A growing economy provides opportunity to move more Americans off food stamps
Posted by on December 18, 2019
Houston Chronicle 
By Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and Horace Cooper, co-chairman of the Project 21 Black Leadership Network

The American economy is growing rapidly, unemployment is at historic lows and job opportunities are everywhere. We can all agree it is a terrific time for Americans looking to enter the workforce.

But when the Trump administration recently finalized a rule that simply holds states accountable to the bipartisan 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, commonly known as President Bill Clinton’s signature welfare reform, there was a flurry of outrage and hyperbolic headlines claiming otherwise.

Disingenuous media reports and misrepresentations by many politicians have led many Americans to believe President Donald Trump is taking away critical Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for children and those with debilitating disabilities. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are over 36 million individuals receiving SNAP. Of them, fewer than 3 million are categorized as able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) between the ages of 18-49. This new rule prevents states from seeking unlimited waivers for SNAP eligibility for ABAWDs and instead encourages them to reenter the workforce.

The unemployment rate is at a historic 50-year low of 3.5 percent, yet nearly 75 percent of childless, able-bodied adults receiving SNAP benefits are not working at all. These are the very men and women who should be invited to join a booming economy and not be cast aside simply because it’s easier to offer a monthly SNAP allotment rather than undertake the hard work of helping them transition to independence.

This group of capable adults should be encouraged to seek services through the countless employment and education-related services available through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), community partners and other federal and state government programs. This hand-up is the very core of this rule - to ensure states stop requesting waivers and instead start working with recipients to better their station in life.

Over half of states left federal employment and training dollars on the table in 2018, with some states forfeiting more than $1 million. Many states do not allocate additional funding for child care services, and others provide minimal transportation or related services. It is unconscionable that taxpayer funds are being used to keep people on benefits yet not to help them stand on their own two feet. We are a nation of giving, but we do not live in a world of unlimited resources.

Moving individuals from welfare to work posts a return on investment in the form of reduced government spending, allows a reallocation of resources to the truly needy and results in increased tax revenues. It is also a benefit to employers who are introduced to a new pool of potential workers. As these workers mature in their careers, their potential for new skills, savings and other success increases.

Opponents on the left — in Washington and across America — are fine with the status quo. They like to — on repeat — say this important rule violates the will of Congress. But what they do not say is that they were opposed to a pragmatic policy in the 2018 Farm Bill that not only would have encouraged work through a reduction in waiver abuse but also would have reinvested every dollar saved into the very programs that have successfully educated, trained and assisted these individuals in finding and retaining employment. It is easy to demonize the policy when you didn’t think of it yourself.

Despite the intent of the 1996 law, Clinton and Obama-era regulations created egregious arrangements where states could manipulate data sets to waive large swaths of this able-bodied population from even looking for work - even in times of low unemployment and economic growth. The present administration’s rule is very clear: states should not have the ability to haphazardly distribute waivers to individuals who don’t need them.

The media’s rhetoric will have you believe that state flexibility to request waivers has been annihilated. Facts win again because states maintain every right to provide waivers to areas experiencing high unemployment, ensuring that those who don’t have access to jobs will not be punished because of circumstances outside their control.

We must stop choosing a world where success is measured by the number of individuals receiving aid, but rather define progress by how many use the services and support provided to build a better life for themselves and their families.
f t # e
Closing the Gap Between Welfare and Work
Posted by on June 20, 2019
Florida Daily
By Rep.Ted Yoho (FL-3), member of the House Agriculture Committee

Recently, there have been a variety of stories in the news reflecting extensive fraud and abuse of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). In New Jersey alone, a grocery store employee admitted he took part in a $1.9 million SNAP fraud scheme, and separately, a couple admitted to exchanging over $4.5 million in SNAP benefits for cash across a period of four years. In Massachusetts, an individual used 75 different Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to buy over $250,000 in food for his wife’s restaurant.

Unfortunately, Democrats and their pro-status quo advocacy allies have tried to convince Americans that SNAP fraud is an insignificant problem. Here in Jacksonville, however, more than 200 individuals were identified as taking part in food stamp fraud in just six short months, many of whom were able-bodied adults. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that showed instances of benefit trafficking range from $960 million to $4.7 billion per year, which would make it over 7 percent of total SNAP spending – spending that has exceeded $60 billion annually over the past nine years.

