Earlier today, Senator John Thune participated in the first 2012 Farm Bill hearing held by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Thune serves as ranking member of the Jobs, Rural Economic Growth, and Energy Innovation Subcommittee of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.
During the hearing, Thune had the opportunity to ask Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about critical issues facing South Dakota producers, including crop insurance and proposed changes to prevented planting policy. Thune's full remarks can be viewed HERE.
Additionally, a portion of Thune's remarks will be available on satellite feed from 3:45pm-4:00pm ET / 2:45pm-3:00pm CT / 1:45pm-2:00pm MT.
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Thune’s introductory remarks submitted for the record are included below.
“Madam Chairwoman and Acting Ranking Member Johanns, I would like to thank you for holding today’s important first hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill. U.S. agriculture producers have taken the lead on providing food, fiber and fuel for this country and for the world. This role becomes even more important as the global population is expected to reach nine billion people by 2050.
“I understand the focus of today’s hearing is to draw attention to the significance of American agriculture in today’s growing world. I couldn’t agree more that our urban constituencies and Members of Congress need a better understanding of and appreciation for the risks and capital intensive requirements for agricultural producers to each feed more than 150 people.
“Agriculture production will need to double over the next few decades. As we write the next Farm Bill under severe budget constraints, our greatest challenge will be to provide federal farm policies that balance the growing need for increased production in all sectors with providing adequate land stewardship tools to keep agricultural production sustainable and our land protected for future generations.
“Our farmers and ranchers have already stepped up to the plate with increased efficiencies and technologies that have resulted in doubling corn, wheat and soybean yields over the past 50 years. Crop biologists have told us that with even more advanced biotechnologies crop yields will continue to grow. However, as yields grow, so do costs of production for growing these crops.
“In fact, many farmers I know are paying more per acre to grow this year’s crops than they paid per acre for their land.
“The point I’m making, Madam Chairwoman, is that I have no doubt that U.S. agriculture producers will continue to increase production to meet domestic and global needs—but as they do so, their costs of production and risks will also increase.
“All we have to do is look across the country, from drought in the Southwest, severe flooding in the Northern Plains, Midwest and South and record-setting numbers of tornadoes in numerous states, and we realize the incredible devastation and toll that natural disasters have wreaked on millions of acres of farmland and to poultry and other livestock producers.
“From any perspective, effective risk management for agriculture producers should be one of the highest priorities for all of us on this Committee as we write the next Farm Bill.
“Madam Chairwoman, we need to look beyond our own borders as well. Abroad, U.S. foreign agriculture policies are not focused enough on modernizing agriculture practices; and European Union adversity to genetically modified crops continues to influence trade policies and decisions of leaders in developing countries.
“Rather than just providing more food aid to developing countries, we need to provide more aid for agriculture development. In the past several years, we have spent 20 times as much on food aid in Africa as on teaching Africans how to better feed themselves.
“Additionally, free and fair trade policies along with providing access to biotechnology, fertilizer, modern farming equipment, and infrastructure development to bring crops to markets both local and abroad, are keys to addressing the food shortages around the world.
“In summary, Madam Chairwoman, I expect that writing this Farm Bill will be the most challenging, compared to the two previous Farm Bills I helped author since coming to Congress.
“From a U.S. agriculture and global food perspective, this Farm Bill must lay the groundwork for keeping U.S. agriculture sustainable and to protect domestic and global food supplies.”