Ranking Member David Scott Opening Statement at Foreign Influence on U.S. Agriculture Hearing

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott today delivered the following statement at a full Committee hearing regarding concerns over foreign influence on American agriculture. Watch the full hearing here.

[As prepared for delivery]

The purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss the influence that China has on American agriculture. Unfortunately, some of the rhetoric surrounding this topic may derail us from tackling the real issues at hand and may contribute to violence against Asian Americans. I want all Americans to know that we on the Agriculture Committee condemn all bigotry, including race-motivated threats and acts of violence. This is about agricultural policy, not people policy.

I also want us to keep in mind that China is an important trading partner to the U.S. We need a thorough and policy-heavy conversation so we can help American farmers and our agricultural system navigate this issue. I hope everyone here today will engage in a serious and fact-based conversation and avoid fearmongering and alarmism.

Though I’m told that this isn’t the topic of this hearing, I am also pleased that the recently enacted Agriculture Appropriations bill will help USDA update its outdated system of tracking foreign agricultural land ownership.

If we are going to have a serious discussion about foreign influence on American agriculture, we must remember that China is our largest trade partner, accounting for $33.7 billion in US agricultural exports last fiscal year. American farmers are the most efficient and productive in the world, and because of this, we produce far more than we can consume. My colleagues will often note that we are in an agricultural trade deficit, and I am here to tell you that alienating our trade partners will only deepen that deficit.

American farmers need large markets to export their products, and when those markets are lost, it harms our farmers. We saw the implications of this when the Trump Administration started a trade war with China, creating chaos and undermining markets for American farmers.

Since the trade war shut American farmers out of China, Brazilian farmers have filled the gap, increasing their exports to China as US market share decreased.

Now Trump is calling for a 60 percent tariff on all Chinese goods. This would have drastic impacts on American agricultural production, increase costs for consumers, and would almost certainly lead to devastating retaliatory tariffs placed on US agricultural exports.

I think it is fair to think that the US being so dependent upon a single export market — which is also a strategic competitor — poses a risk for American farmers. One way that we can address that concern is to expand trade in existing markets and open new markets.

I continue to support increasing the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program in the farm bill, and I believe that new trade deals are critical for American agriculture.

However, there are many places where I am critical of the Chinese government. The theft of seeds and other agricultural technology is highly concerning and continues to be a problem. Market distortion through domestic price support programs and ignoring WTO decisions hinders access and creates an uneven playing field for US farmers. I also remain highly critical of any foreign government seeking to buy American land near essential intelligence or military installations. We must protect our national security interests.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and coming out of this hearing with an improved understanding of our relationship with China and how we can work to protect American agricultural interests.I yield back.

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