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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway: Service in the Field: Veteran Contributions to National Food Security

Remarks as prepared:

Good morning. Last November, the Agriculture Committee began examining the links between agriculture and our national security. The first hearing highlighted global security challenges and underscored the connection between food security and political stability. As former President George W. Bush said, “A nation that can feed its people is a nation more secure.”

We followed that hearing with an examination of our readiness in dealing with threats to plant and animal health. Today, as we approach the Memorial Day holiday, we turn our attention to the programs and policies that enable our nation’s veterans to transition into agricultural occupations.

In addition to serving on the Agriculture Committee, I am privileged to serve on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  It is an honor to regularly interact with the men and women who risk their lives in service of this great nation. As these men and women lay down their weapons and re-enter the private sector, many seek to continue contributing to our nation’s food security with a career in agriculture. 

Veterans returning to the United States from active duty face many challenges. Congresses past and present have sought to facilitate this transition through the adoption of federal programs and policies aimed at supporting veterans. These include programs such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program where a minimum of 5 percent of funds available are set aside to meet the needs of veteran farmers and ranchers, and the Agribility program, which provides assistance to farmers and ranchers, including veterans with disabilities. 

Sound farm policy plays an integral role in preventing food insecurity, and it is one of the reasons the United States is consistently ranked as one of the most food secure nations in the world. Our veterans have seen food insecurity firsthand, and they know the unrest it brings. They understand, perhaps better than any of us, how important it is for the U.S. to continue to be able to feed its people. At the same time, this Committee is steadfast in its commitment to assisting veterans who choose to work in agriculture.

Today, we will hear directly from soldiers-turned-farmers on their experiences going from military service to agriculture production. We will learn how the various USDA programs are working for participants, and what can be done to improve them. I can think of no group more deserving of our best efforts than America’s veterans. I now recognize the Ranking Member for his opening remarks.