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tv   Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Testifies Before a House Appropriations...  CSPAN  April 18, 2021 3:56am-6:53am EDT

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>> this hearing is now called te
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called to order. members will be recognized in order seniority as members not present at the time the hearing called to order will then be recognized. finally, the house requirement remiedged you that we have set up e-mail address to which to sending anything they wish to submit in writing at any of our hearings or markups. that he mail address has been provided in advance to your staff.
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make sure your video is turned on at this time. >> well, good morning -- and welcome to today's hearing. this morning we are honored to have secretary tom vilsack to discuss his vision for usda during has second tour at the department. thank you for answering president biden call to return to service after having been the longest serving member of president obama's cabinet. you are the first cabinet secretary to testify before the house appropriations committee this year. and we really appreciate your taking time to be with us today even while you're still settling in and working on your long to do list. we look forward to hearing your thoughts on key priorities of the year end. let me a little take this opportunity to say thank you for moving quickly to resume
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assistance payments to farmers and implement american rescue plan. swift axes are desperately needed to lift rural america out of the pandemic and especially to small farms and food and secure populations. and the pandemic and climate change is at new major challenges while obstacles related to access to the suspicious food, unstable farming and racial justice, and developing communities in rural america still persists. addressing these finishes while continuing to expect dlfer the services of the department is certainly going to require a lot of hard work and our best efforts and we will work with you collaboratively. so we only have the bear outline of the fiscal 2022 budget talk about it and in addition i'm
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particularly interested in understanding how american rescue plan will feed into ongoing and future efforts at the department. and the first working with you to build upon the investment that were made in the rescue act related to rural health care, assisting socially disadvantage farmers and ranchers, and carrying forward technical assistance outreach, research, and education programs to benefit the many groups that your department serves. i look forward to working closely with you to dct advocate for farmers and ranchers and rural communities. let me add, mr. secretary, that i want to personally thank you for your early and responsive conversations regarding staffing at the department with competence and diverse staffers, a team that can carry out very important mission of usda.
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i look forward to your testimony, and now let me ask our distinguished ranking member my partner, mr.bury as he has open remarks and if so, i presume so i would like to recognize him at this time. mr. thorne bury. >> thank you mr. chairman and i'm grateful for your leadership and willingness to host this first hearing with the secretary of the new administration and secretary vilsack welcome good to see you again i have a simple question how is the new job or should i say how is the old job regenerated something like that like to hear your perspective and frankly that's what i want to talk to you about today just a couple of big ideas. the primary one being, what i call the farm of the future. if i see it, it is the wedding of high-tech and high touch. connecting rural to neighboring department of department at the table, it is about a recreation
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of food culture and use of technology to advance precision allture to increase yieldings revenue to farmer as well as advancing environmental science and security as we heed ourselves and feed the world mr. secretary it has a natural resources an we understand the value of stewardship of our land, and also the history of technology transcript from our universities systems, that has created this space of american greatness through agriculture. we are so successful that we often forget and last year, i should point this out secretary vilsack secretary perdue did extend same invitation as soon as it is possible, what i would like to poangt out is that we have everyone at the table. from traditional livestock producers, row crop produce rs and pair of men who are parts of
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a fifth generation farm, who have used skills to grow crops for especially risky production, and other value ad products and amazing reality tv type of story. in addition, we've got a american from africa who started livestock business especially vegetable producers, getting one gentlemen who has transformed a city block in lincoln where i live into an urban farm. the point of all of this is that we have a very large agricultural family and it is an exciting space to consider how we are lined in department expertise with this reality and new vision for agriculture. second, we need to discuss mr. secretary a couple of particular moment options first it is real broadband and as of as i dream about mega pixels i
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think we should try to move beyond broad banding what i call of ecosystem of livability, in fact, i've said this term echo system of livability so much that chairman bishop is starting to like it i think -- i may have convinced him anyway the point being this pandemic has given rise to a digital ep looing telehealth andingturing and e-commerce for our small businesses in our rural communities. truly this is a transformative moment if we can properly cease it and here's the concern -- in the inspector general came to visit us recently, i asked her a question what is the outcome metrics for success in these programs? and she said, i don't know. that's a place we have to work together to make sure it can lead holistic needs of rural communities. second secretary i want to raise
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the issue of the commission for higher education. to discuss this with me in an earl yore phone call and clairm bishop and i have discussed this as well regarding possibilities of new emerging between 1862 and 18909 institution of ag research to bit the farm of the future. the value propositions students as we wed traditional sciences, like agronomy and animal with new emerging science such as environmental studies conservation and international development and i would like to request that you press -- now that this is a law to ensure that this work gets underway quickly we would appreciate that. third big idea mr. secretary, conservation. our yield is a meaning i don't believe any person or anything should be thrown away.
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and it is this deeper value of conservation of being a good stewart of the gifts of our natural resources properly using for our own well being and regenerating them for our wealth, our well being. it is a 21st century ethos that i have, i believe has deep meaning. the question becomes then, how can we use our conservation program for a couple of outcomes? enhance environmental gains combined with healthy harvesting and enhance revenue to the farmer. to meet the real possible of sustainability which is both regenerative and valuable at the same time. sustainability is those two they thinks regeneration and return. and as we all know and celebrate, our farmers and ranchers of the first stewarts of the land so mr. secretary i know this is a right hooded open but frankly people are fatigued by all of the government inside let's get good service done
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together and look forward to working with you. thank you so much. thank you mr. chairman, i yield bang. >> thank you, mr. thornebury as usual you're very eloquent as well as intelligent. let me take this opportunity to welcome the chairwoman of the full appropriations committee with us this morning and i'm certain that she would like to have some open remarks as we greet and welcome secretary vilsack at this time i'm pleased to recognize chair, the gentle lady if from chair of the appropriations committee -- mr. lara you are not recognized. >> thank you so much mr. chairman and thank you to you, and to ranking member thorne bury -- for the opportunity to speak here this morning secretary
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vilsack thank you for the bung tear request and your vision for the department of the year ahead. it was a pleasure to work with you during first material as secretary and i admire your deep dedication for american agriculture, and rural america. please know that the invitation is always open for you to come to visit connecticut. to see firsthand the state's diversity, our family farm dairies nursery green house operations our specialty crop growers and farmers in my district and across connecticut are models of regenerative agriculture and sustainable food production. and my city of new haven one of the few cities in the country with a full time food policy director dedicated to reforming 9 food system and promoting urban agriculture. covid pandemic was largest public health and economic crisis in a generation, and our food is was not spared. early on farmers face severe supply chain disruption that shut down the markets and
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threatened their livelihoods. and i appreciated your assistance in the insight that you provided to me and to my staff last summer as we were trying to address this -- this issue. some of the problems have been addressed while other challenges remain. the pandemic is also put back the curtain on the food and nutrition crisis that continues to plague our nation according to the u.s. census bureau household pulse survey hunger remains nearly three times higher than the prepandemic level. and households with children are more likely to report not getting enough to eat. which is many as 11 million children living in a household facing hunger, according to the center on budge and policy priorities that is and it was senator robert kennedy said i quote i believe that as long as there is plenty poverty is evil.
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skyrockettings with long stanging food system, including issues like food desert, which restrict access to food but importantly fresh and healthy foods which are so concerninged about, and disproportionately the impact on low income people and families of color. it is especially concerning because we know that diet related chronic diseases like boasty, hypertension, worst of covid-19 outcomes so in the context of building back better mr. secretary pitd say you are going to be very busy. thank you for 15% food stamps increase and edt prime minister and partnering with you on our shared prior priorities which iy i'm pleased by outline in the discretionary request release last week, to request expanse investigationment in rural economies and increasing quality of life. and reducing persistent poverty
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in rural areas which i know is report focus for our sub committee chairman mr. bishop additionally request with racial equity and agricultural but increasing funding for office of the assisted searnght for civil right and establish its equity mission to review distribution of foreign programs. these efforts would build on the five billion in debt relief to black, brown, and native farmers in the american rescue plan. i appreciate the commitment to this issue of systemic discrimination pleased for usda science research agency he is to endure four year of repeated attacks. agency it is like the economic research service and national institute of food and agriculture were targeted hallowed out moved from washington, d.c. and in your task to rebuild refocus these agency which is have long been trusted for unbiased research and expertise. and agricultural research is important now as it is ever
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been. i believe that research holds a key to making agriculture a solution to the climate crisis. we are to advance regenerative agricultural practices that capture carbon by building soil organic matter, and we should pursue clarity research funding from protein, the united states can continue to be a global leader on alternative protein science, and these technologies can play an important role in combating climate change and adding restill resiliency to oud system and i welcome 74 million dollar increase to the food safety and inspection service. to bolster small and regional meek meat processing and resources disproportionately go to big corporate meat packers that is a problem because according to the departments own data, while consolidation in meat packing increase since 2000, consumer prices for beef, pork, poultry skyrocketed by 82., 44%, and 43.respectively it
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is time rerethink current potses that have allowed monopoly to flourish at the expension of farmers and consumers. and speaking of fsis i want to personally let you know how disheartened imby agencies actions over the last year. during the pandemic workers and meat plans have been treated as expendable and exploited. a recent freedom of information act request obtained e males that industry representative and show that fsi leadership many of whom at the agency spent more time worry about public image of the industry, over the lives of workers and federal inspection personnel. secretary vilsack that agency needs reform speaking of reform, i believe that department needs to rethink its role in international trade. and whether it is tainted brazilian beef that sell it here with a product of the u.s., usa
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label or other food imports from country that production degrade natural resources the united states should never pursue trade deals at the expense of american farmers, food safety, and jobs. and lastly, i look forward to hearing more about your plan exciting plans to fight hunger, strengthen nutrition security, these must be our priority and if i agree with your previous statements, we should fund our priorities. i believe there are areas to act within the discretionary budget as well as the fort coming mandatory request but i also want to underscore urgency of a comprehensive and coordinated response especially as congress considers future recovery package focused on root building our nation's physical infrastructure. i thank you very, very much for your being here look forward to your testimony and i yield back.
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thank you very much we are also delighted to have our full ranking committee member with us this morning. she has worked collaboratively offering leadership to the committee and recognizing, of course, that we will have differences of opinion on policy but she has led the committee and worked for a possible for us to be able to find bipartisan consensus. so i would like to now yield to the gentlewoman from texas mr. granger ranking member of the committee. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you for inviting me thank you for konked words and for holding this hearing today so that we can plans for the department of agriculture. the advance of the past year have affected virtually every sector of our economy. this is especially true for our farmers and ranchers.
