Chair Bishop's Statement at the USDA Research, Education and Economics Mission Area Hearing
Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on USDA Research, Education and Economics Mission Area.
Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on USDA’s research, education, and economics programs. As you know, the best decisions are those based in sound science, so I am delighted to have our agricultural experts here with us today.
Testifying before the subcommittee today is Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Thank you for being here today.
With Dr. Jacobs-Young today are the current leaders of the Research, Education, and Economics agencies:
- Dr. Simon Liu, Acting Administrator for the Agricultural Research Service;
- Dr. Spiro Stefanou, Administrator for the Economic Research Service;
- Mr. Hubert Hamer, Administrator for the National Agricultural Statistics Service; and
- Dr. Carrie Castille, Director for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Thank you for spending the morning with us.
Collectively, the agencies under your purview account for $3.4 billion in discretionary appropriations. The science-based solutions, groundbreaking research, and useful data you provide are invaluable for farmers to accelerate productivity and sustainability of crops, for ranchers to efficiently manage livestock, and for consumers to make informed choices about these products that are so essential to our daily lives.
Whether it’s the Economic Research Service (ERS) issuing reports on the state of the rural economy, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) publishing the latest acreage report, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supporting research at the nation’s land grant institutions, or the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) publishing research to enhance the production of pecans, your agencies truly touch the lives of every American.
COVID-19 has placed great strain on the ability of your agencies to conduct business as usual, but the importance of your work has never been more apparent, as the products of your efforts support so many other USDA programs. I look forward to discussing the work that your agencies do, and how you have adapted to meet the crisis at hand.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is not the only challenge that has been placed in your way. It’s worth mentioning that the staffing issues that have resulted from the move of ERS and NIFA are an ongoing concern for the Subcommittee. I am interested in understanding how you plan to build these agencies back from the brink and how to further strengthen the work each of you conducts.
The recently released budget request preview includes a total increase of $647 million for your agencies. That’s nearly a 20 percent increase. As I’m sure each of you are well aware, the benefits from increases to research programs may take years to fully realize. I wish we could snap our fingers and get rid of the whitefly problem in Georgia, but I recognize that tackling the issue is not just about the funding. It’s about coordinating responses among multiple partners, targeting shared research goals that take a while to agree on, and implementing and sharing results to ensure that the folks on the ground have the right tools to solve their most pressing challenges. These strategic and coordinated efforts are not unique to the pest management issues we face in Georgia; they are repeated every day through the various research programs, data collection efforts, and economic analyses your agencies perform. Our nation relies on your data to make better decisions for our food and fiber systems.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the challenges that your agencies face, the successes you have had in these trying times, and the plans to best position your agencies to be successful in the future. I want to thank each of you for being with us today and I look forward to our discussion.