tv Agriculture Secretary Testifies on Rural Economy CSPAN January 21, 2022 3:55pm-8:01pm EST
you to thesoviet union . maybe theywould like to hear what you have to say . that worked incredibly well both at fort hunt and in europe. >> robert sutton and his book not these on the potomac sunday at 8 pm eastern on q and a. you can listen to you and a and all our podcasts on our new app. >> agriculture secretary tom bill zack was on capitol hill for a house hearing on the economy. he testified on topics including covid-19 relief for farmers, supply chain issues and trade exports to other countries. this is 4 hours.
>> the committee meeting will come to order. i want to welcome everyone and i want to thank you for joining us today to have our hearing which is entitled the review of the state of the rural economy with agriculture secretary tom vilsack. after brief opening remarks members will receive testimony from our witness today and the hearing will be open to questions. without objection, the chair may recess the committee subject to the call of the chair at any point during this hearing. and now i just want to give my brief opening statement. i want to welcome everyone who is watching today with
this hearing and i would like to start by first of all extending a warm greeting to my dear friend secretary vilsack and we're delighted to have you with us today secretary . now the chief function of our house agriculture committee is to conduct oversight. and ensure that the executive branch is implementing congressionally authorized programs as they are attended . one of the things that secretary has a hard stop at 2 pm and also when we return after our work period, we will begin to take up the 2020, 2023 farm bill. secretary, with that are going to hear from our
ranking member with any opening remarks he has. >> chairman, thank you very much. undersecretary, good to see you. welcome to capitol hill. glad to have you here. mister chairman, thank you for holding today's hearing and secretary vilsack for traveling to join us. this committee is well overdue for a general audience with you. i want to mention in advance i create appreciate your willingness to appear before us to respond to each member's concerns. i was pleased and hopeful when president biden asked you to join his team. your experience, during the president obama said ministration and quite frankly the years in between. was appreciated and like that of your predecessor would continue to cultivate and execute the policies necessary to make rural americans thrive. but as i travel the country those who produce food, fiber
and energy that keeps this country running are telling me different story. unfortunately i'm also seeing it firsthand throughout my home state of pennsylvania how president biden has fostered an agenda that's right with executive overreach and regulatory uncertainty and a far left ideology that doesn't align with the hard-working men and women who enrich our nation and our world. mister secretary our constituents want a government that works for them. as an advocate for their businesses, products and livelihoods and i'll tell you folks do not believe this administration is in their corner . farmers, ranchers and liconsumers are filing significant supply chain disruptions and rising energy and input costs, increasing inflation and long-standing labor shortages and these strains exacerbate the ongoing challenges of production agriculture . our nfcommunities are looking for solutions and they don't
need onerous adderall regulatory burdens and mountains of red tape for controversial livestock rules and other regulatory action. that's what they and we are witnessing. and our nation's ability to provideits citizens in the world with the safest and abundant food and fiber supply is limited mandate . i know all of us in both parties are motivated by this tremendous responsibility . >> .. now it appears further funding is under discussion and fails to address braille biden economy including the massive labor shortfalls. we see the clinton era swine inspection program will back
despite being grounded in science and enhanced processing capacity, efficiency and food safety. we need greater certainty the plight and resiliency for producers and consumers. on other fronts, the productivity relative to resource used for agriculture is up to 87% since the 1940s, i think that's something we should all be proud of. while total farm inputs remain mostly on chains, our producers have spent decades showing the world they are the answer to reducing global greenhouse gas admissions and they are not the problem activists of local knowledge of agriculture are winning the day. i hope thiswl administration department rethinks their alliance with these coalitions and ideal logs. i want to be your partner in makeshift responses to congressional inquiries and in many cases don't respond at all has made it truly challenging for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. myself included, to maintain
meaningful dialogue with the department policyny briefings ad administration updates with little tog no members further straining our partnership. if there's an w opportunity to work together. i believe that wholeheartedly and stand ready, a critical part of doing so is beginning 2018 farm bill oversight process working toward the next reauthorization. that's putting politics aside, what we tend to do here at the agricultural committee and beginning a process of what's working and what not for producers in rural communities and consumers. i look forward to starting that process with our members and with you, mr. secretary but we must stabilize our economy and supply chains and l improve labr force participation and common sense regulatory action to better understand the needs of our i shared constituency. i think it starts with this hearing so i appreciate if of the chairman for this hearing. i think the secretary again for coming before the committee and
look forward to more productive and consistent discourse. with that, i yield back. >> thank you, ranking member. the chair would request other members submit their opening statements for the record. so the secretary may begin to his testimony and to ensure there is ample time for questions. our witness today is our 32nd secretary of agriculture and a great ally of our nations farmers and ranchers. secretary tom bill second, we are pleased to welcome you back our agriculture committee and mr. secretary, begin when you are ready. >> thank you very much and appreciate the opportunity to be here today and also representative thompson, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee and thank the members for this
opportunity. i suppose i could focus on the fact that our farming is as good as it spent the last eight years we've had expert resources but i would like to focus on one phrase of my testimony on page four because i think it explains the heart of the challenge farmers and rural america faces and has faced considerable period of time. i want to focus on the phrase, and extractive -- extraction of economy. i make this reference on page four of my testimony, to set the stage for discussion, hopefully over the long haul as you begin your process of the farmville reauthorization. extraction economy is an economy that essentially we take things from the land and off the land and unfortunately, rather than burning them in value adding in and close to rural areas where natural resource is, they are transported to long distances where they are value added in
another location for opportunities and jobs are created elsewhere. i think it will be important as we lookes forward to try to develop what is called a circular economy in which the wealth is created and stays in rural areas. let me give a couple of examples how that can happen. there's a focus on local and regional food systems, we learned during the pandemic our system, food system was not as resilient as we hoped it would be. one way of making it more resilient is to create local and regional opportunities, one reason we are focused on expanding processing capacity, something i hear all the time when i travel around the country. the need for cattle producers and livestock and hog producers to have choice and opportunity for local processing facility creating local jobs to allow that revenue and wealth created forli processing to stay in community. another example is bio -based manufacturing, biofuel is an example by a multitude of ways to convert agricultural waste
products into a wide variety of things beyond renewable energy and fuel to include chemicals, materials, fabrics and fibers created opportunity for farmers and income sources as well as rural jobs. i'm a change creates opportunity for us as we look at ways in which rural can be used to sequester carbon as we embrace climate smart agricultural practices and it opens up a whole new opportunity for farmers to essentially bean paid for carbon sequestration they are currently doing and will do in the future. these are examples of a circular economy where the wealth basically stays the opportunity is created and jobs are created in rural areas and we are focused on trying to insert and encourage that circular o econoy to be more prevalent in rural areas across the u.s. mr. chairman, i know there are a variety of questions that will be posed today but i hope as this committee begins serious work on the farm bill that you will take time to work with us
to look at how we might be able to do a better job of maintaining and creating wealth in rural communities and making sureo historically underserved populations and communities also get a fair amount of attention and we are committed to working with you in partnership to use resources available from congress in a way that helps create those kinds of opportunities. with that, i will yield back the balance of my time andnd look forward to questions. >> thank you, mr. sec. for your important testimony. at this time, members will berw recognized for questions in order of seniority alternating between majority and minority members and you will be recognized for five minutes in order to allow us to get to as many questions as possible. i will certainly hold each
member to the strict five minutes because i want to be able to make sure every member has al chance to ask the secretarys, questions. please keep your microphones muted until you are recognized in order to minimize any background noise. now i recognize myself for my questions. mr. secretary, as you may know, our cotton industry is suffering in a very particular area with cotton merchandisers and they've had great impact in effect from our carbon 19 crisis. as you may recall, i wrote you a letter and asked for your help in what we can do to help our cotton merchandisers because,
mr. secretary, very critical to the risk management andp quiddiy for parking farmers. so mr. secretary, i want to help them, i knoww you do, to so what can we do? can reuse some of your authority with covidlp funds to be able to get help to them? what can we do to help our cotton merchandisers? >> we have been in consultation with a number of representatives of the cotton industry and users industry to determine how best to help. fsa is in part drafting notice of funds availability help to be able to make available sometime in the early spring to provide additional resources were trying to structure it in a way based on our conversations with the industry to provide assistance and help to the industry.
this is one of many programs we've inserted and adopted as a result resources made available under a max american rescue plan and cares act and a variety of assistance programs designed to make sure we have a significant amount of effort to provide assistance and help to those not adequately helped in the previous administration with these resources. >> thank you for that. now i would like to recognize the ranking member for his questions. >> thank you, secretary, appreciate you being here. mr. secretary, as you know, and i know this is important to you, gary has been a long priority of
mine and our largest commodity in pennsylvania. as i talked with dairy farmers across the country, i know it is important for our dairy state. glad dairy stakeholders are having serious discussions about potential reforms in the federal system and i think the system has long needed improvements for dairy farmers, i don't think we can keep going where we have an expect different results when you look at the loss of dairy farms but the covid-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on some of those deficiencies. conversations are still going on within the industry to raise consensus which i think is critically important but can you comment or commit to your department to work with us in the dairy sector to help this process along x. >> thank you for the question and certainly i hear concerns about the market order. it's important and necessary for the dairy industry to develop a
consensus opinion and as you travel around the country and as i do, it may be different than vermont and idaho, maybe a little different than mexico and in california in terms of the needs of the industry but i think the industry is serious about this effort and we will work with the industry to try to improve and onene reason we announced the dairy margin assistance, dairy payment to the pandemic market assistance program and why we created this program. we are trying to find ways to find existing tools to provide for the industry. >> i do think there is consensus out there, maybe not exactly on what to do but there is a need for change and that is helpful to bring people together by look forward to working with you in that arena. mr. secretary, march of 2021 you made reference in a press release, gaps and disparities concerning covid relief and
statements with the pressen sine then you've implied funding in many program areas has been disproportionate or skewed upon by race and the same phrase, gaps and. disparities within yor written testimony today. following your initial press statement last year my staff reached out numerous times requesting to see the data that supports that comment you've used and after no response i wrote to you personally askin for a response using inquiries and this week and nine months after first engaging on this issue, my office received a request that was merely regurgitation a pre-existing press releases i already had in hand and not the date i sought which is disappointing the timeline of the response is equally disappointing so i know we both agree this plague has been devastating to all stakeholders and communities and this committee has the responsibility to meet the needs
of all h producers that requires to work together and it does require us to work together. i look forward to doing better so i believe it highlights the need for increased oversight from this committee not only on farmville implication but covid relief and i hope to see greater responsiveness from usda partners, i think we are part om a great farm team and working together, every american family benefits and rural economy benefits so i'm hopeful we can work in a more responsive, a better way going forward. >> i think what i said and intended was to focus on the fact that the existing assistance under the trump administration was focused in
geographic areas and commodities and i think a recent study suggested exactly that. that's one reason we use the resourcesf under the cares act and pandemic assistance resources to spread out and try to provide help and assistance to those who hadn't received as much help. dairy was one area. biofuel history is another area. market for hogs,y folks selling hogs on the cash market is another area. the pandemic needs of specialty crops is another area so we made the effort to make sure we provided assistance and help ant comprehend of way as opposed to focusing in on specific commodity specific area. >> i think the data would be helpful -- >> gentlemen's time has expired. the gentleman from california, mr. costa is also the chair of the subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture is now recognized for five minutes.
