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tv   Farm Owners Testify on Food Supply Chain  CSPAN  July 12, 2021 4:06pm-6:02pm EDT

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>> a house agriculture subcommittee heard from farmers will the food supply chain amid the coronavirus pandemic. farmers from indiana, new york, georgia and the u.s. virgin islands testified at the hearing. >> is it on? this hearing the subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture and research sbilged supply chain recovery and resiliency, small producers and local agricultural markets will come to order. welcome. and thank you for joining
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today's hearing. after brief opening remarks, members will receive testimony from our witnesses today. and then, the hearing will be open to questions. members will be recognized in the order of seniority alternating between majority and minority members, and in order of their arrival for those members who have joined us after the hearing was called to order. when you are recognized if you will be asked, if you are on video, to unmute your microphone and will have five minutes to ask your questions or make a statement. if you are not speaking, i ask that you remain muted in order to minimize background noise. in order to get as many questions as possible, the timer will stay visible on your screen. i want to thank my colleagues and our witnesses for joining us todays as we host this important discussion on the consequences of and recovery from the covid-19 pandemic on small producers serving local markets.
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i would also like to welcome you all to the first subcommittee hearing for biotechnology, horticultural and agriculture research subcommittee for the 147th congress. i am looking forward to working with all of you in finding ways to address our shared priorities such as supporting agricultural research, improving and expanding the national organic program and facilitating new developments in agricultural technology. this subcommittee has jurisdiction over exciting and very important aspects of our food and agricultural sector and it is an honor to serve as chair again. the covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a lasting impact on our agricultural communities around the country, notably impacting small farmers and researchers, including our small certified organic producers. during the pandemic, producers were required to significantly adapt their business practices
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and operations to meet the challenges posed by the covid-19. while shifted how these producers were able to participate in agricultural markets the -- and challenges to market access with access to local markets, local markets which are becoming increasingly more important as a way for producers to add value to their operations. this is true of my district of the u.s. virgin island. farmers are shosly maul and local producers working to recover from supply chain disruption. producers in my district are seeking all opportunities to strengthen their supply chain while serving the local community. each year consumers across the country purchase more and more products from local markets. the usda reported a farm level value of direct food sales totaling $11.8 billion in 2017
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including sales of 8% of u.s. farmers, confirming significant growth in these local agricultural markets farmers across the country are taking advantage of this growing demand through a variety of alternative business models and production practices, including direct to consumer marketing, farmers markets, communitied supported agriculture, community gardens and food hubs. in order to ensure the success of our farmers and producers as command for local markets increase it is vital to examine the impact of covid-19 on our supply chains and facilitate economic recovery. our witnesses today you which some of those farmers and producers who have seen firsthand the impact of covid-19 on small farmers, farms servicing local communities. i am grateful to hear their
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experiences which are crucial to advancing or work here today as we look forward to the next farm bill. without objection i would like to include an op ed that i wrote with the chicago council on global affairs which addresses the need for investment in agricultural research and infrastructure as well as agricultural innovation to the record. agricultural research and innovation has a far-reaching impact and benefit all producers including our small, organic and local producers. i would now like to welcome the distinguished ranking member, the gentleman from indiana, mr. bared, for any opening remarks he would like to give. >> good morning. thank you chairman plaskett for calling this hearing today. i am exciting for our subcommittee to come together for the first official hearing of this congress. chair, i look forward to developing a fruitful relationship with you as we serve this subcommittee and the
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very important role of its jurisdictions plays in the landscape of the american farm economy. particularly in regard to the sustainability of the industry, the profitability of our producers, and the stability of our national food supply. and to the members of this subcommittee i thank you for committing to serve on this panel. i value your leadership and expertise and look forward to serving alongside each of you. i find today's tomic to be of particular importance. we are nearing the end of an indiscriminate pandemic that impacted every corner of our lives. the witnesses before us have an opportunity and an important story to tell. like many of the hearings held thus far in this congress, their stories add to the narrative that we can do better to prepare for future emergencies.
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i thank our witnesses for their time and participation in today's discussion. of course, i regret that we can't gather in person today, but i appreciate the work that you have done to put into preparing your thoughts and look forward to hearing more about your operations and experiences. our nation is home to a varied, yet immensely productive agricultural industry. on one hand we have a group of developed larger farms that play a most critical role in the stability of our food supply chain. operations leverage the efficiencies gained by economies of scale to provide our nation the cheapest, safest, and most abundant food supply chain the world has ever known. they bolster national security and stabilize agricultural markets. on the other hand, we have a group of smaller producers, often they are passionately
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serving niche markets. we are in the beginning phases of their operations working to build markets and equity. both of these groups represent american farmers. both represent a crucial component of our nation's food supply chain and it is security. both experience challenges that occasionally rely on policy lugss to improve. beginning farmers in the united states face significant challenges in entering production. those without prior experience or land to inherit or large sums of capital have presented with sometimes incur mountable difficulties to begin their operation. let alone to be competitive after they are established. these obstacles for some small farmers significantly hamper the ability farmers to bring younger generation into agriculture and diversify our nation's agricultural production. i also think there is ample opportunity for the department to improve outreach and engage
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for those entering into agriculture. through today's discussion, i look forward to hearing more about these producers and how they overcame their myriad of various challenges, including those set on or aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic. i also hope to hear how we as policy makers can better serve small or beginning farmers, what policies we need to work on, what where we can start over, how we ultimately can ensure that agriculture remains a highly desired industry. as i said, i'm excited about our work and the work ahead. i sincerely look forward to today's testimony and thank you again, madam chair, for calling this hearing. i yield back. >> thank you, ranking member. the chair would request that other members submit their opening statements for the record so witnesses may begin their testimony and to ensure
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that there is ample time for questioning. i am pleased to welcome such a distinguished panel of witnesses to our hearing today. our witnesses bring to the hearing aite wide range of experience and expertise and i thank you for joining us. our first witness today is mr. dale brown he and his wife are the owners of saga farm located on eyend la of st. croix in the u.s. virgin islands. he raises goats, sheeps, and chickens, and farms a variety of organic produce. he is an advocate for locally sourced produce and meat and supports educational programs for young farmers, cooking with locally sourced food, and agri tourism. he cofounded the voirgein island's farmers cooperate with his wife. our next witness is perry cooper, the executive director the georgia organic peanut association. in addition to her work there, she is the director of the flint river soil and water conservation district and a
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beginning farmer in sumper the county, georgia. she has a degree in agri science, environmental system, and a certificate in local food systems. to introduce our third witness, the chairman from new york, mr. delgado. >> thank you, chairwoman plaskett. it is my privilege and honor to introduce our next witness, and my constituent, teeiana kennedy. teeiana kennedy is the owner of the 607 community supported agriculture csa. and owner and farmer at star route farm, one of nearly 5,000 farms in my district. the 607 csa is a multifarm operation in the northern catskills region. the csa supports four vegetable farms, partners are pour than 35 additionalin neighboring farms and food businesses serves 800
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families in the catskills and new york city. ms. kennedy also serves on my bipartisan locally based agriculture advisory committee. she has an important perspective on the role small farmers play in local agricultural markets and supply chain resiliency. the covid-19 pandemic has made even more clear we must empower and support our local producers to prevent supply chain disruptions. i am proud that new york's 19th congressional district is represented here today by ms. kennedy. it is good the see you. i look forward to hearing your testimony and learning more about how congress can support you and other farmers like you in the future. i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. to introduce our fourth witness i am pleased to yield to the ranking member of the subcommittee, the gentleman from indiana mr. baird.
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>> thank you madam chair, it is my pleasure to introduce john and kelly shannon to testify. they are niche market livestock producers and live on a ten acre form if rural montgomery county indiana where they raise cattle, chickens, pigs, and goats. jonathan andcaly started shannon family forms in 2006 and have continually changed their commodities that they raise to meet the needs of their consumers. in 2016, they partnered with other farm families in the area to form the four seasons local market located in downtown crawfordsville. they did this to create year-round opportunities to sell local products to their community. in addition to their work on the farm and with the local market, jonathan and kelly both have jobs off the farm and are actively involved in the montgomery county farm bureau and the indiana farm bureau.
