Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member David Rouzer

Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Public Hearing: “Reviewing the State of the Dairy Economy”

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Washington, April 30, 2019 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Thank you, Chairman Costa, for holding this hearing to focus on the state of the dairy industry.  All sectors of the agricultural economy are facing challenging times, and the conditions for our dairy farmers are no exception.

Dairymen across the country have faced a multi-year period of low milk prices and trade uncertainty, along with labor challenges that have remained unsolved for decades. These problems are plaguing dairy producers of all sizes and in all regions of the country, which is why House Republicans prioritized making key improvements to the safety net and enhancing risk management options for both large and small dairy operations during the past several Congresses leading up to passage of the new Farm Bill.

I want to commend Ranking Member Conaway for his work to remove the limitation on livestock insurance policies in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.  He also did an incredible job shepherding the 2018 Farm Bill through the House and to the President’s desk.  The focused effort he led to increase coverage options, reducing premiums significantly for catastrophic coverage in Tier 2, and eliminating the restriction between Livestock Gross Margin insurance and the new Dairy Margin Coverage program are all improvements intended to help producers better manage the risks and uncertainty they face.

Dairy farmers and their lenders are watching closely for news from USDA about the availability of coverage under the new program, and I want to thank Secretary Perdue and FPAC Undersecretary Northey for making the implementation of DMC a priority and providing as much information as possible to dairy farmers about the program while we wait on the finalized regulations.

While the improvements to the safety net are critical to helping producers survive the tough times, what our farmers really need is improved market conditions.  This is why swift approval of USMCA is so critical for our farmers and ranchers. According to the long-awaited analysis by the International Trade Commission, dairy is one of the sectors with the most to gain from the renegotiated agreement with Canada and Mexico.  While implementation will need to be closely monitored, the additional access for U.S. dairy products and the elimination of Canadian Class 6 and 7 dairy pricing strategies are major wins for American dairy producers and processors.

I touched on this at the outset, but want to highlight again the shortage of adequate labor because of our broken immigration system.  Dairy producers essentially have no reliable supply of workers.  As we all know, the current agricultural guest worker program is designed for seasonal labor needs – not the year-round work required on dairies. 

This past Congress, I was proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 4092, the AG Act, which attempted to address the needs of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural businesses struggling to find adequate labor. While immigration can be a complicated issue, we should all be able to recognize the disservice Congressional disfunction has done for all sectors of the agricultural industry in failing to pass meaningful reform of the guest worker program. 

As we speak, cows go unmilked, fruit gets left on trees, and crops rot in the field because farmers cannot find a reliable legal source of labor. Meanwhile, Washington always waits for the results of the next election and the problems continue to grow. We cannot continue to ignore this problem, and I urge all of us in Congress to put all the politics to the side for once on this issue and craft a commonsense solution the President can sign. American agriculture needs it desperately.

Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing here today to share your perspectives on the state of the dairy industry.  I look forward to hearing from you. 

Again, thank you Chairman Costa for holding this hearing.  I yield back.


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