On Saturday, June 24, 2017, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) participated in the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill Listening Session held on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida. This listening session provided a forum for agriculture stakeholders to share their experiences in the field with Members of Congress in advance of congressional consideration of a new Farm Bill.
The listening session was hosted by the House Agriculture Committee, including Chairman Mike Conaway (TX-11), Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08), and Congressman Rick Allen (GA-12). Congressman Bishop serves as Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, which holds jurisdiction over funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agricultural programs.
Video and background on the listening session can be found here. Below is Congressman Bishop’s full statement as prepared:
Good morning everyone. My name is Sanford Bishop and I have the privilege of representing Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District. First, I want to say thank you to the House Agriculture Committee for inviting me to participate in today’s Farm Bill listening session. And I want to also say thank you to all of you for coming today.
One of my duties is serving as the Ranking Member on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, along with Chairman Robert Aderholt of Alabama. This also makes this inaugural session so important to me because, after all, agriculture touches every aspect of our lives from the paper we write on, the clothing we wear, the food we eat, the water-beer-and-wine we drink, to the raw materials used to build and furnish our homes. A healthy agricultural community translates to a healthy society for us all.
Georgia is an agriculture state, with 42,000 farms, and Georgia agriculture contributes $74 billion annually to the state and national economies. Georgia is number one in the nation for the production of poultry, peanuts, pecans, blueberries, privately owned timberlands, and number two in cotton.
Likewise, the district I represent is an agriculture district, leading the state in peanuts, cotton, pecans, fruits, vegetables, as well as family-owned timberlands. But, I am not here today as just a Georgia advocate. I, as well as others, are here to lend our collective voices for the country and for what is needed across the agricultural spectrum to keep us moving forward toward enacting a new Farm Bill that meets the needs of our nation.
With time comes change, and for our growers and products to remain competitive, research and development and broader access to market opportunities, resulting in increased international exports using fair trade practices, will be a few of the keys to our economic success.
This includes incorporating sound integrated pest management practices, developing more environmentally resistant or tolerant seed lines, supporting rural business, expanding broadband networks in rural communities, and encouraging our new, young, and veteran communities to become this country’s next generation of farmers.
What also makes this country strong is our capacity and capability to provide for those in need. The nutrition programs within the Farm Bill are vital to meeting the nutritional needs of low-income, food insecure households by providing a safety net necessary to assist in fighting hunger in this country both at home and at school. In this regard, it is imperative that we maintain the linkage in the Farm Bill between our farm-related programs and our nutrition programs.
On-farm programs and their importance in providing farmers a “safety-net” is particularly important in today’s environment, because every commodity, whether corn, wheat, soy, or cotton and peanuts, is facing the lowest prices in decades. As a supporter, I strongly advocate for a new cotton seed oil program, as well as adequate base acres to support all commodity programs in the Farm Bill.
Likewise, it is critical that the Committee designs an equitable solution for the Dairy industry that does not jeopardize or penalize other commodity groups, particularly cotton.
It is my understanding that except for a few minor modifications, the peanut industry is just fine with the current program, and also supports the current price loss program (PLC) and reference price.
I am pleased that Secretary Perdue is undertaking a government wide review of Federal support and activity in rural America, and it is important that the next Farm Bill continues to provide the support that is desperately needed including housing, economic development, infrastructure, and farmland conservation.
With that, I turn the floor over to my colleagues to lead us in what I believe will be an enlightening and lively discussion. Thank you!