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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway: Energy and the Rural Economy: The Impacts of Oil and Gas Production

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Energy and the Rural Economy: The Impacts of Oil and Gas Production

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to today’s hearing. 

This committee is charged with the responsibility of representing rural America and the economies that drive those communities. As such, we will continue to diligently review the farm economy, especially given the recent 56 percent drop in net farm income and the hard times that inevitably come along with that.

I, along with many other Members of this Committee have often stated that agriculture is the backbone of rural America.  However, as the committee with responsibility for all of rural America, it is vitally important that we acknowledge other industries that provide a significant number of jobs and revenue for our rural communities.

Today’s hearing begins that discussion as we review how oil and gas production impacts the rural economy. Energy, and the price of energy, has an obvious direct impact on inputs for farmers and ranchers. Not quite as intuitively, the energy sector provides income and revenue for rural residents and their local communities in the form of salaries, royalty payments, and tax revenues.

In my district, agriculture is a leading industry.  However, many of the biggest employers in the 11th District of Texas revolve around oil and gas production.  These businesses provide a significant number of good paying jobs for Americans. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that jobs in this sector have an average income that is twice as high as the national average income. 

Although I know that every district is not like west Texas, oil and gas production impacts rural communities across the United States.  These quality off-the-farm jobs provide rural America the ability to retain young people with new opportunities and attract new residents. The oil and gas industry brings income into rural communities, which in turn increases the standard of living for residents. This increased revenue gives rural communities the ability to improve quality of life for its residents through increased capital investments.

A 2011 study by PWC, near the height of the recent oil boom, cited that the oil and gas sector directly employed 9.8 million of people.  A significant number of these jobs were in the rural areas of Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania– employing as many as 20 percent of the state’s population. Unfortunately, what some fail to realize is that oil and gas production creates thousands of upstream and downstream jobs, and many, if not most, of these jobs are in rural areas.

We all recognize that the oil and gas industry today is more bust than boom. That is why today’s hearing is even more important. Too often, I believe the general public only views this industry as executives running large oil companies and charging too much for a gallon of gasoline.

Today, you will hear from a group of individuals whose rural communities and livelihoods are directly impacted by oil and gas production. In these lean times, we must remember the millions of individuals, many in rural areas, who are employed up and down the supply chain. 

Thank you to each of our witnesses for taking time away from your jobs to be here today.  I look forward to your testimony.

I now yield to my good friend and Ranking Member, Mr. Peterson, for any opening statements he has.