>> thank you very much for bringing us together and support an opportunity to have a conversation secretary of agriculture. good to see you back mr. sec. we spent the whole day talking about the rural economy and challenges we face across the country regionally. this pandemic has had in terms of closing restaurants and schools and impacting supply chain in ways we could never have imagined and obviously we are still working on the effort in los angeles but i would like to focus on a couple of areas as we set the table for the farm bill next year that i note the chairman and all of us are interested in doing. we touched on the efforts of the challenges regionally about productions on that resolution
in canada and the recent decision made helpful to make sure we have a level playing field with neighbors to the north but the limitation on the program, volatility program which implemented for their losses, obviously impacts producers differently around the country, 5 million one-size-fits-all. i'm wondering trying to figure out areas where it does and might provide the effort for the losses they face during that time. mr. sec. -- >> the reason we established that limitation was the fact that during the course of the previous administration, the way in which covid relief was provided and helped as it
relates to the food box program resulted in somewhat of a distortion in the market that created ach situation where thee was significant difference between class one and class three in many producers, small producers were hurt so it was designed to provide assistance and help small producers hurt because of thatny circumstance. happy to work and did work and are working on a variety of other ways and across the board and happy to work with you to provide assistance and help to the dairy industry. >> the trade issues you and i discussed before are critical to american agriculture and the number one in thee nation, and california agricultural production is exported and i'm wondering as we look to a level playing field not only with consumers, that we export to asia but also new york as well
and i'm wondering what department they can follow in regards to the new agreement of the u.s. mexican canadian agreement. >> you alluded to the fact that we supported u.s. trade representative's office and the canadian dairy situation, pleased to see that florida will be implement it in a way in which it was intended. we are working with our friends in mexico on a variety of issues not the least of which is file tech approvals, the ability to sell corn and feed into mexico and insurances for the mexican secretary, we will continue to take place so there's ongoing conversations i've probably spoken to the secretary of mexico at least six or seven times since i took office and i've had a number of responses andpo communications so there is
constant effort to ensure enforcement and this is designed to provide, create a sense of trust not just in mexico and canada but also in china. we have unfinished business to phase one and we continue to press china too increase purchases and address many of the important -- >> do believe they've kept commitments under the previous commitment? >> 13 billion short on purchases and seven key areas where they have yet to perform biotech approvals, ddd sales and tariffs on ethanol and other sorts. >> we will follow up onec that,s soon as we talked about forestry, horrific fires in managing forests, we want to support your efforts there. there's a lot to be done in this
ten year program, it something we want tone work with you on. >> gentlemen's time has expired. the gentleman fromer georgia, m. austin scott, you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. secretary bill sackett, i spoke to some of my distributors about these products, they are saying raw materials are in the countries but what's creating backups and challenges to get the products to the warehouses and farms, is not consistent with what you are hearing from the people at usda? >> there certainly concerned about the lack of truck drivers which is why wee are working wih the permit of labor and encouraged by their efforts to create a program andac speed up the process to get behind the wheel work to issue cdl licenses
as quickly as possible, as an area we are concerned about. >> i think they are talking about shortages and labor at the things,uring and other it does concern me that in many cases, people don't recognize how important timeliness is in regard to the application of fertilizer products, to get the yield farmers depend on and we all depend on for our food supply in the country so i hope usda will stay on the department of transportation making sure they understand that when we have to have protection products in the field, two or three weeks late, that doesn't work. you are given an additional $10 billion this past fall for
disaster assistance, extreme weather in 2020 and 2021, can you give an update or any detail of whether distribution stands? >> let's talk about the $750 million allocated for the livestock industry. we are looking at the process to use existing data from the program to facilitate payment the hope is the payment make the livestock producers sometime this spring. the expectation is there may be additional need and resources made available and trying to semper fi the process to get resources to the farmers as quickly as possible. on the grain side, we hope to use data in crop insurance data to essentially create pre-fill out application to speed up the process of the resources to those producers and a second loss in areas that were covid,
folks who didn't have crop insurance coverage so the goal is to try to get the payment of the spring. >> so hopefully by the end of april than. >> april, may, sometime in the time frame. the key is to make sure we get it done as quickly as possible which is why we are simplifying the process to use existing data to speed up the process. >> okay. one last question, my corporation -- i know there's tremendous discussion about climate smart agriculture and the corporation, it's my understanding billion dollars in ccc funds are being used for climate agricultural forestry, how is this under specific enumerated purposes of you cc,
and the tarter act will be used and can you give more details? >> as you know, this corporation is to provide for promotion of commodities and what we are hearing and seeing from the industry for sustainably produced commodities in which they can ensure consumers what they are purchasing is not ample to the environment so we want to help producers create climate smarte commodities that falls under section four or five of the ccc and we are confident we have the capacity and ability to use this without jeopardizing other needs or reasons for the ccc. this will give farmed loops and food groups that proposes to suggest this in the food and farm alliance document on climate smart agriculture suggesting the need for demonstration and pilot projects
funded through the ccc and we are following prescription of groups like the american farm bureau in their advocacy for this so we feel confident we have legal grounds based on the fact that we will promote climate smart commodities. >> my time is expired. >> thank you, the gentleman from massachusetts, mr. mcgovern who is also the chair of the house committee is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you for your leadership. i want to thank secretary bill zack for his service and team at usda, i found. them to be responsive always and i appreciate that. on to start off by saying i am currently working with congress member to organize aay roundtabe on tribal farming and indigenous food systems. while we almost do more honor and learn from experiences of indigenous people, i want to thank you, mr. secretary and your team for all the work
you've done so far in this. as i have pushed for white hous conference and food nutrition health and hunger, i've had the opportunity to see a wide range of places working to ensure access to culturally appropriate people. i was in newf york city recentl, in a place called the med counsel focusing on providing access to kosher foods for those who would otherwise be forced to choose between your fate and having food on the table. many of the programs when i visited san francisco specialize in providing culturally appropriate foods where asian and latin x communities, food bank in phoenix, arizona, the oldest food bank in america, they've made it mission to provide culturally appropriate native foods for elders to eat so as we discussed the upcoming
roundtable indigenous people know thepr power of sovereignty and making decisions that accomplish your own values on behalf of your people and we will hear how self-government means clearly being able to feed your people soo the u.s. federal government has much to learn from indigenous peoples of this land and that priority of feeding your own people is one i know i will carry with me so with that, i would like to know more what usda is ensuring for culturally appropriate foods and what you need from congress to ensure foodli programs, our meeting all the needs of the people? can you tell me more about the efforts to incorporate regional purpose and in the food distribution on indian reservations program? >> congressman, several points here. we've entered into eight demonstration projects with
eight tribes through office of travel relations to begin to incorporate indigenouso foods into the foods available under the federal food program for tribes and step program trying to figure out ways in which we can incorporate more fully and completelyan availability of indigenous foods. it is not the ability of meeting food security and cultural needs of populations, is creating opportunity and economic opportunity to the extent youin create regional food systems, one designed to produce those culturally appropriate c foods, you are creating jobs and what i referred to earlier as a circular economy and we are continuing to work with tribes to do more of this. i would say one of the challenges in this, also trying to address, that is fractionated
ownership of land to globally and tribal areas as well as african-american farmers and this is an issue we are trying to address for the rule we instituted, 120 milli- dollars made available for revolving loan fund to create the opportunity for people to consolidate land title which would allow them to exercise and access resources from usda so these are integrated parts in terms of what congress can do, one thing you can do is have a budget. [laughter] that's the first thing we'd like to see because it would allow us the ability to have sufficient resources to provide technical assistance needed to institute these programs. >> the generalal question that culturally appropriate foods which is an issue i hear a lot
about, new york city with the med t counsel, is the usda doing anything to address the issue? >> one think we are trying to do is makeda sure we have available processing capacity that create that culturally appropriate food and as we look at various programs with announced recently to try to expand capacity and competition, bear in mind particles resources need to be done to make sure kosher foods are available and produced and processed in the appropriate way. >> thank you and i look forward -- >> gentlemen's time has expired. the gentleman frome tennessee is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary, great to see you here again. last night we spoke, i introduced you to the issue of black vultures which apparently we are going to talk more about this year because it's getting worse again but that's not what
i want to focus on again today. for protecting the health and safety of employees and farmers and customers is a critical important part. farmers are not getting an acceptable level of service from fsa field offices they deserve. before covid, farmers were able to come at the office on the often strict schedules but now they have a hard time getting an appointment at all. sign up for crop year 2022 program is eminent, when you expect field offices to return to normal operating levels? >> you and i have a different of opinion on this because we keep track of level of work being done at farm service agencies to see whether or not the pandemic has negatively impacted the ability to get work done and as we see we are continuing to work pre-pandemic levels. let me give you a sense of this,
fy 211, those folks a good 21833 direct loans, 7218 guaranteed loans, 12,000 244 ownership loans, 12,000 528 operating loans and 4270 micro loans. there's a lot of work done in addition to crp and over $7 billion of pandemic assistance provided so the work is getting done because folks are working on my, e-mail and the phones and offices. >> we have the largest farm bureau office in the country in my district in columbia tennessee and thus came directly from them so maybe i will have someone from your staff to get in touch because they are saying people don't havest access to fa office and a lot of it is issues do to covid restrictions and vaccination mandates and supposedly there's 80 some%, 88%
compliance but they have had one vaccine. what is the current status, are people going to still be restricted from work if they are not vaccinated? yesterday cdc said natural immunity was more effective against delta within the vaccine so we are in the changing process of the vaccine mutating as we've gone along and i think we need to get up to the times. you are saying the works done but that's not what we are seeing. >> there are a lot off loans and activity done, 88%, almost 89% of employees are vaccinated and -- >> with one vaccine though? >> 97% of the workforce actually is either vaccinated or requesting accommodation and we are working through the accommodations. if they continue to work when requesting accommodation, they simply have to have a mask in
social distancing so 97% of the workforce is currently covid and we are working through the remainder of the workforce encouraging them to either get vaccinated request accommodation and still have time to do that. >> my understanding was the usda the highest number of exemption requests and all agencies but they won't bend available so i'm getting double information from what you're telling me, you're saying that's not the case? >> that's not the case. >> that's good because at least in tennessee i don't know about my colleagues but they are having issues getting employment with fsa we were told that could be addressed. let me finish, ranchers in this administration are attacking them from not defending revoking tolerances of crops, protection tools and skyrocketing input costs. i understand why, they have these concerns, can you tell me how you are serving as
production agricultural and defending agriculture brought the biden administration? you have 35 seconds. >> encouraging them to do what they are currently doing which is to reach out to farm groups and farmers across5 the country to listen to concerns they may have about implementation and formation of the rule and i appreciate the relationship i have with administrator reagan on that. we are also looking at ways in which we can provide help and assistance once the roles are determined in terms of providing assistance in the conservation programs to make sure folks are in compliance. those are two principal responsible these, encourage outreach and make sure we use the tools to help farmers implement as accurately as possible. >> gentlemen's time has expired. the gentlewoman from north carolina, ms. adams was also vice chair of the committee on agriculture now recognized for
five minutes. >> thank you, ranking member johnson for hosting the hearing today and secretary avail sack, good to seeme you again. rural communities continue to face unique challenges that must be addressed to achieve growth. socially distance small to midsize farmers, special attention because they are more vulnerable to outside actors. continue to experience challenges of covid, supply chain, labor market shortages and etc. at the same time, climate change and management of carbon forms must be submitted. as cochair of the bipartisan accomplice, i have a note the institutions play an important role to contribute extension and agriculture sciences, these
institutions and the work that supports surrounding communities including those located in hard-to-reach areas but as you know, these institutions can work closely with the department so can you speak through any collaboration on rules development, climate change and programs where usda can better support the work and contributions in communities in the country? >> appreciate the question, i had a great meeting with the consulsik representing hbcus a month or so ago and we talked about the opportunities within rural development. first order of business is to make sure is thede understanding of the extraordinary scope of the programs we have at usda and encourage greater collaboration. we are beginning to see a number of products and resources provided $21.8 million provided
on 58 projects to try to expand their reach into the community and will. continue to look at 2501 funding and ways in which we encourage both hbcus and other cooperators to provide technical assistance in connection between underserved communities and producers and usda. we've recentlyov t announced $75 million of resource under american rescue planon to create that bridge, thought connection between producers and usda and look for expansion of that cooperative effort. our inner cs announced 50 million initiative, over 118 cooperators contracted to provide information and assistance in terms of conservation programs. rmaia extending $7 million to expand outreach so people understand a wide range of crop insurance tools available so
there's concerted effort here to make sure we do a better job connecting hbcus are at the center. >> thank you. i helped author the community farm bill, it's important we work to ensure that but broadly speaking, how can an sia institutions, as it relates to this? >> we've recently announced an agricultural center, to million dollar commitment for that purpose and we are seeing additional resources requested in the budget to expand centers of excellence at hbc you select continues and is somewhat dependent on our ability to get the 222 budget through the process. >> great, thank you. as you know, many of our states the 1890 institutions are located do not receive their
rent in the state, north carolina, what steps could we take to ensure they provide one-to-one matching funds for these institutions? >> continue with governors and making sure they are fully aware and appreciate opportunities in their community and their state from having activee and engaged hbc you, federalir resources toe leveraged. i wouldmm say it's important to continue to work, the need to have -- to do a better job connecting with minority serving institutions across the board to encourage internships, fellowships and scholarships so we create closer connection. the reason is simple. a% of the workforce is under the feage of 35 there so we will fae significant workforce shortage in the near future and make sure we have the brightest and best coming a and. >> thank you, that was going to be my next question about
supporting investment in the 2022 farm billre you said. thank you very much, i'm going to yield back. >> the gentle lady from missouri is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's good to see you, mr. secretary, thank you for all you do for agriculture. i am very excited and appreciative of what you're doing to try to promote meat processing plant nearby in our community. i did send a letter last july asking for clarification for the criteria for distribution in the $375 million for processors, could you give an update on the criteria for the money and processors began operating or
conducted any expansions since the beginning of covid, be able to qualify for this? >> we provided additional resources for existing facilities to expand under loan guarantee program announced several weeks ago. in addition as you mentioned, the grant program will be broken down into two areas. the first $150 million will be made available we help by the framework of that instructor will bee disclosed in the next few weeks. it's designed primarily to jumpstart projects ready to goa, shall freddie, they just need a little encouragement for if they could be an expansion of an existing facility or new construction. either one would qualify. the hope is we get ten, 15, 20
projects funded through that process and in the summer, on a $225 million of grant resource and to $75 million of additional low interest financing will become available, it will be available for r existing studies wishing to expand and for new facilities. the goal i think is a to make se we are addressing a wide array and range of needs from very small processing operations to midsize operations. we are hopeful we see cooperatives to look at the possibility of accessing these resources so we expandd capacity and competition the belief is when we do that, producers will benefit and so will consumers. >> there is some entity that stood up because they saw a need and they went in debt and now they can't qualify because they are already up and running, not expanding but i would encourage
you off-line to not forget those people who put everything on the line in order to save it but now they don't qualify just because of the timing so anyway, i would appreciate it if you could talk further about that and we don't leave anybody out who stood up and tried to help in that regard. there is also news regarding successful transplant from animal into human, but something we can be pleased about, biotechnology but unfortunately also lack of clear commercialization for animal biotechnology, rather than medical purposes. university of missouri in my district has been developing hogs and because of the current
process and mayhem in the fda, this technology is not yet available for producers and got china and other countries are moving forward rapidly but we arty have that technology. mr. secretary, confirmed fda commissioner, how do you plan on your counterparts to finalize work started on advancement on the genetically engineered animal? >> we actually thought we had done that work with signed mou but there's indication from the fda department in health and human services they don't believe there was authority for the folks who signed that on behalf of fda so obviously as soon as the fda commissioner's conference, we will work closely with that individual to make sure there's ongoing discussions and negotiations to complete that mou, we appreciate the
necessity of clarity and anxious to havend a. >> that would be great. it's reported that the biden administration in the 2022 mandates, potentially the biofuel industry, are you aware of lending -- >> the gentle lady's time has expired. mr. secretary, hume a follow-up. >> i would just mention the biofuel levels for 2021, 2022 are the highest in j the history of the program which indicate trajectory growth and department of agriculture is providing $700 million of additional assistance in the bio you'll industry and encourage to get through the pandemic situation as well as 100 billing dollars to expand access to higher blend so i could make the case that it's an industry administration supporting this 65 waivers
denied that might well have been granted during the previous administration. >> the gentlewoman fromry connecticut who is also the chairman of the subcommittee on nutrition oversight, department operations is recognized for five minutes. >> good morning, mr. chair and thank you secretary bill sack for being here today. the first thing i would like to discuss is food access in rural areas, online pilot purchasing. since the program inei 2019 and onset of i the cover pandemic, snap on my purchasing expanded into 48 states and over 75 retailers. inf connecticut, groceries cane bought online from five different grocery stores, none are small independent businesses. however, eligibility to utilize
the s program is not equitable across the country. although most states have on my purchasing retailer, retailers do not always serve zip codes within the state. according to the 2019 study, all my purchasing and delivery services were available to only 31% in rural food desert. in comparison, on my purchasing and delivery services were available and 94 considered urban food desert. secretary vilsack, congress provided $30 million for the usda to invest and snap on my purchasing and other snap technological modernization throughout the pandemic. how has the usda used funds congress provided to make snap on my purchasing a reality in all rural areas and how can congress assist usda in making the program more assessable in these areas? >> the information i have today, 97% ofow households have the
opportunity for online purchasing. obviously i would be happy to go back and makee sure those numbes are accurate to the extent that there is need for continued focus on remote areas, i would say a couple things. first, we are looking forward early in 2022 announcing healthy food financing initiative using resources for the american rescue plan to began aggressively addressing food deserts. part of the issue issy not just access to online but the ability of having facilities to provide food to folks so that is one thing wef expect to do and the focus will be on rural and remote areas. we are making sure there helping food banks also helping service the same individuals be able to have access to resources and figureff out ways in which they can more easily and completely
[inaudible] >> are we on? i think we are on. bravo. mr. chairman -- if i could finish the last comment that has to do with the role of food banks and trying to respond to food needs. we provide $800 million of reach and resiliency resources for food banks across the country, encouraging them to look for ways to address the need for food security and rural remote areas and infrastructure to allow them to store fresh produce, dairy products and so forth, refrigeration and storage capacity so hopefully we are addressing a multitude of ways to get access to food in rural and remote areas. >> members of the subcommittee happen working diligently to address hunger.
usda economic research service released a report last year findingg more than 11% of workig aged veterans live in food insecure households and veterans have 7.4% greater risk food insecurity than the general population. to address this concerning reality, how is the usda working with the va to target food assistance to veterans and how is the usda working to ensure eligible veterans know about their eligibility to take thadvantage of these programs? >> we are working with veterans affairs to make sure as individuals service and department of the fence if they leave the service, they are fully and completely aware of resources available to them including ability to access snap benefits. we will continue to s work with the va and defense department to make sure we're doing the very best job we can to make sure resources are available. this is a sad state of affairs,
folks who havee' served our are in need of this assistance, we need to make sure they get. >> thank you, we had a hearing in our subcommittee and we heard from veterans and it is tragic this is happening in this country and we have the responsibility to do better so i look forward to working with you to make sure we close the gaps to support our veterans. i'm coming to the end of my time and i'lltt leave you with one lt question perhaps if you don't have time, youan can follow up . 2016 -- 2020, the number of full-time employees at the usda decreased primarily 94900 toonoe approximately 86400. has this affected usda's ability to communicate with producers for programs to participate in them? how can congress assist usda ensuring you have adequate staffing levels you need to take
on the responsible lease especially as we work toward this upcoming farmville? >> one area we've dealt with the decline in workforce is natural resource conservation service in forest service and ability -- >> the ladies time has expired. the gentleman from illinois, mr. davis is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you chairman scott and ranking member thompson for holding this hearing and my friend, secretary vilsack for testifying today. it's great to see you. i get to ask questions a little sooner than when we first met of a few years ago when you are sitting at that same table. mr. secretary, in november we held a hearing on the supply chain crisis, the consensus was every sector is crushed by this administration's spending agenda driving high cost and inflation.