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i am honored to have both of you with us today. and i look forward to you sharing your story with this committee. with that, i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman for his remarks. we welcome all of our witnesses today, and we'll now proceed to hearing your testimony. you will each have five minutes. the timer should be visible to you on your screen. and will count down to zero at which time your time has expired. please, so that we can get to the questions for so many of our members, which are with us both here in the hearing room and with us virtually. mr. brown, please begin when you are ready. unmute and give your testimony, thank you, sir. >> good morning. >> thank you sir. >> good morning, and thank you for the invite, chair. >> mr. brown, do you have -- are you visible to show yourself? >> yes, i am visible.
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but i am -- i'm doing both screen and phone. >> okay. excellent. thank you. >> good morning, again. and i thank you, chair, for inviting me to this hearing. my testimony is going to be brief, but punk punctual. -- the local government leadership not being totally involved, or not being involved at all in any of our agricultural development. i am an advocate for the resurgence of virgin islands agriculture. we have always basketball a local food system.
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ultimately, food security is challenge. however, it is one i am willing to take on and to make sure we have an agriculture resurgence in the territory. the -- di verse phiing farms over the years helped us deal with the covid-19 pandemic. it allowed us to provide awareness of local food supplies in the community. covid-19 has negatively impacted and has taken a role and an operation of the farm. but we had to operate in new ways and it has created an additional burden to our overhead costs. there have also on a sudden change in sales volume, realtime decision making, labor productivity and the threat of tourists in all parts of it. there was a loss in income to crop and livestock due to covid-19. crop did not get to market as before the pandemic. our farm programs were halted.
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closure of restaurants. chefs unable to meet, have scheduled group dining, supermarkets now taking large quantities of produce all due to the pandemic. livestock sales ceased after an extended closure due to mains fans of the pandemic. in addition, we ceased our livestock production and heard of sheep and goats were separated to avoid any further breeding production. the following income generation programs were halted, or lowered due to the pandemic from 2019 until present. our community supported agriculture, which actually we have about 20 members partaking in that agriculture program during every season. a culinary event that's held on
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the farm every year, that we did not partake of. our contractual program with service over 2,000 employees has been halted, we are unable to meet that. and our youth summer program, which is bridging the gap, we was unable to also meet that just as well. one thing that we have observe is that the the usda programs that we have, which are nrcsd programs, those programs has changed after our drought and even continued during the pandemic. where the changes that was there was that you receive a contract and you begin working on the contract for reimbursement. unfortunately, after the drought and the hurricane, we have an issue where now we are asked, we
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are told that we have to actually look for our own engineer and complete the project at the same time. so reimbursement or excess spending was not involved. in addition, the equipped production for reimbursement -- the cost of products coming from the mainland is higher than when it gets here. there is no mitigation and we have to foot that cost and remained with the reimbursement that we are allowed by contract. to give a simple example, one of our contracts for a waste management facility, $57 was the total amount. and therefore, it costs us over $400 to complete it.
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reimbursement was only $57. fsa programs were available during the drought. yet, there are still some programs that are still not mostly affected towards the territory. >> thank you so much, mr. brown. during question, i'm sure we will be able to understand some additional issues with that. ms. cooper, please begin when you are ready. >> chair plaskett, ranking member baird, and subcommittee members, thank you for allowing me to testify before you today. i'm perry cooper i am lucky to work with a diverse set of agricultural stakeholders. director of the water conservation district in georgia and also the director of the peanut soergs a farmer owned cooperate i have that markets u.s. ds certified peanuts and other agricultural products from
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consumers in the northeast. it has grown since corporation but growth hasn't been without challenges without a certified organic supply chain once products leave the farm -- [ indiscernible ] certified organic production made up .6% of georgia's total peanut volume. certified organic production must be done ott a smaller scale. scopa works with one facility, which is limiting and risky. in 2019 when the cooperative finally incorporated one sheller was still operative after hurricane michael, our first experience with a limited supply chain this. past year processing was so bottlenecked that eonly in the last week have been able to sell the first part of to your 2020
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crop. investments in infrastructure to support local supply chains is critical. this includes support and insendives for certification. while goepa has been able to tap into several local markets within georgia expanding into small and mid scale markets in the southeast and out of peanut producing regions has been an obstacle. t last goepa has a demand for but can't serve direct sales requests. while the positive feedback was hopeful, refewers didn't fully understand the supply complain and commodity production basics we have seen this pattern repeat for another commodity markets such as another grant in georgia focused on small scale
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blueberries. feedback had similar misunderstandings of small rural supply chains. focus spending should be a priority for grant programs. and transparency on review panels to ensure there is a roll in farmer selection is critical. the reduced cost share requirement through covid-19 relief funding made the tonight within reach during a time of production bottleneck. recipients have to spend money for a 50% reimbursement. this can require significant cash flow that can be limiting. i urge the subcommittee to consider cost share requirements for this group such is as socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers and cooperatives. goepa aims to grow the supply poi providing an entry point for new and beginning farmers. my husband and i haven't have been able to take the leap into starting our own business without the network we found in
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goepa n. 2020 goepa received a grant to develop a formal mentorship model and aims to provide other direct to support member farmers. farmers are resilient, resilience in the supply complain is critical. it starts at the farm level. small, big, conventional, organic, local, global, this principle holds true across the board that without stewardship of our natural res orrer sources and building healthy and sustainable farms local economies suffer, supply chains suffer. programs a win for all of agriculture. research funding through usda, cera, flants through nrcs are critical for the improvement -- programs that offset costs to adopt these practices are also
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critical. my work through the water conservation district has allowed me to see firsthand the direct benefit of several of these programs. our supply chain should value the environmental benefit of farms that meaningfully implement conservation efforts. if there is one thing i learned in the past 16 months it is that our supply chains are not virtual. we can't farm from home. i am proud to be from a commune that aims to emerge stronger than before and approve the subcommittee's interest and dedication to enhancing the strength and resiliecy of supply chains. thank you. >> thank you ms. cooper. ms. kennedy, please begin. >> thank you for this opportunity to the share my experiences as young farmer today. i know you all received a copy of the testimony. i will just focus on a couple of quick thing. before do i that i would also just like to talk about the resiliency, strength, and innovation of all of us small
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scale producers such as the other witnesses and myself. and in order to encourage you to adopt your programs to our needs. i am teeiana kennedy. i operate a full diet multifarm csa that last year served 800 families in new york city and the catskills. we also work with other organizations throughout new york. i also grow mixed vegetables and small grains on 60 acres in new york. i have been farming in delaware and new york for over a decade. my experience farming has beenic shaped by a lack of access to secure farmland to grow my business. apprenticed for three years but i was burdened by student loan debt and working for farmers wages so i wasn't able to buy a business. i helped a local farmer but when he pivoted his business model i lost my job and my home and had
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to start from scratch. suddenly i found a farmer who wanted to start an llc with me. because we only had a ten-year lease on the farm we were unable to put in permanentence iffing and build an adequate wash and so we would lose 30% of our product to deer and can't invest in cooler space. this past year we purchased our neighbor's property with help. it is a delab dated barn and farmhouse that will take years to rebuild and get into operation. however, despite all of these challenges and access to land and capital until this year i worked collaboratively with other farms throughout my region to create creative solutions to these problems. i convinced my farmers market
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buddies to join into 607 csa. it serves as an integral part proof of concept organization that can fill in the logisticsness ga and needs of small agriculture. last career before our thoroughly season began we were faced with the covid-19 pandemic. our whole business had to change in an instant. within two weeks we had a fully operational business with 45 local farms and food businesses home delivering to 40 catskills towns. i am proud of the work we were able to do in scaling up to support the community. we had to take on all the risk and weren't able to meet the demand because we lacked fundsing to purchase emergency relief food from our farmers. everybody was volunteering time to drive food the people's homes. for myself and or farm business who is share my meeds i want to share these recommendations. csas are a important piece of the puzzle, especially for young and beginning farmers.
