Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Republican Leader Glenn 'GT' Thompson Full Committee Hearing: 1890 Land Grant Institutions: Investing for Agricultural Resiliency, Equity, and Global Impact

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Washington, June 16, 2021 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and thank you, Chairman Scott, for holding this hearing today.

Before I begin, a point of personal privilege if I may. While I certainly appreciate today’s hearing and topic, I again want to make clear that I hope this Committee can turn its attention to the needs of production agriculture, including hearing the testimony of Secretary Vilsack. The next Farm Bill will be here before we know it, and it is imperative that we address 2018 Farm Bill oversight, as well as the challenges and successes associated with both the Congressional and Departmental response to COVID-19.

Thank you for your indulgence, Chairman Scott. Now on to the hearing at hand. First, my thanks to our witnesses for their time and attention today. I hope we can soon be gathering in person.

At the end of last year, the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research met to celebrate an important milestone—the 130th anniversary of the Second Morrill Act. This Act, which was signed into law on August 30, 1890, led to the creation of the 1890 land-grant university system.

That hearing included a distinguished panel of witnesses, including two that join us here today. As many of you may recall, we discussed the current state of the 1890 land-grant universities, how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted operations, and the status of various 2018 Farm Bill provisions particularly those intended to enable the entire LGU system to focus and assist socially disadvantaged individuals. Programs that focus the entire system—1862s, 1890s, and 1994s—on the issues affecting socially disadvantaged individuals allow us to implement a national response. I look forward to continuing our discussion today.

Land-grant universities conduct critical agricultural research, teach our next generation of agriculturists, and provide outreach to their communities through the Cooperative Extension Service. Since their creation, 1890 institutions have gone above and beyond to achieve these objectives, and I am eager to hear more about each of these today.

Congress has long supported and taken action since the passage of the Second Morrill Act to ensure 1890 institutions have access to the resources they need. I would be especially remiss if I did not mention the work we did in the 2018 Farm Bill. First and foremost, I would like to highlight the grant program to award scholarships to students at 1890 universities who are pursuing a career in agriculture. This provision was a priority for several Members of the Committee, and we worked hard to include it in both the House-passed version and the final Conference report. I expect COVID-19 may have impacted the implementation of these scholarships, but I invite our guests to discuss how to best move forward.

Two other provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill addressed the disparity in the treatment of carryover funds for 1890 Extension, and the establishment of three new Centers of Excellence. As we approach the next Farm Bill, I look forward to not only hearing more about the implementation of these provisions, but also where we may need additional support for these great institutions.

Today, especially as we look toward a post-pandemic economy, any conversation about education must also include the issue of connectivity. This is an issue I am working on extensively to move the needle and close this gap, especially for our rural communities.  I know Chairman Scott and all our members share this priority.  

Many of you educate our next generation of agriculture experts in very rural areas. Your students are more likely to end up on the wrong side of the digital divide. I am sure you have seen the frustration and toll this lack of reliable internet access has on your faculty and students. Lack of broadband also negatively affects the LGU system itself, given the Cooperative Extension System’s need to disseminate the latest research and provide other services. I am a strong believer in commonsense legislation that will help bridge this gap, revitalize rural economies and production agriculture, and make sure our students are not left behind.

I know infrastructure needs are top-of-mind for the entire LGU system, including all of you. I look forward to hearing more about your needs, and how we can best go about addressing them. We need the system. We need your institutions. We need all students to thrive.

Mr. Chairman, I think today is an opportunity for us. We have before us the very administrators that are molding the minds of the next generation of farmers, ranchers, and policymakers. Their expertise, recommendations, and engagement will serve as the necessary guide to make our institutions the most innovative and most attractive to future generations of students.

I thank the outstanding panel of witnesses for taking time to be here with us today, and I am confident that this will be a productive discussion. 
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