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Chair Jim Costa Opening Statement at Hearing on State of the Beef Supply Chain: Shocks, Recovery, and Rebuilding

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chair Jim Costa delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled “State of the Beef Supply Chain: Shocks, Recovery, and Rebuilding”

[As prepared for delivery]

Good morning. To start, I’d like to thank our witnesses, my Ranking Member Mr. Johnson, and the other members of the Subcommittee for participating in today’s hearing to discuss a topic that continues to garner a great degree of attention, and rightfully so. The shocks that our cattle industry have undergone in the last two years have impacted millions of people along the entire supply chain - from the cattle producer to the feeders, processors, retailers, and consumers.

Livestock are a critical part of our food system and a crucial component of the economy in my home state of California. In 2019 cattle and calves in my state were valued at over three billion dollars, placing them in the top four valued commodities in the state. So, I have a substantial interest in making sure that our producers have resilient supply chains and fair markets in which to trade. Over the past several years the livestock industry has been subject to three notable shocks, each of which has illuminated various vulnerabilities in the supply chain and created instability in the marketplace.

The fire at one of the country’s largest beef processing plant in Holcomb, Kansas in 2019 was the first event. The four-month closure of a large plant created a significant reduction in processing capacity, which led to a drop off in fed cattle prices.

The next event was the COVID-19 pandemic. As we are all aware, the pandemic had an enormous impact on the entire economy and the beef supply chain was not spared. Anyone who tried to buy ground beef or a steak at the grocery store during the first few months of the pandemic experienced the bottleneck in the supply chain firsthand. At the farmgate, producers were dealing with oversupply and incredible volatility in their prices.

President Biden and his Administration deserve great credit for their hard work over the past six months to help Americans get back on their feet. I’d also like to give credit to my colleagues in Congress who helped pass multiple COVID relief packages, most recently the American Rescue Plan, which has provided relief to our farmers and ranchers as they continue to rebuild. Secretary Vilsack and his team are working overtime to implement this relief.

The third shock is the cyberattack on JBS over Memorial Day weekend. Cyberattacks like this will only increase, and their potential effect on our food and agriculture system cannot be ignored. I think everyone on this committee understands that food security is national security and protecting our food system from foreign interference and disruption is something that must be taken seriously.

It is our job on this subcommittee to get to the bottom of the most complex challenges confronting agriculture and to help our farmers and ranchers overcome these challenges. Today we will hear from four expert witnesses, who will tell us where the vulnerabilities in our supply chain lie and share their innovative ideas for helping the beef supply chain adapt to become more resilient, so that we can use what we learn today to create positive change. Before the introduction of our witnesses, I’d like to recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Johnson of South Dakota, for any remarks he’d like to make.

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