WASHINGTON, DC - Attending his first Senate Agriculture Committee hearing as ranking member, Senator Roberts today said America's farmers and ranchers are critical to the U.S. and global economies and that he would work to ensure producers have the tools they need to meet the food and nutrition demands of a growing global population.
Today's hearing, "Agriculture: Growing America's Economy" included the testimony of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Keith Creagh; farmer and former president of the National Corn Growers Association, Fred Yoder of Ohio; Texas A&M Economist, Dr. Joe Outlaw; and the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri, Thomas Hoenig.
During the hearing, Senator Roberts made the following remarks:
"I'm honored to be riding shot gun with you, Madame Chairwoman, as this committee conducts oversight of the 2008 Farm Bill and the Dodd-Frank Act; investigates over-burdensome regulations and long delayed trade agreements; and prepares for the next Farm Bill - which will happen to be my seventh.
"Kansas and Michigan have much in common in regards to the crops we grow. We both have wheat and corn and soybean producers. Additionally, I look forward to learning about the diversity you all have in production-- crops like asparagus and berries. I understand you all have tasty wine in Michigan too.
"It is a true privilege and honor to serve as Ranking Member of this committee. Senator Chambliss served as the top gun on our side for the last six years.
"Thank you Senator Chambliss for your tireless leadership, especially during the 2008 Farm Bill. I could go on down the line of former chairmen and ranking members who continue to serve this committee: Senators Lugar, Cochran, Leahy and Harkin, and a former Secretary of Ag in Senator Johanns. The unprecedented depth of knowledge and experience on this committee will serve all of agriculture and rural America well.
"I also welcome two new members to the committee, Senator Hoeven from North Dakota and Senator Boozman from Arkansas. The Agriculture Committee isn't often the first choice for new members but we are fortunate to have your enthusiasm and expertise on board.
"You'll find that this committee is a bit different than others in that you'll work just as much with members from the other side of the table as this side. In my experience with agriculture, I've found that this committee on more occasions than not is a fine example of bipartisanship and comity.
"We must work together because too often agriculture programs become the target of criticism and attacks. Some see America's producers as cowboys wearing black hats in the western movies-but not me.
"Our farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most abundant and affordable food and fiber supply in the world- all while facing increased input costs and tightening regulations. "As if these challenges weren't enough, our producers face a challenge of worldwide significance. As the global population tops 9 billion in the next several decades, agriculture production must more than double to meet the expected demand for food and nutrition.
"As Ranking Member, I will work to ensure that our producers have the tools and the necessary protection to meet this challenge.
"Today's hearing focuses on agriculture's contribution to our national economy and I appreciate our witnesses providing their perspective.
"Secretary Vilsack, welcome back to the committee. I understand this is round two for you today and I hope our friends on the other side of the Hill treated you well.
"I also thank Mr. Hoenig from the Kansas City Federal Reserve for testifying on our second panel.
"This afternoon we will hear many positives about the current state of agriculture. Commodity prices are up and the sun is shining. Usually a good thing.
"But any farmer in Kansas who has spent more than two weeks in a field can tell you that prices can change just as quickly as the weather. We on the authorizing committee must be mindful of that fact, especially as we move into future debates on the safety net.
"Madam Chairwoman, I thank you for calling this hearing and I look forward not only to hearing what our panels have to say today, but also to working with you to drive agriculture policy in the 112th Congress."
Senator Roberts has served on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry since coming to the Senate in 1997. As a member of the House from Kansas' Big First District, then Congressman Roberts was both Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.