05.21.19

Chairman Roberts Hears Variety of Perspectives on Agriculture’s Role in Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held a hearing titled, “Climate Change and the Agriculture Sector.”

“Maintaining the health of our planet for future generations is, of course, of paramount importance,” said Chairman Roberts. “So is feeding the billions of people that populate the Earth today and in the years ahead.”

“It is important to note there has been no single silver-bullet solution that has brought about the advancements the U.S. agriculture sector has made in recent decades to improve environmental sustainability. Rather than a silver bullet, it is like a recipe that includes many ingredients—biotechnology; precision agriculture; voluntary conservation practices such as no-till farming; veterinary care; livestock nutrition; and genetics —all of which help U.S. producers improve environmental sustainability.”

“Obviously, climate change is a complex and global issue. We must be thoughtful, informed and deliberate in considering potential responses and consequences.”

To watch the hearing and read testimony, click here.

Click here to watch Chairman Roberts’ opening statement. Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I call this hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry to order.

Today we will hear from a knowledgeable panel on “Climate Change and the Agriculture Sector.”

Maintaining the health of our planet for future generations is, of course, of paramount importance. So is feeding the billions of people that populate the Earth today and in the years ahead.

These topics and how they interact is complex, and we are pleased to have this discussion at the Agriculture Committee, whose constituency plays an important role in meeting these challenges.

American farmers and ranchers are continually learning and evolving in order to improve agricultural production efficiencies, conserve natural resources, increase resiliency to Mother Nature, and to maintain a profitable business.

Today, obviously farmers do not produce food in the same manner as previous generations did. Over time, advancements in science and technology have provided farmers the ability to produce more food, feed, and fiber while using less inputs and resources. 

Farming practices from a generation ago were not sustainable to produce food at the scope and scale needed to feed today’s growing and hungry population around the globe.

The U.S. agriculture sector should be proud of the accomplishments that have been made through voluntary efforts to address environmental sustainability. I’ll say that again – voluntary efforts – including efforts for which they are not compensated.

It is important to note there has been no single silver-bullet solution that has brought about the advancements the U.S. agriculture sector has made in recent decades to improve environmental sustainability.

Instead, advancements have been made due to the adoption of a range of technologies and practices, and realizing efficiencies.

When combined, all of those separate parts tell a much greater story that demonstrates how American farmers are able to increase productivity, while at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize the impact on the environment. I wish everyone could understand this.    

Rather than a silver bullet, it is like a recipe that includes many ingredients—biotechnology; precision agriculture; voluntary conservation practices such as no-till farming; veterinary care; livestock nutrition; and genetics —all of which help U.S. producers improve environmental sustainability.

Importantly, these efforts have been self-initiated and largely self-funded by American farmers and ranchers.

Obviously, climate change is a complex and global issue. We must be thoughtful, informed and deliberate in considering potential responses and consequences.

If farmers are hindered from utilizing existing technologies and research, or if unsound regulatory decisions are made today on emerging technologies, such as genome editing, we can expect an economic result that is at the least more costly and at worst unsustainable for our farmers and ranchers.

The reality is that the agriculture and food value chain is complex. It is made of growers, input suppliers, processors, handlers, and consumers. And, it is impacted by production cycles that can span several years, weather, disease, perishability, and other factors beyond human control.

Agriculture is an open system, and we must understand and ensure that American family farms must stay in business. 

Alternatively, a likely result includes food and fiber production being shifted to countries that do not have the same conservation-minded producers that we have here in the U.S.—countries that are unable to produce food at the scale of U.S. farmers. 

I believe agriculture, and American farmers and ranchers who live by the concept of continuous improvement and voluntary-based conservation, can be a model for other industries and other countries on how to address problems like changes in the climate in a practical, and localized, and individual way.

I look forward to hearing from the panel on producer perspectives of global climate change, and the responses that have been already underway in the agriculture sector to address this challenge. It should be a good learning opportunity.

With that, I recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.

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