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Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing Reviewing the U.S. Livestock, Poultry Sectors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at today’s hearing entitled: A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors: Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges.

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing on the state of the livestock industry.

I would also like to thank our witnesses representing many sectors of the livestock industry for testifying this morning – we look forward to hearing your important perspectives.

As we know, the last several years have been challenging for livestock producers, and is one reason why the 2014 Farm Bill made many important investments that help support and bolster this important segment of American agriculture.

In fact one of the first uses of the 2014 Farm Bill was the activation of the livestock disaster programs – which have paid out more than $5.8 billion to date and helped producers across the country when they faced extreme weather conditions like drought, blizzards, and wildfires.

The Farm Bill also expanded the voluntary conservation programs that give our farmers and ranchers the tools they need to address issues on their own, instead of through regulations.

USDA voluntary conservation programs make it easier for a rancher in Kansas or a turkey producer in Michigan to improve wildlife habitat, livestock forage, and water quality through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.

In addition, the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) provides opportunities for locally led conservation solutions to issues like improving water quality in our Great Lakes or addressing Endangered Species Act issues, like the sage grouse, in the West.

However, for USDA conservation efforts to be successful, we need your help to encourage more producers to take advantage of these opportunities and tell their story about why voluntary conservation is the best way to address resource concerns.

As we look to other issues impacting our livestock industry, we know how important it is that we continue to make investments in agricultural research. 

In fact this need was underscored by last year’s rapid emergence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – which affected more than 48 million birds in 15 states.

This type of animal health crisis has devastating economic impacts on our producers, drives up the cost of food for consumers, and threatens international trade.

That’s why the investments we made through the Farm Bill to establish the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research are so important – and I look forward to seeing the Foundation begin to rollout new programs shortly.

Despite these challenges; however, there are also plenty of reasons for the livestock sector to be optimistic.

As I look to my home state of Michigan, I see livestock producers breaking new ground on processing facilitates and expanding into new value-added markets like organics. 

Just last summer the Clemens Food Group broke ground in Coldwater, Michigan on one of the first new Michigan pork processing facilities in decades. They are expected to create 800 jobs and will source from producers in Michigan and throughout the Midwest.

Nationwide, the demand for organic eggs has more than doubled since 2012, and producers like the Herbruck’s in Michigan have continued to step up to meet the need. Now is a critical time to ensure that we continue to support these organic producers so organic eggs can continue to be available and affordable for American families.

Lastly, I want to highlight action by this Committee last year to unanimously pass – and get signed into law – a reauthorization of Mandatory Price Reporting.  This reauthorization made important advancements that were supported by producers to increase market transparency – and I am pleased we were able to accomplish this in a bipartisan manner.

Mr. Chairman – I appreciate you holding this hearing and as always, I stand ready to work with you and our colleagues on the Committee to help ensure our farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to be successful.

Thank you.