Opening Statement: Republican Leader Michelle Fischbach Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee Hearing: “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Rural Development”
Washington, March 8, 2022
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Under Secretary Torres Small for being here today.
I would like to begin by remembering Jim Hagedorn. Jim was passionate about his work on the Ag Committee and serving the people of southern Minnesota. Our districts are very similar, so I was fortunate to work with him on issues critical to our constituents, like promoting ethanol, expanding broadband access, and improving livestock supply chains. As we begin our work on the next Farm Bill, I hope we can each channel Jim’s passion ourselves.
I also want to thank the Majority for starting these hearings for the next Farm Bill. I’m excited to start this process. Each of us want to make this bill as strong as we can to serve our constituents, and as Ranking Member Thompson has said, collaboration at the Committee level is necessary to make that happen. Holding hearings, like this one, will help us all better understand what worked and what didn’t from the last Farm Bill, so the reauthorization accurately addresses the needs of our rural communities.
Through the 2018 Farm Bill, this committee made important improvements to USDA Rural Development programs to meet the health, communications, infrastructure, and economic development needs of rural America. We provided new and expanded authorities to help address the opioid crisis and the loss of rural health facilities, expanded access to clean water and high-speed internet service, rebuilt essential community facilities, strengthened rural employers and employees, and promoted regional economic development. These pieces are critical components for building what I call "strong, rural communities." I am anxious to hear about the Department’s work implementing these programs and what additional resources or authorities are needed to enhance the rural development toolkit.
I am particularly interested in hearing how deployment of rural broadband is going, and the role USDA plays. Last summer, we worked together to craft a bipartisan broadband bill, blending ideas from Ranking Member Thompson's Broadband for Rural America Act with proposals from Chairman Scott and Chairman Delgado to develop the Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act. This legislation passed our committee unanimously, in a clear display of just how important robust broadband connectivity is to our Committee and the Americans we represent. This committee believes that USDA should have an outsized role in the deployment of broadband infrastructure in rural America. I hope to hear more from the Under Secretary about how we can strengthen USDA’s role in this important mission area.
Again, thank you so much for being here and I’m really looking forward to this hearing.