Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member Dusty Johnson Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Public Hearing: “An Overview of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program”

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Washington, July 21, 2020 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

When Secretary Perdue announced the creation of the Farmers to Families Food Box program, I was excited. 

This was a way to expeditiously assist producers—many of whom were plowing over crops or dumping milk because of supply chain disruptions—as well as consumers who found themselves in circumstances beyond their control, and in great need. 

USDA’s promise to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and certain meat products was welcome news. And to date, their purchases have far exceeded their own goals. 

Since May 15, Feeding South Dakota has accepted 95,241 boxes—over 1.57 million pounds of food. These boxes have included a combination of produce, fluid milk, protein, and mixed dairy. About 95 communities throughout South Dakota have benefited from Farmers to Families. 

Of course, no program is without growing pains. I wrote to the Secretary on May 22 to further understand some of the things I was reading and hearing about; the Secretary responded, explaining everything from the contracting flexibilities under the Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 18, to PACA licenses, to further awards. 

And here we are, 90 days after the initial announcement of this program, attempting to find fault in small details instead of celebrating a bold effort to feed those impacted by this virus. This should be celebrated, no matter which administration was in charge. 

Farmers to Families works. It is wildly successful, and it is doing exactly what was intended—connecting farmers to families in need. 

But instead of applauding the efforts of the Department and Administration, we sit here to discuss the cherry-picked challenges certain areas of the country have faced. 

Meanwhile, the other part of CFAP receives almost no attention from this Committee. 

On April 1, I helped lead a bipartisan, bicameral group of over 140 members urging targeted, temporary and equitable relief for cattle producers.

From what I can see, there has been no greater push for assistance than that for cattle country, but the CFAP program still came up short as producers who sold livestock after April 15 only received a fraction of those who sold earlier.

As the pandemic carried on and the situation deteriorated for our pork producers, we followed up with other strong, bipartisan letters urging support for producers feeling the economic impact of shirking shackle space.

We appreciate the hard work of the Department, but we as a Congress failed to deliver the resources necessary to properly aid our farmers and ranchers. We had to fight hard for that $23.5 billion, a fight for the very folks necessary to ensuring our food supply chain remains uninterrupted and our store shelves stocked. 

And I would like to remind Members and those viewing at home that, in the early days of the pandemic, Republicans asked for $50 billion in dedicated agriculture funding. 

My hope is that we can come together and fight for enough funding for agriculture in this next package. 

We need to provide resources to both extend coverage for our cattlemen who sold at the bottom of the market after April 15, and our pork producers who creatively found markets for hogs but suffered huge losses to avoid euthanizing their livestock. 

We should have a hearing on that. 

With that, I yield back.  
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