Chairman Roberts to Alabama Farmers: ‘I’m a Chairman for All of Agriculture.’
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, joined fellow Committee member Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., in meeting with over 100 Alabama farmers to discuss Farm Bill priorities for Southern producers.
Following a visit to the Gaines cotton and peanut farm in Autaugaville, Ala., Sens. Roberts and Strange held a Farm Bill listening session at the Alabama Farmers Federation headquarters, which included farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders who use a variety of Farm Bill programs, as well as land grant institutions that conduct agricultural research.
Roberts and Strange recently signed a bipartisan letter sent to President Trump requesting the continuation of the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program, which Alabama cotton farmers expressed strong support.
Chairman Roberts has held six Committee hearings in preparation for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization, allowing lawmakers to hear directly from farmers and ranchers from across the country. Beginning in Kansas, Chairman Roberts has traveled to Michigan, Montana, and Alabama, to listen to farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders’ input for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.
Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Good afternoon. It is great to be with you all today.
I’m especially glad to have Senator Strange join the Ag Committee this Congress. He has demonstrated an eagerness to learn about the issues. His common sense, thoughtful, and solutions-focused approach is a valuable addition to the Committee.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, my main task is to work with its members on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and other rural stakeholders across the country, towards a farm bill that works for all crops, in all regions of the country.
As you know so well, the agriculture industry is not like any other industry. We all rely on a safe, reliable, and affordable food supply, but consumers sometimes forget the hard work that goes into the production of this food.
The work is constant and the outcomes are unpredictable. Producers expect the unexpected, whether that is unpredictable weather, fires, floods, or any other natural disaster that impacts agriculture.
This year, in Kansas, we were hit with the largest wildfire in state history in the southwest part of the state, followed by a late-spring blizzard in western Kansas.
And I know that Alabama has faced its share of challenges with Mother Nature, most notably the impacts of Tropical Storm Cindy late last month. In other areas across the country, we are seeing states that were dealing with drought in recent years, now facing devastating floods.
Producers are not only at the mercy of the weather, but they also face challenges with burdensome regulations that affect methods of production and the cost of doing business.
After eight years of wondering what costly government mandate would be required next, it is nice to have an Administration that is fighting back against over-regulation.
At EPA, the President issued an Executive Order directing EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw or rescind the controversial Waters of the United States final rule – or WOTUS.
At USDA, Secretary Perdue has hit the ground running. It has been nearly three months since the Senate confirmed him, and he has demonstrated a strong understanding of the issues facing agriculture and rural America, and I am confident he will continue to put producers, food manufacturers, and the communities in which they live, first.
The Secretary has moved rapidly to elevate the importance of trade. He is moving forward with the creation of the Trade Under Secretary position, which was called for in the last Farm Bill.
At a time when the agriculture economy is in a rough patch and commodity prices have been falling, farmers and ranchers depend on trade more than ever. We need continued focus on expanding market access through negotiated agreements, starting with Japan and other Trans Pacific Partnership countries, and enforcement of existing trade agreements and laws.
Going into this Farm Bill, we are facing tough times. All of agriculture is struggling, not just one or two commodities. During the last Farm Bill debate, the sector enjoyed high prices. Now, we face multiple years of low prices. We need to put together a bill that considers the needs of all producers from across the country.
Passing a Farm Bill in this environment is going to be a tough task. We need bold thinking and new ideas to address the diverse needs of the agriculture industry.
We are going to have to be judicious with scarce resources. We must ensure programs accomplish their fundamental purposes. We must ask tough questions and reexamine programs to determine their effectiveness.
I especially look forward to working with Senator Strange on the Farm Bill, and the important leadership he can provide in those discussions.
Now, you probably recall that the 2014 Farm Bill underwent a significant reform and a substantial overhaul of programs.
Across all titles of the Farm Bill – whether it be the commodity, conservation, or crop insurance title – there was a concerted effort by Congress to consolidate and streamline USDA programs in light of budgetary constraints.
The intent was to make USDA programs more defensible, while also providing greater program flexibility and improving program performance and delivery.
In February, we held the first Senate farm bill field hearing in Manhattan, Kansas. We’ve traveled to listen to growers in Michigan. I’ve also met with farmers and ranchers in Montana. And, I’m excited to hear a Southern perspective from y’all today.
Back in Washington, we’ve been reviewing the programs to see what is working and what needs improvements.
Just this past week, the Ag Committee held our sixth Farm Bill hearing. It focused on specialty crops and trade programs. We’ve also examined the research title, the conservation and forestry programs, and taken a broad look at the challenges facing the agriculture economy. I’m pleased to say that we’ve had several representatives from Alabama participate in the hearing process as witnesses.
We will continue to listen to farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead.
We have our work cut out for us, but together we can get it done, just as we’ve found bipartisan agreement before—preemption of biotechnology labeling, a child nutrition bill in the Ag Committee, and confirming Secretary Perdue.
In addition to the Farm Bill efforts, the Agriculture Committee will move nominations as quickly as we receive them. It’s nice to have Secretary Perdue in place, but we need to get him some support over there at the Department.
And, we need to get Commissioners confirmed to ensure that the CFTC is able to fully function.
It is refreshing to have a president who shares many of our overall goals. And, he needs men and women on his team to help ease your regulatory burdens and implement the changes in policy.
As we debate these issues, do not hesitate to contact Congress with your thoughts and concerns. You have a great voice in Washington with Senator Strange, and I know that we will be working together to find solutions.
Again, it is great to be with you today. Thank you.
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