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it would be great to support them. our member farmers need help with strategic planning and identifying new opportunities. congress could help by providing disto formalize those scales. there is not a usda program that allows for infrastructure development beyond fsa micro loans. i would like to see products in the eapg, and local food programs and the partnerships. we need streamlined and accessible usda programs. the existing program is burdensome and academic. it is awe our own culture. it is often timed during our busiest season, june and require burden some matches. the requirements can exclude smaller products and historically underserved communities that do not have access to this sort of funding. it would happen to have usda
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prioritize lamp. to get the word out about usda programs they need dedicated outreach staff to do outreach. finally the farmers to family confused box program in the pandemic shows what is possible. we need to continue this type of government support. the first rounds of funding was successful form small farmers and distributor. in the future more long term programs like this could be created. and i suggest that if they are, this reserve dedicated funds for food businesses consider moving gap r50ir789s so smaller producers can contribute. a lot of people are autosing rented land and guide farmers participating in the. practice. i want to note however successful state programs can be, they are harder for people
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who don't have is resources i do. thank you for your time. >> thank you very much for that. and mr. shannon, please begin when you are ready. >> chairwoman plaskett, raing ranking member baird. thank you for allowing us to join the discussion today. kelly and i are both involved in the day the day operations of our niche market in down where those products ends up in the enconsumer's hand throughout our community and beyond. we will submitted written testimony. we would like to highlight a little bit of our story. kelly returned to the rural county in 2003 after graugt college. a year later i purchased our ten acre farm less that one acre from where we grew up. we both took offfarm jobs
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because we were unable to grow. as time passed we were forced to find what our niche was to make your farm profitable. at the beginning of 2006 we began shannon family farms with little knowledge of the programs available through usda. the goal was to provide buying options for the local community. a knew years later 70 adjoining acres became available to us. as beginning teachers on teaching salaries lending institutions wouldn't even entertain a conversation about purchasing those 70 acres. we were not able to obtain that land and had to regroup and decide how will we be most profitable on ten acres. we had no knowledge of beginning farmers or ranchers loans through the usda during that time but would self funds or ten acres and become profitable. we would become a beef, pork, poultry and egg producer and
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deal with the end consumer. from 2006 to 2016, we formed our own agriculture market through our on-farm sales, through attending farmers' markets in surrounding areas and working with indiana grown through the indiana state department of agriculture. finally in 2016 we hit a road black with market opportunities. based on this dilemma we could continue being a small producer or expand into a year-round retail business model. thankfully, there were other like minded producers in the community that faced some of the same barriers and we made an effort to find a solution to those reduced market opportunities. ranking member baird mentioned in a we started four seasons local market. that is a cooperative of a few small producers, for a year-round retail store front that sits on main street in historic downtown craw fordsville. we offer products from the community and across the state. this market is vibrant and a local meeting place of local
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food consumers who purchase products from local farm families. our official interactions with the usda began in july, 2020, almost 14 years after we had begun our small operation. the reason for the encounter was for the coronavirus food assistance program. why had it taken us 14 years to discover some economic opportunities available through the usda. we believed that services were mostly offered and benefitted larger operations that did not help small producers. our experience through c pap phases at the local fsa offices were easy and beneficial. indiana grown for schools network was a statewide initiative to get products of local producers into the schools. that grant was through the indiana state department of health, innocent state
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department of agriculture and purdue extension. it funded creation of a website and buyers' guide so that people would have an opportunity to purchase. we have not been able to take advantage of this opportunity, and it is our belief that the usda could be of assistance by incentivizing schools to use more individual ingredients and less prepared and prepackaged foods. as other livestock producers experienced during covid, we had a bottleneck in our processing. there are grants that have recently been made available, including the readiness grant, meat and poultry inspection inspection readiness grant to hopefully -- to hopefully prevent future bottlenecks. we have been able to give up a few of our staple proteins,
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grass fed previous and -- poultry and have had to move and change with growing command. at this our increased e-commerce opportunities are there. but as many others have found, we have not benefitted from high-speed enteret in in our rural area. thank you. internet in our rural area. thank you. >> thank you very much to all of our witnesses for those statements. at this time, members will be recognized for questions in order of seniority, all gnatting between majority and minority members. -- alternating between majority and minority members. you will be recognized for five minutes each in order to allow us to get to ads many questions as possible. i recognize myself for five minutes at this time. i wanted to ask, ms. kennedy, could you speak to the role that consumers play in local agricultural markets. and did the change in consumer
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demand impact farmers' business decisions and drive innovation in local markets during the covid pandemic? >> yes, i would love to. i think that our ranking member -- as ranking member baird mentioned us small farmers usually have to find niche markets. usually we are trying to fill in the gaps of the big guys. burg the covid pandemic when the larger suppliers were threatened and the grocery stores were bare we became the market. mouse of my producers -- the restaurants closed so we lost one market but everyone else i knew was scaling up and struggling to meet demands. i fell like we all have toist in a moment's notice try to meet demands, to try to feed our neighbors and people we had never worked with about.
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yeah, during meghan markle moments, the small scale producers took the burden of the whole food system but lacked the support to pivot and to make those changes and just take all the risk. and then this year, once the pandemic has sort of eased off everybody goes back to business as normal and forgets that last year they were depending on us for their lives. so that is also a challenge because then everybody has scaled up and now we have -- now we have to find other avenues for the food. does that answer your question? >> yes. mr. shannon, would you agree with what ms. kennedy has just outlined? >> chairwoman, i was sitting here shaking my head on every point mrs. kennedy made, that we had record sales for months of march, 2020, and also april 2020. star shelves were empty.
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we ramped up. dealing with livestock it is a lengthier process to ramp up. as things came back to normal, sales and those consumers have started to disappear out of local food. but yes, we did take the brunt, and were able to support our local community and make sure they had proteins in their freezers and reprejudice raters throughout the pandemic. >> thank you. mr. brown, thank you for joining us. can you speak towards the unique market access challenges that come with farming on an island off of the mainland? >> thank you. yes. we are in one of the most unfortunate circumstances. and that's because our import is almost 98 or 99%. so in a time of supply, where food was being halted during the pandemic, we saw some changes,
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but we had to make changes as well. and put the protocol in place in order to mitigate what was happening. most of our wholesale production were lost. and those channels that we will use, such as a supermarket and restaurant were actually not taking anything at that tight. now, we had to actually adapt in a way where we have to serve a certain amount of customers at a time. even though like the other testifiers said, we had increased sales, but then as we go along, we find that it tapers off. so we are looking for over the last six months where it has tapered off where everything
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seems to be back to normal, and we are now back in the same place, instant. our local department of agriculture, which actually process meat has been closed for the last six weeks. and prior -- and during the pandemic it has been closed almost a whole year. so we had a situation where we had to stop our meat csa and only deal with the produce csa. customers were asking for protein. unfortunately, we could not provide it because we are doing commercial sale of protein and not to go against the likes to have protein produce or processed through some other method. >> thank you. i have run out of time but i want to thank you, mr. brown, also for your promotion of local farming and educating young farmers and would love to see your written testimony about
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that as well. at this time, mr. ranking member baird. >> thank you madam chair. mr. shannon, in your testimony you mentioned difficulties you faced of obtaining capital to pursue your business plan. you know, i have seen through my years time and again the near impossibility for a beginning farmer to begin and run an operation that was large enough to support his family. my question to you is how do you suggest and recommend young people go about this process? what steps should they take to prepare and try to start their operation? mr. shannon? >> thank you, sir. i was -- i was encouraged the other day looking through some of the usda programs that there are youth loans available. what popped into my head were my two daughters that have an interest in agriculture and
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finding out ways of how they can add to the farm that is unique to them. what we were really missing starting out back in 2006 was some succession planning or a mentor, some guidance for young beginning farmers on what has worked, what has not worked. so gopa. mentor that may be a seasoned farmer looking to retire eventually, to pass that along, to give advice and get you going on the straight and narrow to be profitable. so i believe finding that mentor, whether that is in your local community, anywhere across the country, having that network of folks to give guidance. something else that we ran into was business essentials, grant writing, legalities with business entities, health departments, accounting, federal tax registration, all of that could be part of the usda
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stepping up and providing those resources and guidance, whether that's through classes, outreach, but having that so that you are prepared early on in your career as a beginning farmer to gain that capital and make those best choices. >> if i may continue on that conversation just a little bit with you, you mentioned the resources of the usda, but you also mention that you worked with the indiana department of agriculture, and many states have departments of agriculture. can you share with this committee how you got involved with the indiana grown and how it helped you enter into even more markets? >> yes, we were attending the conference at one point early on, and indiana grown was just in its infancy, i believe,