While retailer and individual fraud and abuse are certainly problematic, these issues do not end at that level. One of the most flagrant and concerning abuses of this vital program occurs at the state level, where states manipulate data to waive large groups of individuals from the requirement to work, train, or volunteer.

Currently, more than one-third of the country has these waivers in place. Fortunately, this abuse is not seen in Florida as our state does not use waivers. But states like California have successfully waived 55 out of 58 counties using old data and gerrymandered regions. This is especially concerning because in 2014 California had 49 out of 58 counties with an unemployment rate over 6 percent, yet today there are only 28 counties in the state with an unemployment rate above 6 percent. With the U.S. unemployment rate at a historic low, this type of waiver exploitation by states must end. In fact, the Trump administration recently proposed to reign in exploited regulatory language that has long waived the time limit – and subsequently the work requirement – for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) receiving SNAP benefits. The underlying law regarding ABAWD waivers is vague and has resulted in past administrations improperly exploiting the associated regulations.

This administration’s regulatory proposal prevents states from manipulating data and gerrymandering regions – practices states have come to know through leftist advocacy groups who pride themselves on a more robust welfare state. The proposal is simple: it modifies how states can seek these waivers, with an emphasis on the booming economy, available jobs, and training opportunities. It also requires states to use more relevant and timely data.

Today, we are seeing historically low unemployment, and jobless claims have dropped to their lowest level since 1969. Coupled with average earnings nearing $28 per hour and over 3.2 million new jobs created, these positive indicators should bring hope for those looking to move from welfare to work. It is high time to stop marginalizing those receiving SNAP by incentivizing work in exchange for benefits from our most capable recipients.

Democrats have tried to convince Americans that certain populations are incapable of work. However, in practice, three states that established mandatory minimum work requirements for ABAWDs – Florida, Maine, and Alabama – saw their ABAWD SNAP enrollment decrease by 94 percent, 90 percent and 85 percent respectively. Instead of stigmatizing the work capability of individuals who fall under the ABAWD category as the Democrats are doing, we should recognize work as an American value that we need to help all achieve. And by moving forward with the administration’s proposal we are that much closer to closing the gap between welfare and work, ultimately moving people into a vibrant middle class who are capable of reaching their American Dream. And I for one will not stop working to expose SNAP fraud; I want to ensure this program’s integrity is protected because I know from personal experience that this program is a vital lifeline to our most vulnerable friends and neighbors. 
f t # e
Clear Water Rule means relief for farmers, ranchers
Posted by on December 18, 2018
The Hill
By Rep. Mike Conaway (TX-11) and Zippy Duvall, president American Farm Bureau Federation

In 2015 the Obama administration created a “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule that was so broad and vague that almost any spot where rainwater flows or pools might be tagged as a federally protected body of water. With the stroke of a pen, farmers and ranchers across the heartland suddenly did not know if state or federal law applied to their lands and what their compliance obligations would be. Like many of our stakeholders and constituents, we immediately saw the enormous consequences of this egregious regulatory overreach.

The Clean Water Act is a flagship statute—and like many laws, it works best when its requirements are clear. This law carries penalties north of $50,000 for any activity that puts any “pollutant”—including dirt—into any regulated water. It certainly seems fair to let the people who make a living on the land know where those regulated waters are, especially when civil and criminal penalties come into play. What’s more, by telling people where the federally regulated waters are, we give them the information they need to comply with the law.

That’s why we’re pleased that the new Clean Water Rule proposed last week by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers will have a new hallmark: clean water and clear rules.

Based on what we see in the proposal, the new rule will do a better job of explaining which waters are regulated. It is broad enough to be very protective. It draws a clear enough line to provide fair notice. And it focuses mostly on things that look like water—not regulating land. No law or regulation is ever perfect, but we applaud the EPA and the Corps of Engineers for their diligence in putting forth a reasonable, common-sense proposal to protect our nation’s waters.

The new Clean Water Rule empowers land owners with the clarity they need to comply with the Clean Water Act. Now, farmers, ranchers, and other small business owners will be able to look at their land and know—without a team of scientists and attorneys—which parts of their land are regulated by the Clean Water Act.