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thanks to the staff at usda quickly implemented to help those affect d by the pandemic. and in addition providing direct support to our farmers and ranchers usda provide temporary assistance to families who have their incomes reduced. especially thankful for the department and our local communities to ensure children were fed when they were not in school. not only were our schools closed as self-pandemic, of course, we know that in person doctor visits were limited and it was a challenge to conduct normal business transactions so the urgency to close the initial divide in rural america has never been more clear. 30 more americans including 35% of rural americans live in areas without any access to internet. they have small rural communities across texas and the entire united states high speed internet are to learn, excess
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patient care and conduct day-to-day business. i'm proud of the investments we have made in broadband in a bipartisan way and i look forward to continuing to work with this administration to secure additional resources. while i sport these types of critical investments in our rural and agricultural communities, we need to find ways to reduce spending elsewhere. that's providing trillions of dollars to address the pandemic we're now faced with stark reality of the highest level of debt our country has ever seen. i hope we can work together on appropriations bill with adequately built meet needs of farmers and rancher in rural communities in hung are hungry t keeping in mind that record levels of spend willing have on generations to come i thank you mr. chairman and i yield back. >> thank you very much. ms. granger, at this time
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secretary vilsack -- without objection your entire testimony will be included in the record and i recognize now for your statement and then we will proceed with questions. you may summarize or give statement completely up to you but we're happy to welcome you and look forward to your comments secretary vilsack you are not recognized. >> thank you mr. chairman. and to you and to ranking member thorne bury and to representative delo and grearng thorning for opportunity to appear before the committee today. normally i would read a statement but i would ask the indulgence of the chair to allow me to speak a bit from the heart normally i would talk to you all about numbers and budget but these are not normal times and this is certainly not a normal budget hearing. i think it is important to put this discretionary budget in the context of all of the other actions that are current retaking place and have taken
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place in relationship to the american rescue plan your relationship to the american jobs plan, that is pending mandatory budget forthcoming i believe american family plan also forthcoming. it is often said that paradigm shifts start with big ideas. and i think that there are further big ideas in all of these budgets and plans and i would like to explain briefly to you today and put they will in context of this budget the first big idea is the notion that climate change while it may be a threat it also represents and extraordinary opportunity to bring profitability back to farming and to rural communities to create jobs. and when you take full advantage of that opportunity you began that process, i think and we'll begin that process by focusing as well on american job plan and resources for climate smart agriculture bioface and clean energy conversion this budget also contains resources king the
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with that vision. of taking full opportunity of climate, increasing the climate hubs, opportunities for riewrlg utilities to convert, to clean energy, and a climate core increased research in climate that allow aspect this have budget that are not the community responsibility but clearly important to all members of congress, and that is additional resources to manage our forest properly. a second big idea incorporating this budget in the plans that you all have discussed and will discuss is the nation that moving beyond notion of compensating individuals who have individually suffered discrimination when i was last secretary we focused on the settlement of the cases and other class actions for discrimination and leaving beyond that now to look at how we might be tiebl root out systemic barriers that exist during our programs today that have created a significant gap between use of full access to our program and those who have not. and this is certainly an opportunity for us to also
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recognize the key long-term effect and impact of past discrimination. and the need for us to close the gap and to recognize that cumulative impact you have done that to rescue plan and debt relief plan we are in process of implementing at usda you have also created opportunities for new market access and land access to disadvantage farmers to help us close the gap. this budget also reflengts a desire to do so for communities that have been dealing with persistent poverty for far too long. we prpgz the reestablish account of the strike force design to specifically focus on areas where poverty has been so persisted and so deep -- a specialized very focused effort on trying to eradicate the root causes of poverty in those communities. it also reflects as representative suggested that important role that minority serving institutions can play of
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higher education, and better coordination with all institutions of higher learning that's one of the reasons why you'll see increases in presources to the hbcu and other minorities starting institutions in this budget. big idea is the notion that is important is productivity is not agriculture chough is profitability and resiliency moved from pandemic the move to have greater resilience in our system that's why the rescue plan created a supply chain investment and that's why this budget involves and increases resources to help small processing facilities create more competition more open markets more opportunities for farmers to profit. i know my time is about to expire let me just briefly comment on the last and fourth big idea. that it is not just about food and security in this country as important as that is it is also about nutrition, insecurity pangt is we have 18 and a half percent of our children who are obese and 70% of adults
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overweight or obese causing terrific pressures on our health care system, there's important and necessary for us to jointly and focus not just on food insecurity but also nutrition insecurity your rescue provides boneless wic and increasing snap benefit and continues commitment by fully focusing on summer ebt opportunities and creating equipment graduates so schools and others produce nutritious quality food for our children. mr. chair i look forward to questions with the committee, and look forward to working with all of you to carry out these big ideas that will result in significant paradigm shifts equity and greater equity in rural places. >> thank you, mr. secretary, we will now proceed with questions as i mentioned earlier we would get with the chair and ranking member and with members present at the time hearing starts in
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the order of seniority after that i'll recognize hearing called to order and each member will have five minutes and each round will be mindful of your time. i will begin mr. mr. secretary,i understand you were limited in what you can say about the so-called skinny budget that was released last week. but i'm going to try anyway two questions. first is the civilian climb core budget says would create a new pathway to obtain jobs in rural america can you talk about the concept and any possibility that that would be under jr. juries dix on the jurisdiction of the usda, of course, you mentioned earlier which you created in 2010 and for which you're requesting 32 million dollars. stick force targets for funding pofert, and briefly talk about
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that and why you're so strongly support that. second question i would like to include after you address those briefly is regarding rural child care under american rescue plans. it included my proposal to provide 500 million dollars for health care facilities and vaccine distribution. in order to broad bangsd while it was developed in middle of the pandemic we intended to address also systemic and for re during the covid-19 pandemic and revenue losses and to warning of the graduate. recent study found that in 22 states, 25% or more of rural hospitals were at immediate risk of closure. pandemic intensified potential crisis at hospitals.
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about five weeks ago you share your thoughts on how you see this program unfolding. thank you for your answers mr. secretary. >> mr. chairman after the civilian conservation core which we have in forest service with over 10,000 members who are basically volunteering or retained to provide assistance in health and to expand the opportunities for the forest service to do better job with managing our force we have a rural with reference to the civilian climate core i think the fact that we established the conservation core gives us an opportunity to replicate this in materials of climate what this is is really encouraging people to participate in an effort to improve opportunities to sequester carbon, to better maintain, and to utilize and embrace climates smart agricultural processes regenerate practices focus on
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urban agricultural, community opportunities as well. it's very expansionive and i expect it will be interagency multiagency effort, and usda will play an important critical role on strike force -- it is really designed to understand poor areas simply do not know how to play this game. they don't know how to apply for the financial resources that may be available. strike force basically creates a team of people that will go into these communities with a community building organization that is trusted, be able to identify the problems that the community has to address, and then be able to work through the system to ensure that they receive benefits. in the previous administration, in the obama administration we invest had had 23.8 billion dollars in -- in strike force areas that we want to focus on 3 80 some counties where poverty has been persistent over 30 years persistent in king the with representative clyburn ideas. on your health care program, essentially what we're doing is -- providing resource it is to each
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state world development office. for distribution in application whether it is a small 25,000 dollar graduate that will allow a community health center to stay open or whether it is a potentially a million dollar project that would potentially provide opportunities for telehealth to be xantded and remote areas where we want to provide as much discretion and as much opportunity to provide as much help and assistance as possible. a portion of those resources will likely be retained national office as states use up their state allocation, will be in a position to be able to fund projectses that perhaps will move the dial significantly and provide help and assistance. and expectation is to get these resources out as quickly as possible i have also been calling governors of states to advise them of the existence of this proposal specifically i talked to your governor jan brewer of georgia recently, and i will continue to do so reach out to governors to make sure
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they're aware of program so they can take full advantage of it as well. thorning mr. secretary although i have 54 secondings left i will yield to mr. north bury for his questions. >> thank you mr. chairman again thank you mr. secretary nice to see you again and let me return to something i referenced in my opening remarks. rural broadband is yield in wires laid and money spent. sh it's about the meaning of that process. are you promoting an ecosystem of livability that enhancing tell work and telemedicine distance learning precision agriculture all of the other potential benefits that can come forth through again the digital leap that we've undertaken particularly during the pandemic? a lot of money here -- it is not clear to me that we have the proper met treks in place so with that, said in
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regard to next round of recent grads, how can you do a better job of measuring this success of these high speed internet investments across rural america? metrics beyond just physical infrastructure and money spent. >> representative it is to make sure level of broad banding assistance and help that's provided in rural areas is adequate to do the job that you envision. as apartment of that ecosystem you talked about -- the reality is you can have broadband but if the download and upload speeds are not significant or are not sufficient you can check the box but you actually have not improved quality one of the thing we're focusing on is making sure there's a minimal level of up tick and download speeds that will make it significant and create those opportunities for telehealth for distance learning for being able to operate your business out of your home and learned this during importance of this.
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secondly i think it is important for us to understand there's an emotional involvement here. for those of us who have been isolated during covid the ant to have face time and skype and ability to see our children, and grandchildren and incredibly important that's part that have ecosystem you talked if you have a proper speed and if you don't have understanding of how these technologies can be used, you may not fully take advantage of them so i think in addition to installing the wire or having the 5g whatever it is you have to have some opportunities for community colleges or other it is to basically help train individuals to fully utilize technology as well young people certainly understand it. people my age may be not so much. but we ought to all be able to use this resource. >> the question across -- that she's sitting in school parking lot trying to access -- in the community that larger than a traditional definition of
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rural but it is in character and deliver a level of difficulty here. a cost issue. >> i think it requires coordination between usda and other agencies that have impact and effect on this and substantial amount of money in rescue plan and greater amount of money in jobs plan. depending what you all decide to do there's geng to be significant resources and that's important you have to fund this there's no question about it but you have to make sure it is used properly and understood power it have. and i think there's a responsibility that we have to make sure that those resources are well spent. >> well let's keep thinking critically on the question because i think the transformative and economic existed but never existed in such a penetration as we've seen, and -- to be a bright spot in the pandemic this could be one to enhance productivity and turn to another topic right quick.
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microsoft recently said nations in america -- go to 100% because of concerns about climate change. well, research material will -- [inaudible conversations] where we come from -- what i call as it impacts the possibility of reducing climate change, which is minuscule comparison to other problems that we have, would be so disruptive in terms of nutritional value of beef and proper stewardship of our extraordinary advantages of resource where is we come from do you agree? >> well i do agree with the fact farmers are, in fact, great stewarts and that i think they are embracing notion of sustainability and i think we need to invest in that notion. i think there's an opportunity for farmers to embrace climate
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smart agricultural practices to embrace animal stewartship and to message the ability and importance of animal protein production. i don't think necessarily we can create a circumstance where we bar certain technologies. i think we need to compete and i think we can compete with the right resources and right vision. i think we have the right vision i think vision that creates profit centers for farmers can be embraced and with the right policies and right incentives i think we'll see adoption of climate smart agriculture of methane capture reuse and biobase manufacturing that is transformative idea that's the opportunity to completely change the economy and rural america and i will tell you congressman i'm very, very interested in making sure my time to usda spent advancing that vision. >> i view your revision as well i think we need to tell the story -- as you're doing as i'm trying to do it and gentlemen is doing
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about the power and greatness of american agricultural, thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you mr. thorne bury. at this tile i would like to recognize full appropriation committee chair mr. laurel for any questions might have mr. laurel you are now recognized. >> thank you mr. chairman and mr. secretary i am impressed bids your focus on hunger, and nutrition security and i know we have the opportunity to work to enact healthy hungry free kids legislation, and new study this week said school meals are now healthy source of food consumed in united states so quite achievement but i want if you could share your nutrition security plans. what ways can we work together and build on previous success? what are the things that you have in mind with regard to the nutrition security? >> let me check every single
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child in this country in a child care facility in a school, wherever they might find themselves to be every child has to have the opportunity to have access to nutritious good healthy food. that means additional resources for our child in adult care program, it means focus on making sure we have sufficient resources to schools to allow them to expand school breakfast and make nutritious to allow us to have a school lunch program that is available to all and is nutritiously available to all. it is an opportunity for us to essentially inform and provide kiewrls with the kind of information that will allow them as adults to make individual choices that are in their best interest of themselves education and their family. it ising -- a real concerted effort to understand that at the engsd of the day nutrition is so important. we need this one example. you are -- new job is going to fund medicare and medicaid 160 billion dollars of that budget
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is beginning to be spent on diabetes treatment. 160 billion that's more than my budget my entire budget. cut in half what if you cut it in -- 75.? the reality is that's diet related. if you have better nutrition nose diabetes numbers go down. and if they go down, your resources available for whatever goes up. so it's cost effective for us to invest particularly in our children. because we'll have them great habits as they go through lives, and we want them to be well educated to be well educated they have to be -- they have to be well fed and well fed means healthy, healthy nutritious food. >> thank you, thank you very much. let me move to a different topic i've been outspoken critic during's the previous administration when the -- corrupt meatpacker they offed
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100 million dollars as part of the trade a package. jbs is eligible has received additional contracts to the usda agricultural marketing service that concerns me because the brother who is own the parent company have put guilty to violating the foreign corrupt practices act in the illegal entry to and consolidation of the meat packing sector. question is simple, why are we using federal procurement process at usda to subsidize a foreign krupght owned meatpacker and would you agree that this procurement process could be reformed better yiewt liesed to support local farmers regional food system instead of corporate monopoly this is more trouble the usda plans to end their farmers to families. can you meant? >> i think we have to take a
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look at procurement power of the federal government. and making sure that we are insenting and awarding proper behavior if you will -- good employers folks who support the value system and i think is inherent in the u.s. ofation care of people. i was as concerned as you were about recent issues that in meat packing facilities in terms of three minute workers you know and that is unacceptable and clearly we're going take -- we're going ensure that dunts happen again. i think there is a process and opportunity for us to look at our procurement program not just procurement program but a lot more -- i think it is our regulatory story and system in terms of stockers add that is enforced and strengthened by creating capacity in this country and resources that you have provided that will give us sorts of creative opportunities, to help that local regional food system
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that food system prosper to create competition to create greater resiliency in food supply system so i think there's a number of different avenues in addition to procurement to explier and look at within the department so that we have the strongest most resilient food supply system system that's fair and equitable to treat people well and that we're -- good behavior. >> thank you very much, mr. secretary, i should say i hope you can take a look at what has been beginning on with jbs, i think you have all of my colleagues on this committee have farmers regional food systems, that really do need the assistance and the help rather than someone who was in violation of the foreign corrupt practices back. but thank you so much. i appreciate your -- your response. thank you, thank you mr. chairman. i child back. >> thank you. chairwoman now happy to yield
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for questions to gentlelady of texas ms. granger. >> thank you mr. secretary over past several months we've seen commodity prices rise to near record leals this is in part due to large purchases from china. between china stopped buying our farm economy suffered, and hearing before this sub committee thorton bury asked administration of our agricultural economy was too dependent on china. the ceo was clear that any time we're dependent on a single country, we're at risk. what can your department do to help promote u.s. agricultural products so that china cannot put our farmers and ranchers at such risk? >> i worked for four years with dairy industry as president of the dairy expert counsel what i learned from that experience was the necessity of having deeper
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presence in alternative market opportunities i think you're absolutely right. you can't be overreliengt on a single market because that can cause great disruption southeast ietion is right for that opportunity there's opportunities in middle east as well. i think a longer term strategy has to include africa. because one-half of the increase population in this world over next 15 years is in that continue innocent i think that closer relationship we can develop as well in our own hemisphere, but deeper presence means three things it means people only the ground, who are essentially understanding and appreciating the market so that we have market pin sight so we can tailor our programs an our policyings and our products to meet that market demand. it is about partnership and the ability for u.s. commodity groups tore partners with university systems to be partnering with universities in innovator to create new products to use u.s. ingredients to produce what customers want with market and it is about promotion.