they see itt in empty grocery store shelves and local businesses and as he mentioned, usda, approximately 11 million certified by the state workforce agencies receiving snap benefits but start working immediately, 10.6 million open jobs weem hav. the workforce could be living products, stocking shelves but that's if we prioritize trade programs and trade assistance. we've solved a huge piece of the puzzle in the supply chain crisis. i know the up administration issued announcements to address the supply chain crisis but how can we get back to work effort? >> i had a hard time understanding the question but i think i'll try to respond to it.
one of the things we're doing is obviously individual states have the ability to make decisions concerning administration and ability to encourage folks able-bodied to get back into the workforce. some states exercise that power and other states are still in the process of deciding whether to exercise that power so part of this is important for states to analyze current circumstance and make the h decision on whato do for i think we're looking at ways in which we can provide assistance at usda, one area we are concerned about is the fact that there are agricultural products available and ready for export but for whatever reason there empty containers leaving sports because they are making -- it's more profitable for them to have empty containers than agricultural
products so we are looking for ways to utilize resources to fill the containers as we do, i think it will create opportunity not only for agricultural but additional job efforts. nobody anticipated i. don't think, the number of people who made the decision to retire. this obviously is a challenge and one we will have to look at creatively to try to address. >> it is a challenge and i agree but i also think there may be some ways to utilize training programs to get snap beneficiaries and training to fill jobs available to replace those. >> we just finished a rule on improving employment and training under the snap programs and it's important to talk about
this because it's states responsibly to take resources we provide millions of dollars and in many cases states don't spend those resources and that's unfortunate. many cases they don't do a m particularly good job, they know who snap beneficiaries are and who the workforce needs are because they have workforce department officers. ...
i just want to get your response on a higher blend infrastructure program. do you have any further plans to bolster that? >> i think we just announced $100 million to encourage expansion of higher blended fuels and i would point out in my nine seconds the there's a tremendous opportunity in aviation fuel. it was recently announced agreed to tremendous opportunity in the biofuel for expansion. >> mr. and delgado who is chair of the subcommittee on commodities exchanges energy and credit is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for holding this hearing and thank you secretary vilsack for testifying before us today. secretary thomas vilsack our priority that i know you and i
both share and as you spoke about previously including when you came to my district and met with our advisoryai committee. ranking member thompson i have bipartisan -- to serve all for it is of no concluding whole milk and they know we are limited by current law and most schools must align with the most recent dietary guidelines. i'm concerned when the dietary guidelines didn't appear to consider recent science of the positive or neutral effects. with the whole milk being the referred choice when compared to skim or low-fat options it has a clear track record for improving milk consumption and the know they want to increase milk consumption so accordingly i do
hope in the next go-round you'll consider the full value the signs and i appreciate you visiting my district last summer and you spoke about encouraging whole milk in schools and i would love to have you elaborate on whatas specific actions your department is considering and what we can do on our end to help make it happen. >> congressman one of the key problems with the issue of whole milk is the cost. if you talk to school attrition folks in the countryside they difficult and tight isget imparted the issue cost paid one thing we can do in terms of additional consumption is to take a look in which ways the current supply of milk is being made available and whether or not it is a barrier to consumption and i think if you look at the research you will
find that the containers that are used in schools are a barrier. they are difficult to open and so kids oftentimes just pass on the milk andh oftentimes the temperature of the milk is not what it needs to be so we are looking at ways we can provide resources to school to basically. a way in which the milk is distributed at a very cold temperature and in containers that are less cumbersome as a way of increasing milk consumption. i would point out that while milk consumption is down in the country dairy consumption is actually up. we may not drink as much as we used to. we certainly eat more than we used to in terms of cheese and yogurt in things of that nature and we have instituted those products into the school lunch programs. >> i appreciate that. follow-up in terms of the cost i know you mentioned how
containers could be helpful. are there any ways that cost can beou addressed?ul >> you all had the opportunity to make that determination to provide the budget and resources that would enable the reimbursement rate and the resources available to schools could be increased to provide the additional resources and right now as a result of a pandemic we are doing what we can to increase access to resources as school districtsea are faced with some serious challenges in one of the reasons there are challenges is not only -- food is -- we are changing the way in which and where we keep food. 10% more in-home consumption today than pre-pandemic and that is created and a need for a shift away from supplying the restaurant versus supplying it to grocery store, different
packaging and different size containers etc. all of which the supply chain is working through and hopefully at some point in time we return to whatever normal is. >> i see i've gone over my five minutes so i willnt circle back and yield back the rest of my time. >> the gentleman from georgia mr. allen is recognized. mr. allen you may want to mute. >> there we go. can you hear me okay? >> yes, i can. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you mr. secretary. we have been wanting to hear from you and we are almost a year to this administration we have wanted to hear from you particular now that we are a nation in crisis. you go to the gas pump we have a
world of fossil fuels and we seem to have a war on agriculture. in my district we have farmers trying to export pecans peanuts cotton you name it and we can't gete' trailers loaded for whater reason. china and their situation with containers going back and so we have crisis after crisis after crisis on the supply chain issue and i'm sure you'll hear a lot more about that. one issue is that is specific to my district as you are aware the epa banned critical pesticides and right now at epa's decision is in conflict with usda that pointed out that our science supports the continued safe use
of this chemical. typically in these situations usda would go to omb and there would ease some kind of -- we believe the situation on this particular chemical and what are you doing about that? >> it's a good question congressman and i will tell you that we have ongoing conversations andd discuss and with epa and i don't know if we'd necessarily released -- reached a consensus that discussions are ongoing. >> there's a sense of urgency you might understand. as far as, as far as the situation with the cost of food at the grocery store, i'm
getting hammered with that in my district. where are we with that and what you doing as far as investigative work in what might happen to relieve some of that pressure? >> i think there a couple of things. first w of all in so many areas where reseen increase prices there is then some deceleration in the last couple of months and hopefully that continues. meet in particular has gone down a bit. this is basically strong demand and as i indicated earlier strong demand globallyle and nationally and essentially we are changing or patterns of how we eat and i where we eat and te supply chain has had to adjust to the fact that we are being a oat home and not at restaurants that we are trying to address the issue by encouraging longer hours and we mentioned the efforts to try to get more drivers and trucks with
friendship programs and licensing and we have pop-up towards that are being encouraged to create movement of those containers and getting them into the stream of commerce. we continue to look for ways in which wewe can provide assistane to families that are struggling and that's why we have theem s.n.a.p. program and the food programo and why we provide additional assistance to schools in the form of additional cash and food products that were purchasing and we encourage some statesra to begin to apply for provide plans so they are writing things were trying to do to help folks through this difficult period while we are trying to balance supply and demand. >> alsoie recent attacks on our packaging industries and you are taking action as far as them meat industry.
the folks are very concerned about production as far as line speeds and things like that. obviously have you've been and come have you've been on the frontline to talk to these folks about the issues they are dealing with an obviously the workforce. we haveee a workforce and agriculture and i have about 18 seconds so what are you doing there? >> we are working on a federal case that basically denied a rule and we are working with nine entities and nine businesses and five have applied for a waiver. we are in the process of review on data in the poultry side the va's for the court to remand the litigationon back to usda so we can try to create a similar waiver process in the poultry area. >> the gentleman's time has
expired. the gentleman from illinois mr. rush is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman for this hearing. secretaries vilsack -- secretary vilsack will i'm so delighted to have you here at this hearing today and i want you to know i really appreciate your continued commitment to working with me and others on this committee. mr. secretary we really want to welcome you we really do and i'm delighted that this feeling is mutually felt. i mentioned there's too much -- in my city of chicago and the surrounding areas.
1.4% of the farming population. mr. secretary this situation will only get worse without action. recently it was reported applications are significantly more likely to be rejected and even when approved the loans for the ranch farmers are -- white farmers. moreover too often they are unwelcome. ior know that you are working hd in your department isou working hard to reverse these injustices once and for all and my question to you mr. secretary is we you
please outline exactly how usda is working to help minority farmers and particularly ranch farmers? >> thank you very much for the question. oftentimes in some cases the applications were withdrawn in some cases the applications were incomplete and in some cases the application didn't have the cash flow that made sense. a lot of different reasons. i think the fundamental concern in the fundamental challenges that folks do not have the technical systems to be able to understandso precisely how to access usda programs and for that reason under the american rescue plan we are using resources to provide assistance to create a whopping groups that can, connect with those african-american farmers to provide technical assistance in the financial planning that's --
the business planning in the development of application so that there is more success of the first-order is this here is to get folks the kind of technical assistanceng they need and the usda has expanded significantly efforts in that regard and we will continue to expand efforts and there's a lot more it could say. i see my time is up. >> the gentleman from north carolina mr. rodgers is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you chairman scott and mr. secretary it's always good to see you and we appreciate you being here today.. i want to follow-up on this inflation aspect. certainly supply and demand is an issue. some of the bad government policy affects supply and demand. of labor is a big issue and when you pay folks not to work that exacerbates the problem and excessive spending that's not needed and you have toab million
dollars and using money policies that the fed. all of that plays a part in this inflation crisis that we are seeing and i note the administrationry and you in the meat and poultry sector are good and the administration is pursuing additional rules on these industries which will increase cost and increase inflation for consumers. so i really push back on these rules as strongly as i possibly can and note multiple congresses have rejected these proposals in the past. her you still doing that given the inflation crisis we have in
this country? >> congressman i don't think the rules are connected to inflation. iav think strong demand we are seeing in a growing economy and the economy is growing at a record rate is a response. let me simply say farmers deserve a fair shake in the marketplace and they don't get a fair shake. they do not get a fair shake in the marketplace. culture producers are not given a fair shake in the system. it's not transparent and they have very little rights and they have the rug pulled out from them on multiple occasions. stories of investments that make only to find the integrator pulls business from them so this is about fundamental fairness and giving farmers a fairnd shae and that's our role to make sure we are giving farmers a fair
shake and it's important to expand capacity. when 85% of meat processes and is in the hands of poor companies in 70% of pork processing as they had in the hands of poor companies it's too concentrated and there isn't enough capacity and not enough competition and frankly if we have more competition we give consumers a choice and if consumers have a choice i guarantee that impacts the price in a positive way. >> mr. secretary new rules and regulations only add to costs and drive further consolidation. moving forward as you probably know appropriations subcommittee chairwoman delauro -- a bill to reduce line speeds which will
only reduce supply and then you you have higher demand a drive up costs and what you going to do about that? >> i think it's important for us to understand there are three dynamics here. there's the need for continued farmer productivity and profit and there is a need for worker safety and the need for processors as well. the goal here is not necessarily to >> worker safety against farmers profits are farmers profits against processing. the goal is tried figure out how to balance it. i think there's a way forward and i think we found this with a pilot program we have in the pork industry where we are encouraging folks to look at worker safety and to look at line speed and i think there's a way to find a common ground here and that is what we are going to try to continue to do at the usda and i'm encouraged by the fact that five of the nine pork producers and processes are
looking for a line speed waiver so they can have a higher line speed. at the same time protecting workers. it seems to be the way we have to approach this. >> mr. secretary only have 20 b seconds left. i'm sure the department is doing everything to. >> a significant investment of time and resources in the dominican rep public working to put together a plan. doctorsth share >> weeks in the dominican republic. >> the gentleman time has expired and now i recognize that gentlewoman from ohio ms. brown for five minutes. >> thank you chairman for holding this hearing and thank you secretary vilsack for joining us on the world academy -- rural economy. as we know too well covid-19 has taken a heavy toll on
communitiess and deep in the crisis. usda research study found while the number of americans who are food insecure remain level in 2020 hunger increase for black and latino families and food insecure households were significantly higher than the average. unfortunately the pandemic impacts hunger quite inequitably. food insecurity is reality for far too many americans and our community cannot flourish whenan so many people especially are students feel like they access to nutritious meals. my legislation will help the most vulnerable students by enabling schools to provide healthy and nutritious meals to children. i'm also the acholi and on the adams legislation that seeks to combat hunger by providing
access to information about that. my first question is on september 16 of 2015 the federal government announced the food waste reduction -- to cut food waste and have they 2030. what is the usda doing to advance the 2030 waste reduction goal? >> were working with what referred to as champions and extended group of industry leaders working with us to identify ways in which waste can be reduced. we are working with the schools in the food industry and working with grocery stores and with restaurants and working with food assisting companies designed to find creative ways to deal with the issue of food waste. roughly 30% of what we grow in grace in this country is and
it's an unfortunateth circumstae and one into which we are serious about reducing. we are looking for a set of conferences and web owners -- webinars to raise awareness of this issue's. they are creative opportunities for food waste reduction and countriess in particular so there's an opportunity to do that as well. portion sizes are critically important andrt we obviously encouraged folks especially in restaurants to think about thate and make choices in terms of portion size. >> thank you so much. my second question is as mandated by the 2018th farm bill in december of 2021 usda assessed the progress of ways. the report concludes there's a of overall funding for these programs. can you outline these programs
for as? >> i'm sorry congresswoman whict programs? >> in the farm bill the usda completed a reporter: the progress of food waste efforts. there's a of overall funding and can you outline the issues around the funding for these programs? >> all have a better understanding of that when we utilize a portion of the americaninhe rescue plan resours to create more incentives and more resources available for food waste efforts. one of the things we are doing is expanding the compost opportunity with grants and potential opportunities for us to significantly increase our investment in compost which would have would have begin to address food waste. one additional way is to encourage obviously portion size
and then of course there's the issue recycling as well so there's a multitude of strategies and with additional resources in the american rescue plan we should be able to provide incentivesn to advance the strategies so people become more aware of them. >> thank you and i yield back the balance of my time. >> the gentleman from south dakota mr. johnson is recognizer five minutes. >> thank you and thank you mr. secretary. we talk a lot about livestock issues in the past year and obviously a source of great interest to your. and me. this administration has had some rhetoric about wrongdoing or anti-competitive behavior among the large for and there is so much frustration in cattle country about these doj investigations -- doj investigations.
i understand their reasons for that. if we have got concerns about the marketplace and we have investigations seemingly every year and we never come to conclusion at this at benefit the marketplace and what are your thoughts? >> i think there is action by the department of justice on the number of cases that are going through the process. you have to go through the process before you can make a determination whether they are legitimate or not and would recently we announced a joint effort with the department of ejustice and the usda providing an area as an opportunity for people to have a duty so he can learn more about what's going on the ground and in the meantime the usda's focusing on three things. one creating more competition capacity two creating more price
discovery to the extent became get more cash sales so we have a better understanding of data and making sure farmers get a fair shake and they have the ability if they are being treated fairly to w raise issues and that getso the stockyards and finally who want to make sure that consumers get the right information. if there's a label on a pound of ground beef that says product of the u.s. we want to make sure that consumers understand precisely what that means so we are doing a fairly extensive survey to find out if consumers understand what that means. >> all that is very well said and i applaud your efforts and many the series and i would carry i think the label is misleading and it provided inaccurate information to consumers. i'm not going to told you
accountable at all further promises the last guy made that we have heard for years that we would have a product of the u.s. and we hope you can do it where others couldn't. i want to get back to these investigations though. we need to let them run their course. usda release some sort of an interim report but it didn't really look at anti-competitive behavior. can we expect an update or what is the status of that investigation? >> i have to get back to you on that. i'm not prepared today to tell you what the status of that is and i'd be happy for her staff to get back to you on that. i talked to the attorney general and he and his team are very sincere about this. they want to make sure the playing field is level.
