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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski: Focus on the Farm Economy: Food Prices and the Consumer

Remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Nutrition Subcommittee hearing. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to be here and a special thanks to our witnesses for lending their expertise. Today’s hearing is the fourth in a series, held by each subcommittee, taking a look at the state of the farm economy. This subcommittee is focusing in particular on food prices and how every consumer is impacted by the economic conditions in farm country.

The United States has the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world. There are many factors that contribute to this. We were blessed with a large amount of fertile land to farm, innovative minds that have pioneered technologies to increase yields, and an infrastructure network that gets products to market quickly and efficiently.

One factor that tends to be overlooked is the role of effective farm policies in keeping prices affordable and stable for consumers. While the average American spends 9.8% of their disposable income on food, those with lower incomes, who are already estimated to spend 34% of their disposable income on food, are much more susceptible to swings in food prices. For them, an increase in the price of food means foregoing other needed purchases. So what goes into determining the price of the food we buy? From the farm to your plate, what costs are incurred along the way? And how much of what you pay at the grocery store for that corn from Indiana or rice from Arkansas flows back to the farmer?

Today, we will examine the whole food supply chain from a high level. We will look at the role of farm policy in keeping prices stable and at factors that are threatening that stability. Finally, we will consider the relationship between food prices and disposable income, especially as it relates to low-income Americans. We are all well aware that the farm bill expires next Congress. As we gear up for that process, it is crucial to arm ourselves with facts that will help inform our decisions in this committee and educate our colleagues on the importance of farm policies when the time comes for a vote in the full House.

I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel. Before I conclude, I want to extend a warm welcome in particular to a fellow Hoosier that will be testifying today, Dr. Jason Henderson from Purdue University. Dr. Henderson is an Associate Dean at the College of Agriculture and the Director of Purdue Extension. He previously served as Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where he tracked the agricultural and rural economies. He is an asset to Purdue and the state of Indiana and I’m thrilled you’re here as we explore this topic.

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