Opening Statement: Republican Leader Jim Baird Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Hearing: “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Horticulture and Urban Agriculture”
Washington, March 29, 2022
Remarks as prepared delivery:
Good morning, and thank you Chair Plaskett for calling this hearing today. Today’s hearing marks an important step, as this is our first hearing to review the horticulture title of the 2018 Farm Bill. As we prepare for the next farm bill, it is important to hear from both USDA and stakeholders to learn what’s working, and what is not.
The horticulture title is broad – it covers a variety of issues including specialty crops, invasive species, plant health, crop protection tools, local agriculture markets, food safety, and hemp. While today’s hearing lends itself to provisions in Title X, it is important to note there are provisions in other titles of the farm bill that impact the horticulture industry. I look forward to future oversight on these other provisions.
The specialty crop industry is very diverse and includes fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops. The sheer diversity and unique set of challenges for this industry can make the development of specialty crop policies difficult; however, one program that has proven to be effective is the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. This program was first funded in 2006 and provides state departments of agriculture funds to award promotion and marketing grants aimed at improving the competitiveness of specialty crops in the United States. I believe that one reason this program is so successful is because it allows states to fund projects that are unique to their specialty crop industries.
The horticulture title also authorizes the important Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, which works to strengthen, prevent, detect, and mitigate invasive species. As we know all too well, invasive species can have a significant impact on the agriculture industry. Both USDA and the state departments of agriculture play a critical role in controlling the spread and eventually eradicating these invasive species. I am pleased that my colleagues found it necessary to maintain the significant advances made in 2014 for this program and look forward to learning how we can further improve this program to prevent the spread of invasive species.
Another important provision I am excited to hear more about today is the creation of the FIFRA Interagency Working Group in the 2018 Farm Bill. This working group – consisting of USDA, EPA, Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce, and the Council of Environmental Quality – is designed to help improve the consultation process required under the Endangered Species Act for pesticide registration and registration review. I’m all too familiar with just how cumbersome this interagency cooperation can be in regard to the ESA, and it is important that producers have continued access these critical tools to protect their crops from damaging insects and weeds.
The past three farm bills have shown significant progress in the horticulture title; however, much has changed in the world since 2018. I am eager to hear more about the impacts and challenges of these programs and suggested ways we can improve program delivery.
I thank Under Secretary Moffitt, Chief Cosby, and all of the other witnesses for taking the time to be with us today. Your insight, expertise, and service to agriculture are greatly appreciated and I am looking forward to having a robust conversation about programs within the horticulture title today.
And with that Madam Chair, I yield back.