Ranking Member Boozman’s Remarks at the “Sustainable Solutions for Zero Hunger by 2030: A Vision for Animal Agriculture” Forum

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following remarks, as prepared, delivered at the “Sustainable Solutions for Zero Hunger by 2030: A Vision for Animal Agriculture” forum:

“Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to join today's event. The theme of this event-- Sustainable Solutions for Zero Hunger-- recognizes what I consider to be a critical component of the discussions on agriculture and climate change: that agricultural sustainability must be promoted while simultaneously ensuring food security.

There are a variety of emerging and novel roles for agriculture to play in addressing climate change, which are generating a lot of buzz in Washington and interest from the agriculture community.

While these new opportunities hold promise, our efforts to foster positive change in our food system to mitigate the impacts of climate change must also ensure that we maintain yields and profitability for farmers and affordability for consumers.

I recently visited farms in Arkansas where producers are serving as pioneers--navigating these new opportunities to determine the long-term viability of incorporating climate-oriented practices in their operations.

While these producers are ever-optimistic and hopeful that their efforts will pay off, profitability is a necessary and vital consideration.  Any approach that requires farmers and ranchers to take on additional costs and risk, with zero reward, will simply not succeed. 

We cannot expect farmers to offset lost production with unpredictable income streams from emerging and evolving greenhouse gas markets.  And I question the ability of the government to pay for lost production due to aggressive conservation efforts. 

Discovery of new technologies, and support of public policy that continues to promote them, is going to be key to meeting the climate and hunger challenges of the future.

Unfortunately for agriculture, animal agriculture in particular, science and technology is often viewed skeptically. Washington is comfortable talking about increasing our conservation efforts and getting more farmers involved in offset markets.

But ensuring our policies -- both domestically and internationally -- stay rooted in science, safety and proper consideration for risks and benefits, will be critical in securing a future that prioritizes both sustainability and food security.

International bodies, such as CODEX and the UN Food Systems Summit, are coming under increasing pressure from countries urging the precautionary principle and an idyllic view of agriculture. Within our own government, we are seeing resistance to modernizing regulatory approvals for important tools like animal biotechnology.

Forcing radical reforms on U.S. agriculture under the guise of responding to climate change is concerning to me. Animal husbandry practices have evolved to maximize growth of the animal and to reduce the use of the resources required to produce that animal protein, including water, feed, and land.

Reverting our animal production practices to the pastoral scenes of my parent’s time -- an approach advocated by the European Commission -- not only harms the environment, but it also contributes to hunger and increased food costs.

Just this week, House Democrats selected their winners and losers when it comes to climate policy as the agriculture portion of the partisan Reconciliation bill advanced through the House.

Importantly, it advanced through the house with $28 billion, or 30% of the total spending for the agriculture and conservation components, yet to be made public. This legislation was debated without stakeholder input.

More than $66 billion was directed toward research and infrastructure initiatives focusing on urban agriculture, civilian climate corps, organics, specialty crops, tree equity and so on. In what we’ve seen so far, not a single dollar in that $94 billion package was devoted to animal agriculture.

The segment of American agriculture responsible for over half of our country’s farm receipts was left out in the cold entirely. This signals to me that the Administration is not interested in assisting animal agriculture in being more sustainable.

The White House has its own agenda. The president and his allies have little regard for the impact of their decisions on the agriculture community as a whole. The fact that they have refused to consider your voices in the discussion should be very alarming as the decision on where to spend this money, or in this case where not to, will have long-term ramifications on the industry’s future.

If the U.S. intends to continue the evolution of our food system in order to combat climate change head on, then we must be sure our policies don't obstruct or distort the increasingly difficult task of food production for the global population.

If we want to successfully encourage climate change mitigation, farmers and ranchers must have all the tools they will need to utilize in this endeavor.   

This forum today, where you are exploring the concepts of both sustainability and hunger, rather than speaking about each in isolation, is the holistic and wise approach that I feel is necessary to ensure we are achieving meaningful progress.

I thank you for your time and your prioritization of these important issues.”