U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following opening statement at a hearing titled “Farm Bill 2023: Research Programs.” A live video of the hearing is available here.
Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Welcome to Under Secretary Jacobs-Young and our panel of expert witnesses. I appreciate you all being here today as we review the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research, extension, and related programs ahead of the 2023 Farm Bill. Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Ranking Member Boozman and I held the first in a series of hearings here in D.C. focused on our shared goal: Passing another bipartisan Farm Bill. With respect to the Research title, I look forward to working with Senator Booker and Senator Braun, the chair and ranking member of the subcommittee, and with every member of this Committee.
On our agenda today is a topic of great importance – agriculture research, extension, and education. We can’t have a thriving economy if we don’t make things and grow things, and agriculture research helps us do exactly that. Just last month, the United Nations estimated that the world population surpassed 8 billion people. That’s 8 billion people who need access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. Innovation through agriculture research is central to global food security. Thanks to the progress achieved through research, we can boost the profitability and resiliency of our farms while adapting to and mitigating the climate crisis. It’s our incredible extension and education systems that deliver valuable research findings into the hands of farmers, consumers, and communities.
Through the support of this Committee, USDA’s research agencies are advancing cutting-edge science and rigorous economic analysis on behalf of our farmers and ranchers. In the 2018 Farm Bill, members of this Committee secured much-needed investments in USDA’s agricultural research programs. That includes $185 million for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which leverages public investments with private funds to address real-world issues facing our farmers and ranchers. We secured investments for our organic farmers, as well as reauthorized the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, benefiting Michigan’s many cherry, blueberry, and asparagus growers.
And for the first time, we authorized the Urban, Indoor, and Emerging Agriculture Initiative. The 2018 Farm Bill also benefitted our land-grant universities, like my alma mater, Michigan State University, and the University of Arkansas. Land-grant universities are vital partners in conducting agriculture research, delivering cooperative extension, and training the next generation of leaders in the food and agriculture sector. Investments in research and extension are essential. Demand for these Farm Bill programs continues to outpace the available resources, and yet, in recent years, funding for public agriculture research here in the U.S. has declined.
Meanwhile, China has quintupled its investment in public agriculture research since 2000 and now invests twice as much as the U.S. does. As our farmers work to tackle the climate crisis, navigate constantly changing markets, and feed a growing global population, investments in agriculture research and trustworthy economic data will only become more important. I look forward to hearing testimony from Under Secretary Jacobs-Young and our panel of stakeholders.