Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Opening Statement of Chairman Lucas at Agricultural Program Audit: Examination of Crop Insurance
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
I'd like to thank Chairman Conaway for holding the first in a series of audit hearings to examine programs authorized in the farm bill.
My goal with these hearings is two-fold. First, I want the Department to present a spending snapshot of farm programs.
Our Subcommittees will examine spending trends and confirm whether the purpose and goals of the programs we authorize are being met successfully.
We will look for duplication within issue areas to determine program overlap. We will also examine program eligibility and whether those eligibility criteria meet the needs of our constituents.
And we will scrutinize waste, fraud and abuse, and look for ways to build on the success the Department has already achieved in this area of program integrity. In essence, this is what I mean by an "audit" of farm programs.
The second purpose of these audits is educational in nature. I think it is important for our Committee to learn just how many programs we authorize in the farm bill and the amount of money we dedicate to each area.
I want the Members of our Committee to have a holistic view of farm policy before we move forward. Too often in the past, Congress has taken a piecemeal approach to farm programs, adding layer upon layer while not looking at the overall picture to see how these programs interact.
We are starting with comprehensive audits so that we can examine each program within the broader context of farm policy.
These audits ensure that we are operating from the same base of knowledge. We represent states ranging from Alabama to Oregon—and the diverse constituencies that come with that—so we all have unique priorities for farm policy. But while our priorities may differ, our facts cannot. So these audits give all of us the same data to use in decision making.
Having the best available data will help us better understand farm programs so that we can navigate the tough road ahead.
I hope that today, we can start a dialogue on how to root out inefficiencies so we can continue supporting our farmers and ranchers while spending fewer taxpayer dollars.
It is also important for all of us to understand our priorities for the last two farm bills. Before we move forward with new policies, we must understand how we got where we are today.
Some of the circumstances that shaped past Farm Bills are still relevant today. Others have changed. We all know that this Farm Bill will be developed under a very different fiscal climate than the 2008 Farm Bill.
The simple truth is that we must make some difficult decisions. There are no "sacred cows," so to speak, and during these tough fiscal times, every program, in every title, will be on the table.
This farm bill gives the Committee an excellent opportunity to prioritize programs that are working, fix programs that are broken, and eliminate programs that are duplicative. We will make those determinations with the help of these audits, along with input from our constituents.
We will start that process today by taking a serious look at crop insurance to ensure that our funds are utilized economically and program delivery is efficient for our farmers and ranchers.
As we begin the process of developing the 2012 Farm Bill, I know that the challenge of doing more with less will be foremost in our minds.
I believe that we can meet this challenge and develop thoughtful policies to keep American agriculture productive and competitive in the 21st century.