Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing to Consider Three USDA Nominees

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the nomination hearing to consider three U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nominees: Mindy Brashears to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, Naomi C. Earp to be Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Civil Rights, and Scott Hutchins, to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As we near the end of this Congress, I’m pleased you and I have continued the bipartisan tradition of this committee. Working side-by-side, we wrote a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill that passed 86 to 11 earlier this year. Now, we’re incredibly close to reaching an agreement on a final bill.

In addition to all the work we’ve done on the Farm Bill this Congress, our committee has also advanced 11 nominees for important leadership positions that serve our farmers and families.

Today, we’re here to consider three more nominees. Dr. Brashears, Ms. Earp, and Dr. Hutchins, thank you for being here with us today. All of you have been selected to fill very different, but incredibly important positions at the USDA.

In Michigan, agriculture is our state’s second largest industry, supporting one-in-four jobs.

The root of that success is thanks to the science that informs how our farmers grow the food on our plates.

Groundbreaking agricultural research happens every day at USDA and at our land grant universities, including my alma mater Michigan State University. In fact, every dollar invested in agricultural research returns over $20 to our economy.

Michigan State-led research has directly strengthened Michigan’s agricultural economy through studies that improved blueberry production and addressed invasive cherry tree pests – just to name a few.

From helping our farmers be more productive, to protecting our food systems from emerging threats like climate change – scientific research is key to the success of American agriculture.

That’s why it is absolutely critical that USDA leadership protects scientific integrity and continues its strong investment in cutting-edge research. In addition to using science to help our farmers, the Department also uses science to ensure the safety of the food we eat.

Through rigorous inspection, testing, and outreach, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service works hard to prevent foodborne illnesses and protect our food supply. Families should never have to think twice about whether the food they buy is safe to serve.

Every food safety decision must be made transparently and objectively so we can continue to earn the trust of our consumers.

In order for the USDA to successfully carry out this important work, every single employee and customer must be treated fairly, with dignity and respect. It’s no secret that USDA has had a troubled history when it comes to civil rights.

As the arbiter of equal opportunity across the department, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights must do everything in its power to build a culture of inclusion. Given USDA’s challenging past, it is important to continue to correct mistakes, increase representation, and improve accountability.

The roles you have been nominated to fill are fundamental to upholding integrity and fostering trust in the department. I look forward to learning more about your plans and vision.