WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held a hearing titled, “The State of Rural America.”
“Producers in Kansas and all across the country are going through a rough patch in the agricultural economy,” Chairman Roberts said. “Over the past five years, prices for many of our major commodities have dropped by over 40 percent. As a result, net farm income is expected to decline by 52 percent.”
“The ongoing pressure of low commodity prices continues the need for a high volume of sales. Now more than ever, producers need certainty and predictability – and a partner in government that can help steady the ship and right the course.”
“Our producers need a trade policy that looks forward. We must protect and develop our existing markets. And, we need new markets to sell what we grow. It is absolutely critical that the Administration support our effort with trade policies that grow and strengthen markets all around the world.”
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 Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee to order.
This morning, I’d like to welcome Senator Hyde-Smith to the Committee. We are glad to have another farmer and a former State Agriculture Commissioner at the table. We will all benefit from her perspective.
And, we are pleased to welcome Secretary Sonny Perdue. As a matter of fact, today marks a special day for the Secretary. On this day last year, the Secretary was confirmed by the full Senate. Happy one year anniversary, Mr. Secretary.
At the time of your nomination hearing last year, agriculture needed a voice – an advocate, a champion if you will – at the highest levels of government. That is even more so today.
Producers in Kansas and all across the country are going through a rough patch in the agricultural economy. Over the past five years, prices for many of our major commodities have dropped by over 40 percent. As a result, net farm income is expected to decline by 52 percent.
The ongoing pressure of low commodity prices continues the need for a high volume of sales. Now more than ever, producers need certainty and predictability – and a partner in government that can help steady the ship and right the course.
Mr. Secretary, I am very pleased to see that you hit the ground running in year one, and I know you will continue to do so. A lot of your time has been devoted to sitting on the wagon tongue with producers and business owners on your “Back to our Roots” tour across rural America to hear their concerns, and that’s a good thing.
On the regulatory front, this administration has been proactive in reducing unnecessary regulations that hurt producers’ bottom lines. Mr. Secretary, we thank you for that. These reforms decrease unnecessary burdens, reduce costs, and provide certainty to allow producers to maximize their output while producing the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.
And, I know you are working to continue these efforts in the coming months.
Now, I have worked on a few Farm Bills during my time serving on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. In fact, this is number seven. And, each of them has had a unique set of challenges.
This bill must unfortunately do more with less. And, it should ensure programs operate efficiently and effectively and serve their original intended purpose.
Senator Stabenow and I spent well over a year traveling around the United States and holding hearings here in Washington, and what’s apparent is that Farm Bill programs are absolutely critical.
To that end, this Committee is doing its work in a bipartisan manner to make tough choices and to provide producers from all regions and commodities with the certainty and predictability that is needed to be successful. That is our number one issue.
And, Secretary Perdue, thank you for emphasizing the importance of reauthorizing the Farm Bill.
In order for the Farm Bill to reach its full potential, U.S. agriculture must also be a reliable supplier around the world.
This is not a new concept. In the early 1990s, as Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, part of the job was touting the benefits of the brand new North America Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
Every trade agreement I’ve ever been associated with is over criticized and oversold.
But since 1994, when NAFTA went into force, the value of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada has increased by 265 percent, and to Mexico by 289 percent.
It makes sense to take a look at agreements like NAFTA to make sure they are functioning as they should be over two decades later.
It also makes sense to work to hold trading partners like China accountable to their WTO commitments.
But trade actions like those we have seen on steel, aluminum, washing machines, and solar panels also put the U.S. at risk of retaliatory measures that harm jobs, not only to agriculture, but across all sectors.
History has shown us that far too often it is agriculture that bears the brunt of that harm.
I hope that the United States and China can work aggressively to resolve these issues before we enter a full blown trade war.
Our producers need a trade policy that looks forward.
We must protect and develop our existing markets. And, we need new markets to sell what we grow.
It is absolutely critical that the Administration support our effort with trade policies that grow and strengthen markets all around the world.
With that, I recognize my colleague and distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Stabenow, for any remarks.
—U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
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