Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Business Meeting: To consider H.R. 2936, H.R. 2521, H.R. 2921, H.R. 2941 and H.R. 3567

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Washington, October 4, 2017 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. Thank you all for being here today as we consider five straightforward bills.

H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, gives the Forest Service more authority and much needed flexibility to improve and expedite forest management activities in federal forests.

The past two fire seasons were among the most expensive on record, and this year appears to be no exception. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced that wildland fire suppression costs for this fiscal year have exceeded $2 billion, making 2017 the most expensive year on record.

This legislation is an important step in expediting forest management activities in the National Forest System to promote healthy, resilient forests and prevent catastrophic wildfires. I’m proud of the work we did in the 2014 Farm Bill to empower the Forest Service to work in a collaborative process with all stakeholders to be stewards of our nation’s resources. However, that was only the first step.

We are committed to further providing the Forest Service the tools it needs to carry out its mission. I was proud of the bipartisan support this committee showed last Congress during our committee mark-up.

H.R. 2521, the South Carolina Peanut Parity Act of 2017, adds South Carolina to the Virginia/Carolina peanut producing region for the purposes of appointments to the Peanut Standards Board. At the time of the establishment of the Peanut Standards Board, South Carolina was not a major peanut producing state. However, now they are the 4th largest and produce over 8% of U.S.-grown peanuts. They deserve to have input into the establishment or alteration of peanut standards.

H.R. 2921, the National Forest System Vegetation Management Pilot Program Act of 2017, authorizes the U.S. Forest Service to create a pilot program to assist in the management of our federal forests to reduce wildfire risk and associated costs. These management pilot projects are approved by the Forest Service but will be conducted and paid for by the private sector.

H.R. 2941, the Kisatchie National Forest Land Conveyance Act, introduced by our colleague Mr. Abraham, authorizes USDA to sell specified federal land in Winn Parish, Louisiana. The rural residential qualities of the land make it incompatible with National Forest management and this transfer would eliminate unnecessary administrative and boundary maintenance costs on the already strained Forest Service.

Lastly, H.R. 3567 authorizes the transfer of the title of land owned by NRCS in Riverside, California to the Riverside-Corona Resources Conservation District. The conservation district has invested $2.8 million into the facility with the hope of eventually acquiring the property and would like to invest in further improvements when the property title issue is resolved.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting these commonsense pieces of legislation. I now turn to the Ranking Member, Mr. Peterson, for any opening comments he would like to make.
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