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around 2015, indiana grown began, and they came to present and the goal was to have a network of indiana farmers, indiana produced products, and share those successes and open markets. we are in a frozen processed meat business. indiana grown worked tirelessly for other producers to get them on the shelves but again, frozen meat in the grocery store is difficult. there has been much success with other local producers getting in grocery store shelves, indiana grown has put on events that we are able to attend, and get our face, our name, our story in front of consumers. we have benefitted from their statewide network, mentoring with other folks later in our career, and being able to, like i said, have that story, have our product in front of a larger audience and it's all concentrated at the state house
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and has a good look, a good message that goes out to the community and the state. >> thank you. i only have about a minute left, but many states have programs like indiana grown to support state products so have any of the other witnesses been able to work with their state departments of agriculture to help enter the local markets and if so, please feel free to call me. we've got about 40 seconds. >> it's david browne, if i may comment, that's one of our biggest challenges here because the virgin islands department of agriculture has become so much dysfunctional. it's hard for us to actually use that time or have that engagement for the department reaching in other markets, so we are in a catch 22 position, and we have to do it ourselves
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totally. >> thank you, and i thank our witnesses again for being here, and appreciate all of their efforts, and i yield back. >> thank you very much. our next member is mr. delgado, mr. delgado. mr. delgado, if not, we'll move to ms. schrier of washington state. >> thank you, madame chair. thank you to our witnesses. i want to focus on how the federal government can better support small and medium-sized family farms. right now, we subsidize farm production in a manner that
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really benefits most the largest corporate firms in the country, and i've heard from small and medium-sized producers in my district and washington state that significant barriers exist for them to participate in usda purchasing programs in local markets, and these need to be addressed. better supporting market access for family farms will help farmers themselves, shrink the carbon footprint of agricultural production, and lead to healthier diets locally in particular in our schools, and i know that the pandemic dramatically disrupted life throughout the country living millions struggling to feed themselves and their families. and yet, the early federal aid was heavily weighted toward larger farms and corporations because their scale allowed for efficient distribution in a national program. many specialty crop producers and family operations suffered
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tremendously, and at a time when more people than ever were facing hunger, small and medium farms had nowhere to send their food. at a time when our food supply chains were collapsing, local family farms were in many ways left out. that's why i introduced several bills, including the farmers feeding families coronavirus response act, the food and farm emergency assistance act and the farming support to states act to assist local growers and producers. these bills aim to move the management of the food supply chains to the states since state department of agricultures have existing relationships with local, small and medium farmers provide emergency grants to assist growers and producers in covering significant costs incurred as a result of the pandemic, and one of the bill would have provided grants to cover ppe and supplies to convert operations like refrigeration or packaging goods for individual consumers as opposed to restaurants, and i'm
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really glad to hear that my colleague, mr. baird, brought up this very issue of how state departments of agriculture can help our smaller producers. i was excited to see the recent announcement from the usda that it will invest a billion dollars to purchase nutritious food for state food bank networks from local and regional producers. this announcement nears many proposals in the bills as i mentioned and it is vital for those administering federal programs to have relationships with local small producers and food banks and in order to better support the local economies and target distribution. now, several of you mentioned that the farms to families food product did not adequately benefit small producers and miss cooper, i have a question for you, can you tell me about the experience with the food box program, and share any insights into how the usda can ensure small farms are able to participate this this latest round of usda funding as well as future programs, and are there
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some barriers at usda that we here should be looking to to fix. >> thanks so much. i did in my written testimony write a little bit about the food box program and our experience with it, and couldn't fit it into five minutes, but we actually in southwest georgia, you know, when you think of small food infrastructure, there are some more urban areas in the northern part of our state that were really well suited for this. this wasn't true for my area. despite albany, which is in southwest georgia being a nationally recognized top three hot spot during the pandemic on a per capita basis, through my work with the soil and water conservation district, we actually launched our own food box program to supplement federal and state efforts, so through the nonprofit arm, we worked with local farmers and
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also with our network of nonprofit community garden spaces to source local produce, and then partnered with local restaurant businesses that had been hit by the pandemic and through funds raised here locally, purchased hot meals from those locally owned restaurants so we had both produce boxes and hot meals and delivered them to folks in need working, again, with local businesses in our local community. >> thank you. that's incredibly resourceful. i appreciate that. i want to mention two other things, one is the heat wave hitting the northwest which has worried our farmers about crop lesses, particularly tree fruit industry, and secondary crops, and labor continues continues to be a huge issue, and i would encourage the senate to pass our farm work modernization act which i wholeheartedly supported thank you, and i yield back. >> thank you so much for that, as we can see throughout our
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country hearing from mr. browne, you discussing that farmers are on the front line of so much of the climate issue that is we have in our country, and we've got to support them to be able to overcome those and continue producing. they're so vitally important to us. i noted our ranking member, mr. thompson was with us earlier. but right now, i would like to call on mr. scott for his testimony. mr. scott of georgia, but i always say the younger scott, right? >> fair enough. >> scott the younger. >> fair enough. thank you, and i want to talk briefly about the supply chain a little bit. i can't talk about this without the american farmer watching. the american farmer gets less at the grocery store. probably even less than that right now, the increased cost of transportation and what is
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happening with inflation at the grocery store. the american farmer is not seeing that revenue. i went to the local grocery store on this past weekend. i passed over the state because it simply cost way too much. i looked at the pork, and was pork was unbelievably high, and i ended up with $5 worth of chicken that i think i paid 7 or $8 for, and so when we talk about supply chain, it's not limited to the farmer. the american consumer is feeling the brunt of this when they walk into the grocery store, and i want you to know as the consumer that the american farmer is not benefitting from the price increases that you're seeing, so one of the issues as we talk about supply chain that i never thought of is the issue of boxes. i think about seed, about chemicals, i think about transportation, but i got a call the other day from a farmer saying guess what, we've got a
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field, a crop that's growing and we can't get the boxes to harvest it and put it in to transport it. i thought i might share with you this aspect of what happens in the supply chain. do you have 11 by 12s, that's the size of boxes, a text message of a producer from a producer to a box supplier. i'll have some in a few days. we're out of boxes, and can't get labor. i'm supposed to have some coming in from honduras, having to source boxes from honduras, i'm out of everything. i don't know what to tell you, we're having major supply chain and labor problems, and so is names another company that i'll skip. all the crate manufacturers are out of crates, and boxes are nonexistent. this is something the american farmer is just starting to feel. there were enough to cover the producers, i think, in florida for their fruit and vegetables, but now as the harvest is coming into georgia, and the other states, we may very well see a
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shortage of fruit and vegetables on the shelves because of the supply chain issues with boxes. but the american consumer's buying habits have changed. and i want to go to ms. cooper from georgia. i spent a lot of time at the farmers market when i was a much younger man. as did most of the members of my family. >> it used to be that you would go to the farmers market, you would buy your vegetables, and you would shuck the corn and put it off the cobb in the freezer and everything else, and the american consumer has changed. you mentioned programs, not only beginning young farmers. in georgia, we have georgia grown. we have farmers market promotion programs. what can we do to influence the consumer buying habits, to encourage them to go to the farmers markets, and other ways that they can buy directly from the farmers so that the farmer can get more than 10 cents out
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of the dollar that the american consumer is spending, and i know farmers from your area that actually carry their product all the way to the atlanta farmers market because they don't feel like they have the volume of customers at the local farmers market, looking for your input there. i know you do a lot with organics but obviously that's a specialty market. you have to have the volume of customers as well. any input there would be appreciated. >> yes, sir, thank you, congressman scott. you know, i farm in sumpter county, a really large green bean producing county in our state, and one thing that we observed this past year is that these large green bean packing houses that you said are typically sending things up to atlanta to serve urban markets, they started opening their doors for local residents to come in and pick up a couple pounds of green beans from the farmer down the road that had been sending everything up to a larger urban market, and this is true for your question but also for
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peanuts and commodity supply chains on a small scale in a niche market. there needs to be scale appropriate infrastructure so that farmers don't feel the pressure to go to larger markets. for peanuts we handle 2,000 pound totes which is the industry started but we get calls and e-mails all the time, how can i get 5 pounds of peanuts from you, which we can't do, because we don't have the proper infrastructure. >> my time has expired but this is important to me, and the supply chain issues are something we witnessed. the fragility of this past year, and madame chair, i think we did some things to help, i think it's very much still there. i yield. >> thank you very much, mr. scott, at this time we call on congresswoman pengree of maine for her five minutes. thank you. >> thank you very much, madame
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chair, for you and the members for their opening remarks for having this hearing. this is a really timely hearing, unfortunately the pandemic provided challenges but it showed us the difficulties with the supply chain, but also some opportunities for the very farmers we have with us today and the small to medium sized farmers they represent. it's certainly been an issue that i have focused a lot of my work in agriculture around, and i'm pleased that we have a chance to support more programs at the usda, and think about tailoring programs to the small to medium sized farmer and support the concerns that people are talking about today. technical assistance, loan availability, more value added products, getting more from the market as mr. scott said, making sure everybody makes more than 10 cents on the dollar, which is possible when you can direct retail. there's just so many things you all have discussed.