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it is about continued promotion continuing telling the american story of agriculture in terms of safety and stability, of our supply and our capacity to be innovative. i think if you deepen presence, in those additional markets you're going to see less reliance on china over time, and more diverse and more balanced and more resilient system. >> thank you, second question, if i mention in my opening same over a third of rural america lack adequate broadband. you have a successful program and usda that has bipartisan support and sub committee has provided you with more than two pl dollars over past four years to fund it. if you have not released the funding for fiscal years 20 and 21, and you provide us an update on plan for requesting proposal so that internet providers can deliver this critical need in rural america. providing to industry was a bit
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confusing, we have simplified that guidance which will allow more communities potentially access those resources. and i expect to anticipate you're going to see description of those resources in the very near future that we have sort of simplified clarified rules under which the program is going to operate. i will say as a respondent to representative we're going to be sensitive to make sure as things are xantded they're expanded in meaningful way with upload and download speeds that make sense in today's world. but i think you're going see much more progress on that, over the course of the next several months. >> certainly i hope so. i've got a little time left -- i've heard farmers and ranchers in texas have seen a delay in services from farm service agency because of the biden administration limiting offices to 25.worker capacity understand the concern for the safety of your field staff but have you
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provided flexibility to increase work capacity if these county offices especially during planting season which is vital also when you expect to allow these offices to return to full capacity? >> i want to reassure you that we are tracking thing activities and workload to make sure that we're on track i can assure you based on that evaluation we are basically at the same level of service and terms of signup et cetera, and as we were prepandemic. which i think is a testimony to the incredible work of our farm service folks. we have provided flexibility and received flexibility on so these folk who is want to get in and can't get in is a socially distance safe way allowing that to happen those who have concerns about this, are still allowed to continue to work at home with a work safety plan and, obviously, be guided by that to make sure when we reopen fully completely we do so where work force feels comfortable and confident
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that -- >> let's go back to delay in circle -- delay in services from the farm service agency. are you saying there hasn't been that problem? >> it has not been. we tracked it i'm happy to provide you charts that show you the level of signups and for the last several years. and we are rate on track to where we were prepandemic. [inaudible conversations] >> maybe individual circumstance but i will tell you system wide we are doing exactly what we've always done. >> okay. yep. send me those i'll appreciate it very much. thank you. >> very well. >> thank you very much. mr. granger secretary at this time i'm pleased to yield to the sub committee chair of interior mr. shelly gentlelady from maine you may now be recognized to ask your questions. >> thank you so much mr. chair, thank you for holding this hearing and mr. secretary really
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appreciate your time as today and thank you so much for your opening remarks really focusing on important big idea that are a critical part of your agenda in this administration agenda and i want to say i really appreciate your deep level of understanding of engaging farmers in the importance of being our partners in climate change. in the opportunities there, that are there for increased revenue for farmers as well as the important role they can play using agriculture as to carbon in other thing we need to do around renewable energy and new products. as well as making sure we finally go through racial injustice issues, and certain security and unctioning that food and security as much more about nutrition and the quality of the food not just calories so i didn't mean to repeat your speech but i just appreciate so much the direction you're taking us in here so i want to go from a big picture and minutia a little bit.
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i'm really interested in the climate hubs it is important part of the funding in my ability of resilience act you're talking about increasing their funding by 40 million next year i think they're a little understood part of what's been set up at the -- at the usda how the forest service plays role in this but just to been the that that could be if they really enhance their capacity and increase their funding can you just talk a little bit about that and how you see them being used? >> it is according to an effort between forest service and our research efforts at usda and design to provide a quality assessment of the risk associated with climate and most importantly creating opportunities to work with farmer ranchers and producers on met mitigation embracings smart agricultural practices so we reduce risk and get -- we don't suffer a decline in production, we're capable of continuing to produce the abundance and to do it in a
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sustainable way. tremendous partnership, well used but not as well known and this is an opportunity i think for us to really ramp up our capacity to provide the knowledge and the information necessary for farmer i think farmer are really, really ready for this. i think they're hungry for this they need the information they need the knowledge, they need the expertise. and so as a result, we need to -- climate hubs so ramp up we need climate hubs tore more act five to do that they're going to need fuss more folks and a little bit of additional resource that's why we put it in the budget. >> great i want to just -- thank you for doing that. i think it is really important to have that emphasis i want to just say that our great university has considered us known a particular benefit for them that's region where is there's been funding and coming from a most forested state in the nation wheres we care deeply about forest innovation forest
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practices, role forest, and sequestering carbon i think it is particularly been important to us that they're underresourced and glad to see you're doing that and play an important role in this ability to translate the ab tract goal that we have down to, you know, how do we really actually provide assistance to farmers and making these transitions and as you said reducing the risk? my second point -- it's about the organic livestock and poultry practices role i feel like on the committee to go to livestock of this one -- so can you give us a real sense of -- you know really all of that what's the time line for restoring it, it seems like, you know, it's been so hopelessly delayed and -- well you know all of the dts but when can we look for that? i think reality is concerns were raised about economic analysis concerns have been raised the way in which both the obama
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administration and the trump administration have been handling these rules. so we're going to start sort of start from scratch to make sure we do it right. and on the last where we're going basksly provide additional opportunity for input, couple of tweaks and changes that we've made so that once we get that input that -- that part should be, should be advanced fairly soon. the origin issue may be a little bit more complicated poultry issue may be more complicated because i think we need to start from scratch a proper analysis we need to make sure we have strongest possible legal basis for whatever it is we decide to do. so that may take a little bit longer. >> great, well can you -- can you commit that you will make this a top priority i think it is important to resolve this for once and for all. ...
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>> thank you very much. thank you for appearing before the committee. i have a couple, a main concern is the issue of whether or not the estate taxes will be changed under a biden tax plan and if you could just briefly mention that you know the step up basis plus it decreasing the exclusion i think would be very harmful for a lot of farmers especially multi generational farmers. are these issues you are aware of? >> i'm aware of the issues. i think it's important to point out that the way these can be
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structured, there are very, very few at the end of the day very, very few forms that could be impacted by this. for example, the special use valuation allows a recalculation of value for most farms to get them well under whatever the threshold might be for the establishment of an estate tax. that is an important consideration. there's also a fairly significant capacity if there's estate tax to be able to pay the very low interest rate. i don't think the issue, i don't think at the the day will result in distraction of the ability to pass on farms. there are tools in that tax code that will allow most farms to be transferred without difficulty. i don't know the particulars that are being discussed, if any, but i will tell you i i o know from my own personal experience doing tax returns an estate for farmers for many, many years that there are a number of ways that farmers can
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use and do use to avoid estate inherits tax. >> file transmitted back to the farm bureau, but i expect they know at the situation is in maryland and i expect a one-size-fits-all approach could be harmful to my local farmers. one other issue is whether usda got caught up in a cat fishing issue. i talked extensively with the previous secretary because the blue catfish in jamaica may not know is an invasive species and the chesapeake. it's decimating our crab population and because the u.s., this is the only fish the usda inspects the processing of instead of sba, it is created a tremendous burden on our freshmen. they don't catch it commercially. they could but the guilt because they know processing -- are no processing systems for. we had $1 million in last just but you cannot pay for some of the inspections.
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this is of great concern because if we don't carve out the chesapeake bay from this inspection regime, then the ecosystem is at risk. do you know, is a reason why the chesapeake bay shouldn't be carved out from this inspection system and get back over to the fda? which will allow commercialization of the catching of the blue catfish to control an invasive species? >> we giving some time to find out to respond to your question? it's not something frankly i can't hatch of today. i don't know. >> thank you. again is very specific issue to the chesapeake bay and the usda -- >> normally dozens of fish processing inspections. politics are interesting. one quick issue is the price of edible oils that for a variety of reasons has gone up untold about 300% and this could be, in fact, made even worse over the
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next few months, and is the usda aware of the supply issues? >> certainly we are aware of significant disruptions in the supply chain. transportation is a serious issue. congestion at the ports, difficulties with containers. we are focused on that. we expressed to the maritime commission the importance of what they need to do to make sure we can get goods and services in and out of this country more quickly. i think it would be helpful if we could see investment in our infrastructure that will allow that to take place in a more efficient way. so we are aware of supply chain disruption and we are doing everything we can to make sure those who have power and control and jurisdiction over this issues are aware and need to take action. >> okay.
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just two comments. i agreed with you that the problem of obesity in the country. i would suggest that some of the physicians have felt one way we could help with it through the usda is to online the food restrictions on the s.n.a.p. program with the food restrictions on the wic program which basically means that we have to be nutritious foods. because as we expand the s.n.a.p. program as you are aware we expand the availability of a lot of non-nutritious food as well and a lot of people now believe and the medical field contribute these foods contribute to the obesity crisis we have. so it's something if you would think about it would be great to have the support to, in fact, begin to look at encouraging not only food security but nutritious food security for americans. and then just finally, i meet a
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lot of farmers to my district were very disappointed. the usda is an agency that they thought just put farm as its priority but i will tell you this form of assistance has got a lot of them upset because an agency that they thought was colorblind is now color preference to, and they worry that this means that the usda which is typically doesn't engage in politics is not part of a woke agenda and i will leave it at that. they are very disappointed because your agency has a great reputation within the federal government or being a nonpolitical agency, and it looks like it has become very political. i will use back the balance of my time. >> thank you, dr. harris. your time has expired. at this time i am delighted to recognize the gentleman from
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wisconsin, mr. mark procaine. mr. pocan, you are recognized for your question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. secretary for being here. i was heartened to hear your priorities for the department so thank you for sharing that. just so you know i -- a lot of dairy, soy, corn. i myself was in a count of 850. very much a part of my district. we also home to uw madison with the main research university in the country. i would like to extend an invitation to you as well for the district sometimes. i've so many areas i could cover. i'm not going to do in five minutes but secretary perdue did, during his tenure and we were really appreciative when he came by and visited one of the buildings i'm going to bring up. if it's all right i'm going to bring up four areas
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mr. secretary and can let you comment, , to make sure i get these in. the first one is recently we've had an issue with our state not having emergency order placement covid that could have cost as $70 million of snap benefits every single month. we reached out to your office a while ago. i believe as of last night our government has worked out at you with the usda that will still be able to get it without executive order signed by sector timberlake potter wanted to confirm that because obviously it's important. republican legislature ineptly or insufficiently didn't deal with this and is going to cost us money and want to make sure what we have in place works. second is as a mention uw madison one of our premier agriculturally research universities. there's a building secretary perdue visited when he was in wisconsin in my district, and my only regret is they swept the cockroaches at before they had him come by.
