Zippy Duvall: ‘“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.’
Among those speaking before the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture during Feb. 28 hearings was American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who told the full committee, “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.”
Duvall also said, “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.”
The hearing was opened by Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Thompson delivered the opening remarks of the hearing entitled “Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges for American Agriculture,” saying that the focus of the hearing was on “the headwinds facing production agriculture.” He said, “Without a comprehensive understanding of industry’s challenges, we cannot write an impactful Farm Bill that addresses the needs of those who grow, process, and consume the food, fuel, and fiber we are blessed to produce here in the United States.”
Thompson went on to say, “As we seek solutions, it is my vision that this Committee will provide the necessary tools to our farmers and ranchers to ease the barriers to production felt in recent years. As Chairman, I challenge each Member of the Agriculture Committee to view all policies through the lens of science, technology, and innovation, and identify forward-looking solutions throughout our work.
“Our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters are exceptional, having increased food and fiber production nearly three-fold since the 1940s. They have done so with no relative increase in inputs—serving as shining stars of sustainability and conservation practices. However, the uncertainty caused by a global pandemic, geopolitical unrest, and incessant government intrusion has led to a modest production decline in recent years.”
In his remarks, Duvall thanked the committee for their efforts on behalf of America’s farmers and ranchers; he went on to cite recent federal stats, saying, “USDA’s most recent Farm Sector Income Forecast sees a decrease in net farm income in 2023, down 15.9 percent. Adjusted for inflation, that’s an 18 percent 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.”
And, Duvall continued, “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.”
He went on to say, “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.”
He said that federal regulations “have a direct impact on farmers and ranchers,” adding that farmers and ranchers currently face “a flurry of requirements and challenges” that include:
- 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,” Duvall said.
“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,” he said.
The 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.
Duvall continued, “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.”
And he concluded, “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.”
Read the full written statement here.