Chairman Bishop Statement at Hearing on Economic Opportunities for Farmers through Sustainable Agricultural Practices
Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on economic opportunities for farmers through sustainable agricultural practices:
The Subcommittee will come to order.
Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing.
First, I want to recognize our colleagues, Representatives Pingree, McCollum and DeLauro for suggesting this topic. I am delighted we are having this hearing.
Today’s topic is sustainable agriculture. Specifically, the economic opportunities for farmers through such practices.
To be sure, our farmers have known for a long time that implementing simple practices such as crop rotation or no-till can increase both soil health and their bottom lines.
But there is a renewed focus more broadly on sustainability, and rightly so. Farmers, consumers and industry are more conscious than ever about how their actions impact air quality, water quality, soil health, and animal life. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and are increasingly drawn to products produced in a sustainable manner.
That is why I’m very excited about our witnesses and the discussion we are about to have. Agriculture is a leader when it comes to sustainability and conservation and it deserves public recognition for what it has done and is doing in this area.
Moreover, sustainable practices can reduce the impact of natural disasters. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen too often over the last several years, droughts and flooding have cost farmers billions of dollars. Improved sustainability practices can help to reduce those impacts.
This is an exciting time for agriculture. New technology and research allow farmers to make more precise and cost-effective business decisions. They can increase yield while at the same time decreasing waste. I think everyone can agree that that is a win-win! And that is what we want to convey today – agriculture is doing its part.
One of the bigger challenges for farmers is just understanding all the tools that are available to them. We discussed this yesterday with Secretary Perdue, as a matter of fact. I hope we can explore that today here, as well.
Our panel includes Jason Weller, the senior director for the Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN Program. I am pleased to note for some colleagues who have been on the subcommittee as long as I have, that Jason worked for this subcommittee and then went to USDA and ultimately became the Chief of NRCS. Welcome back.
We also have Nate Powell-Palm. Nate is a young farmer from Montana who has taken sustainability to heart and shows what is possible with a little hard work – sorry, let me rephrase that – a lot of hard work!
Finally, Acting Associate Chief Kevin Norton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service is here to fill out the picture of federal resources that can help farmers undertake sustainable practices and to share his years of experience on the ground at NRCS with us.