Opening Statement: "Stakeholder Perspectives on USDA’s Rural Development Programs"
Washington, June 13, 2023
Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodity Markets, Digital Assets, and Rural Development, delivered the following opening remarks at today's subcommittee hearing entitled, "Stakeholder Perspectives on USDA’s Rural Development Programs."
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Good morning and thank you to everyone for joining us today. I am glad to be joined by Ranking Member Caraveo and the members of this subcommittee as we talk with stakeholders about rural development programs.
"Like many of you, I represent a rural district. Mine just happens to be the entire state of South Dakota. While we may not have a large population, we do have a robust agricultural economy—one that depends on rural communities having the tools they need to grow and thrive.
"I have spoken with local leaders, business owners, farmers, families, and many others in South Dakota, and one thing is clear—rural America continues to face challenges with access to capital and reliable energy, workforce shortages, aging infrastructure, and a lack of available health care services. That is why today’s conversation on how the 2023 Farm Bill can improve rural development programs is so important.
"Programs offered by the USDA's Rural Development office are crucial in helping rural areas develop and attract new economic opportunities. In the 2018 Farm Bill, this Committee significantly improved these programs by establishing new and expanded authorities to help provide access to safe drinking water and dependable electricity, repair crucial community infrastructure, support rural employers and employees, and foster regional economic growth. These pieces are critical components for what Chairman Thompson calls building a "robust, rural economy."
"Before I recognize the distinguished Ranking Member, a quick note to folks on this subcommittee. While we will hear from our panelists about an array of USDA Rural Development programs, including those under the Rural Utilities Service, we have encouraged today's witnesses to focus on rural development services outside of broadband connectivity. I'd like to encourage members to do the same and save the topic of bridging the digital divide—which is understandably popular on this subcommittee—for future Committee activity.
"I look forward to our conversation today and hear from our expert witnesses on their perspectives on current USDA Rural Development programs and ways we can improve them through the 2023 Farm Bill."