For many rural Americans, land and water are the most valuable assets. Their farms, ranches, and communities are typically dependent on surface water sources, like streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, not only for their operations, but also to care for their own families. They are deeply aware of the value of clean water as a resource; their livelihood and lives depend on being able to preserve and protect it.

Farmers and ranchers are committed to constantly improving their environmental stewardship. They embrace both traditional and new conservation practices, such as planting cover crops to soak up nutrients and protect the water and soil, because they care about clean water and all our natural resources. But under previous proposals, even proven, beneficial conservation practices on farms would require expensive federal permits wrapped in layers of red tape.

Taking care of natural resources is a big deal across farm country. Agricultural producers care and strive every day to leave the land and water in better shape for the next generation. The Clean Water Rule will further empower them to do just that.

Localities, states, farmers, ranchers—all Americans—can make their views on this rule known. The public should take the opportunity to submit comments on this important proposal which honors the law, protects clean water and provides clear rules.

Rep. Mike Conaway is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and Zippy Duvall is president of the American Farm Bureau Foundation.
f t # e
Conaway: Texas Values at the Heart of Farm Bill Talks
Posted by on July 31, 2017
San Angelo Standard-Times
By Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11)

The history of Texas is found in its dirt.

It was written by generations of farmers and ranchers who coaxed life out of our hardscrabble countryside, pioneering families who braved the wilderness and established communities like San Angelo that we still call home today. Every Texan since has reaped blessings from the land they tamed, the wisdom they shared and the values they instilled.

Wisdom about the land, its people and the business of farming and ranching forms the foundation of our communities. Values like hard work, grit, self-reliance, respect and humility are the code that we live by in rural Texas. This legacy has shaped each of us and provides Texans with a unique and important perspective on life, agriculture and conservation. Perspectives that are at the heart of our nation’s farm policy.

As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, which is preparing to craft our nation’s next farm bill, these are the perspectives I seek. So over the next several months, my colleagues and I are taking the opportunity to hear from stakeholders from across the country about what is and isn’t working in U.S. agricultural policy. And I can think of no better qualified or more important people to hear from than the heirs to over two hundred years of accumulated wisdom: the farmers and ranchers of West Texas.

On July 31, San Angelo will play host to a farm bill listening session. Several members of the Agriculture Committee will be at Angelo State University to hear from those who know what farm policy works and what doesn’t.

I don’t need to tell you that times are tough in farm country. With net-farm income dropping by 50 percent over the past four years, the agricultural economy has experienced the largest four-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. Now, more than ever, we need a farm bill to address the concerns facing production agriculture and all of rural America.

This certainly rings true for my friends in cotton country. While countries like China and India are pouring billions of dollars into subsidies for fiber production each year, America’s cotton producers have been struggling to scrape by without a safety net to help them manage through these tough times. I’m committed to finding a solution to address the situation for those cotton farmers in need.

But our work doesn’t end there. Agriculture in Texas and the surrounding region is as wide and diverse as its people. And the farm bill is essential to maintaining the vibrant agricultural economy for which Texas is known. Texas provides the country with an abundance of products including cotton, corn, sorghum, peanuts, sugarcane, wheat and rice as well as citrus, fruits and nursery products. The state leads the nation in livestock production and is also the home to a number of well-respected colleges and universities where agricultural research and extension programs remain a top priority, including Angelo State.

Understanding the budget constraints our country faces, production agriculture will need to work together to reach an affordable, effective safety net that benefits farmers, ranchers and consumers alike. While tough choices are undoubtedly upon us, I believe we can craft a farm bill that represents all commodities and stakeholders as we work together to ensure the U.S. continues to enjoy the most abundant and affordable food and fiber supply in the world.

I speak for the whole Committee when I say we are eager for the input of Texas producers and stakeholders. We want to know what policy changes would benefit you and your industry and believe it is essential we ensure all commodities and stakeholders have an opportunity to share their ideas for improvements. I look forward to a productive conversation in San Angelo and as always, God bless Texas and God bless the United States of America.

f t # e
Mike Conaway, Ted Yoho and Neal Dunn: Input from the field needed for farm bill
Posted by on June 23, 2017
The Gainesville Sun

Take a step back and listen.