>> also price discovery is critical to a functioning t mart plan and i'm certain you're where i last month the house passeden the 10 yes votes to 11o votes to contract libraries. the white house is done a good job of calling a support for a number of different legislative proposals. have you had discussions with your team or the white house about doing what you can to see it get through the senate and it would provide much-needed transparency. >> we are very supportive of that effort and supportive of trying to get out information so people know what a legitimate contract is and what the contract provisions are. >> and family sir there are concerns aboutnd confidentiality and the data that is released
currently. i think there is some belief may be those confidentiality issues are in the way of bright discovery. can there be some flexibility in those provisions going forward? >> people ought to be able to figure this out to get the information they need to make sure them market is fair and not going overboard and that's the goal. >> the gentlewoman from maine ms. pingree is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much mr. chair and thank you for holding this hearing and secretary vilsack is wonderful to have you in front of us and answering questions from us today. i i want to particularlyec commd you on speaking favorably around the issues related to these
critically important issues to address both for our farmers and the health and safety of people who work for production facility so thank you for that. you know all too well that -- will be terminating the contract is 89 regions. in response to this that task force submitted 30 recommendations to you to both support the contract and to ensure the long-term organic sector which is so important to our dairy farms. these recommendations include everything from building more regional processing capacity to developing new markets and transportation and distribution challenges and a lot of things
that can be done. can you talk to me a littleit bt about if the usd is seeking to evaluating react on those recommendations? >> immediately following the announcement they put together a meeting with secretaries of agriculture and i'm pleased to see the conference of nature. addressing a multitude of issues, issues that not only the federal government has the bee serious about and certainly glad that sunny field has stepped forward and made a commitment and extendeded the deadline. i've seen the report and i've seen the recommendations and i asked for a team to go through those recommendations to find out. we can do in termsd of providing help. i think will be all the help on some of the recommendations and
other recommendations are more properly done at the state and local level. we will getting a response back to the task force on what we think we are able to do. the good news is i think we have resources to provide help and assistance as we are deeply concerned about that and it's reflective t on some of the othr challenges we have in this country. >> thank you were that and i'm pleased to hear you will come out with those responses and i do believe some of the money that's been made available to you should be helpful and i want to reiterate on the issues related to consolidation agriculture and an important party for the department. it's important to protect organic farms can we do not want to lose that capacity so keeping
them operating is a high priority for everyone in this delegation. i also want to ask you about agriculture and i appreciated your comment and the testimony of. partnerships will be available for all size all methods in all locations. can you help us understand how you will make sure this commitment is work -- is met? >> the goal is to hopefully soon to announce a framework and a process in the application process and hope we are able to make decisions. and again we are structuring this in the way that small sized operators in different operations2. in addiction mechanisms will be respected and
geographic challenges will be ntaddressed so we will try to respond to all those who participate inc this effort on the resources available and we will make sure our producers are not n forgotten in this process and i can guarantee we will make sure we live up to that commitment. >> i really do appreciate the commitment and i know when dealing with so many programs we want to make sure as we implement these programs on the needs of the farmers and i appreciate your time. >> the gentleman from indiana is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you in the ranking member for holding this session today. i want to congratulate the
secretary for serving once again as a secretary of u.s. department of agriculture and i appreciate you being here today. mr. secretary the first part of my comment and you have our answer that question. i wanted to comment to reinforce that and that's the use of the biotechnology because i think it will play aus major role in our ability and agriculture to feed the growing populations around the world and even last fall we sent a bipartisan letter signed by 37 members of the committee and abe acting administrator to make progress on implementing a risk-based regulatory system that will allow for animal biotechnology. i was really glad to hear that
you are working on a memorandum of understanding and to emphasize the importance of biotechnology the's heart going into a human being somewhat genetically modified to make it less resistant by to make it less resistant in the human body. they think the usda needs to take the lead in developing a regulatory framework for animal biotechnology and that encourages innovation and provides access to use those technologies were the things i'm thinking about for example as we have feed ingredients where we can reduce the methane by 36%. yet that has to go through an fda process rather than usda. that part of my question deals
with reinforcing that idea. if you have comments you are welcome to make those at this time and then i do have a question after that. >> let me just respond to the feed issue that you just raise. i agree with you. i think we do need to modernize a regulatory processes and those feed additives so we don't treat them necessarily as pharmaceutical products and having to go through an extensive and expensive process when other nations use that feed additive into their dairy industry for example and align them to essentially have a marketet advantage by adjusting their dairy products for example. i agree i think we do need to have a modernized approach. >> thank you very much. i appreciate that answer. my question now gets down -- has
been tough on the specially farmers and ranchers. the question comes up the market hog pandemic program. i have producers telling me they have hadst difficulty in accessg those funds so i'm asking you what the current status is and how soon we think we can get that kind of support to her pork producers. >> we have published a notice of funding availabilitycu in december, december 14. we created a sign-up period from december 15 to february 25 so obviously we initially set it up and as we set it up we have realized there were some issues relative to the eligibility requirements that created some challenges so we are in the process of revising our
application process and we hope to get that done very soon and the expectation is once we do we hoped to be a boosey payments made sometime hopefully in the march timeframe. >> well thank you. we appreciate that effort and i want to rent the size how important it is to some of the pork producers during this pandemic so thank youe very much and thank you very much for being here. i yield back. >> the gentlewoman from new hampshire ms. cammack is recognized -- ms. kuster is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much and welcome secretary vilsack. we appreciate you being here today. for nearly two years the country hassni been grappling with the covid-19 pandemic not only with the staggering death toll call. also the devastating impact it had on our economy. in hospitals and health care centers in my district and across this country have been pushed to the brink.
they faced numerous supply chain challenges and many families have struggled to work from home with insufficient broadband connectivity. the good news is provisions in the american rescue plan and infrastructurero package is the widespread availability of vaccine in booster shots have started to make a tremendous i difference. as the omicronon very and continues there's no doubt we still have a long way to go toward recovery. mr. secretary there's a lot of ground to cover so let's dive right into last may i join 49 other democrats sending a letter to calling for is due to dedicate $300 billion to the relief funding and one was business technical assistance. business technical assistance includes customized coaching for business and marketing planning financial labor-management. these skills are essential for
small andus midsized farms and their long-term viability. thenn administration focuses on the middle of the supply chain on usda programming. all of this is important. there's ase much broader need fr technical assistance for farming food businesses across the nation. can you share your progress on this request to my colleagues? >> we areus in the process of expanding your efforts. we have divided $75 million to 20 entities to provide assistance and we expect there'll be another application that will expand it more significantly ande expand the reach of our corporate effort significantly so hopefully that
will respond to the concern that you have. >> thank you. >> i'm just going to keep moving on and i do look forward to those results. i also wanted to talk with you about how we can continue to be carbonized the agriculture sector recognizing that target tardy taken and incentivizing progress. hernu building blocks for climae smart agriculture found renewable technology offer the biggest opportunity for reducing greenhouse gases. i agree. i've heard from constituents who rural energy program needs to be higher and we need to prioritize small farm projects. how can the usda and the government help expand renewable
energy use? >> we would certainly like to see more resources in the program. you would be interested to take a look at the data in terms of who moved his benefiting from it. i it. i think a several thousands of those grants go to small and midsized farming operations to raise renewable energy and energy efficiency. we'll continue to work on the passage of the legit which will be helpful because then we'd have a certainy amount of fundig that we be assured of getting and resources and personnel to appropriately administer those programs. i think the partnership initiative is also an opportunity for significant demonstration projects to lift up the decarbonization efforts of those there are many ways in which we can provide that. >> great in my final minutes shifting gears to dairy.
and just a couple of months" start contracting for their milk supply for the upcoming school year 2022-23. there's a long-running discussion about every school should offer low-fat flavored. congress has been tasking and a preparation's bill to allow low-fat flavored milk. there's an uncertainty of knowing what the rules are going to be. your department has submitted a rule to cover the next school year's which is much appreciated. could you commit to finalizingil regulations to provide schools with the certainty that they need? >> the gentlelady's time has expired. mr. secretary you may answer. >> yes. >> thank you and i yield back. >> did gentleman from ohio mr. balderson is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman thank
you secretary vilsack for taking time to come to the committee. people my district across ohio and throughout rural america still won't have viable broadband access. i think we can all agree we need to make to sure we get to point where every american has connection b to my primary concn is usda is not using the funds at its disposal in a targeted manner. last week you put on an expert on the broadband policy the white house briefing is that saying the usda's reconnect program is focusing on very rural areas. the act was created to target the series and for the most part it always has. however this assurance seems to be at odds with the usda's changes to the program. in round three the definition of underserved is 25 megabytes. second of download speed and
three -- upload speeds to -- this was done solely at the discretion of the usda. this only brings up concerns for areas that are to have access to 25 down in at three up. the usda will spend more money upgrading that work in areas where people at least have somea sort of high-speed broadband service in very rural areas. to me it looks like usda made to round three less targeted for variable households. can you explain why this change was made in paris making sure the third round of funding will target those who have no internet access and the private capitol upgrading networks? >> the reason for doing this at is because we learn from the
pandemic that 25 entries and sufficient when you are learning -- dealing with long-distance learning and expanded agriculture and the farm. there's for additional capacity which we have learned to the course the pandemic. so that basically have the broadband access that can make a difference. ator the same time the structure of the program does prayer ties 25 entries into your point there are additional points for rural areas an additional point for cooperatives and non-profits basically applying for those resources of the structure the program will result in a significant improvement ofnd access to broadband and the same time providing resources in the areas that you are concerned about.
>> thank you very much. my next question mr. secretary infrastructure investment jobs act creates the connect program for 95% of households underserved reducing -- and rural areas. to that end are you concerned this threshold will calls reconnect to be less targeted in the broadband network in areas that are artery receiving funds in the programs? go aheadld sir. >> the way in whichh you can structure the point system will allow you to ensure you are directing the program where it's needed the most and also the fact that there was as well away for a match requirement which i suspect will also encourage and
will see applications from areas that have been historically underserved slime not as concerned about the lowering of thear threshold. >> thank you mr. secretary mr. chairman i yield back my remaining time.f >> the gentlelady from illinois who is chair of the subcommittee on general farm commodities and risk management for five minutes. >> thank you very much for mr. chair. let me start out by saying thank you so much for taking the time. last year you've visited between your home state in mine and we had an opportunity to talk about the importance of waterway infrastructure.or just yesterday the biden
administration made a victory lap on the announcement we have $829 billion that are flowing through the system for the program and that would modernize the locksre and dams along thety river. if you could take a little bit of time to talk about the impact that modernizing or inland waterways and let the effort will -- on the economy. >> i appreciate you arranging it and i'd learned during the course that it would be half the time it takes a barge with soybeans to travel on the mississippi river and it means we get those products to port more quickly and less expensively and as result we can price that product for export at a competitive price.
30% of what we grow and raise is exported in our ability to create in a competitive circumstance is directly connected to our advantage for a transportation system and because of the infrastructure investment and jobs act we will be in a e position to maintain a competitive edge and advantage and that allows us to continue to do a lot of exports. wewe had a record year in agricultural export last year and we expect were going to surpass that record this year. long-term our ability to maintain a competitive edge is directly tied to theseso improvements. >> we could not have been more excited and we are grateful to you and the whole biden
administration for seeing that. you talked earlier about congresswoman hartford's question about the epa. i want to drill down just a little bit. it's that stands for how much renewable fuel and how it would be required. i was very happy to see in 2022 it was back on track as president biden from asked with a 15 -- 50 billion-gallon capacity but can you talk mr. secretary about the importance of the number of farmers and rural america? >> it's an industry that does three things. it supports farm income for those producing corn and
soybeans and increases job opportunities and rural areas and it provides consumers a choice and less expensive gas and it's also good for the environment so therefore benefits. that's why it's important in the industry e to have stability and stability comes not just in settingg a number. making sure thatat number is rel and when you have waivers like in the previous demonstrations that number was never real because you were saying it dissipated by the granting of waivers by the cpa basically says 65 waivers not going to grant them and not going to prove them. this is a real number and you can count on it and the stability will help with -- >> we like to characterize it as candy on halloween that so harmful to those -- so thank you for getting that contract.
i have one more question and didn't honor the time we have left iol will -- and mr. chair yield back the 22 seconds i've left. >> the gentleman -- the gentlelady from washington ms. schrier is recognized for five minutes. ms. schrier you may want to unmute. >> thankes you. thank you very much mr. chairman and welcome back mr. secretary. i want to focus on the tree industry today as you know washington state is the top producer of apple's pairs many of which are grown in my district the eighth congressional district and i've heard from a lot of growers in my p district lately about the precarious state of the industry right now.
shreveport and india and china continue to harm washington apple growers who export one third of their crops. for example india were 120 million-dollar profit for washington. growers are permanently losing access to these markets. my first is a request and not even a question for you what can we do onn the supply-chain and trade to reach the export market andt also i know first-hand the challenges of navigating climate change. tree is a perennial crop so they always sequestered carbon and it's not an issue after initial
planting. you can't always use crops and cherry trees can spread cherry disease so a lot of the traditional practices they don't apply to orchards. the orchards in my district would love to participate and take advantage of the climate supportive program. current policy discussions focus on conservation programs and they fall short of what's needed to help them adopt costly practices that will reduce the carbon footprint. my first question secretary vilsack is this, as you arerl thinking about different types of farms and having farmers at the table. specific steps as usda taking to ensure that orchards are not left behind in these efforts?
