Ranking Member Boozman's Opening Statement at Hearing to Review Trade and Horticulture Titles of the Farm Bill


Date: Feb. 1, 2023
Location: Washington, DC

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: Trade and Horticulture."

Good morning. Let me start by welcoming the 21 returning members of our committee. I am grateful that you have chosen to continue to serve on this committee. It is an important moment for U.S. agriculture, and I believe that together we will be able to craft the policies needed to maintain the world's safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply, while protecting the land, water, air, wildlife and rural communities that we all care about.

Additionally, I would like to welcome our two new members, Senators Peter Welch and John Fetterman, to the ag committee. I had the pleasure of working with Senator Welch when we both were in the House, and I look forward to continuing our work here. Senator Fetterman is the 11th member from Pennsylvania to serve on this committee since its founding in 1825. I look forward to his contributions and to our work together in the future.

Chairwoman Stabenow recently surprised us all with her announcement that the 118th Congress would be her last in the Senate. Leading this committee and serving as the third highest member of Democratic leadership, Senator Stabenow has climbed her way up the ladder to serve not only the people of Michigan, but the many Americans who have benefited from the policies and programs she has championed. I have no doubt that over the next two years, the chairwoman will continue to pursue her goals as determined as ever, and I know that determination will be key to passing the next farm bill, which brings us to today's hearing.

Madam Chairwoman, thank you for convening today's hearing, which builds on our work from last year, and kicks off our most important task for the 118th Congress--drafting and passing a farm bill.

As we begin to create the next farm bill, it is important to understand the environment in which we find ourselves. In December, the year-over-year consumer price index settled at 6.5%. The annual average inflation in 2022 was 8%--the highest in more than four decades. Inflation is hammering the country and is not yielding any time soon. In the farm sector, this was seen in record-high production expenses including fertilizer, fuel, labor, land, taxes, interest and feed costs among others. The only saving grace for many farmers was relatively high commodity prices--and backing those higher prices was a surge in agricultural exports. During this last fiscal year, U.S. agricultural exports increased by 14% to a record of nearly $200 billion.

While headwinds on trade are beginning to develop, it's important to have a focused and proactive trade agenda to support farm and rural economies. The farm bill contains several programs intended to assist with trade promotion activities, including the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program. I look forward to reviewing the effectiveness of these programs and ensuring our investment matches each program's need.

Trade only works if trading partners live up to the agreements they sign. When they don't, they must be held accountable. I am pleased that one of the first official acts of Ambassador Doug McKalip and Under Secretary Alexis Taylor, was to travel to Mexico and appropriately confront its government for proposing to ban imports of U.S. biotech corn, a significant departure from science-based trade policy. As many countries around the world advance anti-farmer and anti-production policies, the U.S. must actively promote and defend science-based technologies to help America's farmers and ranchers continue to feed, fuel and clothe the world. Global food security will only improve if we embrace scientific advancements that allow for more productive, and sustainable agricultural production.

Today, more than one in ten people around the world, around 828 million people, will go to bed hungry. Beyond that, nearly 350 million people face acute food insecurity, which is more than double the number in 2019. Amidst man-made conflict, economic shocks, high supply chain costs and the resulting food price increases, we are seeing food being taken from the hungry to give to the starving. During my travels to East Africa last fall, I saw the impact firsthand of conflict in the Horn of Africa, which leads many to seek refuge in Kenya and other surrounding countries. However, the unrelenting drought in this region means all countries face a significant food shortage, and U.S. commodities provide a vital support in fighting hunger.

The U.S. has consistently been a leader in delivering food assistance around the world, beginning with the efforts following World War II. Our emergency and nonemergency programs continue today, and many are authorized under the farm bill. Americans should take great pride in the Food for Peace, Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole programs. These programs not only have saved and transformed lives in some of the world's most desperate situations, they have also created tremendous goodwill towards the U.S. in recipient countries.

Today's hearing will help flesh out some of the most consequential aspects of U.S. agricultural and food security policy. I thank our witnesses for joining us today and look forward to hearing your testimony.

Again, I thank the chairwoman for calling this morning's hearing.