Ranking Member Bishop Statement at Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Department of Agriculture Hearing

2023-03-30 09:23

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Ranking Membero of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's fiscal year 2024 budget request hearing for the Department of Agriculture:

Thank you very much, Chairman Harris.

Secretary Vilsack, I welcome you. Let me start off by thanking you and congratulating you and people over at USDA for all that you have done over the past few years to get us through the pandemic supporting our farmers, our ranchers, rural America, supporting Americans in our nutrition programs, and, of course, helping us as we try to build for a better America and recover from what we’ve been through.

Secretary Vilsack, you have identified, in several letters, the potential harms of some of the concerns, the cuts, recommended by the other side to cut domestic discretionary spending. One of the plans wants to revert back to the FY22 levels and others are saying just reduce it by 22% or more.

You sent an excellent letter, which is available on the Appropriations Democrats’ website, which identified devastating impacts on WIC, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, rural rental assistance, conservation operations technical assistance provided to producers, and Farm Service Agency loans to farmers.

The full Committee Ranking Member and I will I’m sure explore the impact of these cuts during the question-and-answer period.

At a time when it is possible that your 2024 request will be sharply attacked in the House bill, I think members need to think about what could be lost under that scenario.

Notable investments in the request that virtually every member of the subcommittee supports include:

  • An increase of $105 million to help secure our watersheds
  • 400 more staff in Rural Development
  • Increasing the funding for single-family housing loans
  • An increase in the guaranteed business and industry loan program
  • An increase in water and waste funding that is desperately needed by so many rural communities across America.
  • $52 million for the ReConnect Program.
  • $550 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, better known as “AFRI.”

While we hear some support for drastic cuts, I don’t think we will hear much criticism of increases such as these in the budget.

To my friends on the other side of the aisle, you can’t have it both ways – either these and the many other programs in our bill are worthy and should be funded at the necessary level to do their jobs for the American people or they are not. 

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing from the secretary. I’ve heard criticisms of the Commodity Credit Corporation spending and I certainly would like to invite the Secretary to talk about his perception that somehow that fund has been misused or overused. I believe that it was an available tool that Congress put in place many, many years ago and it has served its purpose in helping the American people, our farmers and ranchers to get through terrible times that we’ve experienced over the past three years.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back and I look forward to the testimony from the Secretary and the question and answer session.

118th Congress