>> in an initiative initiative that we are working onat we are essentially reaching out to producers of all types and basically saying come to us with a pilot and a demonstration project that you believe will make an impact in terms of the industry and in terms of climate and let us figure out how we can finance the activity on the farm with a large enough group of farmers and get that information to allows to create that climate smart commodity or referred to earlier. there's nothing restricting the ability of the tree industry fromto coming together with a program or specifically designed to meet their needs did do what they can do in terms of the carbon footprint and come to us with an application for resources to be able to fund that and we would partner with the land-grant or another entity that would allow us to collect
data and information that would establish the standards so when states began to exporters sell domesticallyt they are in a position to build a say to their customer thiss is a sustainably product here's the proof and the reason for it. i would encourage them to apply. >> i would like to highlight we talked about getting our goods overseas. they are having a hard time getting penicillin -- [inaudible] and i have a few seconds remaining. i wanted to know about the of people and jobs and a tripping blame. i spend a lot of time with the business and farming community
and i've i have heard loud and clear from both need to take a look at immigration policies and their inability to find workers with of immigration so thank you very much mr. secretary and i yield back. >> i couldn't agree more on immigration issue. fix the system. >> the gentleman from iowa is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you ranking member thank you secretary vilsack. just a couple of questions. earlier this month he usda announced its plan for a fair more competitive supply-chain and increasing transparency in the cattle market. mr. secretary can you expound on this core strategy and what we maypa expect from the administration? >> i think it has to do as you well know with transparency and
more transparency in terms of the market itself. we have too few cash transactions in the markets is difficult to determine when you have the cash transaction whether you're getting a fair price or not so the extent we can get more data and transparency that's incredibly important to the other aspect of transparency is when there is a contract relationship between a producer and a processor that there is a very specific understanding of exactly tra wht this agreement calls for and what it requires and that's one of the reasons i we are lookingt ways in which we can create more transparency on contracting terms of people understand and appreciate t what is a fair contract and what may not be fair to the producer. >> i would love to work with you on that. speaking of broadband i have a question about the reconnect program. as you know iowa has the most -- and they are working tirelessly
to ensure iowa has a fiber broadband connection however to my understanding the third round of reconnect program puts a 15-point disadvantage on grant applications because they are companies are nonprofit and cooperatives. i find that really concerning. mr. secretary these are local family-owned commercial companies who serve in rural iowa. based on your track record in serving rural to america. would you consider abiding this policy? >> i'm happy to look into a congressman. i would say there are a number of criteria hereoont that would potentially play into the advantage of the companies mentioned the rural location of the company the economic need of a particular area of iowa and the factct that affordable serve and the prices being paid and the opportunities are vulnerable
populationss. there are ways to offset what you may perceive to be a disadvantage. >> i would just say this to private sector companies competing with government i think that's very wrong. they are being pushed out. >> wait a minute, cooperatives. you don't wantgo us to do busins with them? >> a quick question for you at trial program was announced by processing facilities. why have they not approve any applications yet? cann you expound on that? >> they are in the process of
making sure working with our hapartners at osha the worker safety requirements of the waiver are valid and the way of providing appropriate oversight because we want balance between worker safety and the ability to to -- or proper for producers. i think this waiver process allows all three to take place so i'm courage -- encouraged with the progress wenk see. >> what is the fda doing to encourage the pursuit of negotiations particularly across the u.s.. currently we do not have an undersecretary and what are we doing in asia? >> there's an individual is going through the vetting process right now and i'm hopeful that concludes and in
the meantime we have the team operating on trade and we have had progress. mention was made to the decision of india opening up more opportunities in vietnam using tariffs. we are trying to reestablish trust within trade in america. there a lot of folks out there that feel trade is a disadvantage in united states and we are focusing on enforcement of any trade agreement and we are putting pressure on china to live up to its phase 1 trade agreement. >> thank you and i yield back. >> the gentlewoman from the u.s. virgin islands who is also chair the subcommittee on biotechnology,ll horticulture ad research is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman for
providing this discussion with the secretary of agriculture which i believe is a timely regarding the farm bill and thank you mr. secretary for your support of farmers ranchers in the united states. i want to ask you, you have mentioned in your testimony free that youe have discussed, we understand a fragile portion of that and you mentioned highlights about the consolidation so could you elaborate a little bit cliques i was really intrigued by those three b words and position of te agriculture department and what did you mean by bridge is? >> i mentioned earlier there's a shift shift in consumption patterns in the united states in
a pandemic. three pandemic 50% of our food was consumed outside of the home and 50% in the home and we actually now are seeing a 60-40 split between 40% restaurants and 60% of home. the nature packaging and the way in which the food processing industry has basically gotten comfortable with that ratio and gotten comfortable with the supply-chain now a bit of disruption and the same thingnds happening with schools where individual companies who were distributing to schools for whatever reason there's a better opportunity someplace else and now they are they are beginning to shift the mat shift is creating f it great deal of strs on the part of nutrition officials in school so it's the ability to condition -- transition from one consumption pattern to another and it's not
easy. the transition is not an easy and that's the reason we have the challenges we have today and weco will work through them and try to find more flexibility in the system. and i will say part r of it is foodg a local and regional system that complements the more rigid national distribution system and the complementary system if necessary. >> thank f you. i want to move on to food security problems in the u.s. territory. i represent the u.s. virgin islands and u.s. territories along with hawaii and alaska included in a new program. can you speak to the success of
this program is approach the next farm bill and has the program been successful at reducing food insecurity and developing local food systems in these communities and is there an increase in authorization amount currently of 10 million across all 10 eligible jurisdictions warranted as we consider the next farm bill? >> i think anything and everything we can do to create the capacity of local and regional food systems to be structured and created is beneficial. it's beneficial in terms of addressing food insecurity and nutritionn and security to its beneficial in terms of job creation and beneficial in terms of communities, sense of community and the connection that people have with their food supply and appreciation for those who produce it. anything we can do toto help. that structure because in addition by doing that we. a more resilient and less rigid
food system than we have in the country today. >> if you could have your staff get back to me as to whether or not they have seen any quantifiable difference in food security and issues that those territories have i wouldld appreciate any my remaining time the renewable energy in the virgin islands and puerto rico are abilityy to sustain -- and u.s. virgin islands importer he does that utmost importance for the well-being of a rural communities. so much of our area isn't that rural. energy costs are higher than anywhere in the country and at geographic locations with this vulnerable to climate changein d provide opportunities for innovation and resources. congressman ted lieu and i a small new grant program where
grants may be awarded to non-profits to facilitate projects. can you provide any perspective on the soundness of this -- >> the lady's time has expired however mr. secretary you may respond. >> all have our staff reach out to the congressman's staff to provide additional information in response to that question. >> thank you so much. >> the gentlelady from -- is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. mr. secretary a consistent concern for my fellow farmers has to do with the skyrocketing costil of vertical and put the fertilizer. we have seen a dramatic rise in prices. nitrogen fertilizer has doubled in price and hydrants rose a hundred and 30% and pot ash is up 120%%. fertilizer is an essential input for farmers and without fertilizer crop yields and
productivity will be significantlyy reduced. my constituents don't want to see yieldha loss at a time when commodity prices are high. would you please tell me what the usda is doing to address these issues that threaten farmers especially small family farms? >> it's a challenge because of the nature of what is causing this disruption. part of it has to do with global demand and part of it has to do with decisions made by other countriesir to prevent resources from coming to the u.s. in first and foremost we need to expand our own capacity and secondly we need to make sure we are using fertilizer properly and wisely. i was recently at iowa state university where producers and farmers were working with the university and that they censor program they have determined potentially 30% currently in iowa they are utilizing fertilizers don't need as much or any fertilizer so i think
encouraging precision agriculture saray in puts her wisely done and finally figuring out ways in which do we can create vehicles that will compensate farmers if in fact they decide to apply less so we have this nitrogen crop insurance program that is simply says if you only apply nitrogen once during the year as opposed to twice and if you have a crop production there is crop insurance bank and protect against that reduction so their multitudes of strategies to try to address the longer-term issue and in the short term we will try to focus on positions a agriculture and making sure we use what resources we have wisely. >> thank you mr. secretary. i can tell you that time is of the essence and we do need to address the root causes of the supply-chain crisis in the energy crisis created by the
biden administration. mr. secretary my constituents are also concerned the biden administration is turning its back on farmers in the biofuels industry. after pushing the green new deal policies that promote electric vehicles with that are isen made in china i'm concerned that president biden is not supporting renewable fuels fuels like at the mall so my question for you is what you commit to supporting biofuels like at the mall which are crucial to corn .growers in america? >> congresswoman we are doing that and the reality is there are 800 million reasons we are doing that. $800 million provided by thexp biofuel industry in terms of support during the pandemic as well as $100 million to expand access to higher plants and the ability of -- 65 waivers that might have been granted in the truck demonstration that20 were denied and the record amount of volume 42022 of the rfs in the
grand challenge in aviation fuels creating 36 billion-dollar industry with a 100% drop biofuel for our aviation ministry has been launched by this administration. i thinkry it's very unfair to suggest this administration has not been supportive of the biofuel industry. >> the biden administration's effort to push electric vehicles with batteries made in china is extremely concerning to me and myy, constituents. mr. secretary recently introduced a bill the national security moratorium on foreign purchases of u.s. land act which will prohibit china and other adversarial nations from buying american farmland. right now they are over farmland inf illinois totaling 4.1 billion that are foreign-owned. this is a substantial national security and economic issue for our nation. could you please tell me your position on the chinese communist party buying u.s. farmland? >> i'm happy to take a look at what you're proposing and i know there are many state statutes
that prevent foreign ownership of t land. obviously my goal and the united states is to make sure we make access available to our own citizens in our own citizens are able to afford and purchase land. we have a fairly significant issue in terms of land acts as for a lot of farmers and we want to address that issue. >> excuse me china is seeking to disrupt their food supply along with the supply-chain crisis we are facing so are you going to commit to do everything in your power to prevent adversarial nations from dominating our supply-chain? >> the lady's time has expired however mr. secretary you can briefly answer. >> obviously were going to make sure we protect americans capacity to own farmland and we'll also make sure we continue to fake out ways to walk the fine line with folks in china given the fact that they are our number one customer for agricultural products.
the exports to china when they were disrupted during the trump trade were caused significant decline in commodity prices and we have seen better commodity prices in the last year which is good newsan for farmers. >> the gentleladyth from california -- the gentleman from california mr. khanna is recognized for five minutes. five minutes. >> thank you secretary vilsack for your leadership and i have sent to the white house and to many of my colleagues that there was no one frankly in our party or country who cares more or knows more about rural america and your voice is sorely needed in many of our current debates in congress. i want to ask you this, administration after demonstration comes and says we are going to get high-speed internet to rural america and it seems like we actually finally have done something about it in
passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. can you talk about what that means and usda's role and how you see this being transformational in getting high-speed internet to places that don't have that? >> congressman i that? >> congressman i think you roughly right. basicallyture built provided a significant amount of resources for meaningful broadband access or focus at usda'sre meaningful access. why is that important exits aboard the farmers because if they contain to embrace precision agriculture every acre of ground will be analyzed and that will be collected. schools have learned during the pandemic of the importance of remote learning and expanded distance-learning and that requires broadband to the medical community has determined the need for telemedicine. up into clinics and hospitals who absolutely need this in rural area to access expert assistance and help for their patients.
that requires rural broadband and small business wants to expand their market opportunities beyond the communities they are located into theun world. that requires high-speed broadband access of there are multiple reasons why this is incredibly important for rural america that cannot be left behind here. the resources you provided with a department of commerce and the fcc and this thus will make sure these resources are put to use soap folks regardless of their zip code theych have access to e same important technology. >> that's wonderful to hear breaking you talk a little bit and i know there is a question on biofuels and you are champion of biomanufacturing. and what it can mean for jobs in rural communities and states across the midwest? >> newspeak allowed the -- about what the department ofom agriculture is doing?
>> one of the most important appropriations infrastructure bill which is a really small amount in the whole scheme of things might have a profound impact on rural area which is the money provided to look at this issueo of bio-based manufacturing. the conversion of agricultural waste into a righty of products. the ability to convert agricultural wastes not just in the fuel. in the chemicals and materials and fabrics and fibers and energy. all of which creates a circular economy and creates new income sources for farmers increase the ability to avoid the environmental challenges that be have with some of our industries.agag i think there was a day when they issue of lagoons and will be something we talk about as happening in the past. that's can be converted into a multiple of products processing manufacturing jobs could be created in rural places an additional income for farmers
andom more good-paying jobs in rural area's reviving the rural economy and creating a circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of agriculture and industry bids and unlimited potential and rural america is ripe for this opportunity and the resources albeit small creates a- template for how communities and states might be willing to embrace this and the farm policy might be able to encouragee it. >> thank you in my final question for you is not so much in her role as secretary. someone who has dedicated her life to public service in our country and you've seen first-hand how divided we are in this country along party lines between rural communities and urban centers and it's no secret one party is winning in one area and the other party do better in others. how do you think we can over some some of the divides in this country and do what president
biden aspires to doing heal this country. >> it's a really profound question and i wish i had a simple and profound answer. i think it's community. i think it's understanding the challenges we face as a country cannot be decided by a single individual or a single group. the challenges are so large it requires a committed unitedto communal effort and that's why it's unfortunate to see the division that's making it harder to do that. >> the gentleman from nebraska mr. bacon is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. mr. secretary thank you for being here appeared my first question on the foot and disease bank we were able to get the farm bill and we were given approximately a three-year timeline on making operationals
i'd love to have your update on how we are doing with the foot and disease vaccine and hopefully you have good. >> significant progress. $27 million has been invested in we will continue to provide investment into that very important vaccine. i would say that's not the only importantwi vaccine were importt important vaccine were working on. important vaccine were working on. were also working on a vaccine for swine fever. t those two vaccines are incrediblyee important in protecting our livestockes industry. >> would you say we'd be able to respond with this vaccine bank? >> i think we are in better shape today than we were a year ago in better shape than we were two years ago. the reality is i think we'll be in better shape next year than we are today. >> thank you. as you mentioned i heard a report there is an indication of
african swine flu in europe this week. what do we have in our vaccine development cliques i know it a complicated disease but it will be a problem if it ever gets here. >> therefore abide patented vaccines that have been developed and are couple of vaccines that are incredibly promising. i believe there is some consideration to the possibility of having some pilots in countries that have been suffering from african swine fever toha determine the effectiveness of these vaccines and i think we have made progress. having said that the reality is we haven't figured out yet and we haven't solved it yet so we have to make sure it doesn't get into this country. as a result of the haitian and dominican republic situation we are aggressively promoting activities in that part of the world to basically contain the disease and increasing the
medication in puerto rico in areas where there issued in terms of folks coming into the mainland from those areas and making sure. so we are doing everything we possibly can under the circumstancesin to address thiss aggressively as we can but it's not easy. >> thank you mr. secretary and nebraska is an export statements like iowa. we haven't heard much from president biden until november. i sure hope it's a priority for this administration. it's our bread and butter financially and in both of our states. i just want to hear if they are pushing it and what they are
doing with their phase 1 agreement. >> there is a commitment to trade and it starts with enforcing the trade agreements we have so people can rebuild the process in the concept of trade and trading relationships and let's talk about china. they are $16 billion short of their phase 1 trade responsibilities from a purchasing perspective and 13 billion in the first year and 3 billion last year. there is seven major issues on the biotech and sanitary side of the equation. biotech approvals at the mall, issues that have not yet been resolved to the complete complete set aside for the agreement and pushing on both of those aspects more purchases in completing sanitary requirements
>> i yield back the balance. of my time and thank you for answering my questions the scissors secretariat >> the gentleman from california mr. carvajal is recognized for five minutes. >> welcome secretary vilsack tradition>> we are home to a wie array of specialty crop production and continuing labor shortages have caused supply-chain disruptions amplified by the veritable naturela of the fresh grown in y district. and there's a high demand for produce from hungry americans. secretary vilsack is the fda taken any steps to encourage agriculture commodity purchases for domestic food programs for
an increasedps amount of fruits and vegetables in an effort to meet broader nutritional guidelines? >> the answer to that is yes o d recently announced temporary food i assistance program we allocated $400 million for purchases from local and regional food distributors with the understanding that they were to provide an opportunity for fresh and produce to be part of those purchases. .. produce to be part of those purchases. we've also provided school districts with additional resources with the same directive and the same opportunity for using those additional resources for purchasing especially crops. so that is absolutely one of the priorities and one of the areas that we're focused on. >> thank you.
