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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis: Focus on the Farm Economy: Factors Impacting Cost of Production

Remarks as prepared:

Good morning.

Two weeks ago, the Agriculture Committee commenced a series of hearings focused on the farm economy.  Each subcommittee has been tasked with highlighting issues within their respective jurisdictions that impact the economic well-being of rural America.

In the Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee, we have spent considerable time discussing programs and policies that impact specialty crop producers. We have highlighted research, education, and extension programs that contribute both to the safety and security of our food supply, as well as benefit farmers by increasing efficiency, productivity and profitability. We have promoted development of local and niche markets for farm products, and considered the opportunities and challenges for direct marketing. We have drawn the relationship between agricultural security and our national security through an examination of our defenses against the introduction of foreign pests and diseases.

We have also engaged the next generation of leaders participating in the nation’s largest youth development program, 4-H, in an ongoing dialogue to enhance relationships between rural and urban communities.  These youth leaders, 18 of our nation’s best and brightest, most recently visited with the subcommittee to provide their insights into how we might improve the outlook for agriculture through education and outreach.

While much of the work we have done as a subcommittee has brought positive attention to the role of government programs and policies which assist rural America, we have also spent some time investigating policies that negatively impact producers.

In a hearing more than two months ago with EPA Administrator McCarthy, members engaged in extensive questioning regarding actions her agency has taken which impose considerable costs with questionable, if any benefits. Following this hearing, the committee submitted additional questions for the record.  In fact, committee Members, both Republican and Democrat submitted approximately 36 pages of questions to the Agency for which we have yet to receive a single response.  I wish I could say the Agency’s apparent lack of regard for American agriculture is an anomaly, but history tells us otherwise.

I had an amendment in the 2014 farm bill, which would establish a permanent subcommittee of the EPA Science Advisory Board to ensure the voice of agriculture was represented in the agency’s decision making process.  Not surprisingly, more than two years later, the EPA leadership has yet to appoint even a single member to this committee.  The result of this disregard for the law is a continuing flood of decisions and actions contrary to the needs and desires of America’s farmers and ranchers.

Unfortunately, it is not just the policies of the EPA that add unreasonable production costs.  The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act will pose enormous challenges for producers and processors with little evidence that some requirements will offer quantifiable food safety benefits.  We have often spoken about the threat of the ill-conceived Vermont law governing agricultural biotechnology, yet we are also concerned about what many observers believe is unnecessary regulatory hurdles researchers must go through to bring new applications of biotechnology to the market.  As anyone can plainly see, the list of overly burdensome regulations threatening the farm economy is apparently endless.

Today, the subcommittee will focus more broadly on many of the factors that contribute positively and negatively to the cost of production for our nation’s farmers and ranchers.  While the farm safety net helps somewhat mitigate the impact of chronically low prices, our nation’s farmers continue to operate on very thin (and in some cases negative) margins.  Going forward, their ability to contain costs will be key to their survival, particularly if low prices persist.  We have invited a distinguished panel of leaders from industry and state government to provide their insights into the challenges facing our producers along with actions that can be taken to enhance the rural economic outlook.  The record that is created today will be extremely beneficial in directing future oversight as well as development of the next farm bill.  Thank you all for being here.

I now yield to the distinguished Ranking Member, Rep. DelBene for any comments she wishes to make.