Chairman Bishop Statement at the USDA Rural Development Mission Area Hearing

2021-05-06 14:05

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 Rural Development Mission Area.

Good afternoon and welcome to today’s hearing on USDA’s Rural Development Mission Area.        

Testifying before the subcommittee today is Justin Maxson, the Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Congratulations on your new role as Deputy Undersecretary.  Mr. Maxson comes from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and has spent virtually his entire career assisting rural America in addressing poverty and economic and racial injustice. 

With Mr. Maxson today are the current leaders of the Rural Development agencies:  Dr. Karama Neal, Administrator of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service; Mr. Chad Parker, Acting Administrator of the Rural Housing Service; and Mr. Christopher McLean, Acting Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service.  Thank you for spending the afternoon with us.          

With approximately 20 percent of our nation living in rural areas, rural communities are integral to our nation’s economy, history, and identity.  There are too many rural communities experiencing struggling economies, deteriorating and limited access to health care, and inadequate infrastructure.  These obstacles hinder growth and, unfortunately, are not broadly understood across the country.              

As you may be aware, I am a strong supporter of Rural Development programs and I believe we can do more for rural areas to provide prospects for residents to live healthy lives filled with opportunity. 

Rural Development agencies cast a wide net with their many programs designed at improving the economy and quality of life in rural America.  These programs help create jobs, promote economic development, assist in improving critical infrastructure and provide essential services to rural populations. 

Of great interest to the subcommittee is how the Department sees its role in continuing broadband expansion.  The challenges of inadequate broadband were made clear during the pandemic as millions without adequate access to broadband lost out on the educational and healthcare services broadband can bring.  I was especially touched by the story about the Navajo grandfather and granddaughter in Mr. Maxson’s written testimony, which shows the incredible power of broadband to change lives.

We will also likely discuss the Department’s request for an additional $400 million to give rural electric providers financial flexibility and your plans for the funding that Rural Development received in the American Rescue Plan. 

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on what we can do to improve rural America during this challenging time.  Given your previous work in these communities and the suite of programs at now your disposal, I look forward to hearing how you intend to use those programs to advance opportunity in rural America. 

As you can imagine, there is a lot to discuss today. I again want to thank our witnesses for being with us and I look forward to our discussion.

117th Congress