Committee on Agriculture

Michael Conaway

Subcommittee evaluates the federal and state response to avian influenza

2015/07/30

Today, Rep. David Rouzer (NC-7), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to examine the federal and state response to avian influenza. 

Identified as one of the worst animal disease outbreaks the U.S. has ever experienced, the disease infected more than 220 farms in 21 states. As a result, nearly 48 million chickens and turkeys have been depopulated and millions of dollars have been spent to aid in response efforts. Members heard from representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state officials who have taken part in the response effort and discussed the successes and challenges of the process. 

“The impact of the avian influenza outbreak has been devastating, and it is essential that we learn from the outbreak this past spring and put in place the proper steps to minimize the impact of a possible outbreak in the Southeast when the temperatures decrease this fall. Today, we heard what was done right during the response and where there are still opportunities for improvement. As we continue our oversight, we will certainly consider any suggestions to modify our policies in order to expedite and improve the efficacy of our animal disease response capabilities. I want to thank our witnesses for testifying today and for providing their insight on this very important issue,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer.

“The outbreak of this highly pathogenic disease is one of the worst we have ever seen in the U.S. It is absolutely vital that USDA and vulnerable states are prepared to respond quickly if this outbreak returns in the fall, as is expected. Both USDA and the states have put forth great effort to isolate this disease and mitigate loss these past few months, and I thank them for their hard work,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway. 

Written testimony provided by the witness from today’s hearing is linked below. Click here for more information, including Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer's opening statement, and the archived webcast.

Witness List:

Panel I

Dr. David Swayne, Laboratory Director, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, USDA Agricultural Research Services, Athens, GA  Dr. John Clifford, Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Washington, DC  

Panel II

Dr. R. Douglas Meckes, State Veterinarian, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Raleigh, NC  Dr. Bill Hartmann, Executive Director, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, St. Paul, MN

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Opening Statement: Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer: Examination of Federal and State Response to Avian Influenza

2015/07/30

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning.  I appreciate the attendance of our colleagues and witnesses as the subcommittee begins its formal review of the recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

As we will hear from our witnesses, this was without a doubt one of the worst, if not the worst animal disease outbreaks our country has ever faced.  More than 220 farms were infected in 21 states, nearly 48 million chickens and turkeys were depopulated, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.

The Subcommittee has been following these events for some months but specifically chose to delay any formal oversight until the disease was under control to prevent diversion of the agency’s attention in the middle of a crisis. 

As we begin this review, let me state that it is not our intent to be a Monday morning quarterback.  Rather, we want to learn from experience.  We want to highlight what was done right by identifying areas where improvement was made; where opportunities for further improvement exist; and most importantly, figure out where we need to focus as we prepare for another possible outbreak this fall. 

As most observers know, the heat of the summer is primarily responsible for the interruption in disease transmission, but as fall approaches and temperatures begin to drop, we need to be prepared for more cases, possibly covering a larger geographical area.

A number of issues have arisen that need further discussion.  For instance, the approval of an effective vaccine is on the horizon, but if we utilize this tool, we will need to ensure trade is not disrupted.

Questions persist regarding the efficacy of the industry’s biosecurity plans.  While many farms have exceptional bio-security procedures and mechanisms in place, some observers have raised questions regarding the degree to which biosecurity protocols are being followed. We are certainly aware of some of the resource limitations that delayed depopulation, disposal and disinfection early in the outbreak. As repopulation commences, several Members have heard from constituents raising questions related to some of the challenges that lie ahead.

We recognize that preventing further outbreaks is a critical priority.  That said, we are mindful of the financial burdens producers are facing, particularly if they are unable to get back up and running in a timely fashion.  After all, time is money.

We will likely also hear about concerns related to indemnification.  The law is fairly clear regarding the payment of fair market value for animals that are destroyed, but how fair market value is defined and determined appears to be subject to some discretion.

