WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at the nomination hearing to consider Gregory Ibach to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, and William Northey to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to be here to consider two more USDA nominees. Mr. Northey and Mr. Ibach, congratulations to you both, and welcome to your families here today.
As we’ve heard from farmers and ranchers all across the country, we know that American agriculture is facing tough times. Low commodity prices have pinched margins, and extreme weather has decimated crops from the High Plains to the Southeast.
I know that both of you are farmers. You understand these challenges, and know that our farmers need leaders that will speak up for them when their voices aren’t being heard.
Our farmers deserve strong and qualified leaders who will fight for all of American agriculture.
Mr. Northey and Mr. Ibach, with your Iowan and Nebraskan roots, you understand that production agriculture is an important component to our farm economy.
However, the true strength of American agriculture is rooted in the diversity of what we grow.
In my home state of Michigan, we have more crop diversity than any other state except California.
Driving down the highway, you’ll see corn, soybeans, and wheat on one side – and apple orchards, asparagus fields, and cherry trees on the other.
Historically – Farm Bills have been focused on commodities.
For example, risk management programs were only available to the traditional commodity farmers on one side of the road. But what you grow should not determine whether you can protect your farm from losses.
All farmers deserve a safety net, which is why I have fought to expand access to tools like crop insurance for specialty crop growers and dairy farmers.
Mr. Northey, if confirmed to lead USDA’s farm services and risk management agencies, we need your commitment to make crop insurance stronger and more accessible to every farmer no matter where they are or what they grow.
You’ll also oversee the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which means you’ll have to balance a lot of responsibility.
I represent the Great Lake State. No matter where you are in Michigan, you’re never more than six miles away from a body of water.
So, protecting our rivers, lakes, and streams is incredibly important to me. I know it’s important to many other members of this Committee as well.
I know you personally understand that agriculture needs to be part of the solution in addressing water quality issues. If confirmed for this role, I urge you to continue to prioritize the protection of our land and water.
Mr. Ibach, if confirmed, you’ll be overseeing a very large and diverse mission area as well.
One minute you’ll find yourself enforcing international trade agreements to safeguard the integrity of the National Organic Program abroad.
The next, you’ll be providing guidance to help farmers transition to organic production and tap into new markets here at home.
And at all times, you’ll be on call to defend our food system against some of the most pressing threats to animal and plant health.
Specialty crops are particularly susceptible to invasive pests, and we have seen devastating impacts on cherries, and other fruit and vegetables in my state.
Your portfolio would also put you in the driver’s seat of many exciting opportunities for American agriculture.
The growing demand for local food has created new ways for our farmers to connect to consumers – especially new and beginning producers.
Back home, I keep seeing more and more “Michigan-Made” signs in grocery stores all across the state.
This is a trend I want to see continue, and I hope you will commit to support our growing local food economy.
Mr. Northey and Mr. Ibach, if confirmed, your work and leadership will have a tremendous impact on my state and all of American agriculture.
When Secretary Perdue came before this Committee earlier this year, he pledged to be a strong and tenacious advocate for American agriculture.
Today, we ask that you join him in that commitment and fight for the resources that our farmers deserve.