Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Business Meeting: To consider the Budget Views & Estimates Letter of the Committee on Agriculture for the agencies and programs under the jurisdiction of the Committee for fiscal year 2020

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Washington, February 27, 2019 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. This meeting was called to consider the committee’s annual budget views and estimates letter to the Budget Committee. 

While I am prepared to support the letter, I have major concerns. As everyone on this committee is aware, we are entering into the 6th straight year of recession in farm and ranch country right now. I will not recite the litany of troubling statistics this morning but, suffice it to say, things are looking very bleak in rural America. 

I would submit that if current conditions persist, this committee may have to reevaluate its position on the budget. I don’t want to spend a lot of time digging up old bones but, from my point of view, we frittered away a lot of dollars on new and questionable programs in the farm bill when we should have been spending those dollars to bolster the farm safety net.  

I voiced this concern during the farm bill conference committee but, unfortunately, I did not get a lot of traction at the time. So, we are now at the point where conditions in farm and ranch country are continuing to worsen and we do not have any additional dollars to devote to mitigating economic losses.  

Now, I know there is a tendency to lay current conditions at the doorstep of the administration on account of retaliatory tariffs leveled by our trading partners. But, we all know that the agriculture economy has been in the tank since 2014, three years before this administration ever came along. 

What is more, nobody knows better than farmers and ranchers just how badly the global playing field needs to be leveled so the United States can compete freely and fairly with other countries. And that is what the USMCA and our ongoing talks with China are all about.

I believe the president will strike an agreement with China that further levels the playing field just as he successfully negotiated a new agreement with Canada and Mexico. And, assuming bipartisan support for USMCA, this will certainly help the entire U.S. economy. But, this by itself may not be enough to address current conditions, so I want to put the committee on notice that the budget letter before us may not meet the needs of struggling farmers and ranchers and may have to be revisited. 

Finally, the letter before us lays out a lot of problems inside and outside the farm bill that are today confronting our farmers and ranchers.

But the letter is silent on some big issues, including regulations that add significant costs to doing business on our already cash-strapped farmers and ranchers. The administration is doing its best to provide relief to farm and ranch country on this score. But, the House majority is now eying new regulations whose damage to farmers and ranchers and the rural economy would be staggering.

Of course, I am speaking of the Green New Deal which would hit the energy intensive business of farming and ranching the hardest of any sector of our economy. Not long ago, we beat back the Obama administration’s cap and tax proposal — but the proposal before the House today makes cap and tax look like a walk in the park. There is not enough money in the U.S. treasury to offset the effects of that proposal were it ever to become law. 

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back. 
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