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all of the people that have testified, your personal stories bring it home to all the members of the committee. so let me see if i can fit in a few questions, and stop talking, to ms. kennedy, and ms. cooper, you mentioned in your testimony that you applied for a usda local food promotion grants but had not been successful. we all work on supporting these programs, and then we're discouraged when there's not enough money or the programs that we think should be serving the very needs that you've mentioned aren't available, so could you talk about that, and actually before i mention that, i want to say that i personally have been operating a small farm that has many of the same challenges that you all do, but in particular, ms. kennedy, if i could get rid of all the deer that interfere with my ability to harvest the crop, that would be my number one pet peeve, and you can't buy enough fencing to keep them all out. cold you talk about the
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application process and the challenges that you face, so we can make sure we're thinking about how the money get to the very needs you're talking about. >> i'd love to start if i may. i'm on the board of a number of nonprofit organizations that do ag here, and they are supported by usda grants. the grants serving the communities, they're not making it all the way to the farmers. so the difference between the board that i'm on and my own farm is that the board has dedicated grant writers and a staff that's accustomed to the process and knows about weighted, all of the intricacies of these grants that is a culture unto themselves, and the farmers as you can see, were competent, educated people. it's not that it's too complicated. we're very very busy. we're doing ten jobs as it is, and then just fitting in that like, two days of grant writing, you know, it just doesn't happen a lot of the time, so part of it
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is just lack of time dedicated to the kind of bureaucratic process, and part of it is also just that the reimbursement part is a little bit -- the access, it's a barrier to access. a lot of farms don't have the cash flow to make those matches or reimbursements, and it's not worth applying. yeah, so, you know, the nonprofit has been i think this year funded by a million dollars, and my farm last year got $5,000 for cpap or something like that. so there's a huge discrepancy between what actually makes it to the farms and what supports our nonprofit colleagues. >> thank you. that's really helpful. ms. cooper. >> thank you so much for that question. as you mentioned, we have applied for some programs, specifically with programming, just one thing that i have observed anecdotally is that
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some of the more rural supply chain focused projects, there's just not an understanding on the review side of what those rural economies and supply chains look like, and even though 30 pages sounds like a lot, it's really hard to describe what is going on in 30 pages to someone who may not be familiar with your rural community or what that supply chain looks like. i think having a representative review panel is important, and also reviewers that can critically look at the impact directly to farmers in a meaningful way from these programs, you know, just to echo what my fellow witness shared. >> great. thank you so much, i'm unfortunately going to run out of time, but i just wanted to thank jonathan and kelly shannon, i really appreciate your testimony and so many of the things that you mentioned up about having a more locally grown food in the school lunch
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program, the real challenge with lack of slaughter houses and meat processing capacity, loan access, and you know, i just wish you all the success. i won't be here for a second question, but i appreciate you. you laid out a lot of the really important things, and good luck with your flower operation. i know there's opportunities there as well. thank you for being with us all of you today, and thank you to our friend from the virgin islands, really appreciate it. i yield back, madame chair. >> thank you very much ms. pingree. i know specifically mr. shannon, as well as mr. browne talked about the issues with loan, mr. browne talked about reimbursement. i think that's something we need to work on to provide access to the farmers for the financing they need to be successful and support our food supply in this country so we can once again become the number one producers of our own food. at this time, i call on congressman davis of illinois. five minutes to you.
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no smart remarks. >> thank you, madame chair, and ranking member barrett. i have to express my displeasure, madame chair. >> yes. >> i thought this was going to be a field hearing in your district, but instead we're stuck here in the -- >> why don't we do that in february. that's the appropriate time for the committee on agriculture to come to the virgin islands. >> i like that. and let's plan that, but thank you for having this very important hearing today, and actually i'm honored to follow my friend and cochair of the house organic caucus, ms. pingree on this panel, and you know, i appreciate the perspective that organic farmers bring to this conversation. and as we look to move past the pandemic and overcome obstacles that have challenged and threatened our supply chains, including weather and cyber security, among others, we must identify solutions within existing programs that strengthen our supply chains, and prioritize food security as really a matter of national
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security. i've been a major advocate of organic farmers, not only because of the consumer choice aspect, but to ensure a level playing field for organic farmers and also maintain consumer confidence in the integrity of the organic label. my question is actually for ms. cooper. as an organic farmer, what are some of the biggest challenges you face particularly as it relates to the need for strong organic standards in the marketplace to live up to that commitment of possessing the usda organic seal? >> that's a wonderful question, and something we have really been dealing with here locally. the peanut cooperative is the only group of certified organic peanut and other commodity producers in our region. historically, organic peanuts are not produced in the
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southeast or in georgia. and so for us it's been new for the farmers as well as the certifiers, and there's been a learning curve there. i think that having certifying bodies that can work with growers as well as with our respected land grant institutions that provide recommendations for production, you know, both in conventional, and in organic production, to understand the system, you know, that at times there are arbitrary aspects that work in regions and specifically don't work in the southeast, and peanut productions in particular. also it's been very hard for us to incentivize folks to get certified when we can't certify the supply chain. there's just not a scale appropriate supply chain, and folks that are scale appropriate, there's no incentive or support for them to go through the certification process. that's been a huge barrier.
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you cannot grow organic acreage without growing the organic processing, the organic supply chain that follows, otherwise you lose that premium, and there's no incentive, and then lastly, one of the things that the cooperative aims to do through our mentorship, and beginning farmer program is to just offer the technical assistance to growers that are going through this for the first time. we have had both beginning farmers and experienced conventional farmers that are interesting in diversifying their markets come to us with all sorts of questions, and having, you know, targeted opportunities for cooperative agreements or technical assistance for folks on the ground, familiar with the systems, familiar with the process, to offer that support is really really critical, and we have some of that here, but certainly not enough to meet the demand. >> i appreciate your comments and you actually answered my next question about how strong organic standards translate into better resiliency. we all know the demand for organic products is going to
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increase in areas mostly where they don't grow organic products or non-organic products, and due to this increased demand, i know that many that are in your position are worried about foreign products that may come into our country that do not even come close to meeting the organic label standards that are put in place. can you offer just your thoughts on some of those concerns if you have them? >> sure. we face that certainly because there's not a lot of organic production here. there's just a limited supply and the difference in that supply is coming from international markets that typically can offer things at a cheaper price, and so then there's efforts here locally, you know, it can be hard to compete with that. and so of course, we, not even specific to georgia or the
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southeast, but just in general, the national production volume is not meeting the national demand and to really uplift and promote the consumption of those domestically, produce products, conventional, and organic, we have high standards of sustainability across the board, and i think i'm really valuing those domestically produced products. it's very important for the industry as a whole, certainly for organics specifically. >> thank you, i yield back madame chair. >> thank you very much. at this time, we call on salude caberahall of california for his five minutes. >> thank you, madame chair, and thank you to the witnesses who took time today. addressing food security in the united states, which skyrocketed during the covid-19 pandemic. in my district, these markets
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give area residents access to fresh and nutritious foods while supporting the local economy. public investments and local food systems have proven broadly successful and need further upscaling and technical support in order to reach more people. ms. kennedy, what sort of additional investments in terms of funding technical assistance and outreach can we assist and expand local and regional mashlgts, and what lessons -- markets and what lessons can we take from the success of flexibility, to smaller operations to apply to the larger chain in the united states. >> thank you congressman, i would like to echo fellow witnesses about lack of adequate processing to slaughter and packaging of protein.