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it's a world war ii era building. it's the number one priority for university of wisconsin-madison. we co-locate with the usda on a program around vegetable crop research unit. and would love to make sure that can get prioritized. we do need some assistance in funding for that and give love to see the facility. three, third issue, i noticed some new rules. some of my younger farmers especially have been trying to grow hemp and they've been concern concerned because the limits were so low that there's a huge financial risk if they had to destroy their own crop. i would love to hear about what you see with that so i could get some good information to that. and then the final area is around consolidation. i was very heartened to see that the president's budget included resources for stepped-up -- in the agriculture sector, but as
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you know many areas including places like wisconsin that have a lot of family farms i think we are number one in the nation for dairy farm bankruptcies in the last year or two. it's been really tough consolidations have hit us hard. i would love to hear more about what your plan is around anti-enforcements, antitrust enforcement within the usda. i know i gave you a lot there, mr. secretary, but i figured that was the best way to do them but you go at it with the remaining time. >> representative, if there's an emergency declaration at the state, your state would be entitled to participate with the allotment, and i think what he said is accurate, obviously we were in a better place than after the supreme court decision in wisconsin. there's a lot of needs in terms of infrastructure. we'll take back your consent to make sure they are aware of it and make sure it gets on the list and i will let you know essential where it is on the list. it's a fairly long list because for many, many, many years we
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were not investing as we needed to. we have started catching up during obama administration and continued during the trump administration was still quite a bit to do. on hip we did raise, we finalize the rule. i think it does great some certainty for the producer. the problem now is making sure we coordinate with our department of justice friend so they don't great a problem with a processing community. that's a a tough issue, diffit issue but we will work through it. in terms of consolidation, with 38 seconds, strengthening the rules that exist, providing an investing in additional processing capacity that prevents competition and working with the department of justice on a variety of issues, whether it's enforcement in making sure when it is an antitrust issue that the remedy actually addresses the challenge and whatever investigations they have working collaboratively with the usda on making sure where focus in the right areas.
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i'm down to seven seconds. >> i would invite you to district and love to have you come by sometime plessy get you closer back vacuum. thank you. i yield back. >> thank thank you, mr. poc. i'm happy to recognize the gentleman from california mr. valadao. >> thank you, mr. chair. thank you, secretary vilsack. welcome back to the subcommittee. thank you for joining us today to testify. a lot of change venture last in front of the subcommittee and i look forward to working with you again in this administration. i have quite a few questions and i plan to submit what we can't get you to the record for you to have an opportunity to respond and do it that way. the most important pressing issue i will start with is the central valley. i want to thank you firstly designating 50 california counties including by entire district on march 5 as a primary national disaster area due to
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the ongoing drought. just last thursday you and the secretary of interior released a statement acknowledging the critical drop in the west. i thank you for this acknowledgment. more needs to be done and, till poor farmers under water users in california. agriculture production of large part of our economy but having a safe and reliable food supply is a serious national security issue for our country as well. we'd you please tell me how the usda plans to assist the sender that of california as would do with this horrible, historic drop? >> a couple things, representative. obviously we're going to take a look at reconstituting the drought task force in recency task force we had during the obama administration will be dealt the last and with a drop in california to make sure we're taking a look at the full range and suite of systems we can provide to producers and to make sure we do this in an interagency processed to make sure it's not just the usda but we make sure that other
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departments potential in equities here are brought into the process. secondly, i think it's important for us to continue doing research. the better we are at utilizing the scarce water resources we have, obviously it will allow us to deal with drought more effectively and more efficiently. i think our agricultural research service is very much involved in this. obviously will continue to take a look at the full range of resources that we have under the various programs to provide help and assistance to farmers as they struggle through a very difficult time. we fully appreciate the challenge they have. we are aware of it and will do everything we can to help. >> i appreciate that. appreciate you bring up you work with at agencies. it's important we have thought approach to this. obviously a complicated and important topic addressed as quick as possible. there's another one, i know have a couple mincer, usda took bold
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action to 2020 to utilize money made available to purchase billions of dollars worth of use on projects for distribution to families in need through the farmers to families food box program. while the program was a success in many ways it created unintended volatility in the u.s. dairy industry is chief mandate product under the program and while other products like butter were largely left out of the boxes. this grid future imbalances between dairy farmers driven only by whether the farm was applying to a favored cheese manufacturing sector. usda health all day listening sessions on the issue which expose some of these imbalances and today i'm surprised to read in the news usda is canceling this important program altogether. this seems to contradict or testament that highlights need to address the nation's nutrition insecurity. why are we learning about this and news? although it wasn't for the program this program provide families with healthy nutritious food options grown in the u.s. what do you plan to do to
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provide healthy foods like what was included food boxes to families in need? >> we will continue to provide healthy food but we're going to do it through the most efficient system that we have. the reality is the food box program was set up to respond to covid. it was in response to covid. a lot of problems with it, representative, a lot of problems. there was a significant difference of administrative costs, and some face cases people were charged him and is not just to fill the boxes. there was an inadequate accounting of where the boxes were delivered. a lot of food waste and lost that we uncovered as a result of these listening sessions. so our theory is we great opportunities through the tefap program to what exists with a food banks and food pantry system which is incredibly efficient and effective at getting food at the folks. through a continuation we just announced what will be funded system.
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we've got the dairy donation program that we will set up as well two of the dairy industry. were going to try to take what we learned the best of that program and incorporate into our traditional regular programs which are very efficient in terms of food distribution. that way i think you get the best of both worlds pick you get product being used, products being available to people, nutritious product being available but you get it to a very efficient and effective delivery mechanism that is accountable. >> i appreciate that. thank you, chair. we are action getting american products to the suggest we needed as a party so appreciate the answers and mr. chairman, i yield. >> thank you, mr. valadao. at this time i'm happy to yield to the gentlelady from illinois, one of our new members, ms. underwood. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to secretary vilsack for joining us today. two weeks ago i had the honor of visiting the northern illinois food bank in geneva illinois and
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is able to see up close the true incredible work that their staff and volunteers are doing to keep the communities in my district that come despite huge challenges in high demand due to the pandemic. during my visit the food bank stressed and to have the fae family food box program has been invaluable for distributing fresh nutritious ready to load food to our neighbors. between march of 2020 and february of 2021 nearly a quarter of the over 1 million meals they distributed was supplied through the food box program. tragic i would like to ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a comment from the northern illinois food bank submitted to usda supporting the farmers to families the box program and suggesting improvement. >> so ordered. >> my understanding based on news reports from the spoon is usda is ending the farmers to families food program next month but i but i was really pleased to see
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usda announced a new fresh produce box program under the emergency food assistance program, tefap. now we know that the farmer to families food box program was not without its flaws of the food is provided has been a lifeline for families in my community. the northern elephant bank is valued right of food provided to the program including the dairy and meat product. they also appreciated the programs flexibility which has allowed them to distribute the boxes through many more other agencies that typically can't distribute the tefap foods. do you anticipate the tefap program be able to build dr. phil the current needs and your considering flexibility in the distribution and food writing in the tefap food box program or other food box programs? >> the answer is that we are obviously trying to take the best of the food box program and institute it into our traditional distribution system.
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so i think you're going to continue to see the variety, continue to see the wholesomeness food being made available to folks. i think you'll just sit in a slightly different delivery mechanism that's much more efficient and less costly, which means we will have more resources for more food for more people, number one. number two, we continue to have enormous capacity to purchase these other products and to incorporate them in what is being made available to food banks and food pantries. i don't think you are going to see a decline or a reduction in the diversity of what's going to be made available to food banks. i think you will continue to see us being engaged in this. this budget asks for additional resources in the tefap program to be able to do more of what you want us to do. and i think we've also heard from a number of other food banks that it serious concerns and issues with that program. what we're trying to do is take the best of what we have heard
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and 118 the things that didn't work particularly well, put it into a system that is well known and well functioning to make sure we continue to get access to as any people as possible with nutritious options and flexibility. >> well, it's a great step and it's obviously a deep level of need that requires your support so please do let us know about those additional resources that are needed. now i'd like to turn to another critical nutritional program. please do share -- pleases in a written test would you call that important of which in addressing disparities and maternal and child health outcomes particularly the racial disparities. i look upon a culture of the black metrohealth caucus and so expanding wic is big priority for me. i black metrohealth omnibus act includes provisions that would expand wic eligibility and postpartum and breast-feeding
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time to ensure new months have access to nutritious programs that are proven to save lives and improve maternal and child outcomes. in the skinny budget did ministry is requesting $1 billion increase for nutrition program including wic. can you provide detail on how you anticipate usda would use the increase funding to expand wic and approve metrohealth including if there any statutory changes that you think may be necessary? >> representative, i think the first order of business in to make sure that 50% of participants who were participating do and that's why we were pleased with rescue plan that provide additional resources for us to reach out to states to figure out ways in which we can be innovative in creating better understanding of wic and better participation of wic. we want to close that 50% gap. that's the first order of business. the additional bonus that's in wic because of rescue plan, the
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additional resources we are asking for what allow us to continue to provide a decent benefit but it doesn't have people are not taking advantage of it. we are looking for partnerships, looking for ways in which we can get the word out about wic and make sure folks really participate. i have reached out to governors. i mention i'm calling governors, calling governors all across the country encouraging them to work with us in our human services department to get information out about wic. i was at a food bank recently where they put information in the box that they provide to families about snape. why can't they also put something in there about wic? we need to look at freedom ways and 70 appreciate any idea that you have that would expand outreach that would enable us to close at 50% gap. it's very concerned. >> yes, sir. i look forward to working with you here got yelled back. >> your time has expired.
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hopefully you can get back to a second round. i would like to recognize the german for michigan. the floor is yours. >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome back, mr. secretary. it's good to see you again. you may or may not be aware that we had a major flooding event in michigan in may of 2020. last years catastrophic flood was the result of a historic rain event and a failure of two dance dance in my congressional district and calls about $200 million worth of damage. the rebuilding and recovery effort continue as we speak. a major disaster declaration was issued by the president last july and a pleased to tell you that the usda was one of the first federal agencies to respond. i'm very grateful for that. the former usda deputy undersecretary for rural development came to my congressional district with a pledge to support our recovery
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process. natural resources conservation service has been and continues to be an invaluable partner in providing federal -- needed on the ground response and i'm extremely grateful to your department but we also continue to need assistance as we continue to rebuild. last year flooding was not an isolated incident my hometown of midland has expend significant flood events several times over the last 25 years. working closely with federal stakeholders like usda, fema, noaa, the army corps of engineers by state and local officials, commit stakeholders are seeking your departments support for innovative major based flood mitigation measures to slow the flood, the flow of water during flood events and to protect the lives and livelihoods of those communities i represent. in creation of wetlands, conservation easements and natural floodplains are examples
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of steps that can be taken to provide flood protection while also enhancing recreational environmental conservation efforts. i would like to ask you today and the department for your continued support and to work with me and a bipartisan michigan delegation to congress as a work together to develop and implement a coordinated federal approach to mitigating the threat of future floods in the great lakes bay region. i would also like to personally invite you to come to mid michigan to see firsthand the efforts of usda to date and the work that still needs to be done as we recover and rebuild from last years historic flood event. thank you for your consideration, mr. secretary. >> representative, i know our team at usda continues to be a close contact with your task force. i know what they're doing and helping to rebuild those communities. we're looking at ways in which the per program could be of help and a know the folks stand ready
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to be as helpful as it possibly can with some of the projects that you just mentioned. i am happy to commit to you that we will continue to be cooperative and continue to look for ways in which we can be of assistance and be part of the team that rebuilds the area. >> wonderful. i'm grateful for that and again i would just like to personally invite you to come out and see firsthand the work that has been done and still needs to be done. just grateful for that. if i could switch gears and minute. first of all i want to be very supportive of your work in rural broadband engine support for that. i think the pandemic as well as the flooding have really demonstrate the importance of that. i also want to just talk a moment about dairy and dairy farmers and i know you know this will make up a large portion of the agriculture industry in michigan in my district, and all face uncertainties about the future especially with covid.
