Committee on Agriculture

Michael Conaway

Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture: U.S. International Food Aid Programs: Oversight and Accountability

2015/07/02


Full Committee: Energy and the Rural Economy: the Economic Impact of Exporting Crude Oil

2015/07/02


Canada and Mexico say repealing COOL is the only option

2015/06/25

In advance of today’s Senate hearing on U.S. country of origin labeling, Mexican and Canadian officials sent separate letters to Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, stating that a full repeal of COOL is the only option.   “For Canada, legislative repeal of COOL is the only approach that will achieve this end,” wrote Canadian Minister of Agriculture Gary Ritz.    “Retaliation is imminent and inevitable unless and until the U.S. takes action to repeal the underlying COOL statute,” wrote Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Villarreal.   Chairman Roberts said, “Whether you support COOL or oppose COOL, the fact is retaliation is coming. And this committee has to fix it.”    Retaliation is imminent, and the U.S. cannot delay in preventing the expected $3.2 billion in sanctions on U.S. products that range from meat and chocolate to jewelry and furniture. According to USDA, mandatory COOL has already cost the U.S. beef, pork and chicken sectors approximately $1.8 billion. There is overwhelming support in Congress to repeal this failed program, evidenced by the 300 House members who voted earlier this month in favor of H.R. 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory COOL for beef, pork, and chicken.

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Subcommittee Reviews USDA Marketing Programs

2015/06/25

Today, Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, held a public hearing to review the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) marketing programs. Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator of the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Livestock and Seed Program provided an overview of AMS programs that facilitate the marketing of U.S. agricultural products. Members also touched on ongoing efforts with the Energy and Commerce Committee to create a uniform, science-based, national framework governing the use of labeling claims regarding genetically engineered food or food ingredients. 

“It is clear from the testimony provided today that we have the tools and expertise through the Agricultural Marketing Service to provide consumers with the information they want in a manner that supports interstate commerce,” Subcommittee Chairman Davis said. “Technology has enabled us to enjoy the safest, highest quality, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world’s history. That’s why it is so important for the Agriculture Committee to make sure food labeling provides consistent, truthful information that does not confuse or mislead consumers.  I am confident that with the USDA's current process and the legislation under consideration, we can establish a national, uniform, and voluntary marketing approach that will benefit consumers." 

“National uniformity is essential when making marketing claims for agricultural products – including those grown using the latest advances in biotechnology – in order to prevent confusion and inconsistencies from state to state,” Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway said. “As the Agriculture Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee move forward on legislation to establish a national framework for claims relating to genetic engineering, we intend to provide the transparency consumers are looking for while protecting farmers’ and developers’ rights to use safe, proven technology to produce food.” 

Originally authored by Rep. Mike Pompeo and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will bring clarity and stability to the marketplace through national uniformity regarding marketing claims for products grown using the latest agricultural production technologies. The House Agriculture Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee jointly crafted a substitute amendment to the bill to further build and refine its advantages as a national program. The amendment, for which a discussion draft has been made publicly available, is intended to enhance coordination between the FDA and USDA, strengthen confidence in the safety of genetically engineered foods, and provide additional transparency and consumer confidence through a public website listing non-regulated genetically engineered plants and petitions submitted to and determinations made by USDA and FDA. Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing focused on the substitute amendment.

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

​Witness List:

Panel I

Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock Poultry and Seed Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Washington, DC

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Closing Statement: Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis: To Review USDA Marketing Programs

2015/06/25

Remarks as prepared:

Today the subcommittee examined the tools and capabilities of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to assist food producers market their products.  As we look more closely at the types of products consumers are demanding, we need to have the programs in place to ensure that the claims made on product labels are truthful and not misleading.

Farmers want and need to provide consumers with the products they desire.  As we have just heard, the Agricultural Marketing Service has the tools and expertise to provide consumers with the information they want in a manner that supports interstate commerce.

We will soon consider a substitute amendment to H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labelling Act which seeks to put in place the policy to make this work.  That substitute is circulating in draft form and will continue to go through refinement as we near Committee consideration.

Consumers are now being exposed to arbitrary and inconsistent label claims, some for non GE products such as salt where there is obviously no genetically engineered salt.  Consumers will benefit from legislation under consideration which would establish a national, uniform and voluntary marketing approach to these label claims. 

The House Committee on Agriculture has a long history of its involvement in developing policies to further the advancement of agricultural biotechnology.  We are aware of the incredible potential this technology brings to food and fiber production.  With biotechnology, the careful and precise addition of one or a few genes to a plant may make it more productive and nutritious, more tolerant to environmental stresses such as drought, and more resistant to disease and pests. These technologies can likewise improve the efficiency and therefore the productivity of agriculture, while at the same time reducing detrimental effects on the environment.

