09.15.21

Ranking Member Boozman’s Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on Milk Pricing

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Local Food Systems, and Food Safety and Security hearing entitled “Milk Pricing: Areas of Improvement and Reform”:

Thank you Madam Chair.

I too would like to thank our witnesses for being here today, in person and virtually. The time you are spending away from your duties on the farm and from your work is not lost on us.

We greatly appreciate your expertise and your willingness to guide us as we do our very best to serve you and American agriculture.

Over the August recess, I had the pleasure of visiting Helms Dairy in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

This fifth-generation farm – which has survived two world wars, major depressions in the farm economy and steadily declining consumption of fluid milk and dairy products – is one of the remaining 40 dairies in Arkansas.

As Sen. Hyde-Smith shared, the number of dairy farms has steadily declined in many southern states.

I am deeply concerned about this decline and look forward to examining this trend and ways to reverse it.

While dairy policy may be a part of that conversation, the items I hear about the most from dairy farmers – and all farmers – are concerns about higher taxes, higher input costs and increasing regulation.

And rising to each of those concerns is the reckless tax and spend legislation that the Democrat leadership is getting ready to force through Congress.

In the last 40 years, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee has received budget reconciliation instructions 15 times.

Between 1980 and this year, five committee chairs from both parties provided the leadership to ensure that there was some level of bipartisan input into the reconciliation process, whether that was a committee hearing, an open markup of the legislation, the bipartisan service of agriculture committee members on a conference committee, or legislation that was passed with the bipartisan votes of senators from both parties.

Consideration of the agriculture provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 was the first time in more than 40 years that this bipartisan committee tradition was not upheld.

No hearings were held to listen to the needs of farmers and ranchers. No business meeting was held to afford committee Republicans or Democrats input into drafting the bill.

Democrats did not convene a conference committee to consider any changes and the final bill passed Congress by a party-line vote.

I am deeply concerned that Democrats are choosing to go down this road once again.

Without input from the agricultural community and without the input of senators on this committee, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are preparing a $3.5 trillion tax and spend bill that better reflects White House priorities rather than those of the agricultural community.

Democrats have been saying for months that this legislation will spend billions of dollars on conservation programs.

Yet, earlier this week the House Agriculture Committee approved an incomplete bill that included no conservation program spending.

Apparently $28 billion worth of conservation and other spending will be added later, perhaps on the House floor.

The bill did however identify something called the Civilian Climate Corps, which I think is better described as the climate police.

We have no information on what the climate police may be, what its purpose is, how it will work, why it is needed, or any other answers to the most fundamental questions American taxpayers expect this body to know and deliberate on before spending trillions of dollars.

We do know that President Biden’s so called “American Jobs Plan” proposes mobilizing the next generation of resilience workers to advance environmental justice.

We also know that in this bill, Democrats are directing the climate police to operate on federal forests and private land. That’s the last thing farmers and ranchers need.

The part that concerns me the most is the impact this partisan process will have on consideration of the next farm bill.

Despite its high final vote tallies, passing the 2018 Farm Bill was no simple task. It took moderation on both sides and months of thoughtful deliberation to craft legislation that demonstrated wins for all.

By choosing this approach, Democrats are shattering the farm bill process and putting our farmers’ futures in jeopardy.

Throughout this process, I, and my Republican colleagues on this committee, will do everything in our power to defend American agriculture from the Democrats’ reckless tax and spending agenda.

Thank you, Madam Chair.