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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Republican Leader Dusty Johnson Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Hearing: State of the Beef Supply Chain: Shocks, Recovery, and Rebuilding

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I will start with two notes of gratitude. The first is to you. When Congress focuses in a bipartisan way on issues, good things happen. This panel, these witnesses, this is going to be a good thing. Thank you.

 And then I also just want to note my gratitude to other members of this Subcommittee. I mean, when I think about the number of conversations—earnest conversations, honest conversations—I have had on these topics with Jim Costa, or Randy Feenstra, or Tracy Mann, or Jim Baird, or Don Bacon, or Vicky Hartzler, or anybody who's on Zoom, it's amazing. I mean, I think the American people should feel good that their members of Congress really do care about these issues in an emotional way, but also in a data-driven way. Because for those of us who represent ranchers, or backgrounders, or stockers, or feeders, we know how emotional and how unpredictable the last couple of years have been.

Mr. Chairman, you noted it right. Black swan event after black swan event, and it has made it really hard for the people who try to feed America. And I think even the urban folks have seen how critically important but also, how fragile these supply chains are. You're right Mr. Chairman, food is a national security issue, and it is something that all Americans probably should pay more attention to than they do. I thought in the wake of COVID, or during the middle of COVID, we did some really good bipartisan work. 140 Members of Congress stepped up in a bipartisan way to work with the Administration to make sure that CFAP was rolled out to the people in the cattle industry who absolutely needed that assistance. And I think as we move past, hopefully, COVID, we’ll understand that that was extremely important relief, but it was temporary relief for an extraordinary time. The market deficiencies that were laid bare during that time aren't just going away. So we need to focus on triage to long-term recovery.

The cattle markets and processing are incredibly complex industries. They are all trying to respond to market signals. Some of our presenters today will talk about how they try to find equilibrium. That balance to make sure that the number of head of cattle match the processing capacity, match consumer demand, and vice versa. Every step along that way is fraught with complexity, and I think one thing that we're all going to hear loud and clear in the testimony today is that we don't have enough processing capacity—and that is a market failure that has negative impacts, both to consumers who want to eat the beef, as well as producers who are trying to raise it. We need to figure out how to increase that capacity. The lack of capacity has hindered the American rancher's ability to reap some of the benefits of an increasing demand and increasing appetite for beef across the world.

You know, as I move toward my close though, I don't want to be so negative, because I think we understand that with challenging times comes opportunities. Since the pandemic, we have seen a tremendous amount of action to increase, and to diversify, our processing capacity. I’m glad to see that the bill that I had with Congresswoman Angie Craig—that leveled the playing field for small processors when they run overtime and need federal inspectors—I was glad to see that that passed, and I’m glad to see that that's being rolled out. I’m also pleased with the announcements that 500 million dollars is going to be available to increase resiliency in the processing sector. My goodness, how much we need that resiliency. My hope—and the hope of a number of people on the subcommittee—is that we can allocate those funds in a way that promotes producer and cooperative ownership, that leverages funding to focus on enhancing processing capacity, and on lowering cost to entry for that diversified processing ownership.

I also want to call out the role of the private sector, because obviously that that's the biggest piece of this puzzle, and we've got a number of new independent processors that have announced plans to build facilities. And to the extent that this Committee can remain focused on reducing those barriers to entry—so many regulatory hurdles, so many capital hurdles, so many workforce hurdles—to the extent that we can stay focused on reducing those barriers to entry, we are going to have a healthier marketplace. I’ll close, Mr. Chairman, by noting what we all know: that American ranchers have worked for generations to improve quality and efficiency so they can feed their fellow Americans and people all across this globe. And if we do it right, we're going to be in a position to help them continue that glorious and that sacred mission for generations more to come, and if that isn't work worth doing, I don't know what is.

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