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the dairy industry been caught in middle of ever-changing patterns, particularly dairy suppliers of low-fat flavored milk. i wanted to ask what your willingness is to continue allowing schools to serve 1% flavored milk, particularly given that the 2020 -- 2025 dietary guidelines for americans, 90% of the the populations not meet dairy -- a recommended nutrient dense to beverage. >> this is an interesting question, congressman. because if you go with the no fat milk then kids don't drink it and you lose the nutritional value and nutritional benefit of the vitamins and nutrients that are in milk. and so to the extent that alternative provides the opportunity for us to see more
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milk consumption, that is something i think we should actually take a look at. at the end of the day we want kids drinking milk because it's good for them. and so i'm encouraging our team to basically take a look at that issue of doesn't make sense to have a standard which essentially cuts off milk consumption or is it better to have a standard that encourages milk consumption? i think school districts obviously have a lot of issues they need to take into consideration but a think our team should be helpful in that respect. >> i appreciate your thoughtful approach and mr. chairman, i see my time is up. i yield back. >> thank you. at this time i am delighted to recognize the gentlelady from minnesota, the chair of our subcommittee of defense, that in the colon for any questions that you might have for secretary vilsack. >> thank you, mr. chair. i'm so happy to have you back at
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the usda, mr. vilsack bigger leadership and expertise will be critical in combating climate change can stabilize your food and agriculture system and helping our nation recover from covid. so you express expense n all those areas. as has been pointed out -- but i want to focus on some reports that have come back to look at military members and the families are no different. we have seen a dramatic increase. hungry among military families is not new. there are 26 team gao report, you might not have had a chance to look at this yet but somewhat understaffed and look at it for you -- 2016 -- points out that roughly 23,000 military families use s.n.a.p. based on more than $21 million in step benefits on military bases alone. many of us thought -- only to
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find out we are still having food insecurity with our military. 2020s survey -- 40% of active duty families are expensing food insecurity. the gao report goes into all the reasons why this happens. it's a great report, and as archer of the agriculture community pointed out, i chair the defense subcommittee on appropriations, i would like to work with chairman bishop on this as well with you how we can better understand this problem if you could get to chairman bishop and i which staff person we should be working directly with that would be greatly appreciated. >> we will get that to you today. >> thank you. and at the end of your tenure as sect of agriculture u.s. force -- aren't nations most visited wilderness area and its prices
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reserve of water so clean you can drink it directly from its lakes and rivers. on december of 2016 the forest, previous forest service chief then i can sit for renewal of two expired mining leases in the watershed are concluding and i quote from him that copper ore mining could cause quote serious and irreparable harm to this unique, iconic irreplaceable wilderness area come into court. in january 2017 the forest service applied for mineral withdrawal from federal lands within the rainy river watershed. the trump administration canceled the mineral withdrawal study can renew the lease is without any scientific evidence to justify its actions to show whether or not that water that could be protected. i understand the department of agriculture under your leadership is redoing those actions. if you're able to would you share what steps usda will be
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taking under your leadership to address this issue in the threat of sulfite or copper mining in the watershed? in general could you comment on the importance of surface land managers like the forest service in retaining the right to review and that i can send for minerals leases on publicly especially when it could impact our public waters which are the future generation drinking water? >> representative, very much aware of the challenge and the interest in the sensitivity of this particular issue that you have raised. certainly aware of it in 2015, 16, aware of it in 2021. i had the opportunity to go to minnesota at the request of vice president come former vice president walter mondale was a very keen interest in this issue and spoke to a group that is very concerned about the boundary waters generally.
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what i can tell you is we are indeed redoing the trump administration action and also working with our sister agency department of the interior to take a look at upper right of economic analysis that have been done and need to be done in connection with this particular area. as we make decisions about what next steps are, i do want to prejudge what those next steps are until we had this conversation and completed that analysis but very, very, very well aware of the sensitivities and we will do what we can. and understand and appreciate the unique comp uniqueness of that particular location. it something that am personally familiar with because our younger son spent a lot of time up there in the boundary waters when he was growing up. it's an airy that was important to our family. we will take it very sisley. >> thank you. mr. chair, we don't place a value on water will hear about all the value on minerals, and
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life does not exist without water. thank you, mr. chair. thank you, mr. vilsack. [inaudible] >> mr. chairman, you are muted. >> i'm sorry. i recognize mr. newhouse from washington. you are now recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary vilsack, it's great to see you again. i got to say that during my time as secretary of agriculture for my state, and it also serving as a member of congress in your last term, your office has always been very responsive, great to work with, and so congratulations to you on your second confirmation here and i
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hope you are settling in to your new old office at usda. just a quick question to get us started. you may or may not know earlier this year i had the honor of being elected the chairman of the congressional western caucus which is a group of about 70 members of congress located throughout the country. some of our main priorities have to do with agriculture and conservation, forestry, all those things that are important to our membership you just want to follow up on a written invitation that i sent to you and expand a personal invitation to come and meet with this group of members at your earliest convenience. and i would hope that we could make that happen. could we do that? >> yes. happy to visit with those folks. >> thank you. thank you very much. secondly, as many of the members have done i would also like to
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invite you to come to my state. as you know center washington where i represent is very diverse agricultural region. we call everything a to z. you've heard of washington apples, cattle and their interest is very significant, wine grapes, many, many other kind -- cherries. wheat is a big deal. i know from your previous work at usda as was in the private sector, you understand, i've heard you say farmers and ranchers are truly the original conservationists. and are stewards of the land they work. so i would appreciate your time if you continue with some of the washington farmers, ranchers to understand how growers continue to innovate on smart climate practices and see firsthand how a one-size-fits-all solution in
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the name of climate does not work for all of agriculture. as you make further announcements along these lines, i know you will, but solicit input from growers in program crops as well as specialty crops. but i want to touch on a couple of things in my time. first of all on trade. thank you for your comments so far, your positive comments and you understand the importance of trade to our industry, and i appreciate your urging congress begin working to reauthorize the trade promotion authority, free, fair and open export markets are critical to the state of washington's agricultural industry. i've got to tell you though, sir, many agricultural stakeholders are a concern that
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-- president biden has been taking on trade negotiations, implying that domestic matters are more important than trade agreements come have not previously been beneficial to u.s. workers. i would just like to note that nearly 40%, 40% of the jobs in my state, the state of washington, are directly tied to trade. so my question is what do you plan to do to move the white house forward on trade on behalf of u.s. agricultural stakeholders? >> our job at ucs to make sure that the u.s. trade representative office is fully aware and appreciate the importance of agriculture in the negotiations and in the implementation of agreements. i've only had conversation with the u.s. trade representative ambassador on implementation of usmca, on approaches to china, on issues relating to japan and
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the access so we've had this conversation. also had opportunities to reach out to the state department to make sure they are fully aware of agriculture interest in a variety of areas around the world as issues unfold and can have impact on trade relationships. and finally i spent a good deal of time in the first several months of my tenure here reaching out to ministers from all over the world trying to develop a coalition of administers committed to climate change and a coalition of administers committed to a science-based and rules-based system. i've had positive conversations recently with folks particularly in our hemisphere. >> thank you. thank you very much. i see my time has expired but i do hope to have another opportunity but i appreciate very much your meeting us this morning and look for to continue
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productive working relationship. thank you, mr. chairman. i will yield back. >> thank you, mr. newhouse at this time i am delighted to yield to the chair of the subcommittee for appropriations, ms. debbie wasserman schultz. i would just like to take the opportunity of you at the subcommittee to extend our deepest condolences on a recent loss of her mother. we are delighted that you are with us today, and at this time i'm happy to yield to ms. wasserman schultz for your questions. >> thank you thank you . chairman. and thank you for your condolences and the condolences of so many of my colleagues. mr. secretary, welcome and welcome back. we are thrilled to have you in the leadership role once again. i want to on a couple of things. first on food insecurity among florida's hispanic community and
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also on the invasive species problem we have, particularly in florida as well as florida citrus. covid has continued to exacerbate an already serious food insecurity problem nationwide but especially among the hispanic immigrant families who live in florida. according -- hispanic children of florida are far -- by mid-october nearly 20% of hispanic households with children report the household sometimes are often didn't have enough food to eat in the past seven days. i'd like to ask how can you stay
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better target investments in spanish-language as well as trusted me to base organizations over to help reduce those long-standing values and food access among hispanic and immigrant households? >> i would incorporate my answer in your question the way you posted. the reality is we need to do a better job of working to communicate with folks in a way that understand and the trust. we did that whenever secretary before. we got participation rate n s.n.a.p. to record levels. sometimes we have to work to make sure states are doing their job because at the end of the states administer this program and so it's come before the first to take a look at where florida is relative to their outreach and efforts they are in terms of the resources we are providing to the state for outreach for education et cetera. it is partly reaching out to the states, partly making sure we're doing our job making information
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available and, frankly, part of it is also taking a look at the level of the benefit. folks can be hungry even if they do get s.n.a.p. because benefit level i think needs to be examined. we are appreciative of the fact caucuses increase it and we put that into play and that should be of some help to families who are participating in the program today. >> i think it's important usda make this a priority. it is so critical and thankfully the biden administration's refers the public charges. how was your ski injury all immigrant eligible immigrant children and families meet access to food assistance are able to receive it? >> we reached out to department of homeland security encouraging to action and applauding it in making sure that our counterparts in the states are fully aware and appreciative of the fact that change has taken place. again and states that administer this program want to make sure that the right information and they are applying the right set of rules and right set of lenses
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if you will to applications. part of this is also i think making, taking a look at the application system itself and making sure we're doing it in a way that is easy as it can be to make sure people participate in the program. sometimes our application processes can be confusing and difficult and sometimes cumbersome. which can oftentimes discourage people from participating that's particularly true of seniors and and not sure whether in hispanic community is whether seniors are participating at the rate they should but oftentimes is because of the complicated application process. >> so many hispanic immigrant, so making sure they know they are once again eligible is really critical here i want to turn in my final more than a minute to the agricultural quarantine program. that's vital for inspecting imported commodities through
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florida ports so we can test against invasive plants and animals. international travel has affected the programs bottom line. the coronavirus provided more funding for the use of the shortfall but as we put together the fy '22 appropriations bill it's vital to have the funds necessary to continue this critical work so we can keep invasive pests from invading our agriculture industry. that's our number to economic driver in florida. it's been intensifying as a result of that invasive species problem. can you speak to the board's of program and whether aqis has funds necessary to continue operating effectively? >> it was appreciative the fact that congress did provide the resources come over $609 to basically get that budget back in order. you are right this is a first line of defense and invasive species can be devastating. you mentioned citrus green,
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don't have to tell anybody from florida or texas or california or arizona the concerns they have citrus industry jennifer we've been vested auto resources, , over 110 projects have been invested in on citrus greening alone. millions and millions of dollars. very high priority, very important, got to be adequately funded. i think it is adequately funded long as the fees are coming in. if not you need to supplement or provide additional resources. hopefully with trade getting back will get to the other side of covid internationally get some of -- in trade, taking care of. we should see those resources begin to fill back up again and we shouldn't have much as a threat or concern as it had during covid. >> my time has expired. >> your time has expired. at this time i would like to recognize mr. cuellar of texas
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for any questions that you may have. you are now recognize, mr. cuellar. >> mr. chairman, thank you so much for your leadership on the subcommittee. mr. secretary kerry, it's a pleasure to view begin. i'm so happy your back as the act secretary. i have to my question for the record that i will permit for the record. so you can get back to me on that. what i want to talk about is how do we help kids from third world conditions, literally millions of them, and not talking about -- [inaudible] but i'm talking about kids in the u.s. border. they have no water, many times no water, no sewage, no electricity, no street. the educational assistance need a lots of talk about helping u.s. kids that are on our side.
