02.24.15

Chairman Roberts Holds First Senate Ag Hearing; Committee Hears from Farmers and Ranchers First

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held the first hearing of his chairmanship and breaking with tradition, first heard the concerns of farmers and ranchers on the implementation of the Farm Bill followed by the testimony of U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The hearing, titled “The Agricultural Act of 2014 implementation after one year and Farm Credit Administration nominations,” has three panels. For witness info, testimony, and to watch the hearing live, click here.

“Today’s hearing is special,” Chairman Roberts said. “Today, we will conduct our first oversight hearing of the one year old Farm Bill by hearing from farmers first, then the administration. 

“It is my hope that our witnesses will be able to bring forward testimony of their challenges and successes of the new farm bill -- and then the Committee and the Secretary will work to address the challenges raised by our four witnesses and by others who have reached out to our Committee members.

“We thank Secretary Vilsack for his willingness to try something new today. I believe this hearing will send a strong message to America’s farmers and ranchers that their government is listening to them and that we can and will work together on their behalf.

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

As our first order of business it’s only right that we recognize and appreciate our leader of the past four years and the tremendous amount of good work she accomplished during a very difficult time. 

Senator Stabenow is a dedicated and fierce leader of agriculture policy whose tenacity successfully carried a farm bill across the goal line when many believed it wouldn’t get done.  

At times we may have disagreed on certain aspects of the policy, but we always agreed on the importance of providing the stability to America’s producers that only comes with a five year bill. 

As a sign of our appreciation of your service, we present to you the Chairwoman’s gavel (the same gavel you used to keep us all in line). 

Thank you for your service to American agriculture, and I look forward to you riding shotgun as we forge ahead. 

And a well-deserved thank you to our appropriations chairman and my friend Chairman Cochran for leading our side of this Committee over the past two years.  Agriculture is certainly fortunate to have an appropriations chairman with such experience in and knowledge of the challenges facing our producers. Thank you for your friendship and leadership.

I am humbled and honored to serve as your Chairman, the first in modern history to have held the gavel for this illustrious Committee in both the House and Senate. 

The Agriculture Committee has a long history of caring more about the issues than the ideology…more about the people than the party. 

It is in this spirit of service that I will guide our Committee’s work with three principles in mind.

The first is that this Committee will be the platform for America’s farmers, ranchers, small businesses, rural communities, school children, and the hungry to raise their concerns. Too often I hear from my constituents that they feel “ruled” and not “governed.” We will work to ensure that the voices of our constituents are heard by their government.

Second, this Committee will conduct thorough and vigorous oversight of the activities of the departments and agencies within our jurisdiction and those that impact our constituents. It is our responsibility to ensure that our government operates efficiently, effectively and in a responsible manner to the taxpayers.

And finally, this Committee will conduct its legislative business in an open and transparent way that provides our members opportunities to work across the aisle for the betterment of our constituents. 

As we look around this Committee, we see a wealth of experience in former and current chairs of not only our Committee but others in the Senate…as well as a hearty dose of new blood.

I welcome Senator Perdue from Georgia, Senator Ernst from Iowa, Senator Tillis from North Carolina, and Senator Sasse from Nebraska to the Committee. I’ve met with each of them and am excited about the fresh ideas and enthusiasm that they will bring to our work.

We have a great challenge ahead of us in this Congress; but I am confident that with all of your help, we will succeed. 

Today’s hearing is special. Not only are we beginning our work in this new Congress, but we are also going about things a little differently. Today, we will conduct our first oversight hearing of the one year old Farm Bill by hearing from farmers first, then the administration. 

It is my hope that our witnesses will be able to bring forward testimony of their challenges and successes of the new farm bill…and that then we and the Secretary will work to address the challenges raised by our four witnesses and by others who have reached out to our Committee members.

We thank Secretary Vilsack for his willingness to try something new today. I believe this hearing will send a strong message to America’s farmers and ranchers that their government is listening to them and that we can and will work together on their behalf.

Finally, today’s third panel includes two nominees to serve on the board of the Farm Credit Administration. I will have more to say about them and the FCA later, but I welcome Mr. Hall and Mr. Tonsager and their families to the Committee. 

Senator Roberts is an outspoken advocate for America’s farmers and ranchers. He is the first member of congress in modern history to serve as both Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Roberts has also served as the ranking member for each Committee.

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