That’s important advice to anyone working in Washington, but especially to those of us fortunate enough to represent our friends and neighbors in the halls of Congress.

And nowhere does that ring clearer than within the agricultural community. With less than 2 percent of Americans directly involved in production agriculture, the few caretakers of our land and natural resources are a critical source of knowledge about what is and isn’t working in U.S. agricultural policy.

President Eisenhower said it best, ”... farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” You need to get in the field and hear from those who know.

That’s why on Saturday, we’re trading in our suits and ties for jeans and boots to join several other members of the House Agriculture Committee for a listening session with the farmers, ranchers and stakeholders throughout the region who have a vested interest in the next farm bill.

We don’t need to tell Florida farmers and ranchers that times have been tough. With net farm income dropping by 50 percent over the past four years, the agricultural economy has experienced the largest four-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. Now, more than ever, we need a farm bill to address the concerns facing production agriculture and all of rural America.

So we’re looking to Florida and its neighbors for help.

Writing the farm bill is a big task, with a lot of moving parts — and it’s vitally important we get the policy right. The bill includes the risk management tools that are critical to helping farmers and ranchers endure tough economic times. It includes voluntary, incentive-based assistance to aid farmers in conserving and improving our water, air and wildlife habitat. It supports research to ensure that our farmers and ranchers are able to produce more with less. And it includes vital nutrition assistance for our most vulnerable citizens.

We’ve eliminated planting restrictions — farmers can grow whatever the market demands, including nutritious fruits and vegetables. There are now more than 100 crops — including virtually all specialty crops — that are eligible for federal crop insurance, something vitally important to Florida. And, we’ve vastly increased our support for specialty crop research through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

These policies are essential to maintaining the vibrant agricultural economy Florida has come to depend upon. Florida provides the country with an abundance of products, including fruits, vegetables, peanuts, sugarcane, cotton and nursery products. The state leads the nation in the production of oranges, ranks second in vegetable production and Florida’s beef cattle industry is among the oldest and largest in the country. It is also the home to a number of well-respected colleges and universities where agricultural research and extension programs remain a top priority, including the University of Florida and Florida A&M University, both land-grant universities.

So we speak for the whole committee when we say we are eager for the input of Florida’s producers and stakeholders. We want to know what policy changes would benefit you and your industry, and believe it is essential we ensure all commodities and stakeholders have a seat at the table to express their ideas for improvements, understanding the serious budget constraints we face as a country.

Ultimately, we’re committed to providing Americans with a strong farm bill. Our U.S. agriculture community is as wide and diverse as its citizens, with each sector facing different challenges and opportunities. Every group has its own story to tell and a unique stake in the policy. Yet, the thing that unites us is the understanding that agriculture is important to every American and is vital to feeding and clothing our nation and the world.

— U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, and Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Panama City, are members of the House Agriculture Committee and Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is chairman. 
f t # e
Protecting our Farmers and Ranchers
Posted by on March 23, 2017

By Chairman K.Michael Conaway (TX-11)

America is blessed with the safest, most affordable, and most abundant food and fiber supply mankind has ever known. This is made possible thanks to the men and women who dutifully care for their crops and livestock each and every day. Most factors that affect a farmer’s livelihood — like unpredictable weather events, fluctuations in commodity markets, and the predatory trade practices of foreign governments — are completely out of their control.

These factors have collided over the past several years, leading to very tough times in farm country. In fact, net farm income has dropped 50 percent over the last four years, the largest four-year percentage drop since the start of the Great Depression.

As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, my focus is on ensuring that the farm safety net in the next farm bill works for our nation's farmers and ranchers, including our nation's cotton farmers.  Spending on the farm safety net is well within our allowable limits in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it pales in comparison to support being provided by other countries. For example, on corn, rice, and wheat — in 2015 alone — the Chinese government exceeded its allowable subsidy limits in the WTO by an estimated $100 billion. That’s more than the entire safety net costs over the life of a farm bill — plus more than half of another farm bill.  It's also more than the United States has spent on the entire federal crop insurance system over the past 20 years combined.