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your agency has the definition as you know and assorted want to see if we can talk about, if you can designate somebody i can work with because those we're talking, almost 2.5 million individuals deliver third world conditions. 145 are in new mexico, 114 are in arizona. 34 are in california and texas especially south texan a lot of kids are coming in from central america. we have 2166 in the state of texas. i know your strikeforce i want to work with her also want to work with you on something mr. clyburn any committee have been working on. i just want to see if you can
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assign somebody i can work with and the committee can work with because i do in ten to ask for funny with help of the appropriations committee members to address third world conditions. >> the last time i was secretary we had a focus on this as part of our strikeforce, 1.0. certainly no reason not to continue that. right now our focus is making sure they're safe and adequate water, drinking water and waste disposal systems significant amount of money has been invested already by world development for wastewater. about a billion dollars for those projects and for hospitals and clinics and energy systems childcare centers. our budget as proposed specific increase in water infrastructure which we think will help clean water in communities like this. so very much committed to this,
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representative, and will make sure that you have someone in the staff that is aware of what we are doing so you can work with them to assure yourself and your constituents that that is an area of concern and interest. >> thank you so much, mr. secretary. i'm sorry i'm running out to the fort that what i do want to say thank forward working with weber you assigned to we can talk about this. thank you so much. i just back, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. cuellar. at at this time i would like to yield to the gentlelady from new york, ms. main. you are now recognized for your questions -- ms. maloney. >> thank you, chairman bishop and thank you, mr. secretary for being here. it's great to meet you again. i am so thrilled that you will be leading this agency and look forward to working with you in my first year on the subcommittee to advocate for programs like s.n.a.p. and wic
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which help many americans including my vulnerable constituents in queens. as you know food insecurity has skyrocketed during this pandemic, so lighter longer than i've ever seen in my lifetime many people rely on food assistance. there's never been a more important time to try to make s.n.a.p. more flexible, and i'm concerned in particular about the long-standing hot food exclusion come of hot foods from s.n.a.p. this policy i believe creates unnecessary obstacles for many who are experiencing illnesses, senior citizens, single parents, the center workers which was on a lot of this issue in new york during the early days of the pandemic. they were working overtime and they didn't have time to go to a grocery store, and sometimes at least in new york there's not a grocery store nearby. i believe that this policy can't
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be justified from a nutrition standard when an and toasted sandwiches eligible for purchase by toasted sandwich is not. many of my constituents are struggling to put food on the table and would really benefit from repealing this exclusion. for example, a single mom could benefit from buying rotisserie chicken to use constable of mills. i s.n.a.p. the works to pay for school but benefit from a cup of soup from the local grocery store or delhi. those who are living in transitional housing might not even have access to a kitchen at all. i wanted to ask what your opinion and thoughts are on potential repeal of this hot food exclusion and more s.n.a.p. policies, and would you be supportive of congress in to limit any the hot? >> congresswoman, i think it
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would be best for me to respond, to give you sort of the principles that i'm operating under with reference to the s.n.a.p. program. first and foremost i want a benefit to be meaningful and that's one of the reasons why we institute a review of the thrifty food plan which is a foundation upon which that benefit is sky2 led to determine whether not is making sense in today's world. i want the ability of s.n.a.p. program to be utilized by many people as possible which means taking a look at her application systems of making sure were not creating barriers to participation that are unnecessary. third, i think we do need to learn from the recent experience in covid asked how we might be able to make the s.n.a.p. program and availability benefits modernized, more convenient. that may very well address the issues you're raising here. it may go into a variety of other directions relative to how we might incorporate restaurants into the system more fully than they are today. but i think it is worthy of as challenging ourselves to ask ourselves whether this program needs to be modernized in terms
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of benefits are accessible for and finally we want to make sure the program is operated with integrity. those are the principles i'm operating under, the direct as i have given to to work on and i would hope over the course of the time i mr. secretary that we'll see progress in all four areas. >> thank you, mr. secretary. i know i don't have a lot of time left as a member of mr. clyburn world broadband task forest, row accessible broadband access i think we are seeing where prioritize and especially have seen the imports of during this pandemic. i wanted to ask about your plans to expand rod band access in general but also how you might suggest or any ideas you might have in relation to our members could use potential community funded projects or the infrastructure bill to help make
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this more accessible and affordable? >> there are a number of issues relative to broadband. the first and foremost that usda needs work and better coordination with the fcc, with nhpa, with commerce and other agencies engage with an evolved and expanded broadband for the regulation of broadband to ensure where using every single dollar as effectively as possible to get as many people served as possible. we recently clarified and supplied the rules with reference to reconnect program which will go into effect next week. we expect and it is but that's going to expand significantly the number of communities available to apply for those resources so that more resources we have in the program, we've asked in this budget, the more folks we can help if we want to make sure the help we provide makes sense so that means upload and download speeds that adequate and sufficient to do the job that needs to be done. as i discussed, this is about
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making sure this broadband is usable. it's not enough to say you've got broadband. it's got to be high-speed broadband. so those are some of the things we are doing relative to broadband expansion. it is about money and the jobs plan the president has put forth provide significant resources for this and would strongly encourage congress to take a very close look at that bill and that section of the bill. >> thank you, ms. meng. i believe your time has expired and let me thank the committee. i believe we finished our first round, and we are about to begin a second round. mr. secretary, i think that comes back to me. as you may be aware, georgia is the number one peanut producing state in the country, and my congressional district is at the number one congressional district that produces peanuts.
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and i am known as the peanut congressman. the peanut industry brought back concerns about the eu nontariff trade barriers peanuts to usda back in 2018. since that time the peanut industry has had numerous usda meetings, zoom calls with eu to the -- with no success. since 2018 peanuts have lost $160 million in the eu market. the industry leadership believes until the eu representatives and the u.s. peanut leaders meet that will help of addressing this important issue for the peanut industry. can you check with your staff on how we can move this issue forward for the peanut industry and possibly include a meeting with eu representatives and the u.s. peanut industry?
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and let me just ask, go on to my second question so you can answer that when you finish that. it has to do with -- the previous administration devastated usda research capacity at ers and the national institute of food and agriculture are proposing to move large numbers of staff, national capital region to missouri. many of those researchers did not want to relocate in accordance with the oig review from 2017-2020 and expense agencywide staff in losses up to 40%. ..
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>> i would say that it's very, very important not just for the usda to weigh in, but usdr. they're the one that are negotiating with our friends in the eu. that's a difficult circumstance. we have a difficult relationship with the eu. i've had conversations with the eu commissioner recently and expressed concerns about that relationship. we'll continue to knock on that door, but i think it's important for us to also have usdr also knocking on that door. in terms of nifa, and erf-- excuse me, nifa, there's aggressive effort to fill those positions and to do so in a way that expands significantly the diversity within those folks who are working. we are going to keep an eye on
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it as the president's instructed us to do so and certainly, it's in our best interest to make sure we have as diverse and inclusive a work force as possible and i'm confident that we're going to get many of those positions filled. some of those will be filled in kansas city and some will be filled in washington d.c. area. >> thank you, mr. secretary. part of the advantage of returning to your old job is being able to hit the ground running. but we need staff to help manage the wide ranging portfolio at the usda. we've seen nominated for the secretary-general and i'm particularly interested in the under secretary. the administration announced nominations for the subcabinets and have you recommended any names to the white house? >> we're working-- and i should have responded to your question about re as well.
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we're working with the personnel office to identify candidates and to essentially create a list of potential nominees. and then work through the process of ensuring those folks are properly vetted before we propose their names. i would anticipate and expect in the very near future you will seen to see a series of nominations for the under secretary positions and some of the other key positions that are not yet filled. trust me, mr. chairman, i'm just as anxious as you are to have more help and more staff. it's not easy to operate this vast department without all hands on deck. we're working as expeditiously as possible to get those filled and hopefully the senate will establish a hearing date in the near future for the general counsel and then have a deputy in the near future. >> thank you, my name has expired and i'm happy to yield
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back for additional round of questions. the floor is yours. >> thank you very much, chairman. i think it's been a thoughtful hearing thus far. mr. chair, i want to return to the earlier question i raised, and i didn't have enough time to flesh it out. and i really think it's important that we work hard to dispel the myth that american livestock production is a significant contributor to climate change. when we look at emissions chart, america's livestock producers in comparison to the world are at the bottom because we excel in animal husbandry and innovation techniques. years ago there was a gentleman hog farmer in my district and i know, mr. secretary, i know, mr. secretary that you've probably been caught behind a hog truck and a lot of power and energy there. one of my hog farmers decided to try to take that energy and
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make it useful in a creative way and created one of the early methane digestion systems. i would hate to see us penalized as we try to appropriatery address the issue of methane in the atmosphere, which is a pasture of gas and less than climate one change-- and compared to the rest of the world we do better in stewardship. i was in a meeting with bill gates, he made that comment and i respect bill an attempt to compel the world's wealthiest to be more responsible, discounting the nutritional aspect, the limited impact this would have on our environmental security, as well as the disruptions of important economic resource not only for ourselves in america, i hope to disspell that myth.
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but what i raised regarding the blue ribbon panel. the department does not have a single repository of all of its research. so, as we engage in the blue ribbon thinking about, again, the 21st century architecture of higher education, that modernizes research, makes it relevant for both regeneral rigs and return to the farmer, as well as value adds to the student, i think having an understanding of what the research is going on at the department is the first stop, and the catalog. that's one question i'd like to raise for you. and then finally, the third question would be, can you give an update on usda's role regarding new technologies for genetically engineered farm
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animals, as the us studied the ethical and moral questions surrounding the genetically engineered animals and cautiously? >> on the live stock question, i think there are three components. you're right, we have to make sure we lift up the messaging in terms of american agriculture and the protein production processes that are in place here. american agriculture is responsible for about 9% or so of emissions totally in this country, worldwide agriculture is responsible for 14, 15% so clearly, we are doing a better job across the board. i think there are technologies that will help us reduce methane. there are feed additives that could potentially reduce it. i would say what we have to do is have a regulatory system that allows the feed additives to get into the feed quicker. what we have it's treated as a pharmaceutical process which
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creates a tremendous lag time in getting back technology into the field. our competitors are not waiting. europe, new zealand utilizing the feed additives to ret retuesday-- reduce methane and then the conversion of methane and the utilization of technology to convert maneuver, all of which i think significantly accelerate our efforts and need to be. so on the depository, this is surprising to me when i left u. is das -- usda, we were looking at this over time, to accelerate the research in new development so i'm not sure what happened between the time i left and now, but i'm still looking into it and make sense to have a depository and genetically
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animals. i want to make sure if we've asked them, we've asked in the right way. i don't know the answer to that question today as i sit, but i appreciate you bringing it up. >> thank you so much, again. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> i'd like to recognize the chair, the floor is yours. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i wanted to ask two questions. one is about food borne illness from meat and poultry, mr. secretary and the usda has failed to make progress on salmonella and antibiotics. the bacteria in the polery slaughter houseses, the rate of laboratory diagnosis of
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infections of people is higher at the close of the decade than the start. so it's been criticized for having outdated performance standards, not based on risks, posed by the bacteria. and consumer groups and victims of food borne illnesses submitted to the agencies for the standards. the first question, what do you intend to do to respond to the petition, create updated enforceable standards to ensure food safety and protect consumers and the last question is about wavers for school meals. and i applaud your dedication to child nutrition. and last month, the department extended several nationwide wavers that will ensure children receive healthy meals through the summer when schools are out of session. we've heard the department is considering the extension of certain waivers for school meals for the fall. school meals need to provide for the fall providing them with this continuity.
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did you explain the department's thinking and when you plan to announce a decision. on the petitions, madam chair, i would ask you to give me an opportunity to be better versed, but i would say as a general proposition, we should ensure the safety of food to americans and if there are issues we're taking a step back instead of forward, we need to take it step forward and certainly, we made an effort to try to take a step forward, if that wasn't sufficient, wasn't add adequate, what should be done and that's a sacred responsibility and we theede to take a seriously. on the waivers, i would expect and anticipate that we were going to have information on that in the very, very near future and we were certainly understand that schools are waiting to know precisely how the system's going to work here
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in the next school year and give them plenty of time to make sure things are in order. i would say there are two issues here, one, the issue of are we going to continue to have universal free meals, you know, my feeling is, i want to make sure that we feed as many kids as possible and we want to feed them nutritious food. that's my attitude and that hopefully can be expressed in policies that we adopt. and secondly, there's the issue of the nutrition standards and i think it's important for us to work collaboratively with school districts in a way that allows them the resources. that's what i said earlier about your priorities, if nutrition is a priority then we need to provide the resources and the school districts to provide healthy nutritious mealsment it ought to be a priority and frankly, i can it's cost effective when we do it because we'll spend a heck
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of a lot less on diabetes, for example. >> just a quick comment on the standards. look, i look forward to working with you on this. we need final product standards of the most dangerous types of bacteria and requiring the large poultry operations to men mies food borne risk in their production practices, but, again, we'll have further conversations about that. on the issue of agriculture research and climate change, if i might, and i -- what ways do you think that usda and resources that you'd look to identify agricultural practices. now, they're needed to mitigate climate change, but incentivize their use and adoption among farmers. >> a couple of things, first, we need to make sure that we have proper measurement and certification programs so that
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we can create market opportunities for investment in those practices. secondly, we need to make sure we're targeting and focuses the conservation resources you all provide us in a way that advances those climate smart agricultural practices. we have 45 different practices we know will have a positive impact on soil health, a positive impact on water quality and sequestration and farmers are anxious to do it, but here -- this is really important. maybe the most important thing i'm going to say today. 89.6% of farms in this country today. 89.6% of the farms in this country today, the majority of income for the farm families operating those farms does not come from the farm. so when we basically say, hey, farmer, you need to do x, y, z. they're not making enough money, most of them, to do
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that. so that's why it's important for us, as a department, to focus on new markets and more markets and better markets, so that we create better profitability. if we're anxious for climate, then let's invest in those practices and make it easier for farmers to do so and create markets that reward them for doing this and create in essence a new revenue stream for them because we don't have 89.6% of our farms not producing enough money for the majority of what is earn that comes from that farm as our farming income. >> i look forward to working with you, mr. secretary. thanks. >> i believe dr. harris is next if he is ready. dr. harris, you are recognized for any additional questions that you may have. >> not hearing from dr. harris,
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let me recognize mr. valadeo for any additional questions. >> appreciate the time, mr. chairman, again. and mr. secretary, as you know, agriculture exports from the west -- before i continue on, i am in the middle of another call and this is an important topic and i know the export topic was brought up. but exports from the west, especially california are facing unfair treatment for lack of willingness of shipping carrier for our goods and china is paying a fee to return to china empty leaving u.s. exports behind. there's investigation underway on this serious issue. these exporters need all the help they can get right now. coupled with excessive shipping costs and struggling to meet deadlines in our critical asian
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markets jeopardizing trading relationships. will you work with this, the maritime commission to find immediate solution for the port congestion and exorbitant costs deployed in the future? >> congressman, we're already working collaboratively and encouraging maritime for action immediately which they have the jurisdiction and capacity to do to alleviate this serious problem. we're concerned about it as you are, happy to work with you on it. >> appreciate that. >> and secretary has been a leader speaking out about umca, but we have yet to hear from the biden administration on the canadian dairy and exports. there's proliferation of mexican regulation and product standards that serve no purpose other than to impede trade.