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in our rural neighborhoods, there's very few processing centers and becomes a bottleneck quickly. if we want to scale up at all on anything, dairy, meat or veggies, prepackaged for schools or institutional work, we need this sort of mid-sized harvest processing facilities. we also need support in the supply chain in terms of trucking. one of the other congressmen mentioned that trucking and boxes are very expensive in my csa, we spend about 50% of our gross on trucking, and so that doesn't leave a lot for the farmers. so yeah, the larger ago competitors are getting subsidies, and trucking are getting subsidies, and contracts with schools to provide local school systems with beef. none of us small farms have
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those. we also don't have crop insurance. so if we're organic diversified small crop, small farm, we don't have, we don't get reimbursed if there's a weather event and we lose our crops. so all of this support would be wonderful if that were directed for the small, more resilience, more, you know, flexible farms such as ourselves that can pivot on a dime, change our models, work with whatever situation is at hand, and that's increasingly important in our climate uncertainty, and our current climate, so i think that those are some ideas off the top. >> thank you, ms. kennedy. and certainly as we look to start working on the farm bill next year, we certainly need to take into consideration your input because wesht do more to extend those benefits to smaller
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companies such as the ones that you are referencing, and the need to ensure that you're getting your share of support as well. the organics industry is a central driver in the united states. however i'm aware that farmers face steep barriers when seeking to transition to organic production and maintain certification. organic farming communities and the resulting benefits depend on farmers having access to processing and distribution infrastructure and market opportunities. i'm thankful the usda has additional grant funding for the value-added products grant program. ms. cooper, as a producer of value added products, have you been able to take advantage of that program and has it worked for you? >> the value added producer
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program in particular we have a pending application for that, so fingers crossed, my answers will be yes in a couple of months. you know, originally it was not something that we were looking at just because of the 50% reimbursement. you know, we faced a huge bottleneck this past year, we couldn't make sales because our processing wasn't up to have our product up to get to market. we didn't have the cash flow to, you know, spend $10 to get $5 back. it didn't work for us. when that covid relief came out, and there was the 10% requirement, that's really what attracted us to go for it, and hopefully it's something that will allow us to tap in to some of our currently untapped markets. >> thank you very much. madame chair, i yield back. >> thank you very much, and i would like to thank and acknowledge the presence of the ranking member of the full committee mr. thompson, and yield to him at this time for
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his five minutes. >> good morning, and, chair, ranking member baird for holding this appearing. incredibly important, and i would like to thank our witnesses for taking time to be here today and willingness to share their stories and experiences with us. everyone can agree that this past year and a half has been unprecedented and our small local producers have been on the front lines working to make sure that consumers families maintain abundant access to safe and affordable food. hearing their stories is important, and while not the purpose of the hearing, i do like to think we have an opportunity for some oversight. you know, the farm bill includes several programs designed to help beginning and small producers, and develop local agricultural markets including the beginning farmer and rancher development program and the local agricultural market program. you know, the interactions between our witnesses, consumers
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and the department will inform where we need to go from here, and i think i'm most excited about that. so thanks again to chair plas ket, and ranking member baird for calling the hearing and our witnesses for being here. and my question is directed at ms. kennedy. you know, thank you for what you do. you know, you talked a bit about the farmers-to-families food box program. you know, i had a chance to obviously see a lot of that in distribution. talking with producers that were providing the foods to include that, whether it was dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables, and the usda distributed food boxes to those in need before it was abruptly ended by the biden administration, while other pandemic assistance programs remain in place. you mentioned the need to continue this type of support,
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and provide a few recommendations. do you agree with that decision by usda, specifically, i guess, by secretary vilsack to terminate this program? >> i feel like in my experience, i wasn't able to access the food box program. it didn't affect my business. i'm at a scale that's a little bit smaller. i wasn't considered a producer. i created my own food box program with my local constituency, and we supplied our local pantries, and our local local food relief organizations. i think food relief is needed. a program like the food box program should still exist. i think if i would create this new program, i'd make sure that small scale producers could participate. and that because the food box program has ended, it's a small
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scale producers that are taking up the slack, but we don't have the funding to support our efforts. >> the farm-to-family food box seemed like it was a real win-win. it was first of all with the disruption of the food supply chain. because well over 60% of meals were eaten in restaurants prior to this pandemic, and all of a sudden there was a processing packaging issue, and so this allowed, first of all, our families who are most in need, you know, economically, those, especially those who overnight were told by their governors you're not allowed to go to work. you have to stay in your house. you can't work your job, and for the farmers, too, to be able to have a market really seemed like a -- just an effective tool, and you put on top of that, the emphasis was on fresh foods. you know, all nutrition is welcome, but certainly when you
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look at fruits and vegetables, and dairy, and meat, it's just a best of all worlds. i don't know if any of the other witnesses have any experience, any thoughts on farm-to-family food boxes. certainly, what time i have left would love to hear from you as well. >> david browne from st. croix, rick tom a most of these are not available to the virgin islands, that would make it harder for us to participate. so these are actually missed opportunities to farm territory. and there was nothing coming from usda, to rural development, and rcs. that's all the programs that we have here, as a reference to the producer grant, that is time consuming for any producer to
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provide. and there's not a collective island that can help them mitigate that problem, so therefore, we are totally on the other side small producers. our local department of agriculture is practically absent, and during the pandemic, it was even more so. so that in itself has put us at a disadvantage here in the territory. and definitely if usda and some of these programs could contribute to the development of our food boxes during a time of crisis, that would be adequate. however, we still face both cultural and customary, traditional foods we produce locally. those programs, what they were
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asking for, and what was not maintained is a program to actually meet this need. thank you. >> mr. browne, ms. kennedy, thank you for your insight. madame chair, my time is long expired. >> that's all right. for the ranking member of the committee, you get leniency in more ways than one. thank you for being with us. the next member is congresswoman kirkpatrick. >> thank you, chairwoman. i thank you for having this hearing. i come from a multigenerational family of ranchers in northern arizona. we had an enormous ranch and ran a lot of cattle. and it would always be there, so you know, it's interesting to me that times have changed.
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so anyway, my question is for mr. shannon. you know, livestock producers are serving local markets, often have a difficult time getting a market ready product produced, requiring meat slaughtering and processing as well as aggregation of local meat products for sale at the wholesale market. so can you describe some of the challenges facing local meat producers and how that impacts business decisions. >> yes, thank you for that question. one of the biggest things that we face at this time, we've been using a usda inspected processer for many years, and had a great working relationship. so through the pandemic, slaughtering spots were not an issue for us since we had that
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long standing relationship. where it comes into is adequate storage after that processing because of course we cannot move all that product within a week or so. so that storage capacity needs to be there. and looking through covid-19, nobody in the county or surrounding area had that capacity to store what was being processed to keep up with demand, so there's one of the issues we face. another one, i mention this in my written testimony. costs have risen because of the supply chain issues and of course those costs do not get absorbed by the processors. that was passed right on to the local farmers and producers. we experienced with a large increase because sanitation products, ppe was not available, and that price is up.
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those have been passed on to us, and we're still waiting for that to be returned or rewind to precovid pieces so those are some of the adequate, reliable, and economic processing and storage are some of our biggest issues that we face. >> thank you for your answer. ranching is hard enough. as it is in the best of circumstances. thank you for staying with it and for what you do. we need you to be in the business and you've got my full support in any way i can help is just, i get it. like i said, from the bottom of my heart, and it's not easy. so, you know, we saw with
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covid-19, the supply chain break down occurred through multiple sectors. as this committee works to strengthen the local food supply chain and prepare for future disruptions, what farm bill programs do you think would help you and the farmer members, you build resilience, and what additional support could help you all strengthen the market access? that's for ms. cooper. sorry, do you want me to repeat that? >> i think i've got it. so we are really -- our biggest thing right now is -- just the lack of rural infrastructure that's scale appropriate. you know, we're in the breadbasket of our state, the heart of agricultural production. there are amazing efficiencies and technologies.