as you know, labor shortages have continued to be an issue and have been >> that is why i was born about group members out worked at the former force organization act and last month, which is currently sitting action in the senate, with the biden administration is doing to help advance this and on another note, could you elaborate on the usda effort to connect research on that organization technology which canat also help using labr shortage and the same time, improve the conditions for the farmers. >> another's research at the universities that we are finding in terms of robotics and the abilities of the capacity of the robotics to be able to sense when food is ready to be picked and harvested. i will tell you disappointed obviously and the fact that the parliamentary in the senate did
not allow for the inclusion of the farm for a modernization act and the build back better legislation that is currently before the senate. thank you still an opportunity and help and there is enough bipartisan support to get this past and it is absolutely vital an absolutely essential and would say that it's going to require some political encourage on the part of folks to stand up to those who want to usean immigration has a political wedge issue is the time for that is over and the time for especially the labor shortages, hereo today, one of the answers is having working immigration system and it requires i think a bipartisan effort and overly there are enough people of courage and conviction in the united states senate to get i ts done in this long overdue. >> well said andh thank you and the appropriations act of 2021, including the eligibility to
policies who are eligible for risk studies and those who have contribution of zero however this flexibility is not permanent and i'm concerned about the participating colleges students may also leave the state. how will the end of this provision it prevent giving money to college students. >> att the present time because of the extension of the public health emergency, that opportunity still exists for the college students congressman, i think that one of the things that we have to do is i think that we haveha begin educating people around the country of these college students are what a maybe slightly different than the college students the time when i went to school and perhaps when you went to school and there is a significant difference in a population of people going into school thinking about of individual challenges that create food insecurity among those young people and that is one of the reasons why looking at the snap program and adjustments for this program, may make some sense given the nature and the
breakdown of college students today which is really different from theirs ago parents, there are younger people who are sort of disconnectedtu from families, there's a of challenges these young people case i think we have to do a better job of educating folks about precisely who these people are semi- thinking of you might have as a finial back. >> the gentle lady from florida, is nowe recognized for five minutes pretty. >> will thank you chairman and thank you to secretary tom vilsack, i appreciate your time, i'm just going to jump right into the questions mr. secretary as you know florida is a heavy food health stain or farms are much larger than many of the country, one production and now this is in regard to the volatility assistance program.
and when the program was instituted, he was much appreciated but the five producer instituted solely at the discretion of the administration would have the effect of significantly limited to many ofer my producers lookig at my these are family operations by a large now my colleague, representative and i are trying to resolve this problem to secure additional funding for this program actually sent you a letter back in october and not received a response so this is a very important issue nine oh across the state of florida, but i know this is important he was well so i would like to back and as you work for this we are committed to working with us to make sure this money comes close the gap many of our producers who were hit badly by the - >> i'm happy to work on this issue and i think we structure the program so that it provided the help to the farmers who were
most disadvantaged by the way in which market was adjusted and adapted to the food box programs and other challenges during the pandemic. and obviously were looking in ways which we can provide help and assistance but am not going to be not going to apologize if you will for the 5 million-pound threshold because it was designed it for very small and midsize areas to benefit prayed we have other things provided help and assistance to the dairy industry, not the least of which is supplemental protection progm in the restructuring of that, that's pretty important to the dairy industry as well. >> well and mr. secretaryry understand, i witnessed numerous targeted ads and we sustained millions and losses and again these are family operations and corporate entities in florida by
given the milk market that we are in, we sustained situation for but i do and i'm going to redirect you now due to the topic at that i thank you so really important to highlight that is broadband. we would love to see and better coordination to make sure therei it is not doors open because we have errors in areas of for rural america i programs of connect would be beneficial and because of the multiple programs that the fcc as well as usda another 14 over building that is a real issueec but one of these topics that housing touched on here today, is i think usda would but to incur the broadband providers to participate in the u.s. the programs but this partners for around three of the reconnected program seem to work, that is a goal and for example providers any application process for commitment to neutrality's that
is actually the language in the program, that is an mr. secretary, are you fully aware that they were approved by fcc in 2016, correct. >> i'm also aware of the fact that we want to make sure the depth folks access to as much capacity and much opportunity using the internet is possible and they should not necessarily be restricted or confined to choices that the provider provides and that is the reason here is to make sure the folks have a full range of capacity available with the internet. >> so what is the department i to do to police that net neutrality because it's usda and if the provider is not living up to the obligations of that net neutrality and how does it benefit the department over providers and in all america. >> on the one of this is to make sure the application that there is a process in the mechanism by which we can assure performance and obviously, there is
resources being provided over a period of time and is it turns out that the services are not let people have promise of open and there is a recourse to basically suggest a repayment of those resources with the end of the day, and financially beneficial provokes to try to see if they can live up to the responsibilities and application of the don't want to use that, they don't want to make - >> i'm so sorry, replay my time so this point i like to request a plan from the department enforcement of how you define the neutrality and the rules that were repealed in 2018, i would certainly appreciate a follow-up from you mr. secretary and with that i yeild back. >> and now the next person is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you so much mr. chairman and thank you
mr. secretary forfo joining us this afternoon, i really appreciated your chance to come to our district even virtually last year and one of the topics that we spent a lot of time in discussing was wildfires and especially with the department plan is going to be that appreciate the rollout this week of how bipartisan papers record deal is going to inform some the investments the department is going to make to make sure that we hope we can prevent some of these terrible fires we've seen over the last couple of years across the west. one of the challenges there is reimbursement especially for our local fires departments. i was talking to one of the fire chiefs in our city of patterson, recently, and he let me know that he had to be over a year before he could get reimbursement from forest service or one of the fires they actually felt that is becoming
more and more common as these fires are getting bigger where having our local fire departments and weeks and even months is federal land helping support the forest service and is notot just the timing of the reimbursement the things along, his the clarity, what exactly they are getting. and talk to some of the fire departments and told me that one document that with the mound in another document says another and it's hard for them to understand how much are actually being reimbursed and i know there's cost agreements that govern this that the gal recently published a report that noted all of the ways which seems to be falling short some of the challenges that of inflicting our local fireec departments and he talked about with the department is trying to do to address the concerns of reimbursement for these wildfires to our local fire department. >> were trying to simplify the process and i would say that often times, the challenges
actually getting information it and especially in california, getting information back from the local communities in terms of what they are seeking reimbursement for and so i think it is a two-way street here in terms of transparency and cooperation but i do understand and appreciate that we need to speed up the process and we are committed to doing that if we are able to get the same level cooperation from the local folks. >> that's great to hear. benefit out, puts people in a tough spot especially when we have a small part of our been a volunteer fire department have a huge portion of the budget be unclear for even up to a year or longer and i'll be introducing legislation soon if this a just a couple of fixes to address this and i would love to get comments from the department and you and your team and other things that wes can be doing the legislativeo level, and can account your support legislation
to try to do what we can to address this issue. >> we will be happy to provide you the technical assistance you need congressman. >> okay thank you and appreciate someone ask another question about wildfire plan that came out this week based on the bipartisan inference or investment we had lastt year, i want to think that this planet is a triple the number of acres of his 75 million acres over the next ten years, isas my understanding of whether trying to do more production of fuel and try to make sure these fires do not continue to be as bad as they are and what further assessment any of you think are necessary to try to get this wildfire challenged under control. >> i would say that consistency in funding is necessary and i think what you all have provided the infrastructure investment and jobs act which the president supported employment, insufficient resources the next
level of years and the question is whether or not we are in a position of that same level of funding and support for years, up 210 years because it's going to take a while for us to get that hazardous fuel reduction dan is going take us a while to do the restoration work that needs to be done in areas >> i think consistency in funding would be how i would respond to your question but it is great that we have t these resources and in the forest service in the department of interior will work collaboratively with the state and local folks >> to do is much work as possible and is a three and >> 50 percent increase in the level of commitment of funding for hazardous fuel production so i think that is when we focus on the areas of highest risk toun community so hopefully over time people will beginning to see if you aree catastrophic fires and certainly less risk to people in the property and keep forest areas. >> thank you so much. >> the gentleman from
alabama, mr. morris recognized for five minutes. >> thank youch mr. chairman, mr. allen, you mentioned a court case regarding potential for pilot program similar to the ones announced in november and responding you touted the program as successful in a positive s path forward and i completely disagree in the for four plans were already operating safe at higher speeds before this and ministration failed at this program it and since the pilot program wasn't as november and end of the plans of benefit to to participate in can you elaborate mr. secretary referring to is second to put him expected for program of to actually begin. >> but we are anxious to approve the five companies that he made a request making sure that it is consistent with a promise and commitment that we have made to try to balance worker safety
at speeds on profits for the farmers. a federal judge in minneapoliss basically ended the nine speed effort in pork and it did for one reason and one reason only, the trump administration did not include any consideration during the course of the calculation of that role about worker safety and they had data they had information and they decided not to include it and it was a significant problem from a litigated standpoint so there was no recourse here. so the recourse is what he duke innt the face of a federal judge basically that strikes the rule, you go back to the companies in the w industry to say how can we work through this and that's what we did. i think were going to see these approvals the very near future and on the vulvar side, even existing case and we are asking the court to miss the opportunity to sort
of remanded the case back to the usda so that the usda is in a position to try to create the same kind of opportunities on the countryside is on the parkside. the point of this is to make sure we do a better ojob of balancing safety profit and processing . >> thank you and amanda, not gotta go in a matter time but you know, in my lifetime, my background and my degree, and were doing that safely antique shelves in grocery stores and i think were going to continue to them to look for protein product on the shelves and say that we need to be careful, be over again late stephanie slows downwn the process in the american consumer needs to be putting it w on the shelf and we don't need any more regulations in my time is up. >> the general woman
from iowa, is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for being here and it is always good and for my former boss in the state of iowa and the constituents and thank you so much for all of the work you're doing and i also want to thank you and president of biden for the announcement this competition and resiliency in our capitol market and as you know, the lack of competition in conspiracy is critical for iowa is an independent cattle producer and announced that he wouldet end at usc eight will go a heckuva long ways to processing for those folks out of my first question is, in regards to the announcement it also reference my legislations the cattle prices and transparency act, bipartisan legislation that will facilitate actual negotiations between the producers and the packers to establish a reasonable minimum for the cash market and led
by theel senate by mike fellow i when senator grassley would help improve market and fairness for cattle producers and mr. secretary, the question with the producers giving them more leverage in market information, help address some of the issues that we are seeing in our cattle market. >> absolutely congress acwoman because if you have greater transparency, they have greater confidence that the market price is you receiving at a particular point in time is a fair price i think there are many many many producers out there feel they are notce currently getting a fair price. >> thank you for helping us make that transparency for the iowa producers and another issues and i'm you have been hearing this but i am in hearing this as of late is the iowa farmers are concerned about that high cost of fertilizer the season in a particular course of our corn producers have seen the highest fertilizer per acre for anypa commodity out thereco until the farmers unfortunately,
considering it i think that's the spring due to this increased cost and i know you been watching this closely mr. secretary, some curious to see what you rethink the reasons are for this volatility what steps to the usda and congress can take to address this issue. >> part of the reason is strong global demand and domestic demand and part of the reason is we are reliant on outside sources for some of the fertilizer we use is outside sources have made the decision to impose export controls which makes it difficult date this of life in the u.s. and part of the reason i thank you so that we need to continue to accelerate significantly how her and precision agriculture so the application it fertilizer is strategic and thoughtful. i was data mentioned this earlier, i was state has researched the maybe as much is 30 percent of corn acreage date may not require any fertilizer at all and if we can provide producers with materials and sensors
information it and technology that willeq allow them more accurately understand it precisely where and how to utilize the fertilizer, we could potentially slower those input costs and finally i think that is important for people to take advantage of the program that we just recently announced, the split nitrogen program the risk management and the opportunity potentially to obtain protection if you p make the decision just let your nitrogen and apply it only once a year as opposed to twice a year and a crop reductions maybe there is a way in which you could be compensated for those reductions so things are multiple at a multitude of things we be doing in the long-term and in the short-term folks need to be taking advantage of there tools available. >> i absolutely appreciate that head as we continue to discuss this in further down the road, want to talk more about the agriculture asleep roll out broadband as part of the infrastructure bill but this idea as you mentioned, to ensure the farmers actually have access to that precision agriculture and
connectivity to make sure they have what they need to fuse that that so thank you and one last question, without this but one hand on thanks for the focus that you have in the usda and the creation of the pandemic program in 2021, provided for step in incentivized broader soil health practices that can help further agriculture into a greater solution it for that prices and can you please elaborate for us and usda plan to rollout 2022, pandemic cover cropgr program and can you give us a sense of how many acres can be covered by the 2022 program and how many acres to the usda and role in the 2021, program as well. >> the 2021, program was somewhere between 12 - 40 million acres maybe as high as 50 million and the goal is to get to 30 million acres eventually in one of the reasons we were excited about the soil health initiative with the soybean association a number of other commodity groups.
the soil health institute, basically committing to working to doubling the level of cover crop acres in the united states from roughly 15 million - 30 million by 2030, we continue to look away in which we can provide incentives and will roll out the program foro 2022, shortly and the cahope is that we will see ever-increasing interest in getting a reduction of crop insurance in exchange for maintenance of these important crops. in the meantime were also going to look in ways we can expand the anmarket opportunities. >> the gentle lady from minnesota, ms. fishback is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chair and secretary, regarding your agency's most recent announcement on the availability of grants for additional meat processing
giveity, can you us any additional detail regarding the details of the loans that we be available for example, will the guarantee in the loan limit beyond those loans. >> the purpose of the loans is obviously to provide though interest financing so that the folks interested in expanding or building new capacity are in a position to be able to get the capitol necessary and we also i should point out we also have the commitment to expanding worker training i this area we need more progress and were going to try to work with the community colleges another partners to try to provide additional workforce. >> and more directly, the question was about the loan benefits and any information my office has been fielding questions regarding application process and timing any of any that regard. >> short thehe first resources will be grant resources $150 million, we hope to be able to get that framework out
in the next several weeks and the idea being those shovel ready programs and projects that are ready to go, we just need a push in this will provide that push and in the summer, we hope to put out for the $225 million of additional grant money as well as a 275 million-dollar and loans hit in the meantime there is also loan guarantee program that is available we announced several months ago that the folks may want to take a look at as well. >> and mr. secretary, how this new program different from the current program in the terms and offerings in the administration. >> will that is a business program which is loan guaranteed program, and is financing could very well be direct loans from usda, so there's that difference there may be a guaranteed portion of it as well and we will basically be getting input from the industry in terms of how best to structure this to meet the needs that are out there.
