Chairman Bishop Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 USDA Budget Request

2020-03-10 10:00

Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Department of Agriculture:

The Subcommittee will come to order.

Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget. 

I am pleased to introduce our witness, Secretary Perdue. The Secretary and I have a decades-long relationship. We share a deep passion for our farming and rural communities, and it has been a pleasure to work collaboratively with him over the last three years.

I also want to welcome Dr. Rob Johansson, USDA’s Chief Economist, and Ms. Erica Navarro, the Budget Officer, to the hearing.  Thank you for coming today.

Over this past few years, natural disasters, trade uncertainty, and increasing levels of farm debt and bankruptcies have led to increased stress and anxiety in the agriculture community. I want to thank the Secretary and all USDA employees who have helped our farmers navigate these tough times.

Despite the likelihood that these challenges will continue for some time, the administration has put forth an inadequate budget, as it has every year during its time in office. This year, USDA’s budget request is $16.4 billion, which is a reduction of $3.5 billion, or 18 percent, in discretionary funding from the final fiscal year 2020 bill. I continue to believe many of the proposals in the budget are bad for our farmers, rural communities, and vulnerable populations and quite honestly dead on arrival.

Any budget is a statement of values and priorities. It has been clear for three years now that this administration wants to dismantle critical programs. Fortunately, Congress has the power of the purse. As in years past, we will not entertain the elimination of programs such as Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Summer EBT, and nearly all the rural housing loan and grant programs.

We also will not entertain many of the proposed policy changes, especially those that would restrict SNAP benefits or overhaul crop insurance and conservation programs. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see the Department is once again proposing the Harvest Box idea, under which SNAP recipients would get part of their benefits via a box of food, rather than through SNAP monetary benefits. 

Sadly, this mirrors actions on the administrative side. When met with resistance during the 2018 farm bill debate on the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, and the Standard Utility and Allowance proposals, the administration moved forward with executive rule making.  I worry that these rules disproportionally impact working families with children trying to climb out of poverty.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2017, SNAP lifted 3.4 million people, including 1.5 million children, out of poverty. The economy is still not working for everyone and the Administration should not make it worse by decimating one of our most effective safety net programs.

I am disappointed to see that rural broadband funding was cut by $350 million. It is a program with bipartisan and bicameral support. As Chairman, I have made rural development a priority. We know that access to adequate broadband is a key ingredient for success. Yet, too many communities feel left behind – unable to connect their businesses or schools to the modern world.  

In the coming weeks several of the Mission Areas, including the Farm Production and Conservation, Rural Development, and the Food and Nutrition Service are coming to testify about their specific requests. We will dive deeper into their specific requests, and I pledge to do my best to work with you and Ranking Member Fortenberry to develop a bill that addresses the needs of all those who depend on USDA.

Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for being with us today, and I look forward to today’s discussion.


116th Congress