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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Full Committee Hearing with USDA Secretary Vilsack

Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-15), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, delivered the following opening remarks at today's full committee hearing to receive testimony from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

"Good morning, and welcome Secretary Vilsack.

"Your appearance today comes at a critical time, when Congress will soon come together to debate and authorize a Farm Bill that will have implications across the agriculture value chain for years to come.

"And that’s where I would like to start this morning.

"The Farm Bill is one of few remaining pieces of legislation steeped in consensus and makes every attempt to provide producers and consumers with predictability, sensible policy, and fiscal responsibility. The return for this bipartisan, targeted, and statutory investment is more than 43 million jobs, $2.3 trillion in wages, $718 billion in tax revenue, $183 billion in exports, and $7.4 trillion in economic activity. And almost like clockwork, Congress comes together to reauthorize a Farm Bill, with specific direction to the Department for implementation and execution.

"Each chamber goes about an extensive review of current law and implementation. The House solicits input from members from both caucuses and the diverse stakeholders across the 12 titles, and with technical assistance from the administration. In most instances, the bill follows regular order in both chambers, a conference committee produces consensus legislation, and the final bill is voted on and sent to the President’s desk. Not everyone gets what they want. Diverse viewpoints find consensus. And we all agree to move better policy forward. It’s this process that creates buy-in and trust. It’s this process that makes it work. It’s this process that provides sustainable solutions.

"Some may wonder why this is worth reiterating. It’s because when parties begin to act unilaterally, trust begins to erode, our process fails, and our work of meeting the needs of all Americans becomes that much harder. 

"Unfortunately, this Administration has consistently, and without hesitation, upended Congressional consensus through a series of unilateral, Executive decisions that will resonate for decades, at a time when both farm sector debt is skyrocketing, and the farm safety net is dwindling.

"Whether it be the expedited, shoddy update to the Thrifty Food Plan, or the multibillion-dollar climate smart pilot; rulemakings outside the scope of authority granted by Congress, or the demonization of certain industries, frankly, we are at a crossroads.

"Despite my frustrations, Mr. Secretary, I know that our Members, in partnership with you and your team at USDA and our counterparts in the Senate, have the capacity to work in concert.

"In the wake of record inflation, a global pandemic, and geopolitical turmoil, American farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, and consumers are suffering. The best way to support them is to pass an effective Farm Bill that addresses deficiencies in the current safety net and builds on the many tools we have to support current and future generations.

"You say so yourself, Mr. Secretary, our country depends on it.

"Mr. Secretary, we thank you for your time today. I look forward to a productive hearing. 

"With that, I yield to the distinguished Ranking Member for opening remarks."