These and other advances have enabled us to enjoy the safest, highest quality, most abundant and affordable supply of food and fiber in mankind’s history.  As our knowledge has increased, so has the speed and precision in which we are able to harness natural capabilities to improve the plants we cultivate.

We have just heard from USDA that they have the capability and resources to provide valuable oversight of these voluntary marketing claims.  We know from previous hearings in this Committee as well as the Energy and Commerce Committee that we have a robust regulatory review process to ensure human, plant and animals health, as well as environmental health.

We look forward to everyone’s thoughtful review and constructive suggestions. With that, this hearing of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research stands adjourned.

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Opening Statement: Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis: To Review USDA Marketing Programs

2015/06/25

Remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon.  I would like to welcome everyone to the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research.

For the past several months, the Committee has evaluated aspects of agricultural marketing. As we have observed, consumers, ourselves included, are becoming increasingly savvy. As the number of choices available to us have increased, so has our desire to locate and purchase products that appeal to a broader set of criteria. Consumers are seeking more and different food products, not only appealing to price and quality characteristics, but now also relating to various production methods such as grass fed, natural, organic, or the use of technologies such as genetic engineering.

While many farmers and ranchers are in the commodity business, some have been able to achieve market premiums by appealing to this new consumer demand and creating niche market opportunities for their products.

By utilizing a variety of production practices, producers are distinguishing their products in order to appeal to unique consumer desires.

Today we will be hearing from USDA regarding programs that allow the Agricultural Marketing Service to help producers and processors address consumer demand through development of voluntary and unique marketing claims.

To distinguish and promote their products in the marketplace, USDA can assist producers using a variety of authorities including the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, and the Organic Foods Production Act. 

As this Committee has repeatedly observed, the keys to success in any marketing venture are voluntary participation, robust, transparent and meaningful standards, and comprehensive enforcement to ensure compliance.

Most people are aware of the USDA Organic label, but may not be aware of the policies and procedures of the National Organic Program.  Likewise, I'm sure many people have heard of and thoroughly enjoyed Certified Angus Beef, but may not  know where to find the standards that are in place for this program; nor may they be aware of the procedures in place to assure that this label claim is truthful and not misleading.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has long been in the business of assisting producers develop the programs and tools to take advantage of market opportunities.  As the Agriculture Committee considers proposals to develop other production based marketing claims, we felt it useful to review USDA's authorities and procedures.  It is my hope that the information collected from today's hearing will be of tremendous value as we continue to look for opportunities to improve agricultural productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Before I turn to the Ranking Member, I want to briefly discuss a recent Supreme Court decision on a marketing order within this Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  In the ruling on the Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture case, the Supreme Court held certain aspects of the raisin marketing order to be an unconstitutional taking.  As with all marketing orders, these programs are initiated by each industry and they have the opportunity to withdraw a marketing order at any time. Our responsibility is to uphold the integrity of marketing programs, as they are a proven useful tool for many industries, while ensuring our growers are not adversely harmed in the process. We are beginning to have bipartisan discussions with USDA to determine the impact of this decision and may conduct additional hearings as the situation warrants.

I now yield to the distinguished ranking member, Ms. Delbene.

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Opening Statement: Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis: To Review USDA Marketing Programs

2015/06/25

Remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon.  I would like to welcome everyone to the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research.

For the past several months, the Committee has evaluated aspects of agricultural marketing. As we have observed, consumers, ourselves included, are becoming increasingly savvy. As the number of choices available to us have increased, so has our desire to locate and purchase products that appeal to a broader set of criteria. Consumers are seeking more and different food products, not only appealing to price and quality characteristics, but now also relating to various production methods such as grass fed, natural, organic, or the use of technologies such as genetic engineering.

While many farmers and ranchers are in the commodity business, some have been able to achieve market premiums by appealing to this new consumer demand and creating niche market opportunities for their products.

By utilizing a variety of production practices, producers are distinguishing their products in order to appeal to unique consumer desires.

Today we will be hearing from USDA regarding programs that allow the Agricultural Marketing Service to help producers and processors address consumer demand through development of voluntary and unique marketing claims.

To distinguish and promote their products in the marketplace, USDA can assist producers using a variety of authorities including the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, and the Organic Foods Production Act. 

As this Committee has repeatedly observed, the keys to success in any marketing venture are voluntary participation, robust, transparent and meaningful standards, and comprehensive enforcement to ensure compliance.