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will you commit to work with interpaeth partners and white house to ramp up engagement with mexico to work out the differences so we can continue to trade our vital products? >> as visited with the mexican ag minister about these issues the second call i made the first was to raise with the canadian minister on usmca. and to work to make sure that the provisions of the usmca that provide or collaboration are utilized when and if it turns out that our trading partners aren't living up to the letter or spirit of the agreement. >> i appreciate that. mr. chairman, i'm going to put the rest of my questions for the record and i appreciate the time. mr. secretary, thank you again for testifying. i yield back the rest of my time. >> thank you.
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you're recognized for additional round. thank you, mr. chair. mr. secretary, i want to following up encouraging nrcs for a composting conservation project. something that's a focus for mine for a while and i know that ncrs is moving forward with an interim conservation practice on soil carbon amendments, including compost and biocharge. can you give me an update to include these composting conservation programs? >> congresswoman, if you'll allow me to have my staff get back on that. i don't know the specifics of it. i would be surprised we're not using every opportunity to create ways for help and assistance to warmers and that may be one of them, but i don't know the answer that your question and i wouldn't want to try to fake it.
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>> that's okay. you've put in hours that i didn't want you to be on top of everything although compost is an important topic. let's go to a tough one. pfas, unfortunately my state of maine has been ahead of the curve to respond to the emerging threat of pfas. a small number of dairy farms in maine have identified pfas contamination in the milk. unfortunately this difficult situation is more so lack of resources to help the dairy farmers. there's a short-term relief, but not enough to address the full scope of the problem. maine might be ahead of the curve, but we're not the only state where this is an issue or will be an issue. can you tell me how you're approaching the issue of pfas across the department from research to farm support to food safety and what further assistance can u. is da offer in terms of longer
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term programmatic and farms that are affected by pfas contamination? >> we're taking a look at the dairy indemnification program to see whether or not it actually is structured in a way that's meaningful. i think what we think it probably makes sense to provide compensation over a short period of time for milk that's impacted and affected, but perhaps if there's a long-term, more permanent situation that you're dealing with, it may be better for the farmer to provide assistance in terms of reimbursing for the stock, the very cows that may be impacted by this. so we're looking at ways to better support our dairy farmers confronted with this. secondly, you mentioned across the country and certainly, this is a big issue in new mexico and it has something to do with the defense department so we're obviously reaching out to the
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defense department to encourage them to also understand the responsibilities that they may have in this space as well. i don't know what research, but i'll be happy to ask our team if there are research projects and know about them or whether or not they would consider such a project in maine. >> thank you for that. i know, i'm fortunate to sit on the committee and chair wasserman schultz recently held a hearing on pfas and we got to hear from the defense department. my understanding is there has not been sufficient analysis where the contamination is, i think like the new mexico situation, there's probably a great deal of contamination near military bases and air strips and i hope that usda could work closely with the department of defense to push them to take responsibility for that and the cleanup. i know, just also reinforce, i
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appreciate the support and compensation for milk, but i think your second suggestion for many farmers this level of contamination, pfas is a forever chemical. it's often in the land for a variety of reasons. can't really be effectively remediated or removed. at least we don't know how to now. for some farmers it's complete loss of their stock and their livelihood. so i'll look forward to, you know, staying in touch with the department on that and how we're going to deal with that really tragic situation many farmers find themselves in and some farmers find themselves in and possibly more will in the future and there's really no way to get back your livelihood in some situations and thank you for looking into that. thank you so much. >> thank you ms. pingree. now you're recognized.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for the second round. mr. secretary, my state, particularly in central washington, we're a significant producers of organic agriculture and i just wanted to kind of add onto the process mrs. pingree in other questioning with the organic rule making and standards. the fda has missed statutory deadlines to finalize the origin of live stock rule, a rule that is actually a legacy item under your previous tenure. and this is part of a troubling pattern. over the last 12 years, over 12 recommendations to update the organic standards have passed the national organic standards board. and the fda has not implemented a single one of those. and congress has increased the national organic program's budget by at least 50% in the last five years and they now
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have more than 65 full-time staff and so my question, do you have any information on why these standards continue to remain unresolved? >> i think one of the things we have to do, representative, is to lift up the organic program within usda. we began that process in the obama administration and committed to doing that in this administration. it's a value-added opportunity. it's one of those more better and new markets opportunities, a way to provide help and assistance. you know, obviously, as time goes by, things change. we change several aspects of that rule and want to make sure that we have additional comment to make sure we're on the strongest legal basis and ground. but i think you're going to see some of those rules being-- coming out in the not too distant future. others, we may have to start
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from scratch as i indicated earlier. i don't know specifically, i'm-- to be honest with you, your question kind of surprised me because we did put a lot of emphasis on organic when i was secretary before. i'm surprised we didn't improve any of those standards that i'd like to go back and ask the question why that is so because i would have thought it was on given the amount of attention and effort we had in expanding protection for organic and trying to protect the or gaenic trend and the things we did. i'm not sure why we haven't followed through on those standards. >> and i've been a strong supporter of the organics program overall so, yeah, i'd love to continue that conversation if you have a chance to look at that. but again, appreciate you being with us today and look forward to continuing a strong working relationship. and i'll yield back my time,
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mr. chairman, thank you. >> threw mr. newhouse, i'd like to recognize from wisconsin, you're now recognized for additional round. >> thank you, mr. secretary, i didn't know we were going to have a second round. that's the most impressive i've seen the secretary talk concisely i'll let you know from eight and a half years here. and broadband, i've helped to form on broadband pockets. anything we can help to work with you on this i'd be interested. three years ago i've got broadband, we've been out there for seven and up until then i got the deal, half price sale at $300 a month for 40 measured gigs and an hour on netflix is two and a half gigs and call my husband the end of the month and tell him to quit watching tv when i was out here and a
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gig beyond that is pricey. and for the line speed, the workers and meat backing industry. and not just what happened withes last administration, but with covid really he will straits that problem. i completely agree on the snap berths. my freshman term, we had a challenge a week live on the 31.50 we got and my office said i was an ornery s-o-b. a bag of oranges is $6. >> and i capitol eat healthy, raman noodles to level it out. and what people can spend money on, get that benefit up to people and keep the kids out of poverty, i'd love that. i want that ought because again i appreciate your answers. my question, this is going to involve some of your expertise, too, is around dairy farms. you know, we lost in 2019, 818
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dairy farms in wisconsin. last year it was one per day, over 350 farms in wisconsin. this is tough and i'm wondering what is your kind of vision for the future, specifically the dairy industry and what can we be doing on the side for the family farmers? because you know, these people, many of them have had farms for generations. they're democrats, they're republicans, most of them are likely independents as i talk to them. this is a big concern. >> let me start with the traditional answer that you would get from a secretary of agriculture. the importance of exports, obviously, it's important and necessary for us to continue to expand the sale of dairy products worldwide so that we can stabilize the price and make sure that farmers can stay in business. i think it's also important that we create opportunities for those dairy farmers to have
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local and regional markets, the ability to negotiate their own price, if you will, in terms of sales to schools. sales to universities, sales to any institutional purchaser, so in supporting local and regional systems, we announced over 300 million of supporting health to regional food systems, just yesterday as part of our outreach effort to try to create that alternative market. i think there-- and we can provide the ability of those dairy farmers to also add value to their products. maybe it's a small cheese shop. maybe it's an ice cream parlor. there are ways they can be processors as well as producers. climate has a tremendous opportunity for dairy. if you're essentially basically paying dairy for reducing methane or capturing methane and converting to electricity and fuel. that's a new product. if you are creating opportunities for that manure
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produced in a dairy operation to become an ingredient instead of going to the landfill or causing issues. if it can be an ingredient in a new material, a new em chemical, a new fabric, a new fuel source, we can do that for a revenue stream for farmers. frankly, there's a lot of competition out there for consumption. and the dairy industry recognizes that and they're looking for ways that the ingredients within dairy, can be segregated and used in a valuable way. whey protein, can we concert to nutritious sports drinks or snacks. it's a combination of all of those things in order to provide the most effective way of keeping as many people on
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the farm as possible. >> we're also seeing some of the younger farmers go organic and that's successful for some and also, getting together and working through a single processor to make different types of cheese and trying to address some of what you're talking about. thank you very much, mr. secretary. >> thank you, mr. pocan. i think i would normally recommend to-- recognize dr. harris, but it's my understanding that dr. harris has no more questions and if that is correct, i will then yield to miss underwood for an additional round of questions. >> well, thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i wanted to follow-up on wic. are you considering other actions beyond outreach to improve wic, specifically focused on maternal health and addressing the black maternal mortality crisis? >> we're going to look at the resources to provide in the rescue plan i think create opportunities for us to take a look at ways in which we can
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expand the impact of wic. let me give you an example of what kind of partnership that might be available that we need to be thinking about. there's an organization called count the kicks. it's an organization that basically encourages mom to count the kicks periodically, if the kicks get below a certain number, it may indicate there are some problems. in minority populations, there are higher rates of stillborn babies than in white population. and so, this is an opportunity potentially for a collaboration between an organization like that and wic. to basically co-promote each other so that you are counting the kicks and having healthier babies being born and also providing those moms and those babies and children with more nutritious food at the beginning of life. so, i think there are ways in which we can look for those kinds of partnerships with organizations that have a
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mutual interest, if you will. and certainly interested in your thoughts about how best to do that, the idea that you have from your congressional district that could be incorporated into that effort to try to find creative ways to make wic more attractive to make wic more effective, to make participation at a higher rates. >> yes, sir, i appreciate that. i do just want to note that the stillborn and infant mortality and infant health issues are incredibly important, and as well as what's happening to our moms and the fact that mothers continue to die at three to four times, black mothers continue to die at the rate of three to four times as the white moms in our country in terms of internal mortality and i think that the wic program is a unique program we have particularly to extend wic in the breast-feeding and
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postpartum and also that the biden-harris administration would support and to cover that. now, i want it change just a-- i want to change and just look at a farmers bill i introduced with mr. gallagher. the climate change mitigation bundles within the conservation stewardship program. i believe my bill sits in well with your ambitious climate change agenda in the usda and advance fair to our farmers and have an impact on climate crisis. thank you, mr. secretary. thank you, mr. chairman, and i yield back. >> thank you, ms. underwood.