Beyond the farm safety net, the farm bill includes a variety of other important policies, including our voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs, trade promotion and market development initiatives, international food aid, and agricultural research, just to name a few.  The farm bill also authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides vital nutrition assistance for some of our nation's most vulnerable citizens.  As we begin our work to reauthorize the farm bill, we are examining all of these topics in a series of subcommittee hearings. We are also planning a series of listening sessions that we will host around the country this summer to hear directly from producers.

National Ag Day reminds us of the hard, life-sustaining work of our farmers and ranchers. The work they do is important, and it's important that we provide the tools they need to be successful.

f t # e
Honoring America’s farmers and ranchers
Posted by on March 15, 2016
By Mike Conaway

America's farmers and ranchers are undeniably some of the most dedicated and humble individuals in this country. Without complaint, rain or shine, they simply wake up and work hard because that is what's needed to keep our country running.

But despite their best efforts, America's farmers and ranchers are facing real challenges today. Net farm income is estimated to fall 56 percent from 2013 to 2016, the largest three-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. The problem is even more pronounced in Texas, where we saw years of drought while other states were harvesting record yields at record prices.

Cotton producers have been hit especially hard the last few years. They were, in large part, met with very little support in the last farm bill in an effort to settle a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Brazil. The Chinese and Indian governments have taken advantage of this situation, stimulating massive overproduction of cotton in the process. China alone is now sitting on so much cotton that if you lined the bales up end to end, they would stretch around the earth twice. That's enough cotton to make 78.5 billion T-shirts. Their reckless actions have driven global cotton prices into the ground, making it that much more difficult for our cotton producers to stay afloat.

While our farmers and ranchers face markets that are neither free nor fair, they also put their livelihoods on the line every day in an industry where several factors are completely outside of their control. A single hailstorm, windstorm or flood can wipe out an entire year's income in a single day. While it is easy to take the bounty that our farmers and ranchers produce for granted, it is vital they have risk management tools available to mitigate the tremendous uncertainties they face.

To that end, when crop insurance came under attack in budget negotiations last fall — threatening the very existence of privately-delivered crop insurance — we stepped in to prevent those cuts from taking effect. The agricultural community has repeatedly done its part to contribute to deficit reduction. Protecting the remaining risk management tools available to our farmers and ranchers is one of my top priorities.

This national Ag Day reminds us of the importance of agriculture, to both rural and urban America. The state of the rural economy affects everyone, not just those in areas where most jobs are directly linked to production agriculture. I am proud to stand with America's hardworking farmers and ranchers today and every day.
f t # e
Giving Thanks for America's Bounty
Posted by on November 26, 2015
As we gather this Thanksgiving with our families and friends to celebrate our many blessings, it is fitting to also recognize the farmers and ranchers who provided the food on our tables. Thanksgiving is a cherished time for most American families, especially those who make their living off the land. Throughout our nation’s history, our ancestors have gathered during the harvest season to give thanks and celebrate the harvest that would see them through the coming year. They understood the promise of a seed sewn in the spring would bring a bounty of food in the fall.

Much has changed for our modern day farmers. In our nation’s early days, nearly everyone produced food. Today, because of advances in technology and the development of more efficient farming methods, about 90 percent of the food and fiber we produce comes from just under 250,000 farms. Despite these changes, 97 percent of American farms remain family owned and operated, and their goal has always remained the same: It’s about feeding and clothing our growing country and world. That’s why today we celebrate the year-round commitment of American farmers. We must never forget that there is no food without the farmer.

Even though the U.S. food and agriculture industry is comprised of 2.2 million farms, many Americans have never stepped foot on a farm and are often unaware how their food actually arrived on the grocery store shelf. In fact, the average American citizen is three generations removed from production agriculture. Bridging this growing divide between rural and urban communities is important to me and my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee, which is why we are doing our best to educate and engage the public on issues. These issues affect every American on a daily basis, from the price and availability of groceries to the ripple effects of the rural economy.

Our nation’s producers are the most innovative and productive in the world, providing us with the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply in the world. Because of this, three-quarters of a century have passed since we experienced widespread hunger during the Great Depression, and on average, we spend less of our disposable income on food than just about any other country.

