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Chairwoman Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on USDA General Counsel Nominee Janie Hipp

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the hearing to consider the nomination of Janie Simms Hipp to be General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Live video of the hearing is available here.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

Good Morning. I call today’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to order. We’re here to consider the nomination of Ms. Janie Simms Hipp to be General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In that role, Ms. Hipp’s work will touch every function of the Department. That means she’ll have a hand in the implementation of programs that make sure families have enough to eat, kids get healthy meals in school, farmers have the tools they need to address the climate crisis, and folks in small towns and rural areas can access high-speed internet.

These are issues I’m passionate about, and I know Ms. Hipp is as well. She is no stranger to the important work she’ll take on if confirmed. She has worked with farmers and ranchers for most of her career, experience that will be very valuable if she is confirmed as General Counsel. She is the first general counsel nominee in more than 20 years to have a background this expansive in agricultural law. She even has a Master of Laws in Agriculture and Food Law that she earned from the University of Arkansas.

That’s an institution I’m sure we can all agree – especially our esteemed Ranking Member – offers an outstanding education. Ms. Hipp has since established herself as one of the preeminent minds in her field. She currently serves as CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund, where she works with Native American farmers and ranchers to support their continued engagement in agriculture.  

Her breadth of experience would be very valuable as General Counsel.  In the mid-1980s, Ms. Hipp worked in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office where she had first-hand experience helping farmers during the national farm credit crisis.  Having someone in leadership who has counseled producers through those stretches will be a priceless asset for the Department of Agriculture and the people it serves.

She also understands how USDA functions and the broad range of issues it handles. While at the Department, she worked closely on research advancing innovation for producers, as well as programs for beginning farmers and ranchers during her time at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. While at the Risk Management Administration, she helped farmers understand and access federal crop insurance and other risk management programs as part of the farm safety net. Ms. Hipp has also taught agricultural law for years, addressing a wide range of issues affecting agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.  

Finally, Ms. Hipp is a proud citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, and from her past experience as USDA’s Director of the Office of Tribal Relations, and as Founding Director of the University of Arkansas’ Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, her knowledge of Native American agriculture and Tribal issues will be invaluable. Her nearly four decades of legal experience — most of it in agricultural law — will give her essential insight if confirmed as General Counsel. Ms. Hipp has a broad range of support from groups across agriculture and rural affairs, and I ask unanimous consent that such letters be entered into the record.   

Now I’ll turn to my friend Senator Boozman for any opening comments he’d like to make.