Most people are aware of the USDA Organic label, but may not be aware of the policies and procedures of the National Organic Program.  Likewise, I'm sure many people have heard of and thoroughly enjoyed Certified Angus Beef, but may not  know where to find the standards that are in place for this program; nor may they be aware of the procedures in place to assure that this label claim is truthful and not misleading.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has long been in the business of assisting producers develop the programs and tools to take advantage of market opportunities.  As the Agriculture Committee considers proposals to develop other production based marketing claims, we felt it useful to review USDA's authorities and procedures.  It is my hope that the information collected from today's hearing will be of tremendous value as we continue to look for opportunities to improve agricultural productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Before I turn to the Ranking Member, I want to briefly discuss a recent Supreme Court decision on a marketing order within this Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  In the ruling on the Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture case, the Supreme Court held certain aspects of the raisin marketing order to be an unconstitutional taking.  As with all marketing orders, these programs are initiated by each industry and they have the opportunity to withdraw a marketing order at any time. Our responsibility is to uphold the integrity of marketing programs, as they are a proven useful tool for many industries, while ensuring our growers are not adversely harmed in the process. We are beginning to have bipartisan discussions with USDA to determine the impact of this decision and may conduct additional hearings as the situation warrants.

I now yield to the distinguished ranking member, Ms. Delbene.

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Joint Committee Reviews How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work

2015/06/25

Today, the House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee held a joint hearing with the House Committee on Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee addressing how certain welfare programs and related benefits can discourage work as a result of the high effective marginal tax rates they impose on certain populations.  

Low-income families often receive benefits from multiple welfare programs, such as assistance with food, housing, and day care costs, help with medical costs, or cash payments to supplement or replace earnings from work. While these programs nominally support and encourage employment, program “phase-out rules” – especially when combined across multiple programs – mean certain households may not be significantly better off if they work or increase their earnings from work. 

Economists have studied the interaction between earnings and benefits under various programs by focusing on what are called “effective marginal tax rates,” which refers to the portion of an additional dollar of earnings effectively lost due to rising taxes and benefit reductions. Due to effective marginal tax rates that can approach or even exceed 100 percent when individuals receive benefits from multiple programs, it is possible that some individuals can be little better off financially—and in some cases even worse off—if their earnings increase. 

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) said: “As the Agriculture Committee continues its full-scale SNAP review - The Past, Present, and Future of SNAP - it is important to fully understand the role SNAP plays within the larger picture of federal welfare programs and ensure proper coordination. Our welfare system is vital in providing assistance to millions of vulnerable citizens, but as we heard today, it often acts as more of a trap than a safety net. Helping able-bodied recipients re-enter and remain in the workforce must be a primary objective of these programs, as employment is what makes climbing the economic ladder possible. Our policies must encourage and reward that work." 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said: “Today, we have a safety net that catches people falling into poverty — and often traps them there. What we need is a safety net that lifts people out of poverty, so they can support themselves. We need to rethink how to promote opportunity in this country, and I think this hearing made a great contribution to our work.”   

Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN) added: “The day a worker is offered a raise or a promotion should be a happy one, not one that causes anxiety. Sadly, though, we heard firsthand today about the painful reality of federal welfare programs in America: recipients are deterred from earning more income because of structural disincentives that can cause the loss in benefits to outweigh the gain in income. It’s imperative that we continue to examine potential solutions to ensure workers reach their full potential and have the opportunity to climb the economic ladder.” 

Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) added: “This hearing showed that promoting work is the real key to helping people avoid poverty.  Benefits can and should serve as a temporary bridge between jobs, or to supplement earnings when someone can find only part-time work.  But those benefits need to reinforce, not undermine, the importance of work.  Redesigning welfare benefits to promote work is the key to helping people escape poverty.”

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

​Witness List:

Panel I

Casey Mulligan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago IL

Chanel McCorkle, Baltimore, MD, accompanied by Marsha Netus, Director of Operations, America Works, Baltimore, MD

Erik Randolph, Senior Fellow, Illinois Policy Institute, Chicago, IL

Olivia Golden, Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Policy, Washington, DC

Eugene Steuerle, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Urban Institute, Washington, DC

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Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Joint Hearing with Ways & Means on the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work

2015/06/25

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you to Chairman Ryan and his Committee for hosting the first joint hearing between our two committees as we explore how our welfare system can discourage work. It’s surprising that our Committees have not engaged formally before given the overlap in our recipient populations.

According to the most recent SNAP characteristics report:

•           20 percent of SNAP recipients also receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI),

•           24 percent receive some form of Social Security income,

•           9 percent receive Child Support Enforcement payments,

•           7 percent received support from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF, and

•           4 percent received Unemployment Income.

While today’s hearing is about work, the level of overlap suggestions this is only the beginning of our efforts to better coordinate programs across committees of jurisdiction.