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and they're all justice at a scale that's a little bit bigger than where small farmers are, where certified organic production is, so scale-appropriate certainly, and then the other biggest challenge for us is of course the biggest piece of a supply chain is the supply. and while we have so many farmers that are interested in working with us and we really see this as an opportunity for beginning farmers, it's a leap. as a beginning farmer myself, i've really been lucky to have the mentorship and the marketing opportunity. but i lease land, and it's a year-to-year lease, and so it's hard to make the, you know, specialized equipment investments, and so we're also looking at opportunities like shared equipment and other benefits of cooperative farming that will help bring those farmers along, and actually build the supplies as well. and that's beginning farmer and rancher is critical for that.
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>> thank you so much. i mean, you know, from my generation, it was hard work. we didn't want to do it. so we all went to college and became professionals, but my children want to go back into ranching. so we'll see how that all shakes up, but, you know, i thank you. my time is up, and i yield back. thank you very much. my next witness is ms. fishbach. >> thank you very much for your time, i appreciate it, and i appreciate being able to participate in the hearing today. it's very informative. i had read in the written testimony about the process being rather burdensome and very heavy paperwork, things like that. i was wondering if maybe each of the producers could talk a little bit about each of the witnesses could talk a little
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bit about how we might improve that process for them, and do them more outreach. i believe the shannons talked about the outreach, and if it was something that we could do to improve that process, so i don't know who we want to start with, if maybe the shannons would like to start. thank you for that question. >> our relationship started last year with the local usda process. that process was easy. in the past week or two, looking through some of the grants and programs, it comes down to a time issue, and that's been mentioned before. simplicity of forms, simplicity of getting paperwork back and forth, electronically this day and age is essential. we're busy raising livestock, kids, running businesses, there's not time to sit up for multiple hours looking through paperwork, gathering everything. so whether that outreach is having someone come out and
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visit the farm, fill out that paperwork alongside you while you're working and producing but, yes, some simplification through technology, and having that paperwork back and forth would be beneficial. >> thank you, and ms. kennedy? >> i agree with the streamline application. also the timing of the application as i mentioned before to maybe winter months when we're a little bit less busy or at least the vegetable producers. also, again, just incentive, you know, if we have the reimbursement and matching needs, then people just don't bother applying. so if you were to eliminate or decrease those, more people would apply. and i think also just making sure there's support for people that don't have -- that can't go find these online, you know, we still have rural broad band issues has also been mentioned
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so more outreach, more assistance on applications, more especially for bipoc and under served communities. >> and if any of the other witnesses, i don't have everybody on my screen. in any of the other witnesses have something they would like to bring up. >> i would love to also echo the cost share, especially for smaller farmers and small farm businesses, that cash flow and those requirements can be quite burdensome. one thing that i would also just like to mention very briefly. in georgia there has been some efforts in different parts of our state, and the support of our department of agriculture to create hubs for small farm businesses to seek some professional services. and we've -- i think it's really innovative and something that could benefit small farm and
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small farm businesses, which would be led at a local level but could definitely benefit from federal support certainly. >> thank you very much. i believe mr. brown, do you have anything to add. >> dale browne of the virgin availables. most of the programs aren't available to the virgin islands. we only have rural development, and that requires affordable housing and the small minority producer grant. you have fsa, that is basically loans and programs that require disaster and rcs programs. so these other programs are not available. we are basically two to three miles away from the office itself. and that's an easy trip. >> and i thank everyone for
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their input. my last 30 seconds, i'm just going to say one of the big things we hear, you know, and i hear the regulation with that broad band issue, i think we hear about that in every single committee, every ad committee we hear about because it is so vital, and we absolutely need to make sure that we are working on that, but i appreciate all the input from the witnesses, and thank you all for being here today, and i yield back. >> thank you very much. now, time to mr. lawson of florida. >> thank you, madame chair, and to you, and the ranking member, it's a rare privilege to welcome everyone to the committee today. before i ask my question, and my first question will go to sharon. do you all still use the dominant indeterminant client and everything. i drew up in a country, and when
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we were farming, that's one of the things we use, and i'm going to ask you a question, and everybody else can respond to that because i think the ominic is still good today. the question is direct to the chairman, but anyone may answer this if we have the time. as you know, congress and the usda support a number of programs that provide direct support to local agricultural markets and producers. some farmers have little to no knowledge of these opportunities available there. what are some ways that u.s. states can better support the outreach to these farmers, and just listening to you all this morning, i thought was incredible, the adjustment that you had to make during the pandemic. >> yes, to your first question, we no longer use the farmers
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almanac, it's just more word of mouth from more, shall we say seasoned farmers in the area that have been around and seen more things, so we don't even have a current paper copy sitting anywhere at home anywhere, so. and you're exactly correct. other witnesses here today are talking about programs that i have never heard of in my life before. and we've been at this 15 years. so getting that word out that these programs are available, these opportunities are available, is the struggle. i don't know if that's starting with the youth loans, reaching out to high school ag classes to show them where that is, see the opportunities there. reaching out to kids and ffa that those programs are available beginning with young farmers. again, someone in the county, in
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the local office going out and stopping at farms that they know have -- are producing produce, livestock, whatever it may be in our region, and saying, hey, are you aware. here's a hand out, a page of what's available to your local area, but no, there was no knowledge, and again, a lot of these things that are being spoken of, i'm going to have to go home and look up and see if those are beneficial to us, but that outreach is super important in a face-to-face environment. >> that's amazing. anyone else care to comment? >> because we say we have a lot of programs, so it will be interesting to see, and anyone else on the panel like to comment? >> dale browne, virgin islands. the farmers almanac, we can produce all year round. so it's not really used by most
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farmers. for those older farmers, yes, they will use it because those are aboveground days, and below ground days, and if we wait on aboveground days to plant aboveground, we can't play anything. to plant below ground, we won't plant anything below ground. we can plant in any conditions, once we have adequate water supply and knowing the crop and what the crop takes to actually come to fruition. so. >> representative lawson, i would like to address your second question. we hear in georgia have an outreach arm called team agriculture georgia that is specifically aims to provide outreach to beginning and under served producers in the state, and convenes at various forms of usda from nrcs, to world
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development, to fsa, to engage all of them collectively and provide direct outreach. i think some of the challenges with that are certainly funding, so that it's not just adding additional work to folks here on the ground that are already working really hard, and really dedicating funding to, you know, ensure that outreach is effective. and this past year is difficult for the in-person engagement. those opportunities are really invaluable. >> thank you. madame chair, before i yield back, it might be before your time. >>. >> i'm not even going to respond to you. thank you so much, mr. lawson. ms. cooper, the program you talked about in georgia that assists under served areas, is that an organization that was created by the state or farmers themselves, and how is that
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staff and funded? >> the one i just mentioned? >> yes, ma'am. >> it is not farmers. it's a usda outreach arm. i'm trying to think of the technical term for it, but one of -- a local rc and d is actually the funding body, so they have been seeking small grants, you know, cooperative agreements within rcs, other opportunities for that. you know, it began as a coalition of the different agencies talking to each other, to identify opportunities, but it's really the extra funding, to have outreach programs, ramp up our web site, to, you know, provide a news letter with upcoming grant opportunities and that sort of thing. it's those extra resources that go into those local projects to make them have some teeth and stand alone and not just become extra work for agencies
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stretched so thin i think has made the difference. if you would like to look it up, it's team agriculture georgia, and it kind of spells out the structure, and how it operates. >> thank you. >> it's been really beneficial for our, you know, gopa to look towards that as a resource. >> thank you very much for that information. our next member to question is ms. letlow. >> chair plasket, ranking member baird and witnesses, thank you for taking the time to discuss supply chain resiliency, especially focused on our small scale farms. many of our rural communities are fueled by the perseverance of our local agriculture producer large and small, however, over the last year, we have all seen and experienced the impact that the covid-19 pandemic had on our essential food supply chains. as discussed here today, the farm-to-market sector faced many