As we approach this holiday season, we should remain mindful of the needs that do exist both here in America and around the globe. Many families in our own communities have fallen on tough financial times and need assistance through food programs and local efforts like food banks, churches, or soup kitchens. There are few causes more worthy of our time than to help a neighbor in need, so this Thanksgiving, I encourage you and your families to consider giving back by serving others. Somehow it always feels like we’re the ones who receive the blessing when we give our time in service to others.

Finally, I encourage us all to thank the farmers and ranchers who take on significant financial risks and make sacrifices year after year to feed this nation, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. It has been an honor to serve as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee this Congress, and I am dedicated to providing our producers with the tools necessary to continue feeding, fueling, and clothing our nation.
f t # e
A Solid Start for the House Agriculture Committee in the 114th Congress
Posted by on September 2, 2015
By Chairman K. Michael Conaway

When I became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January of this year, I had one primary goal: to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers have the policies in place that they need to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation while ensuring stability and consistency for farmers, ranchers, consumers, markets, and rural communities. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our livelihood and the lifeblood of rural America. And, while our work will never be done, we are off to a great start.

To date, the Agriculture Committee has held 13 full committee hearings, 20 subcommittee hearings, two executive sessions with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and marked up nine bills, eight of which have passed the House with one signed into law.

In our 33 hearings this year, we have examined many issues important to American agriculture, including the state of the rural economy, where falling prices have resulted in a 43 percent decline in net farm income over the last two years, and the status of farm bill implementation. On the latter, much credit goes to USDA Secretary Vilsack, who has appeared before the committee twice this year, and his staff at USDA for their hard work.

During the annual budget and appropriations process, we worked closely with the chairmen of each respective committee to ensure our hard work on the farm bill was not undermined. Both heeded the advice in our committee’s budget views and estimates letter which called for defending the farm bill and crop insurance while recognizing the significant estimated spending reductions that the committee has made over the last several years.

I set an ambitious agenda this spring to reauthorize all of our expired or expiring programs and agencies. Together, we got our work done, and we have moved legislation to reauthorize everything within our jurisdiction. We have approved legislation to create a federal preemption blocking state and local biotech labeling regimes; two forestry bills; two Commodities Exchange Act bills; legislation to bring the U.S. into compliance on mandatory country of origin labeling; and reauthorization of Mandatory Price Reporting and the U.S. Grain Standards Act, where we aim to prevent another Vancouver port situation. These bills provide certainty for farmers and ranchers and give them the tools they need to continue operating their businesses without interruption. We reported these bills out of committee with strong, bipartisan support, and we moved them across the House floor in the same fashion. The Senate is now beginning its work on these legislative items.

In anticipation of the next farm bill, which is still three years away, the committee is engaging in a top-to-bottom review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. In our first seven hearings on SNAP, we looked at the program through the eyes of recipients, which helped us discover the need for more state and local flexibility in order to move from a one-size-fits-all program to one that is tailored to meet specific needs. We’ve heard from dozens of organizations and SNAP recipients on the importance of the charitable sector in engaging recipients. Churches, food banks, and other local organizations are simply better equipped than the federal government in some areas, and together we can improve the lives of the 46 million Americans in need of assistance. Many of those in the program face barriers like the “welfare cliff,” and challenges with transportation or childcare, which prevent them from being able to enter or re-enter the work force and move up the economic ladder.

This summer, we also began a full review of U.S. international food aid programs. For nearly 60 years, the U.S. has been the global leader in providing international food aid—often in the form of American-grown commodities—and U.S. agricultural producers have been central to those efforts. The Agricultural Act of 2014 made several important reforms to food aid programs, and we will monitor implementation of those changes in advance of the next farm bill.

Throughout all of our committee’s work, our aim has been to create an environment of greater certainty for our nation’s farmers and ranchers so they can focus on what they do best rather than looking over their shoulder wondering what Washington has in store. Our work, however, impacts much more than just producers; agriculture affects everyone. During the development of the last farm bill, the growing gap between urban and rural American became increasingly apparent. That gap seems to widen every day. Nowhere is that more apparent than Congress, where the number of rural districts continues to decline. We must do a better job of bridging that gap.