>> thank you mr. secretary and it might be helpful if you kept the congress informed about how that is both we or find a different kind of the dirt brought to mind for constituents to call the switching gears a little bit, he mentioned earlier believe in your opening comments are one of the very first questions about keeping dollars in rural areas and with that in mind, asking about some of the strenewable fuels. and cutting million amount of renewable fuels increases the level of petroleum based products in the marketplace. hampering their efforts to fight the climatend change and despite the fact that the administration it is considering reducing the renewable volume for the biofuels in 2020, 2021, an event 2022, ignoring congressional intent of the implementations, when they cannot make it
and particularly economic and climate impact would reducing biofuels blending have on the farmers and rural communities throughout the u.s. >> let's be clear about this congresswoman, the 2022, number is a record amount, a sudden decrease, it's a record amount and that 2021,th numbers are basically reflecting the reality of the pandemic. it's not a set of numbers posted what the previous administration marked waivers were sent to undercut the numbers and that was the announcements were accompanied with cc five waiver denials by the epa. something these numbers are the 2022, number that historic a a number puts us on a trajectory of growth and don't forget the aviation biofuel opportunity which is enormous because this is triple or double the size of the existing biofuel industryvi and its determinants
opportunity. >> i reclaim my time i just have a couple a few seconds but i just wanted to say, i hope that you are committed to those biofuels because they are part of the solution for climate change and they have been for and forgotten in this new climate change argument the people are making it and so i want to make sure people understand it they are reducing it it emissions and that we are with our usda secretary is pushing for that for the farmers that are producing that in thank you and with that i yeild back. >> i'm confident i am one of the most ardent proponents of biofuels anywhere in this country and have been for years, decades. >> the gentle lady yields back, gentlemen from california, is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, i appreciate this opportunity and you holding it this hearing but we hear from the secretary of agriculture
and sec. tom vilsack thank you for being here today and truly appreciate you showing up to the capitol hill answering up on our communities and basically during this long line of questioning as questions that you getting so thank you and also as you may know, i california out there in san juan valley, an event and open the invitation, and cr producers and our farmers and farm workers would love to hear from you out there and also one who appreciate your considering that going forward and as you know within specialty crops, mainly our issues or big issues is harvesting, and obviously you know well that the technology is yet able to replace human discernment when it comes to digging in a ripe state clean aesthetically pleasing strawberries and so many other fruits and vegetables and unfortunately, the fact
that we don't have immigration reform makes it difficult and i want to thank you for your personal efforts with the senate, to go up there and push forward modernization act and i know that you have done that and i know you continue to do that and hopefully we can get that on some members especially the republican senators table so they can also be a champion especially something that will help their states going forward that's immigration reform for domestic egg workers thank you for your efforts in that but he also, i do when they ask or about the lack of immigration forms, but can't give it to what we ar relying on whether producers are relying on them on the need to rely on in the future and obviously our domestic workforce is shrinking it and it's aging and therefore the only game in town are one of the few games and tendencysl age to a program in my producers are running into it a couple of difficulties, don't get me wrong is been working okay but there are some difficulties with it andwn one of them is that
their experiencing delays and the deep well, get it because of covid-19 and the pandemic and people not showing up to work and there's ari lot of delays in receiving their visas in the rejection or projections of the conditions are minor errors that is really a lacking communication from the dol and my question to you sir is have you heard of this and are they engaging f with the dol to make the only game in town the process actually work for our producers there on the central coast. >> were cognizant of the concerns and people of expressed and are happy to work with the department of labor and to underscore the importance and necessity of getting it the processing of this done quickly and expeditiously pretty we know this is a serious issue and are certainly aware of it. >> thank you and another issue there werere experiencing now is dhf expecting the workers to be vaccinated before coming in, vaccinated and is that something you're hearing about something you willing to work with us on to maybe
try to find a compromise is what we can do what we did, we ran rms vaccine clinics, we had federally qualified basically getting this off the arms to these workers coming in and are you willing to work on some sort of compromise when it comes to dealing with dhs the type of medic. >> i am happy to work on this issue and learn more about it. >> great and thank you and obviously you've heard from my colleagues about and please know that myself and rodney davis, were the ones who workvi hard to get that language into the 2018, farmville and put it under the fdr and know that coming up in the next farmville, give them more from us as well as my other colleagues of nearly when it comes to mechanization it and obviously something that is needed and we commend you for your strategy on wildfire and thank you thank you thank you or not just having a lot of forests out there on the central coast and when the issues that i'm
hearing about is the lack of staffing. as you know 80 percent of the national forests are caused by humans and i think a way to do that is having more forest service personnel and about. is your department and working to address the critical step shortages that are national forests are enduringo right now. >> we are converting temporary workers, about a thousand workers toti full-time status and also increasing compensation and waste that we can reclassify the firefighters to encourage more recruitment saw three things are being done. >> real quickly, repent act was included in the iga, reforestation, you know when we can start to see businesses being implemented. >> i can tell you the michelin wants us to get in the present process to get those resources and the field as quickly as possible. >> i understand.
>> thank you mr. secretary. >> the gentleman from new york, mr. jacobs, his now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much mr. secretary and thank you for being here today and it was a pleasure to talk with you a couple of months ago on the phone and i represent again, western new york, in buffalo and outskirts of rochester and i know you know that i area very well as you would college out this way and many of the questions i had have already been asked and it's money to touch on what real quick just to reiterate how important in region as you know byf the border of canada is the resolution it of this agreement that the dispute resolution it ruling in favor in regards to the dairy and the i know that you going to work alongside them to make sure the candidates now here's to the ruling there so that
we can finally open up the market and try to get in canada for our dairy but i wanted to just ask, some of your opening remarks and i'm very interested in the terminology of this circuit circular economy, not. a that way but is something that i really thought a lot about an area like ours we are trying to find ways to continue to have our agriculture perspective and i seen l a few examples, now call the agriculture economy, the circular economy of one that we have a plant in our area is rare for our area the. initiative to that 20 years ago, it was the many of the pork producers there were just not able to survive because the drop in the market prices. and so this took it on
himself to start an ethanol plant in thes plant now is servicing oractually expanded corn in that area and we also in new york, filled economic development with an old factory dairy creamers and other products, tutor 50 jobs, but alsod a source that the raw materials are coming from our dairy farmers to supply that. so my question to you how can an articulating the circular economy, both can we do to make - that a reality more commonplace and i would love your thoughts on that, it's really critically important that we do more of that and reach like-minded to ensure the farmers can have a thriving future moving forward. >> i think a commitment
to more and knew better markets and i know that sounds like something simple but the reality is we've got to create different avenues in different ways in which the farmers can benefit from whatever they do in the land traditionally, the grow crops, and in some cases they feed to crops livestock and they sell the livestock rated the question is when can we do to expand beyond those traditional ways while preserving them in accessing additional revenue opportunities inio the except the farmers could be paid for certain climates smart agricultural practices and create commodities, that is one avenue into the extended your folks have figured out, they can convert agricultural products to a value-added product, whether it is a creamery that produces ice cream or cheese, or whether it is an production, that's another opportunity i think there are untapped opportunities in terms of agricultural waste. understanding how you essentially can separate the components of agricultural waste in
the me give you an example of the dairy industry there is separation capacity tomp separate solids from liquid to reclaim from the liquids, certain and organic material that can be used for organic farming and that is a value-added ingredient opportunity they can be sold you can take the rest of the liquids and reclaim it and utilize it and scarce water resource areas in this important and you can take the balance the solids and you can pelletized the solids and basically put it in a bag andiz you can basically ship that fertilizer anywhere in the world or you can break it down even further and create component parts that can go into a chemical material and into an energy project in a wide variety of ways so we need to fund the research and find the resources and capitol resources that enable this kind of activity to be located in the rural communities of the farmers have additional income opportunities to create new job
opportunities rural areas and the wealth states in the rural communities and does not travel a thousand miles away. >> thank you to look forward to working with you on this great content. >> the gentleman from florida, mr. larson is now recognized for five minutes. >> thanknhi you mr. chairman and thank you for having this meeting today and mr. tom vilsack, one make sure that i understood what you were saying when the congress moment when we was talking about that joint effort that we had a bipartisan basis. concerning the dairy's you said you would not apologize for the way things were handled it and maybe didn't quite a understand you and could you elaborate on theer please. >> when the food box program was initiated they, there was a significant amount of cheese that was purchased it for the food box program and some folks made the decision as a result of that is this all prices
go up, made the decision to sort of pull out the federal marketing order which distorted the market and the result was the smaller producers ended up getting it perhaps of the price they thought they would get to the distribution they thought they would give because of that disruption and so what this was designed to do was designed to provide n equity if you will by providing some resources to reimburse thet smaller producers who were disproportionately impacted it and affected by the different pricing mechanisms. it's designed to provide that kind of assistance and to help answer weeks the threshold of 5 million pounds that was designed to targetch the resources and target the assistance to target the health. >> seven joint letter that we sent in october, you all going to still respond to it and devote more the fda can do to help with the disparities that we have in my correct. w
>> when there are other programs that we instituted that may very well provide assistance and help to the larger scale producers supplement dairy margin protection program for example, creates an opportunity for people to adjuster productions level so that they are able to purchase or get more coverage and more assistance to the extent that they use high-priced alfalfa and feed an adjustment made for that all of which i think takes place in the potential for the larger population so it is an effort to try to make sure that we are balancing as best we can to help with the us is being provided to people akthat needed the most. >> okay and thank you for that answer and i want to say that as you know, we continue to devastate the farmers across the united states erand especially in florida, since 2005, my home state seen a decrease of 51 percent, that is commercially and and since 2016, and
estimating a 4.6 million have lost in the sunshine state and how can we especially in the next farm bill, i might say that because of this, the animal plant health protections that i call it - has been implemented. i think, about 50 million, set aside from congressional appropriations to help with the situation is that enough money for us to help in order for us to do something about this interest disease. >> i think you need to continue to fund the research until we figure out how to solve this problem because it's obviously devastating and i know from my previous secretary, we saw increases in commitment over a period f of years and some
potential strategies that may have merit. but i think you need to continue to fund and finance the research necessary to figure this out. >> okay,d one quick question before my time runs out, i think progress was made on insurance because of the devastation we had from hurricanes. >> let's see, i'm not sure i understand your question, obviously to the extent that theirha applications for additional support as a result of timber loss, those will be process but if you're asking about timber harvesting income that was impacted a by the pandemic, as resources have been provided to think t several thousand timber hollers and harvesters. >> okay so a lot of the individuals farmers that used it for, will they qualify for the funds.
>> i'm not sure we check with our team and get back to you. >> okay como and with that i yeild back. >> the gentleman from texas, is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for being with us today and wanted this cart off by you for working with our office and the rules to provide an avenue of relief for the agriculture specifically our farmers who were much appreciated it and so thank you very much for that. as you know of course we are facing a number of crisis is internation at the moment it and certainly affecting our rural communities want to speak with the district about texas, they're concerned about labor shortages and vaccine mandates and voluntary policy and supply chain breakdowns than inflation in
finishing no cost of going up for parts if you can find them in fertilizer and pesticides are expensive and hard to comee by.t' in part because of the assaulting is the natural gas that we have seen lately, if we do not fix it it will be making even more details of the grocery stores and higher food prices. i'm not heard it yet a farmer and rancher adventure has been fully of an electric tractor this whatnd i'm hearing was about last week and i do here is that like to get parts to the tractor that they already do own but i will say the biggest issue that i hear from the farmers and ranchers in south texas by far the concerned about is the border security i would like to submit a few articles for the record without objection in the form progress in border situation threatens farmers livelihoods, daily mail, this needs to stop in
texas farmers finds abandoned girls including a baby under the age of seven, crying and hungry on his land and texas ranchers public life the border crisis feared for their lives and texas ranger that he and his neighbors find bodies of migrants of the bodies and this is true and it's become a daily thing really for the community in texas to have to personally carry the burden or power border crisis and that comes in to the way of paying tens of thousands of dollars to repair infences that have been run through because of the bailouts or go by human traffickers and across or destroyed, contaminated from foot traffic and water sources are compromised vehicles are stalled and families here for their lives on their own property because of the cartel and it is not uncommon tomp find drugs more tragically dead migrants on their property and so on june 3rd of last year, the merkin farm bureau
federation it say you secretary mayor cassandra secretary - letter dealing talking about this and it was on from what i can tell us all 50 states farm bureau today, gemmade they have not received a response. can you commit to conveying the concerns of this community and certainly in texas signed by every state for your to convey this in terms do the white house and could you reply to this letter and then would you be able too work with our office is seeing what we can do to relieve the burden pretty varied to personally pay for the burden of t what is supposed to be national security issue. >> always been first of all i have personally communicated to the 50 state presence of the farm bureau about this issue we did provide a response. and we do have roughly
$3m dollars of resources that are and have been available for some time for producers to be able to compensate are reimbursed for the expenses they are incurring as a result the fence repairs and so forth pretty so that program has been set up. >> okay, well thank you and i appreciate that we will follow up then and figure out how to get that to the farmers and ranchers because they're not aware of it in her district so i will be happy to workha with you and that is a thank you thank you thank you thank you. and one other that i hear a lot about is the issue of the offices and staffing issues. again, they are trying to apply and they are having trouble finding employees who can help them and sometimes the offices are closed sometimes there filling out applications in the parking lot and the
staff has said that they are working a program called jabber, when there working remotely and ending time to get a, they have to log out in the low back out and back in which is creating inefficiencies and we read a letter from the oversight committee to the fsa including about the status of reopening no staffing issues we have not received a response to that letter to my knowledge. can you reply to that but also could you. amy: how many employees including those instated in the country, are in the usda office is like the farm ages that have been forced to leave the usda as a result of the vaccine mandates and can you. amy: how the usda is weighing religious medical exemptions from the vaccine mandate. >> can respond that even other time is up. >> yes you may be my first of all, we track
and survey activities and the farm service agency offices to make sure the work is getting done it we can parents were things work relative to pre- pandemic and at the same time. and i have seen that survey is indicated that we are on track the level of work done pre- pandemic it an image earlier the tens of thousands of the billions of dollars their farm service folks who do now from the pandemic assistance i can tell you they've done a remarkable job, and i can tell you that at this point in time, roughly 600 people that roughly 90000, have indicated that they have failed to indicate whether they are vaccinated or requesting an accommodation. the 89 percent of the folks have been vaccinated, the other
folks have requested an accommodation going through those been than those accommodation processes down a number of them have been granted. in the meantime, all off those people, all 88 percent and 10 percent of the workforce have requested it, all of those people are working it and those who are requesting accommodations and simply been asked to put a mask on into socially distance and to prevent the trick predict themselves and their families and their communities. the 600 or so that failure to respond, they have beenam given several letters for accommodation and i think some of them have requested an accommodation in a move into the process just good and we have begun the first part of january a graduated
level of suspension so that the folks are given multiple opportunities to make a choice whether to seek an accommodation it either for health reasons or for f religious reasons or get vaccinated. and at the end ofod the day, the work is getting done. i have nothing but admiration for the people work for the farm agencies and all of the people to work at usda, i think they've done on balance of the remarkable job in very difficult circumstances. >> thank you mr. secretaryt. >> the gentleman from arizona, is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for holding this important meeting today and secretary tom vilsack, it's great seeing you once again it was a pleasure to spend time with you in arizona on tuesday look forward to working with you issues facing arizona and who are dealing with these impacts of wildfires, extreme
droughts and flooding and cost of food, and obviously making sure the farms in america survive it the recent issues that they face. and the announcement is long overdue and i'm pleased that the usda and the forest service have committed to this planet and wildfire poses an extreme risk to our communities and families and businesses and i look forward to continuing to work closely with you and chief moore or the coming years to ensure this remains on track and for the lives and livelihoods are protected and i also wanted to physicallylo thank you and the usda and the forest service with a commitment to the forest restoration initiative. and the potential to transform for the ecosystems and protecting the region and catastrophic while protecting-while the fight and economic development along with
her water resources and i also appreciate a small meatpacker in arizona, the issues with food costs rising for every family is paying attention to and i appreciate the administration's effort to produce for god, the menstruation committee in this committee must work with the stakeholders to deliver real relief that the americans deserve and want to make a quick comment. in thehe staffing issue i think the law enforcement on one of those areas where the stabbing and the questions and secretary tom vilsack been affairs and again for the funding in a rural and tribal communities in the usda reconnect program key part of that strategy and the programs in section the congress is dedicated over 4 billion it to reconnect and clearly as bipartisan support for this program and in this
most recent wrong of the applications, areas that would service less than 120 people and while that service for that rule could be company to become can you discuss usda continue to prioritize projects in areas without any broadband it like most of the rural arizona. >> well they're the folks who go to the top of the list if you will from application perspective congressman comer those who do not even have 25 or three speed upload and download speeds and so that is a way of protecting but also play't 120 effort is really designed to reflect e the reality that you can have broadband it but if we just are satisfied with 25 - and won't be long before those people do not have adequate broadband it all because the findav that they cannot have more than one person download something at home they won't have the ability to do distance learning they want have adequate
telemedicine capacity of the one help precision agriculture to the farmers of the key here is to build the system that meets the demand it today and creates the infrastructure that will allow for continued expansion as timeo goes on. with the understanding that those areas that are currently unserved, get in essence a priority to get too the top of the list so i think that's an effort to tryon to balance with these resources and a number of projects, winner 81, projects, about a million and a half is already been committed from the various programs that you have funded anticipate and expect decisions being made very shortly this year on the 1.5 billion around three and then hopefully run for and brown five, after that. >> thank you secretary, myself,ndfather it breaks my heart to
see the kids go hungry and as many as 13 million kids do not know where they are getting the next meal and we have to do better. and i appreciate the actions you've taken to a address hunger especially re- evaluations of the thrifty food program planet and dedicated directed by the bipartisan 2018, farmville which i many others in this committee passed. mr. secretary, can you tell us what the impact evaluation has had in addressing hunger and especially among the children. >> what is providing additional resources at a time when many families ottoman face of the cliff, we're also taking a look at ways in which we canan continue to provide assistance for encouraging the state to use the opportunities of the pandemic and program to not only provide system now but also in the summer and is a key area, the summer program
and hopefully the states get their plans on file and get them approved quickly. >> the gentleman, now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman and mr. secretary, thank you for being here this morning it. i appreciate the comments and questions of the vaccine mandates a couple of questions ago and what they're doing to the state offices in kansas and the ability to deliver the services the lincoln for that and the attention there.in i represent kansas the third largest egg producing district in the country by dollars in international trade is a compete hundred keynt component in two years ago china made a deal with the united states with the trade deal to import $36 million with of u.s. ag products in 2020, and in 2021 and as you know china failed to meet that commitment by
close to $7 billion, that is 20 percent, $7 billion and it seems like the american bill of goods and the biden administration has made no effort to rectify the situation. by refusing to hold china accountability there according all american farmers and ranchers we farmers in kansas to the rice growers in california a few weeks ago, i say sitting on the stage and acknowledge china fell short in on their end of the deal in response, you said here's the deal with the chinese friends, there - in the purchase, that's why the u.s. trade representatives continues to converse about the necessity of them to the trade agreements thanking the deficit over the next several years in the next several years, whenever part of this to your dealer went out and china said they would purchase these ag products and they did not. my question is my joint
farmers and ranchers about this concern of this deficit with china and with your remarks and what should i tellue kansas about you and president of biden are taking immediate actionou to hold china accountable to buy the ag products. >> i think your constituents should be reminded that we have a record year, that was set in 2013 when i was secretary before was a pass this year or last year 2021 and expected to anticipate the record will be broken again this year soet that you can talk about the fact that there have been to records years have ag exports which is one of the reasons why the commodity prices across the board are significantly stronger higher than they were a yearxp ago. ..