We are faced with a set of issues here that are complex, and we would welcome any and all suggestions on how this Subcommittee might be helpful as we move forward.  In particular, I am aware of the program created in the Plant Protection Act for disease management and prevention, and wonder if it might not be time to examine whether a similar mechanism in the Animal Health Protection Act might yield a more responsive funding mechanism to facilitate a quicker, and perhaps a cheaper and more effective response.

I now yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Costa for his opening statement.

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House Agriculture Committee assesses progress of global derivatives reforms

2015/07/29

Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to assess the progress of global derivatives reforms since the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law five years ago. Dodd-Frank imposed sweeping new regulations over the financial industry, including the regulation of swaps under Title VII, which had previously not been regulated in the U.S. 

After the 2008 financial crisis, leaders from 19 of the world’s largest economies and the European Union (the G-20) formulated a global plan to prevent a similar crisis from reoccurring.  They set out five categories of reforms for derivatives products– clearing, margining, electronic execution, data reporting, and capital standards – to make the markets safer. Title VII of Dodd-Frank was the U.S. effort to implement those reforms. 

Since the law’s passage five years ago, Members of the Agriculture Committee have repeatedly heard testimony from market participants supportive of the goals of Title VII, but deeply frustrated with the implementation.  Today’s hearing examined the progress regulators are making in achieving the G-20’s goals. Witnesses highlighted the still unresolved impasse over clearinghouse recognition, trade execution requirements that are fragmenting liquidity, reported data that is incomprehensible to regulators, and the U.S. margin and capital rules that are significantly different than international standards.  

“The testimony we heard today confirms the committee’s concerns over the lack of coordination and harmonization that jeopardizes the implementation of reforms to global swaps markets. Five years have passed since President Obama signed into law the derivatives reforms the G-20 leaders promised to enact.  Despite 50 rulemakings by the CFTC, so far, these reforms have not lived up to their promises, and there is a lot of work to be done.  Each failure to harmonize rules drives a regulatory wedge between the United States and our global trading partners, needlessly complicating financial markets and weakening the derivatives reforms the G-20 sought to achieve,” said Chairman K. Michael Conaway, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

Written testimony provided by the witness from today’s hearing is linked below. Click here for more information, including Chairman Conaway's opening statement, and the archived webcast.

Witness List:

Panel I

Mr. Terrence A. Duffy, Executive Chairman & President, CME Group, Chicago, IL  Mr. Scott O'Malia, Chief Executive Officer, International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc., New York, NY  Mr. Christopher S. Edmonds, Senior Vice President, Financial Markets, Intercontinental Exchange, Chicago, IL  Mr. Larry E. Thompson, Vice Chairman and General Counsel, Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, New York, NY  Dr. John E. Parsons, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA

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Chairman Conaway opposes increased funding for unauthorized CFTC

2015/07/29

Today, Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) said in his opening statement he opposes any increase in funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) until it is reauthorized. The following statement was delivered at the House Agriculture Committee’s hearing Dodd-Frank Turns Five: Assessing the Progress of Global Derivatives Reforms. To view the full opening statement, click here

“In the background of this debate looms the continued inaction of Congress on the expired authorization the CFTC.  I consider it a failure of our institution to allow federal agencies to operate outside of the traditional budget process of authorization, appropriation, and oversight.  That is why I set an ambitious agenda this spring to reauthorize all of our expired or expiring programs and agencies.  Together, we got our work done and we’ve moved four bills through this Committee and the House Floor reauthorizing everything within our jurisdiction that we need to this year. 

“For the CFTC, this Committee has done its work twice over the past two years and moved two bipartisan reauthorization packages through the House of Representatives, with no corresponding action in the Senate.  Despite the lack of authorization, appropriations to the agency have increased from $194 million at the end of FY2013 to $250 million this year, an increase of 29% in two years. 

