Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-15), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, delivered the following opening remarks at today's full committee hearing entitled, "Innovation, Employment, Integrity, and Health: Opportunities for Modernization in Title IV."
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Good morning, and welcome to this morning’s hearing on the nutrition title of the Farm Bill.
"Thank you to our witnesses for sharing their time, expertise, and vision.
"Last week, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, became a significant focus of the debt ceiling negotiations, which laid bare the strong emotions and opinions across the political spectrum. But when one in four Americans participate in at least one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 15 food and nutrition assistance programs over the course of a typical year, it is time to redefine success.
"I believe we can all agree, albeit through different lenses, there exists an opportunity to advance meaningful legislation that moves people forward while meeting their dietary and financial needs.
"However, I am firm in my belief that smart policies do not equal indiscriminate expansion of these programs. I’ve long been involved in shaping federal domestic nutrition policy through my work on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. I value these programs, advocate for them, and understand there is room for improvement.
"My goal is preservation for those truly in need, a recognition that sometimes our neighbors in need require a helping hand.
"With the Farm Bill set to expire, we as policymakers can build on the success of the 2018 Farm Bill, and find opportunities to foster self-sufficiency, promote health, explore innovation, and ensure taxpayer resources are used most effectively.
"First, we must continuously explore how to serve eligible recipients through innovation and flexibility. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is there is no one way to serve families in need. Midwest Food Bank has found a way to immerse itself deep into Appalachia, and I look forward to hearing more about how they—and we—can meet people more efficiently where they are, whether in urban or rural communities.
"Second, we must think about the best ways to guide recipients to independence through employment, and the role career and technical education plays in that transition. Let’s move from States going out of their way to keep employable individuals idle and disengaged, and spend more time fostering connections with employers and education providers. Dr. Rachidi has studied this extensively for decades, and her testimony is integral to how we should think about an expectation of productivity and its outcomes on health and communities.
"As an aside, in talking to organizations that provide case management, placement, and retention services, I am encouraged to hear clients over the age of 50 report more employment than those under 50, report incomes on average of $500 more per month than their younger peers, and hold employment longer. Us 'older Americans' can still contribute to the labor force and our communities and should not be thought of as incapable or hopeless.
"Third, we cannot deny program integrity has been compromised. As policymakers at the federal level, we must ensure USDA returns to and maintains the virtues of our domestic nutrition safety net. But our constituents also have a role here. From maintaining vigilance at the checkout to lessen the chances of skimming to a small business taking a chance on a recipient, we can all come together to restore and sustain accountability to the taxpayers footing the ten-year, $1.2 trillion cost of these programs. The United Council on Welfare Fraud provides compelling reasons for these reforms, and more.
"And last, and perhaps most importantly, the promotion of healthy eating. Employment, healthcare costs, military readiness, education, and general longevity highly depend on the foods we consume. With the right resources, research, modernized programming and technology, and appropriate and effective Federal dietary policy, USDA, States, and local communities are uniquely positioned to improve the nutrition of millions of households. Dr. Stover will share his experiences, but most importantly, his vision to bring about a healthier America.
"The nutrition programs in the Farm Bill show the world how we as a nation take care of one another. And if we can put politics aside to have honest dialogue, promote pragmatic policymaking, and commit to good governance, we can move mountains for those in need.
"With that, I welcome the esteemed Ranking Member from Georgia for any opening remarks he would like to make."