Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on 2014 Farm Bill Implementation with USDA Secretary Vilsack

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at today’s hearing entitled “The Agricultural Act of 2014 – Implementation after One Year and Farm Credit Administration Nominees.” The hearing featured three panels, including testimony from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Michael DeRuiter, a third-generation fruit grower from Hart, Michigan. 

Stabenow’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.

Thank you Chairman Roberts for that kind introduction. 

Let me first say congratulations on becoming the first person to Chair both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees. You are champion for the farmers and ranchers of Kansas and they are lucky to have you sitting in that seat.

We started our official partnership on this Committee four years ago with visits to East Lansing, Michigan and Wichita, Kansas - and I am proud that we have a long history of working together for the sake of our nation’s farmers and ranchers – as well as our school children and families.

The 2014 Farm Bill was a triumph of bipartisan collaboration – an effort that was only successful due to the strength of an amazingly diverse coalition of farmers, families, ranchers, and researchers, in fact all Americans who value food and respect those who produce it.

I hope we find more opportunities to work in a collegial, bipartisan manner as we consider the important business before the Committee this session Mr. Chairman.

I would like to thank today’s witnesses for attending this important hearing.

Also, thank you to Secretary Vilsack and your excellent staff at USDA for your work implementing this Farm Bill.

Last week at home in Michigan, I met again with farmers and conservationists – along with local leaders and small business owners – who are all working together through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

This new, innovative program was part of the 2014 Farm Bill. It uses diverse public-private partnerships to help ensure that farmers have the tools they need to improve productivity in the field, while conserving our water, soil, and wildlife habitats.

RCPP exemplifies the strength and diversity of this Farm Bill.

As we know, the Farm Bill is more than just agriculture policy – it’s a food policy, it’s conservation policy, it’s energy policy, and above all - it’s all about jobs.

And we did it while cutting $23 billion, eliminating duplication, and consolidating more than 100 programs.

Let me repeat that, we were the only committee to voluntarily cut our own budget more than sequestration.

So as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I intend to make it clear that Agriculture already "gave at the office" when the Committee is talking about reconciliation.

This point was underscored yesterday in a letter from farm, nutrition, conservation groups, and others representing our Farm Bill coalition opposing any attempt to reopen the farm bill and make further cuts through the budget process.

The certainty of a five year Farm bill should not be under-estimated for farmers, families, and rural communities all across America.

And a new Congress brings new opportunities for this Committee.

Child nutrition programs have a long history of bipartisan support. This year we have a chance to move forward together to reauthorize child nutrition programs and ensure that every child in rural and urban communities has nutritious meals throughout the year – so that they are fit to serve and fit to succeed.

We have an opportunity to reauthorize the Commodity Exchange Act and consider measures that would strengthen customer protections and maintain fair, transparent markets for farmers, ranchers, and commercial manufacturers.

And we have a historic opportunity to help our nation’s producers and equipment manufacturers by opening new markets in Cuba.

I look forward to working with all of you in the same bipartisan spirit as we always have.  

Together, we can continue to set the example for getting things done.

Thank you, Chairman Roberts.