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U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry

12/02/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/02/2020 18:59

Chairman Roberts Begins, Ends Tenure In Same Manner: Listening to Producers

12.02.20

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In his last hearing as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., today held a hearing titled, 'Agricultural Research and Securing the United States Food Supply.'

'During my time in public service, the United States has witnessed one of its greatest untold success stories - federal policies that have fostered a scale and efficiency of the U.S. agriculture system that would have been unimaginable to our predecessors,' Roberts said.

'Agriculture research drives change, efficiencies, and productivity. It is the foundation that supports our modern food system miracle. It is essential considering the growing chaos, hunger, and malnutrition in our world.

'Agricultural research has been a priority in all of the eight farm bills that I have had the privilege to work on.

'In a period of tight budgets and flat-lined discretionary spending, the 2018 Farm Bill, with 87 votes of support, provided an increase of $780 million in mandatory funding for agricultural research over 10 years.

'The Farm Bill also established new authorities and investments to bolster research and scientific understanding related to the security of our food supply.'

To watch the hearing and read testimony, click here.

Click here to watch Chairman Roberts' opening statement. Below are Chairman Roberts' remarks as prepared for delivery.

I call this hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry to order.

Today, I am honored to hold what will probably be my final hearing as Chairman of this Committee.

During the four decades that I have served in Congress, I have been a member of the Agriculture Committees in both the House and the Senate.

Both of the Agriculture Committees regularly work in a truly bipartisan effort to develop policies that best serve the diverse and dedicated industry that is American agriculture.

When I assumed the gavel nearly six years ago, I made it a priority that this committee would be a platform for America's farmers, ranchers, small businesses, rural communities, school children, and the hungry.

Over 80 hearings and meetings later, I believe this Committee has done exactly that.

We have deliberated on a variety of issues that directly impact our constituents, including farm and nutrition programs, trade policy, rural economic development, and conservation practices, just to name a few.

With all of the challenges - and opportunities - that our agricultural producers face, it is fitting that the topic of this hearing is 'Agricultural Research and Securing the United States Food Supply.'

During my time in public service, the United States has witnessed one of its greatest untold success stories - federal policies that have fostered a scale and efficiency of the U.S. agriculture system that would have been unimaginable to our predecessors.

Agriculture research drives change, efficiencies, and productivity. It is the foundation that supports our modern food system miracle. It is essential considering the growing chaos, hunger, and malnutrition in our world.

Since the establishment of the land-grant university system in 1862, the country has valued and prioritized agricultural innovation.

Kansas State University, the first land-grant institution created under that Act, is no exception.

Needless to say, I am so proud of our policy record on behalf of American agriculture.

We have provided certainty and predictability by transitioning to a market-oriented farm policy. We have also fostered continuous improvement in research, science, and new technologies such as biotechnology.

In Fiscal Year 1981, when I began my service in the House, $1.4 billion in public funding was provided for U.S. agriculture research. By 2015, that annual investment more than tripled to more than $4.5 billion.

Even more impressive, private sector investment in food and agriculture research rose over 660 percent over that same period- from $1.6 billion to more than $12 billion per year.

Given the benefits this research has delivered to both urban and rural constituencies, every member of Congress should appreciate the wisdom of continuing to build on the strong foundation of agricultural research in the United States.

This has been quite a year for American agriculture and certainly so for American consumers. Perhaps for the first time since the Great Depression, the significance of food security has resonated throughout the entire agriculture and food value chain, impacting nearly every kitchen table around the country and the world.

We continue to learn hard and much-needed lessons about safety and security as we persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For years, there have been research efforts devoted to the threat of animal and plant disease.

We have taken significant and important steps in agricultural security, especially as it relates to animal disease preparedness.

We have worked to meet these challenges by identifying vulnerabilities and enacting policies that allow the agriculture and food sector to be better prepared and more secure.

There is still a great deal to do. We must take a fresh look at what agricultural security means in terms of the defense of the agriculture sector and our food supply.

This begins with continued support for agricultural research.

Agricultural research has been a priority in all of the eight farm bills that I have had the privilege to work on.

In a period of tight budgets and flat-lined discretionary spending, the 2018 Farm Bill, with 87 votes of support, provided an increase of $780 million in mandatory funding for agricultural research over 10 years.

The Farm Bill also established new authorities and investments to bolster research and scientific understanding related to the security of our food supply.

Authorities like the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA) allow the Department to carry out advanced research and to develop cutting-edge technologies and research tools.

It is vital that we have the necessary authorities, capabilities, and scientific understanding of zoonotic diseases-such as COVID-19-to prevent and combat these diseases, protect the food production and supply chain, and meet the nutrition needs of a growing and ever-changing population.

There is no doubt we are in a better place today because those who came before us recognized the need for research and innovation in agriculture.

I look forward to hearing from our panel about what these past efforts have meant, and more importantly, where we should we go from here.

With that, I recognize Senator Stabenow for her remarks.

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Press Contact

Meghan Cline