“To that end, I want to publicly state I am opposed to any increase in funding for the Commission until it is reauthorized.  Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have proposed level funding for the agency, and I do not believe it is appropriate to have any conversation that moves that line while so many end-user and good-government issues remain outstanding and unresolved.  This is not a position I take lightly, which I hope highlights the importance in which I hold the reauthorization of every agency or program under the jurisdiction of this committee.”

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Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Dodd-Frank Turns Five: Assessing the Progress of Global Derivatives Reforms

2015/07/29

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you all for joining us today and welcome to today’s full committee hearing Dodd-Frank Turns Five: Assessing the Progress of Global Derivatives Reforms.

The 2008 financial crisis prompted global leaders to reevaluate the regulatory regime for derivatives.  In Pittsburg and again in Cannes, global leaders set out five categories of reforms – clearing, margining, electronic execution, data reporting, and capital standards - they all agreed would make derivatives markets safer. 

Perhaps most importantly though, the G-20 Leaders recognized the global nature of swaps markets and sought to ensure that national regulators coordinated these reform efforts.  In 2008, at the close of the first G-20 Summit in Washington, the assembled Heads of State declared:

…our financial markets are global in scope, therefore, intensified international cooperation among regulators and strengthening of international standards, where necessary, and their consistent implementation is necessary to protect against adverse cross-border, regional and global developments affecting international financial stability. Regulators must ensure that their actions support market discipline, avoid potentially adverse impacts on other countries, including regulatory arbitrage, and support competition, dynamism and innovation in the marketplace.

G-20 leaders continued to push for cooperation and coordination between regulators at every subsequent G-20 meeting, including in the joint announcement following the 2013 St. Petersburg Summit, where the G-20 Leaders spoke about the importance of deferring to national regulators:

“We agree that jurisdictions and regulators should be able to defer to each other when it is justified by the quality of their respective regulatory and enforcement regimes, based on similar outcomes, in a non-discriminatory way, paying due respect to home country regulation regimes.”

As we mark the fifth anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Act, it is important that we take stock of where we were and where we were trying to get to by enacting this legislation.  The G-20 laid out a roadmap that demanded international action to respond to an international crisis, but left it to national regulators to implement that vision.

Over the past several years, the Agriculture Committee has heard from market participants, CFTC Commissioners, and even foreign regulators about the struggles national regulators are having living up to the proclamations of the G-20.  Today, the Committee is concerned that the lack of coordination and harmonization is jeopardizing the implementation of these promised and widely supported reforms to global swaps markets.

If we get these reforms wrong, we will permanently disrupt global financial markets, trapping liquidity behind regulatory barriers and preventing end-users from seeking out their best risk management counterparts.  Splintering global financial markets through regulatory pride-of-authorship is not reform, it is bureaucratic hubris.  If that is the ultimate outcome of the Dodd-Frank Act, regulators will have squandered the responsibility with which they have been entrusted.

Today, we’ll begin to examine what progress global regulators have made with derivatives reforms, what work remains to be done, and where the pitfalls are for market participants.  I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.

In the background of this debate looms the continued inaction of Congress on the expired authorization the CFTC.  I consider it a failure of our institution to allow federal agencies to operate outside of the traditional budget process of authorization, appropriation, and oversight.  That is why I set an ambitious agenda this spring to reauthorize all of our expired or expiring programs and agencies.  Together, we got our work done and we’ve moved four bills through this Committee and the House Floor reauthorizing everything within our jurisdiction that we need to this year.

For the CFTC, this Committee has done its work twice over the past two years and moved two bipartisan reauthorization packages through the House of Representatives, with no corresponding action in the Senate.  Despite the lack of authorization, appropriations to the agency have increased from $194 million at the end of FY2013 to $250 million this year, an increase of 29% in two years.

To that end, I want to publicly state I am opposed to any increase in funding for the Commission until it is reauthorized.  Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have proposed level funding for the agency, and I do not believe it is appropriate to have any conversation that moves that line while so many end-user and good-government issues remain outstanding and unresolved.  This is not a position I take lightly, which I hope highlights the importance in which I hold the reauthorization of every agency or program under the jurisdiction of this committee.

