to see what is working well and what might need improvement. The hearings we will hold over the next two days are a vital part of that work. They build on a similar series we held last fall, and I intend for them to become an annual component of our oversight efforts.
With that, I recognize my friend, the Ranking Member, for any remarks he may wish to offer.