Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Organizational Meeting
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
I am also thankful for the expertise and help of my colleagues during my 12 years on the committee, including the last two years as Chairman. I’d also like to thank Ranking Member Peterson for his work on behalf of agriculture, and I look forward to working together in this Congress.
During the 114th Congress, we laid out an ambitious agenda for this committee, covering everything from the state of the rural economy to farm bill implementation. We also recently wrapped up a two-year, top-to-bottom review of SNAP, and we examined the benefits of biotechnology, the future of agricultural trade, the importance of agriculture to our national security, and the impact that regulatory burdens, such as WOTUS, are having on our farmers and ranchers.
We also set out to ensure that all authorizations of appropriations under our jurisdiction are current. That may sound like a simple task, but there are currently 73 authorizations of appropriations across the federal government—accounting for almost $650 billion in spending—that have expired or are set to expire later this year. I am proud to say that this Committee addressed every item under its jurisdiction.
Despite the Committee’s accomplishments, we have a lot of work ahead. The current farm bill is set to expire during this Congress, at a time when our nation’s farmers and ranchers are facing hard times. Over the past three years, we’ve seen a 46 percent decrease in net farm income, the largest 3-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, these conditions show no signs of letting up.
As Americans, we’ve taken our advantages for granted far too long. Our abundant and affordable food and fiber supply is not by accident. Instead, it’s the direct result of the hard work and innovation of our agricultural producers. It is also the result of sound risk management tools authorized in the Farm Bill.
During the 115th congress, we will waste no time getting started on the next Farm Bill. I am pleased with the team we have assembled, and am confident that we can work together to tackle the issues facing rural America. We begin today by adopting the Committee’s Oversight Plan, Committee Rules, and the Committee Staff List for the 115th Congress.
While we have many members returning to the committee from the 114th Congress, I’m also happy to welcome the 6 Republican and 6 Democrats who are new to the committee. Ranking Member Peterson and I are pleased to formally introduce each of our new Members here today.
Joining us in his first term, James Comer is a farmer and former Agriculture commissioner in his home state of Kentucky. With his personal experience on his family's farm and a strong background in agriculture, we welcome his expertise to the committee.
Joining us from the “Big 1st” of Kansas, Roger Marshall is a physician and dedicated family man with roots back to the family farm where he was raised. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserves, rising to the rank of Captain.
Don Bacon of Nebraska is a retired, decorated U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, having served our country for nearly 30 years, and is the highest ranking retired officer currently serving in the House. Raised on a Midwestern farm, Don understands the challenges that Nebraska farmers and ranchers face each day.
John Faso of New York is a proud alumnus of SUNY Brockport and Georgetown University Law, and previously served as a Republican leader of the New York State Assembly. John has been actively involved in many community and statewide organizations and understands the importance of agriculture to local economies.
Neal Dunn of Florida, is a surgeon of 35 years and a U.S. Army veteran. Neal is an experienced and successful business leader, and he represents an agriculturally diverse district.
And finally, I want to welcome Jodey Arrington, my friend and neighbor from Lubbock, TX. Jodey has worn many hats—from owning his own business, to serving as Vice Chancellor at his alma mater, Texas Tech University, to working in the Administration of President George W. Bush. Jodey's dedication to serving the people of West Texas is apparent in all that he does.