Ranking Member Shontel Brown Opening Statement at “Producer Perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill” Hearing

House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit Ranking Member Shontel Brown delivered the following statement at today’s hearing entitled “Producer Perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill.”

[As prepared for delivery]

Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking Chairman Scott for gathering us together today for this hearing.  

It is a distinct honor and privilege to serve as the Ranking Member of the General Farm Commodities, Risk Management and Credit Subcommittee.   

In the American spirit of collaboration and bipartisanship, I look forward to working with you, Chairman Scott, to ensure that fundamental safety net programs and risk management tools that our farmers and ranchers rely on to feed America’s families are buttressed and bolstered.   

These issues represent an intersection of the most important issues impacting our farmers and ranchers, and subsequently American families.   

As we begin to work in earnest to craft the 2023 Farm Bill, it is my sincere hope to work effectively together with a collective goal of providing for our nation’s farmers and families within our Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.   

However, Mr. Chairman, what’s crucial to achieving that goal is ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented at the table and here in our Committee room.

Yet, as I look out at our panel this morning, and as I will again later this afternoon, I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to the stark lack of diversity represented here today in terms of farm size, gender, and race.

Our nation’s strength in agriculture and as a people is in our diversity. We must acknowledge that this Farm Bill is for everyone:  no matter what you look like, what you grow, or where you grow it.   

Mr. Chairman, I hope that it is easy for you to agree that a critical component of writing a Farm Bill that works for all is ensuring that everyone is invited to sit at the table.    

I would like to enter into the record a letter formally requesting an official opportunity for us to hear from minority and disadvantaged farmers and stakeholders on Farm Bill issues pertaining to this Subcommittee.   

Today’s hearing gives us the opportunity to hear directly from our major commodity groups’ leadership to share their perspectives on how the existing Farm Bill Title I and Title 11 programs have served their commodities.    

I also look forward to hearing insights regarding our direction for the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill.   

The uptick in production costs over the last few years, coupled with the increased frequency of natural disasters, make it imperative that we ensure the protection and resiliency of our farm safety net programs and risk management tools

Over the last 6 years, we have seen nearly $70 billion in ad-hoc payments to producers. This is $70 billion in addition to our existing Farm Bill safety net and disaster mitigation programs.   

These dollars, although welcomed by those who receive them, have been distributed in an inequitable manner, favoring certain producers over others as has been confirmed by the Government Accountability Agency.

We have also heard, in the case of ad-hoc disaster aid that these payments are often incredibly delayed, sometimes not reaching eligible producers until months after the disasters occurred.   

This is the bottom line: these ad-hoc payments are unpredictable, unreliable, and inefficient.   

It is our duty to ensure that the upcoming Farm Bill includes a strong, up-front investment in the farm safety net to provide our producers with timely assistance when disaster strikes.    

When it comes to ensuring that producers of all backgrounds—including specialty crop growers, urban farmers, socially disadvantaged, and beginning farmers—have the tools they need to succeed and meaningfully contribute to our nation’s food supply chain, I’m always willing to collaborate with colleagues across the aisle whenever and wherever possible—because our producers come before politics.   

I am eager to hear from our witnesses today, and those we have in the future, to get firsthand and frank insight into what is working well within the various program areas, and where there is room for improvement.   I yield back.   

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