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Testimony as Prepared for Zippy Duvall To the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture

AFBF Staff

photo credit: AFBF Photo, Philip Gerlach

                                            Testimony as Prepared for Zippy Duvall

                                       President, American Farm Bureau Federation

                          To the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture  

                                                            February 28, 2023

Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Scott, and other members of the committee, I want to begin by thanking you for what you do for America’s farmers and ranchers.

A country that cannot feed its people is not secure, so the strong farm policy that supports a strong food supply truly is part of a smart national security strategy.

There are certainly plenty of challenges for American agriculture. From losses experienced in the trade war with China, to pandemic lockdowns, and supply chain disruptions. Add to it the record-high supply costs, and you see how farmers and ranchers have faced unprecedented volatility in recent years.

USDA’s most recent Farm Sector Income Forecast sees a decrease in net farm income in 2023, down 15.9%. Adjusted for inflation, that’s an 18% drop. The same report estimates farm and ranch production expenses will continue to increase – by $18 billion. This follows a record increase of $70 billion in 2022.

Short- and long-term interest rates are also high and rising – to double and triple what they were just a few years ago. High interest rates, caused by both high inflation and the Fed’s steps to address inflation, led to the farm debt crisis in the 1980s. We need to be sure that the doubling or tripling of interest rates does not cause similar pressures.

I am especially concerned about beginning farmers, those forced to borrow for succession and any farmer who recently made new investments. Affordable, reliable, and abundant energy is critical for farmers and ranchers. Energy is necessary for all farm production, and we continue to ride a rollercoaster of high energy and input costs.

But, along with the challenges, there are enormous opportunities ahead for agriculture. Innovation and research are helping us do more with less. Our advances in sustainability are truly impressive.

But in order to seize the opportunities ahead and continue the advancements, we need strong farm policy. And we need a supportive regulatory environment.

Federal regulations have a direct impact on farmers and ranchers. Today, farmers and ranchers face a flurry of requirements and challenges:

  • the new WOTUS rule
  • the Endangered Species Act
  • access to important crop protection tools
  • immigration and labor regulations
  • and now agencies such as the SEC imposing on our farmers and ranchers new climate regulations that are meant for Wall Street.

Much uncertainty remains related to the ability of farmers and ranchers to access affordable supplies and deal with regulatory and weather-related challenges. Expected revenue declines that more than erase gains made during 2022. So, it becomes even more important for farmers to have clarity on rules that impact their businesses’ ability to operate.

Growers need to have access to comprehensive risk management options.

They deserve a resounding voice during formulation of vital legislation, such as the farm bill. The farm bill is a critical tool for ensuring our nation’s food supply remains secure. Farm Bureau supports the following principles to guide development of programs in the next farm bill:

  • Increase baseline funding commitments to farm programs;
  • Maintain a unified farm bill that includes nutrition programs and farm programs together; and
  • Prioritize funding for risk management tools, which include both federal crop insurance and commodity programs.

The 2023 farm bill presents an important opportunity for lawmakers to rise above partisanship. I urge you to work together again to pass legislation that protects food security for all Americans and ensures the future success of our farmers and ranchers.

Farm Bureau will stand up against proposals that threaten the long-term resiliency of rural communities. For your part, Congress must protect American agriculture and modern production practices from undue burden.

Farmers and ranchers have the highest public trust ranking of any profession in America. I ask Congress to trust farmers and ranchers, too, and respect our ability to innovate and solve problems.

We’re committed to doing the right thing and appreciate the support of this committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing. I would be pleased to answer any questions the committee might have.

Read the full written statement here.

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