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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer: Focus on the Farm Economy: A View from the Barnyard

Remarks as prepared:

Good morning. This is the final hearing in our farm economy series. Each of the other five subcommittees has examined the growing pressure in rural America from the perspective of their jurisdictions.

Farmers are currently facing a steep drop in commodity prices, resulting in the largest 3-year decline in net farm income since the Great Depression. Razor tight margins are likewise making producers even more vulnerable to factors that impact cost of production, including additional regulatory burdens. At this point, the real question is: where do we go from here if things do not improve? In this final hearing in the series, we will focus primarily on the market outlook for the livestock, dairy and poultry sectors.

Prices are down from 2014 across the livestock sector, and market projections for 2017 suggest prices will remain less than favorable.

The reality is that the livestock sector, like others, faces lower prices. These pressures are further aggravated by regulatory burdens as well as pest and disease outbreaks.

In this subcommittee, we have previously examined the threats from and vulnerabilities to livestock diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Foot and Mouth Disease. Witnesses at today’s hearing will raise concerns with recent, as well as soon to be proposed regulations. The Agriculture Committee has been actively engaged in oversight on some of these, like the EPA’s WOTUS rule. Others we have not had to deal with for quite some time, but now find that they are back on the table. Most notably, Secretary Vilsack recently announced that proposed GIPSA regulations, which Congress has repeatedly blocked, are once again in the works. It concerns many of us that the USDA is trying once again to interfere with livestock markets.

These specific GIPSA regulations were originally proposed in 2010. The economic analysis done at that time indicated that these rules would have extracted more than a billion dollars in value from the livestock markets if they were implemented. Congress wisely chose to block those rules.

And Congress continued to do so until last year when, with the understanding and commitment that the USDA had no intention of revisiting these bad ideas, the seemingly pro forma prohibition on any USDA action related to them was allowed to lapse.

It remains unclear why the Secretary has decided to once again move forward with these ill-conceived proposals, other than it seems to me to be the standard operating procedure of this Administration in general. When Congress doesn’t pass laws the Administration wants, they issue rules and regulations to circumvent the legislative branch. Our Founding Fathers created a representative government for a reason. If it had been their desire for the American people to be governed by executive decrees, they wouldn’t have created a legislative branch in the first place.

While this is not the last time this subcommittee will discuss these issues, it is my hope that the testimony we receive today will shed light on the disastrous consequences this type of intrusion will have in the already weak livestock markets.

As we discuss the outlook for the livestock markets, it is important to understand the positive dynamic created by the diverse marketing arrangements that have been developed over the past several decades. It is unfortunate that the regulatory proposals the Secretary is now attempting to finalize would likely wipe away these decades of advancement. Fortunately, the House Appropriations Committee has once again adopted language that would prevent the Secretary from moving forward. It is my hope that this language is included in the appropriations legislation Congress sends to the President for his signature.

I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today and look forward to your testimony.

I now recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Costa for his opening comments.