Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: University Research
Washington, June 22, 2017
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning and thank you all for joining us. As we continue working to craft the next farm bill, we turn our attention to one of the primary drivers of innovation and productivity in our 21st century agricultural economy – university research.
For more than 100 years, our producers have relied on investments in agricultural research to drive efficiencies and gains in productivity that have helped farmers and ranchers soldier through the toughest of times. While our focus today is on university research, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our world-class teaching and extension programs that are responsible for disseminating the results of that research throughout the countryside and around the globe. This sustained investment, in part, has allowed the U.S. to enjoy the safest, most affordable, and most abundant food and fiber supply in the world.
The U.S. has long been a leader in cutting-edge agricultural research, but our current budget problems have us scrutinizing every dollar, with public funding for agricultural research declining as a share of overall public research spending in the United States. While private-sector investments have picked up some of the slack, results of privately-funded research are often not made publicly available. Importantly, private-sector research often builds upon fundamental research supported by public investment.
While I recognize our budget problems can’t be ignored, it is important to note that the agriculture community has repeatedly answered the call for reform and has done more than its fair share to help generate savings. The current Farm Bill was expected to save $23 billion over 10 years, but the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections show that the 2014 Farm Bill is now on target to save $104 billion—more than four times what was anticipated.
If the U.S. is going to remain competitive going forward, we cannot afford to rest on the success of our past and take a back seat to the rest of the world. We must continue making key investments in our agricultural research system in the most efficient manner possible.
Finally, I’d like to welcome all of our witnesses today, but I want to specifically welcome and thank Mr. Robert Duncan, Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System based in Lubbock, for joining us today. I look forward to hearing from Mr. Duncan and all of our witnesses about ways to streamline and prioritize agricultural research programs in the next farm bill.With that, I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Peterson, for any opening remarks he may have.