we want our tradingag partnerso live up to that so the first program is to indicate our focus on trade enforcement and that's what we are doing, why we took canada used usmca process to raise issues about wallace and they weren't fulfilling responsibilities as usmc a source are correct to suggest we having fun anything, it's correct to suggest we've asked the chinese to increase more if they don't, a wide variety of ways to respond to that and no doubt we will.
the whole deal seven going short, whatever it is -- >> no $16 billion on the. >> okay. the other issueue i hear from producers as we6 see orthopod times increase in fertilizer costs dramatically heading into the spring, asked about this earlier i think your response was to tell producers to decrease use of fertilizer plans in place and proper crop rotations and such for years, a lot of us comes down to decreasing, china is no longer exporting like they were, what should we tell farmers and how do we decrease input prices as we see the margins if we don't do it quickly.
>> historically we've been opposed to those controls and will continue to be. i think it is important and necessary as farmers understand and learn moree about precision agriculture, who will seek farmers understand and appreciate importance an opportunity to produce more with less. it's not a suggestion for youou simply eliminate utilization of fertilizer, it's a suggestion where you understand and appreciate where it needs to be applied in the right amounts. >> i agree and based on that for a long time. >> your time has expired. the judge womanan from minnesot. record transfer five minutes. >> thank you so much, secretary bill sock for giving us an update on the rural economy. rai appreciated visiting second
district foster undersecretary elizabeth mike district in december so thank you to the usda strong partnership. i got a brief comment in three quick questions the cover and i don't have a lot of time so i'm going to move quickly through this i was extremely blessed on theo recent announcement the agency is adding to its crop insurance property which is going to help farmers manage risk as they invest in these practices. as usda continues to develop the program, i want to reiterate the programs that are already in place in crop insurance program. firms safety net is m critical r producers in my district and i'll work, and the next farm bill. the question was for you, mr. secretary first on biofuel, i want to thank you for support of
fuel over the years, i know we both see the benefit of biofuel for family farmers as well as reduction goals which is why i push for year-round sales. how do you see the administration biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel in achieving the transportation sector initiative reduction goal how quickly can usda on the recently announced 100 million biofuel for structure? >> that will be made available shortly as well as the 700 million for the biofuel industry. applications will be received soon and will be distributive. in terms of the 15th working with partner cpa, they've announced an effort to try to get input from folks in terms of how bestt to institute statewide or nationwide e15 mandate.
however you want to phrase it. i would say it's going to continue to play a critical role, i realize there's a lot of conversation but the reality is, we are still going to have the foreseeable future, probably in my lifetime for sure, we will still have cars thatn require biofuel and hopefully over time, we have airplanes and ships that require biofuel and will see an expanded biofuel industry, we won'tar see elimination of this, we will see an expansion of it, new opportunities and jobs so i'm excited about the industry and i think the future is bright for the industry. >> thank you, i know you have a lot bipartisan support on this zoom and in the meeting room here but let's go back to the reason you are in minnesota in the summer, when they spoke in
august in minnesota, it was clear he were thinking about how the usda could be better prepared u to support farmers ad ranchers in the upper midwest if we have those periods of extreme drought like they experienced last year, what program changes is usda considering to address due to extreme regional drought to address solutions in the upcoming farm bill and if you will and about 30 seconds. >> we are focusing on incrementing 10 billion you provided with us trying to that in a fast way. you understand the need for flexibility and he to understand regional differences as we develop programs, it's easy to do nationwide program but the reality is we are complicated in agriculture and we need to create regional approaches that allow us to have greater
flexibility in the application programs. >> thank you. finally, rural broadband, obviously ungrateful for your continued advocacy programs are key part of that work and i appreciate your focus on back. after the october announcement about making 1.5 billionon available through reconnect, i heard from a a number o providers, can you briefly describe why usda decided to prioritize those providers that are you open to working with the committee to ensure that we have funding for all rules? >> the challenge here with these resources is to make sure we are providing opportunity in a balanced by ms we attempted to do with our third. we learn from each application process but we need to focus on for the next application process is an ongoing process and we
learned which is why we established criteria around three no doubt some of the criteria will be and then maybe you criteria. w who will listen and learn and try to do the best job making sure the resources provide as much assistance expanding as much access to meaningful broadband as possible. >> the gentle lady from louisiana is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. secretary, travel throughout directional office, louisiana farmers about challenges in the agriculture community. eliza prices are continuing to climb to meet record high level. this is the troublesome trend. rice is one of the top commodities and mike district in the state.e. rice is a high input cost crop with a particular infrastructure
and equipment need in a has an outsized impact on local economies. that's why i asked agricultural policies at the university to conduct a study to determine economic impacts of input crisis using 64 representatives arms including brain farm located in my district. this reportrm found there will e significant impact on cost of input both on the old farm level and an acre bearing by commodity. bright farms experiencedndhe hit fertilizer cost increase average 60 2.0 four an acre and other crops are not far behind. further exacerbating the situation and the fact that rice farmers have not seen an increase in commodity price much like other crops. compared to 20205 economic research service, the current market price is relatively
static since the last year,r, up just 4%. i'd also say traditional farm bill programs are not designed to react to thesee, challenges. secretary vilsack, i sent your office a letter with a copy of this. i ask you review the analysis in its entirety and a examine negative implications of reduced net farming due to increased costs of production. last september usda announced investment to address the challenges facing americans agricultural producer including 500 million to provide relief from agricultural market. as part of this, one area included the availability and cost of certain materials. we have yet to see any outcome further detailing implementation of these funds. can you provide this committee with an update on the implementation of these funds and action usda is taking to help agricultural producers and the impact is increase energy and input cost? >> we are in the process of
finalizing opportunities to use a portion of the 500 million referred to, to assist in dealing with supply chain challenges we face particularly as it relates to express forward to that. i facing the study you've alluded to, i looked at it last night in preparation for this hearing and it's a challenge, no question about it. i think our multiple ways, there's noni short-term, we facd similar situations in 2014, 15 with high fertilizer prices, i think one thing werm need to dos look at ways in which we can be less dependent on outside sources and resources for these materials so we don't face export controls as we are facing today which is an issue, i think we have to continue to address the supply chain challenges we face to theor extent that's contributing to it and truck
drivers discussed earlier today and we have to farmers with information and technology part of the challenge as well. there is no silver bullet, i wish there were and if there were, we would be on top of it. >> thank you for reviewing the study and i look forward to receiving your former response in working with you to help you alleviate the supply chain disruption. i yield back the remainder of my time. >> the judgment from california is now recognized for five minutes. b >> appreciate your time here think you, secretary, appreciate the effort.
hopefully we can find a way to resolve california's water supply and storage. let me cover a couple of things really fast, as mentioned by several of our members here but feel obligated to, payment need to get out to growers here especially in california counties, it might have something to do with staff issues and some of the counties, i don't know if it's covid related but the dollars are not getting out the door of the original 10 billion for the wildfire is not other natural disasters the last couple of years. it's been well over 100 days. also, with our ag center sup in
containers, many of our growers are suffering on exports so whatever secretary can do in trade representatives and enforce trade agreements we have in containers going back with no containers, it's a real problem. some semblance of a balance of trade so they can have it with otherm trade, it would be greaty appreciated and walnut growers and storage and it's going to carry over in the following years and smashed the price ofre the products. due to forestry issues now, just one fire in my district, the
district dixie fire, the forest service we can press them timber work is coming here. in 2022 a significant increase, how important is this far as harvesting or rural economy obviously as we still need products on this country. medically produced, what you think about this? >> i would t say ten year plan e announced earlier this week speaks to the opportunity for the forest service to do a lot more work and a lot of different areas across the board to make forests healthier and more resilient so i think you can expect a lot more work and focusing on making sure we reduce the risk to communities people from these fires and over
time i think we can reduce risk and size of the fires and it will take some time for these resources from infrastructural, we are now in a position to do much more. on the export issue, we are addressing back and in the near future we will have at least some opportunity to try to resolve this from port of oakland is a underutilized out there on the west coast and us the opportunity to work that port to see if we can do something about the emptyhe containers. as i mentioned earlier, we are trying to simplify the process to get resources out to folks we as possible using existing rma data and/or port data payments to people hopefully in the spring and summer this year. >> appreciate that, the of these dollars can get out there the
forestry we are talking about but we do have staffing issues that it comes down to mark we've had offices that don't bother to open up, simple things like christmas treewe permits, some counties are difficult to get out the door without. we got to look at staffing more such a crackdown becausese of covide situations. going back to this my hazardous you will reduction, we need commercial in the recent bill back act restricted from having commercial, that's something we can be more aggressive on -- much commercial users to help do that. >> a portion of the bill provides resources to state and locall governments to partner
with us so honestly there are opportunities there as well. >> i'm sorry but with logging industry out there. >> i'm sorry -- >> professional bloggers, they do much more, we can't partner with them. >> i think they will be engaged and have been and will continue to be engaged becausese of additional resources available, some of these contracts have been expensive which has limited the amount of work we've been able to do, there's another discussion about what products, and i think there's an important opportunity to expand significantly the use of wood and construction. >> gentlemen's time has expired. >> better restriction on the. thank you. >> before we adjourn today, i want to invite our ranking member who share any closing
comments he may have. >> chairman, thank you to you for this hearing and thank you for your leadership and being with us yesterday on capitol hill. we appreciate your time and look forward to partnering with you on the important work ahead, i know it's a whole play when you look at the response abilities and the department of agriculture. honestly food is important but it's so much more in the scope of what you do and what we do on this committee for the partnership i think is important and i want to extend my team from i want to say thank you to the administrator paul on this issue of protein processing getting out with his team and
appreciating the chicken, poultry appreciate the visit to nicholas, on capitol side, he spends hands on and a great communicator, a great partner. i do want to put something on this issue, is a concern and congressmen any secretary acts with the ccc, we've seen congress in this office when this authority is abused, there's limited details made available related to the climate program you described, i know you identified two sections specifically in earlier response, he says if you are confident in legal t authority given this program seemingly is created unilaterally as we speak, the committee remains skeptical of legal authority provided to you at your office on the ccc, this program looking
at this from we think no amount of gymnastics to get you there. that said, would like more details on this program, we also want to hear specifically in the exact language that provides the charter act and want to hear from you prior to being obligated, can i get a commitment from that? >> would be happy to share the details of the program with p y, congressman. also provide you with the basis on which we believe this is appropriate use of resources. >> were not putting up risk here to do to everything else that's important from the ccc and again, i would say major farm organizations called upon us to do exactly what we are doing and
that farm bureau, major commodity groups so we are trying to be responsive to what we are hearing on the outside here and look forward to working with you to get you to where you are more comfortable but at the end of the day will have to do this, get engaged in this and i'll tell you why. to the extent we are concerned about export markets from previous when i worked foror the dairy industry, our competitors are going to make this a marketing advantage. we got to get their first. >> i couldn't agree more, who want to be there with you, we've already been working aggressively inld this space soi want to thank you for that and thank you for your time today and the commitment, you and the professionals to be able to work together and oversight preparation for the next farm bill. thank you for holding this hearing and i yield back. >> thank you. as i bring this great and
informative hearing to a close today, i first want to thank you, secretary bill zach, your testimony was brilliant, it truly was. well-prepared and well received on our and we thank you for that. has been a four hour hearing and we appreciate your time and commitment and i'm looking forward to continuing to work with you and usda on all of the things we've worked on so thank youit again and god bless you. the hearing is adjourned. >> under the rules of the committee, regular today's hearing will remain open for ten
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