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ms. wasserman schultz, you're now recognized for additional round. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i wanted to florida citrus and ask you about citrus health response program and the-- two critical programs in the fight to protect the u.s. citrus crop for disease. can you give us an update on the work of these programs and is there neg more you need to congress than for the programs to be successful. you talked about diseases that are continuing to ravage citrus crops and i want to see how we can continue to ramp up our efforts. >> well, we have, obviously, worked collaboratively with states and local government agencies on the interest in
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particular. and as i said earlier, we've had over 100 projects that were funded and some were beginning to see success. and we've had a device that's effective in terms of citrus greening and we obviously have to continue that effort and provide resources for that effort until we finally figure out how to end this scourge on the citrus crop. i think we also have to take a look at, we have additional funding in the especially crops, and appropriated line item and additional resources will make the difference in terms of protection and in terms of management and therapeutics, all of that, i think. there's continued research effort that is also underway. so, a variety of things that we're trying to do in an effort to try to respond to this
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issue. but it is a tough one and part of the-- what's interesting about coming to a job i had before is the expectation you're going to come back to new problems and the reality to come back to a lot of the old problems and this is one of them. >> it's a little like groundhog day on this issue. and i also want to touch on the animal welfare act and how the usda implemented it and enforces it through the animal care program in the last administration. in 2017, i think you know the usda abruptly pulled all of its animal welfare reports and records from the searchable website. and that's only as they directed the agency to restore public access, but there are still ongoing problems with the animal care programs, for example, the agency stopped conducting inspectionings at licensed facilities in 2020 about you they continued to provide licenses to new
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businesses without ever having visited the facilities and they appeared to substitute virtual inspections without revealing details how they will be conducted. can you tell us how you in the usda are going to examine what's happening in the animal care program so we can ensure that this part of the agency operates transparently and effectively and i want to underscore the agency to ensure animal welfare standards are met. since the last administration-- [inaudible] capacity to do that, double down and make sure that we can enforce that law. >> congresswoman, we had a glitch in technology, i think i got the gist of your question and i'll try to respond to it. >> okay. >> first and foremost, you mentioned virtual inspections,
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how many of the over 5,000 at that took place in the last year were virtual and why to make sure that those are indeed inspections as opposed to simply a number. and i think there's a supreme court decision that has complicated the efforts at the department in terms of enforcement and assessing penalties. i want to make sure i understand fully and completely the impact of that supreme court decision and how we're going to respond to it, once we do an inspection, once we find a problem we can do something about it and how to do it in a way that's not subject to question. this is an important area and it's one that i, you know, sometimes people take a look at the large programs at usda in the scheme of things in terms of logistics to smaller programs, but it has profound
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impact and we take animals seriously in this industry. >> thank you, i yield back the balance of my time, mr. chairman. >> thank you, miss wasserman schultz. let me say to the secretary, we gratefully appreciate you being so generous with your time. i think we're getting toward the end, but i do have one additional question i'd like to post to you, it's regarding the equity commission. last month you said you were in the process of establishing an equity commission at usda. we're all familiar with usda's history with minority farmers, particularly black farmers. and will you tell us more on the equity commission and what you hope to accomplish in the short-term and the next years to address this very longstanding problem? you mentioned in an interview how farm subsidies are partly to blame for the disparities.
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do you plan on looking broadly at the programs and their impacts on equity and advances in the next farm if bill? of course, the recently passed rescue plan and went to disadvantaged farmers and researchers. can you discuss who will get it, when they'll get it, how will you go about allocating the funding and will you allow for any important collaboration in the establishment of the commission? >> i appreciate the question and we have been incredibly busy with limited staff trying to address this as quickly as possible the provisions of the american rescue plan that relate to socially disadvantaged producers and black farmers. as you know, we have for the first time ever in the department a senior equity advisor, dr. duane goldman. and he at the farm service
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agency are working on the debt relief effort. there are two classifications, there are those with direct loans with the usda and those with guaranteed loans. on the guaranteed side. one of the things thing we did was to advice the bank not to take adverse actions who might have been delinquent or subject to foreclosures and indicated if they were to take such action, they would enforce the capacity to take the loan back and that would prevent additional foreclosures or evisions, if you will. we're now in the process of accumulating from those guaranteed lenders, information concerning the amount of pre-payment penalties and other costs that might be associated so we can accurately calculate the actual debt that's to be forgiven which will have an impact on the 20%, as you know, mr. chairman, that goes to help farmers to assist with the tax
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issues. we want to make sure that we do everything we can to do two things. one, to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks. we have, i think, a fairly good list and a fairly good idea how many people have direct loans and guaranteed loans, but that doesn't mean that it's infallible or that it's going to be perfect. we'll align to make sure they'll help i align with anyone who might be available for this effort and release when we provide the release it's as comprehensively as possible. secondly, when we provide release there are tax consequences, there are federal and state consequences and that's why the 20% was added. and it's important for us to make sure that people are aware of that and that they receive the technical advice necessary, especially if they're farmers, to avoid paying any more tax than they have to. there's three year averaging, you're allowed to average
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income over a three year period. if you have a large sum in one year and not much income in the other two years, you can spread that large amount of money over the three year period lowering your tax burden and hopefully falling within or close to the 20% that's being provided. so we want to make sure that those who receive this help and assistance are aware of that, aware of how they -- of the tax challenge that they may face and strategies for dealing with it. so we're trying to align ourselves and will align ourselves with the organizations that provide information to folks who participate in this program. so i can assure you that we're moving expeditiously on this and our goal as soon as possible. again, we have a pretty good handle how many there are. we're now in the process of beginning where to do the outreach to community building organizations and how we send out information to those who will participate in this program so that they fully understand how it's going to work and that's going to happen in a very, very short period of
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time. the equity commission we think has to be formed, and so we'll be going through that process, which will allow you and others to have input on nominations for that commission. we see this as an external expert-led review of versus programs at usda starting with those that are customers facing where we've had the most significant issues with reference to program complaints and we expect that commission to do an external review to identify systemic barriers and to make recommendations for how we might be able to improve our programs. while that is going on, the president has signed an executive order requiring us to do an internal review of our efforts and that's also underway. working groups have been established in every single area of the usda, leads have been identified, work is beginning on doing the internal equity review to make sure that we are also doing whatever we
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can do immediately to create a fair a more equitable usda and i might comment on the subsidy usual, mr. chairman. i think it's important for people to understand what this is all about. this is about the cumulative effect of discrimination. if you were a black farmer 20 years ago and you went into the fsa office maybe you didn't get a loan or you got the loan late, later than your white counterparts, or a loan at an interest rate or charges that were higher. you couldn't plant your crop in a timely way. your crop didn't produce as much as it did for a white farmer who planted in a timely way because they got the full access of usda programs. over a period of time those disparities allowed farmers mo got the full advantage to expand their operations to get the latest technology. the black farmer didn't have that advantage. now we have a situation where we have programs that essentially compensate farmers in times of need based on production. if the production -- if your
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production is lower than your neighbor's, you're going to get less. we saw this in covid relief. it's important to note this. there are several studies that indicated of the covid relief that was-- that's already been paid out, anywhere from 95 to 99% of it went to white farmers and somewhere between 1 and 5% went to socially disadvantaged farmers. of those who have identified, who have self-identified, we know that there's roughly 25% of farmers who self-identify either white or black, of that number, farmers, black farmers received 20 million dollars of assistance. white farmers, 5.5 billion dollars of assistance. gap grows wider, what we're trying to do with debt relief, with the equity commission, what we're trying to do with additional resources for market development and land access is to establish the opportunity for more farmers to stay on the
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land, for more farmers get into the business to have greater diversity. and i apologize for taking longer for at that question, but-- >> thank you, mr. secretary. mr. -- dr. harris did not get to ask a second round and i suspect that he may have an interest on that question so i will yield to dr. harris for any additional he he-- questions he might have. >> thank you, mr. chairman. my one follow-up question on the estate tax issue, you didn't deal with stepped up basis, that's one of the things that president biden said that he planned to change and changing the estate tax, obviously stepped up basis is very important for multi-generational farms and the other thing is just to make certain when the usda does broadband initiatives that
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they're qualifying the, you know, the contractors appropriately because we need to get this work done as soon as possible and the last thing we need to do is to deal with contractors who may not be able to, you know, who give you a good bid, but they're not able to deliver. i mean, we need to have a deliverable on that. if you could address the two issues, stepped up basis and the contracting for broadband. >> well, just let me make sure that-- i'm sure the treasury folks fully understand this issue of stepped up basis, but we'll make sure they understand it in the context of the farming community. you know, as a practical matter, the stepped up basis matters intently, if you have to sell the farm. in other words, if i-- my wife and i own a farm. the value has appreciated significantly over the period of time we've owned it. when we die our sons basically get the farm.
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under the current rules stepped up basis. if they sold it the next day they wouldn't pay any tax, but if they keep the farm, stepped up basis is not an issue. it isn't becomes an issue when and if you want to sell the farm. and so there's an issue there. and i think, you know, there are creative thoughts to put into play and they mix and mingle the issues. happy to know we're reaching out and making sure folks understand the impacts on the farmers who decide to sell the land. those farmers that decide to keep it and keep farming it, this is in sense stepped up basis, they're not going to pay tax, they're going to keep the farm and keep farming the farm. so, it's a specific subset of people within agriculture that are-- that could potentially be impacted and affected by this.
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>> may i interject, mr. secretary, if dr. harris would yield. this is a very, very-- issue of intense interest and the farm bureau has it on top of the priority list as we look at possible additional revenues for the infrastructure package. the estate tax is one they're really, really afraid of and pushing that part of the agenda for years to try to reduce it or eliminate it and of course, mr. harris raises a great-- dr. harris raises a great question. i just hope that you will continue to consider the impact that it will have on family farms as well as other small businesses, family owned businesses, i should say. because it has-- it could have a tremendous impact on keeping those entities in business. >> mr. chairman, i think there
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will always be a debate and conversation about this and it obviously depends on the level of exemptions that may or may not be available, because today i think it's what, roughly $11 million per couple and that -- there are just not that many farming operations that are above that number. of course that are, there is special use valuation and allows you to reduce the value of the land and even those after reducing the value are potentially subject to estate tax and could be paid over a period of time frankly the farm doesn't have to be sold and doesn't have to be lost. i think that people have to understand, it's a complicated issue and there are a lot of different subissues with that don't get discussed. if there's an estate tax, that virtually every farm would be subject to it. that may or may not be depending on the level of exemptions and special use valuations and what's done with
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the payment structure and time period that you have to pay any estate tax that does. so, i understand it's a difficult issue and i understand that farm bureau is interested in this and understand why the questions are asked. it's important when we deal with this issue that we understand the full range of what we're talking about and how few farms ultimately will be potentially impacted, depending upon the level of the small business, depending upon the level of the exemption. >> thank you, mr. secretary. dr. harris, i usurped some of your time and if you have additional questions, you may reclaim it. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair. and just, mr. secretary, you know, the concern is you don't always sell the whole farm. if the exemption is lowered enough, then the family would have to sell some of the farm, all of it of course subject to-- or not subject to stepped up basis. so that's the issue there. it's not, you know, it's not just black and white, you have
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agot to sell the whole farm or none. in the case of estate taxes, you might have to sell some. if you could quickly address the broadband and what the department is doing to making sure we're getting this deliverable as quickly as possible? >> well, we took a look at the reconnect program, understood the way it was structured. very few communities would actually have benefitted from the program and those that would wouldn't necessarily have the upload and download speeds to make it meaningful. so we made adjustments to make more communities eligible and to make sure that the service they get is meaningful. your point is well-taken, in the interest of time to get things done. you can't sacrifice quality. and so, it will be necessary for us to make sure that as bids are being awarded, as grants are being awarded that they're being awarded to folks that show the capacity and
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capability of doing what they say they're going to do and a track record of being able to prove they can do it otherwise we could subject ourselves to a lot of money being spent and poor performance resulting in no broadband and money spent which is certainly not what we want. >> thank you. >> i understand he has no further questions and i think we've come to the end of our hearing. so i wanted to thank you, mr. secretary, for your testimony, for spending almost three hours with us today, but i do say to you that perhaps this was not as much time as you spent the last time you were on the hill to testify with authorizing committees. but we're glad that you're back, bringing with you your deep knowledge of the department and your valuable experience to help lift up
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rural america and our farmers and researchers. wish you the best of luck and we look forward to working with you as we continue the probations process. along we discuss, and we'll forward additional questions for the record and we appreciate in getting your responses to us and staff in a timely manner. at this time i recognize mr. fortinberry for any closing remarks that he may have. >> thank you, again, mr. chairman and mr. secretary, just really grateful for your impressive and thoughtful command of the full range of agricultural issues. it's a very complicated business, but it does show in its complications how this touches america. thank you for being our messenger and i do have quick comments, i won't make them questions to violate what you imposed on me a moment ago.
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to point out to the secretary. mr. secretary, it's my understanding nrcs didn't allow animal and crop programs together and obviously regeneraive and one other topic the secretary brought in up indirectly. we're living in contradiction with food, food has to be health and food is also medicine. so we're feeding more kids than ever, but we have a thousand fold increase in childhood diabetes, i think that we all need to work hard to address. thank you for your willingness to spend this time with us and mr. chairman, i appreciate the opportunity to dialog in this way with you and with the entire committee. thank you for your leadership. >> thank you, mr. forthenbury.
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and thank you for the members and participation it's been helpful and enlightening and thank the staff to put the hearing together and work out as smoothly as it has. with that, again, thank you, mr. secretary. and this hearing is now adjourned.
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