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Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture – Public Hearing

2015/07/23

Thursday, July 30, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. 1300 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture – Public HearingRE:  Examination of Federal and State Response to Avian Influenza

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Full Committee on Agriculture – Public Hearing: Dodd-Frank Turns Five:

2015/07/23

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. 1300 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. Full Committee – Public HearingRE:  Dodd-Frank Turns Five:  Assessing the Progress of Global Derivatives Reforms

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Chairman Conaway Statement on Senators' COOL Bill

2015/07/23

Today, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, issued the following statement regarding legislation introduced by Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) that ties repeal of country of origin labeling (COOL) to both the elimination of existing market driven programs and the establishment of a so-called voluntary country of origin (COOL) labeling program for beef, pork, and chicken. This new voluntary program would operate under similar rules as the program found to violate U.S. international trade rules. 

“With the imminent threat of retaliation before us, I appreciate the constructive step forward by our Senate counterparts in agreeing that the House-passed language repealing mandatory COOL for beef, pork, and chicken is the appropriate direction to go. As Canadian officials said today, the so-called voluntary portion of the bill introduced today is unacceptable, as it will not bring us into compliance and will not serve to prevent billions of dollars in economic sanctions on U.S. products. I applaud the continued efforts of Chairman Roberts to address this issue and encourage the Senate to accept the language he put forward that would place the threat of retaliation behind us, just as the House did when 300 members supported H.R. 2393 nearly two months ago.   

Time is of the essence, and there is no excuse for the Senate to recess while the threat of economic harm hangs over nearly every industry in the U.S. If the Senate acts in a responsible manner by passing a clean repeal before recessing, I will commit to working in a bipartisan manner to try and craft a purely voluntary program that is both trade compliant and does not interfere, intentionally or not, with existing labeling programs. But, the responsible action of repeal must come first. The time to act is now. ”

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House Passes H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act

2015/07/23

Today, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act by a vote of 275-150. The bill, authored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) was approved by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14, 2015, by voice vote. 

“Advances in technology have allowed the U.S. to enjoy the safest, highest quality, most abundant, diverse and affordable supply of food and fiber mankind has ever known. With the world’s population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, biotechnology is an essential tool for our farmers to meet this demand in an environmentally sound, sustainable, and affordable way. Unfortunately, proposed Federal and State laws threaten this innovation by generating a patchwork of differing labeling requirements, which will result in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers and interfere with interstate commerce. H.R. 1599 establishes a voluntary nation-wide marketing program that gives consumers access to consistent, reliable information while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation,” said Chairman Conaway.

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Secretary Vilsack testifies before Agriculture Committee on agency oversight and accountability

2015/07/22

Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a public hearing to conduct general oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack testified, taking questions from committee members on various programs and projects the department manages and executes. Members referenced reports by USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong (OIG) and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s time and cooperation today as the committee held its first oversight hearing since I became chairman. It is incumbent on our committee to conduct robust oversight and ensure that USDA is using taxpayer dollars in a responsible, efficient manner. I am greatly concerned by the IG’s findings that reveal considerable failure in two important areas – namely IT management and the mismanagement of certain cooperative agreements and grants. Further, the Department has not implemented certain recommendations of the IG in these areas. The Department has failed to rectify these problems by recovering taxpayer dollars or holding those responsible accountable. I hope our increased efforts to highlight matters like these will encourage better stewardship of the Department’s resources. Our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and all taxpayers, deserve to know their hard-earned tax dollars are being used appropriately,” said Chairman K. Michael Conaway, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

Written testimony provided by the witness from today’s hearing is linked below. Click here for more information, including Chairman Conaway's opening statement, and the archived webcast.

Witness List:

Panel I

The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

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Contact Information

1301 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2171
Fax 202-225-0917
agriculture.house.gov


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