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challenges presented by the pandemic. small produce and crawfish farmers in louisiana lost access to traditional direct market opportunities which ultimately left them to explore new avenues for distribution and profitability. mr. shannon, your testimony is one that i've often heard across my district. a young, beginning small farmer seeking opportunities to grow and expand into new markets. can you farther share with the subcommittee how shannon family farms is adapting to customer demand and any plans to maximize on newfound opportunities for local agriculture markets through usda? >> i sure can. i'm going to let kelly talk on this one a little bit here. again, husband is wife team, we each have our own kind of what we're responsible for in the farm, so i'll let her go on this one. >> all right. basically we have continued to explore new markets through starting with the farmers markets and then just some
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direct-to-consumer with people we knew. we got together with some other farmers, and developed four seasons local market which is where we came together with those other farmers from our community and decided that we were going to put together a retail space that would be available to our customers year round. basically in indiana, our farmers markets run from, you know, basically may until october. and then close, and the question was, you know, where do our people go after that october time frame until we're available the next may, and we found, you know, our customers basically just disappeared, so i assume they go back to using just our basic grocery stores by establishing four seasons local market, we were able to draw those customers in year round, and create that space so that they could get local foods provided to them without as many restraints as there are, like, visiting the farm or having to drive multiple places to get things. >> awesome. thank you so much for sharing that. i have a follow up question. this past year, many small
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businesses were forced to close, some temporarily, and some permanently. mr. shannon, you said that the four seasons local market has had continuous growth, how did the pandemic impact your operations at four seasons local market and what are your plans for growing the market as we near the end of the pandemic? >> sure. i can mentioned before, record sales through march, april, may. things started to come back to normal. we did benefit by a lot of those customers sticking around, but a majority returned to their normal buying habits as supplies increased at the store, so our focus is how can we work together, large and small, to give folks options in every community? and that -- and that's what we're struggled with. we're kind of serving as an incubator. we stepped out on a ledge, took the risk to put the capital in to have a store, so other local
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producers, very small in our area, are being able to take advantage of putting their product into the store at a very reasonable price to get their name out there and try to grow that next generation of local food producer. so, in the question of usda, that was all self-funded, but having those opportunities to capital heavy investments starting that and giving other people options like that. would be very helpful. >> wonderful. thank you so much, mr. shannon and kelly, for sharing with me today. i yield back the remainder of my time. >> thank you very much. and thank you for getting ms. shannon to give us some information as well. mr. bacon, you now have five minutes. >> thank you, and i'm going to start a you have by sharing ronnie davis's sentiments about the virgin islands. it's the prettiest place in the world, i think. to the panelists, thank you all
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for being here. i just want to start off by saying, you know, america is the strongest nation in the world and we have lots of reasons for it. part of it's our energy independence, which we've got to protect, but here, we just got to restate the fact that we're so blessed to also have agriculture independence. we can feed our entire country, and we can feed much of the world, and our agriculture is a national treasure that we got to protect. so my first question is really to all the panelists or those who want to participate. a few of you mentioned in your testimony that you're either utilizing or looking at establishing e-commerce as a tool to boost your sales. of course, e-commerce requires strong, rural broadband, and many of our rural areas lack this connection. can any of you speak to how critical rural broadband is not only for e-commerce but for the rest of your operations as well? thank you. >> i would love to speak to this. i live in charlottesville, new
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york, which is in the middle of nowhere, and we don't have broadband internet. we also don't have cell phone service so i'm speaking to you over satellite right now, and i run two businesses, my farm and this csa, which is an e-commerce platform via satellite. any time it rains, it goes down. any time, you know, the moon -- it's tuesday and the moon is a certain color, the satellite goes down, so it's really a huge challenge to run both of those businesses on satellite internet and i cannot stress enough how important broadband is for rural -- >> you make a great point. thank you. appreciate it. anybody else? >> sure. jonathan shannon here. as more programs, anything from our accounting to our inventory, everything is cloud-based these days, and the struggle is finding that reliable broadband to run those businesses. we were blessed through the
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covid-19 pandemic that we had an e-commerce site set up to reach those customers that were not getting out, and that we could make those deliveries to the doorstep. again, all broadband-heavy requirement that's not available. we're blessed today. we came up to town, per se, and we're in the city-owned coworking studio and the chamber of commerce has allowed us to have reliable internet to speak to you because that was not available at home. >> thank you very much. anyone else? >> i'll echo the shannons. i also had to come into town to our little -- you know, i mentioned small business incubators is the only place i can get reliable internet. in addition to some of the e-commerce, something that we also face here in my work with the conservation district is implementing farm technologies that really improve efficiencies. a lot of those are becoming cloud-based, app-based, require
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broadband, so, you know, in addition to basic communication, serving customers, there's also a missed opportunity with farm efficiencies and being able to implement new technologies, actually on the farm as well. >> thank you so much. i got a follow-up question for mr. dale brown. in your testimony, you mentioned your work with the bridging the gap summer program that aims to educate kids between the ages of 7 and 18 about agriculture in the virgin islands. i'm a firm believer in giving our students firsthand experiences on the farm, taught to understand where their food comes from. can you talk a little bit more about your work in this program? thank you. >> yes. i can. bridging the gap has been one of our focus because there aren't any agricultural programs. only until recently, our land grant institutions trying to reinstitute agriculture back
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into its academic format. now, since 1984, there has been no agriculture in our land grant institution, so we have taken it on ourselves to actually begin true summer programs and do the workforce development from our local department of labor to have students be brought in and be shown different areas and all aspects of island agriculture and how we can function as economic development tool and career-building just as well. presently, we have ten students to work in the office on the phone and eight out in the field. one of the things that we do with these students is actually take them through different career levels at the university of the virgin islands and also teach them the practical and the
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science of growing food on the farm. now, that's one aspect. the other aspect has been students between 7 and 18, which engage in our summer program, and that is including culinary, working side-by-side with the older students, and also providing lunches from them that comes directly from the farm. so, they are able to actually see the different aspects of agriculture growing and that not all of their food actually comes from out of the supermarket, from abroad, and giving them that self-value that they can look at and choose in a career from that. >> thank you so much for your insight. that's outstanding. madam chair, i'll yield back. >> thank you so much. before we adjourn today, i invite the ranking member to share any closing remarks he may
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have at this time. >> well, thank you, madam chair. you know, i think we both appreciate all of our witnesses here today as well as our member participation, and i think, you know, consumers are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from, and so with the discussions that we have had here, i think we may be shedding some light on an opportunity for young farmers to get involved and bring them into the agricultural industry. so, with that, madam chair, i look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the future. >> thank you so much, mr. ranking member. as we wrap up this first hearing of the subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture, and research, i would first like to thank all of our witnesses for their testimony and their comments and answers. the expertise and knowledge shared today is invaluable as we work to recover from the covid-19 pandemic and build back better.
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today, we heard about the importance of local agricultural markets, the role of urban agriculture, special steps that can be taken to improve the resiliency of our local, national, and global food supplies. i think that this subcommittee hearing has shown a tremendous level of bipartisanship. and i'm really grateful to the ranking member for facilitating that. all of our witnesses showed the -- even the range of issues, the range of locations that they are all share so many similar issues in farming and overcoming the covid pandemic and i want to thank them all for that as well. i'm excited to continue to work with our panel of witnesses and the members of this committee to make sure that our small producers and local agricultural markets have the tools that they need to best serve their communities. under the rules of the committee, the record of today's hearing will remain open for ten
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calendar days to receive additional material, supplemental written responses from the witnesses, to any of the questions posed by the members. the hearing of the subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture, and research is adjourned. ♪♪
6:01 pm is a selection of c-span options. you still have time to order the congressional directory with contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. go to the house select committee on the modernization of congress held its second in a series of hearings on civility and bipartisanship in congress. psychologists, academics, and journalists testified about conflict resolution, depolarizing programs, and culturhi


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