Throughout our top-to-bottom review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP, we have had an eye towards strengthening the program so that it doesn’t become a trap but rather a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder. We have included a number of former recipients and front-line, non-governmental organizations who, we now know, are succeeding despite our welfare system.

Our hearing series has shown us that SNAP does not operate in a vacuum, and it plays an important role in the lives of nearly 46 million individuals. This is why hearings like today are important; recipients don’t think in terms of programs. While we do, it is our responsibility to look beyond our programs to understand the experience of the recipient and potential unintended consequences.

During our last hearing, we heard from practitioners about how they engage individuals to help them succeed in the workforce. We quickly encountered the reality of the “cliff effect” when programs designed to support work, do just the opposite. 

There is great dignity that comes from being able to provide financially for one’s own family, but that feeling can easily be overrun when our welfare system creates a situation where earnings do not necessarily translate to higher total income. This is not a problem that can be addressed by SNAP alone; it is going to take a coordinated effort.

Thank you again for hosting this important joint hearing, and I look forward to working with Chairman Ryan and other Committee Chairmen to ensure our welfare system is prepared to address current and future challenges.

We know that work is the best way to help individuals climb the economic ladder, and we must ensure that our policies reward that work. I look forward to hearing more about this from our panel today and thank them for being here.

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Opening Statement: Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski Joint Hearing with Ways & Means Committee: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work

2015/06/25

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you to Chairman Ryan and Subcommittee Chairman Boustany for hosting this historic joint hearing between our two committees as we better explore how our welfare system can discourage work. 

As the chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee, we have spent the past five months exploring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.  Our review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP has brought us to today, where we will explore real issues with another committee that is having many of the same discussions as us.

Throughout our review, I have stressed that we can’t just examine SNAP in a vacuum. We must recognize there are other programs that exist and explore how they work – or don’t work – together.   In my home state of Indiana, my fellow Hoosiers, care less about what committee has control of which program. Instead, they care more about how we, as legislators, work together. Today is the next step in that process.

During our last hearing, witnesses discussed the importance of case management and how they engage with recipients. We heard stories detailing the barriers they face. For instance, workers near the poverty line who are eligible for multiple assistance programs stand to lose financially by increasing their income, as their benefits are phased out. This is described by analysts as the welfare cliff. In the face of such a scenario, many forego raises or put in fewer hours. Individual programs may attempt to address this, but it requires a broader view of how programs interact to ensure we as policymakers are not inadvertently discouraging work.

Welfare programs should support those in need, not deter them from reaching their full potential in the workplace. I worry that this ‘cliff’ is a serious obstacle when recipients try to enter, re-enter, and remain in the workforce in order to climb the economic ladder. Helping recipients move into better paying jobs not only benefits their families but also taxpayers.  I’m looking forward to hearing about ways to explore how we can improve the operation of these programs in order to help millions of Americans seeking a better future.

Again, I thank Chairman Ryan and Subcommittee Chairman Boustany for hosting, and I look forward to working with them in the future. I also want to thank all of our witnesses for being here with us today and look forward to their testimony.

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Contact Information

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


Membership

Ralph Abraham

LOUISIANA's 5th DISTRICT

Rick Allen

GEORGIA's 12th DISTRICT

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Mike Bost

ILLINOIS' 12th DISTRICT

Michael Conaway

TEXAS' 11th DISTRICT

Rick Crawford

ARKANSAS' 1st DISTRICT

Rodney L. Davis

ILLINOIS' 13th DISTRICT

Jeff Denham

CALIFORNIA's 10th DISTRICT

Scott DesJarlais

TENNESSEE's 4th DISTRICT

Tom Emmer

MINNESOTA's 6th DISTRICT

Bob Gibbs

OHIO's 7th DISTRICT

Chris Gibson

NEW YORK's 19th DISTRICT

Bob Goodlatte

VIRGINIA's 6th DISTRICT

Vicky Hartzler

MISSOURI's 4th DISTRICT

Steve King

IOWA's 4th DISTRICT

Doug LaMalfa

CALIFORNIA's 1st DISTRICT

Frank Lucas

OKLAHOMA's 3rd DISTRICT

John Moolenaar

MICHIGAN's 4th DISTRICT

Randy Neugebauer

TEXAS' 19th DISTRICT

Dan Newhouse

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Mike Rogers

ALABAMA's 3rd DISTRICT

David Rouzer

NORTH CAROLINA's 7th DISTRICT

Austin Scott

GEORGIA's 8th DISTRICT

Glenn Thompson

PENNSYLVANIA's 5th DISTRICT

Jackie Walorski

INDIANA's 2nd DISTRICT

Ted Yoho

FLORIDA's 3rd DISTRICT

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