That’s why our committee is focusing on building coalitions in many important areas. By engaging the public in areas like food safety and transparency, we were able to garner support from 475 groups on the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which passed the House in July. As we continue taking up issues that directly impact consumers, like Dietary Guidelines for Americans and future trade negotiations, it is important to have the input and support of all stakeholders.

With fewer and fewer voices in Congress representing rural America, members of the Agriculture Committee have the responsibility to participate in ongoing work outside of the committee’s jurisdiction, whether it’s trade, energy, or national defense. In 2014, U.S. agriculture exports reached a record-setting $152.5 billion, and with recently-passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Congress will be able to work alongside U.S. trade officials as they negotiate deals that could greatly expand market opportunities for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and consumers. Similarly, the House will consider legislation this fall to lift the ban on oil exports, which would benefit rural communities.

Members of the Agriculture Committee have been instrumental in other efforts, like blocking EPA regulations harmful to agriculture. We have backed other committees’ efforts to repeal the death tax, pass TPA, block EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, address state and local biotech labeling laws, and deal with new regulations on sage grouse and prairie chickens. These are just a few examples of the many areas in which my colleagues on the committee, and our colleagues who have a vested interest in agriculture, have had the opportunity to represent and advocate for rural America.

Whether the issue is finance or farms, welfare or rural development, humanitarian aid or national defense, agriculture is a major component. It has been a tremendous honor to lead these efforts as Chairman, and I look forward to working with our outstanding committee members going forward.
f t # e
Myth vs. Fact: Setting the Record Straight on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)
Posted by on May 15, 2015

Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a failed government mandate with serious economic implications. Should the World Trade Organization(WTO) rule against the United States for the 4th time in the coming days, Canada and Mexico will be authorized to seek retaliation against the U.S. by imposing economically devastating tariffs on U.S. exports. Supporters of COOL rely on misinformation and false claims to make their case. Let’s see how their arguments stack up against the facts:

Myth: COOL is about food safety

Fact: Mandatory COOL has no effect on food safety. All meat products produced in the United States are subject to mandatory inspection by the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Any product coming into the U.S. (meat, poultry, etc.) must be inspected by a system at least equal to that of the U.S. BOTTOM LINE: All meat products sold in the U.S., regardless of origin, must be inspected to equally rigorous standards. Country of origin labeling does not change any of these inspection requirements. 

Myth: Mandatory COOL complies with our international trade commitments

Fact: The WTO panel has said in past rulings that the USDA mandatory COOL rule violates WTO obligations by discriminating against imported livestock. Canada has issued a preliminary retaliation list targeting various commodities and manufactured products that would affect every state in the U.S. For example: Texas could face tariffs ranging from five to 20 percent on $9.2 billion worth of exports including beef, spirits, machine parts, and prepared foods. This map identifies potential consequences of retaliation for each of the 50 states.

Myth: Retaliation from Canada and Mexico regarding COOL will only affect the agriculture industry

Fact: If the WTO finds the U.S. COOL rule to be non-compliant with our international trade obligations, Canada and Mexico will be authorized to retaliate against the United States by imposing a set of tariffs on U.S. exports. Canada and Mexico indicate that damages exceed $2 billion. The U.S. may seek arbitration in an attempt to lessen this figure, but businesses relying on long term supply contracts are already feeling the pinch of retaliation brought about by uncertainty in the market place.

Myth: COOL helps consumers know where their food is produced and is a valuable marketing tool for producers

Fact: According to a 2012 Kansas State University research study, the COOL program has no effect on purchasing decisions. The study found that typical U.S. residents are unaware of COOL and do not look for meat origin information when purchasing meat products.

Myth: Adding a label on meat products is a simple, inexpensive task

Fact: Agriculture Marketing Service estimates approximately $2.4 billion in added expenses for the livestock and meat industry to comply. 

Myth: COOL repeal is only supported by the meat industry

Fact: American jobs would be lost in every sector of the economy if tariffs are levied on U.S. exports to Mexico and Canada.  More than 120 state and national organizations and businesses have voiced concern over the potential impacts of COOL, including U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Wine Institute, Auto Care Association, and Consumer Electronics Association. See the list of national and international organizations that oppose the implementation of COOL.

Fact: One small label could have a large impact.

f t # e