WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the hearing entitled “Farm Bill 2023: Research Programs.”
Good morning, and thank you Madam Chair.
I would like to also thank our witnesses for taking the time to join us today. Whether you’re visiting us from the farm, from campus or from the Whitten Building, you provide an important perspective on how the farm bill enhances agricultural research. And for that, we are grateful.
Last month, the world population reached eight billion people. And according to most projections, we will add our next billion in less than 15 years. Our growing population will need access to affordable and high-quality grains, oils, and proteins and the American farmer is well-positioned to meet this demand due to our continued investments in our academic institutions and agricultural research.
As we begin drafting the new farm bill, our priorities must take into consideration what is happening on the international stage. The world has been teetering on the brink of a massive food crisis for some time now. The Russian conflict in Ukraine, two grain exporting countries whose products feed some of the most vulnerable people in the world, has added fuel to that fire. The misguided government policies by some global leaders are only making matters worse.
What happened in Sri Lanka is a perfect example. Sri Lanka was self-sufficient for most dietary staples, until its leadership instituted a ban on synthetic fertilizer and mandated an organics-only approach. A third of Sri Lanka’s farmable land went fallow, food prices soared and a man-made hunger crisis was created as a result.
While Sri Lanka’s plight was largely brought about by its own leadership’s shortsighted decisions, it is important that we learn the right lessons from that catastrophe. This is what makes the research title of the farm bill so important.
Innovation is the answer to the challenge of feeding our growing population, as well as giving our farmers and ranchers the ability to help meet the needs of an ever-changing global dynamic.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service, U.S. farmers produce three times as much agricultural output today as they did in 1950, while total inputs have remained virtually unchanged. It’s our job to continue these advancements by providing the American agricultural research enterprise with the resources and infrastructure to do it.
The farm bill is the most important and consistent opportunity to invest in agricultural research and extension. From programs that build capacity at our nation’s land-grant institutions to world renowned competitive grant programs such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative— this important title of the farm bill provides a broad array of authority and investment in agricultural research.
Congress first recognized the need for agricultural research in 1862 and 1890 with the passage of the First and Second Morrill Act—at the time, a novel concept to further agricultural research, extension and education. In fact, each of our witnesses today, as well as both myself and the chairwoman, are products of distinguished land-grant institutions.
The success of the land-grant system is a major priority. In my view, this federal, state and local partnership is the most capable vehicle to conduct and deliver research outcomes to farmers, ranchers and consumers. The value of the land-grant system cannot be overstated – and I look forward to working together to strengthen this system in the next farm bill.
Additionally, it is my goal to deliver a farm bill that provides focus and clarity to USDA’s research enterprise. American agriculture is best served when we target our efforts and have focused, well-funded, and flexible research programs that can have widespread impact and find broad stakeholder support.
Again, I would like to thank each of the witnesses for their testimony today. And I thank the chairwoman for continuing our preparations for the next farm bill with today’s hearing.