by Ben Nuelle
Thursday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, held its first hearing in five years addressing the poultry and livestock sectors.
The hearing, titled “A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors: Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges,” consisted of testimonies from farmers and ranchers across the country. For witness info, testimony, and to watch the hearing, click here.
Below is a transcript of the hearing.
Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:
Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to order.
We have a variety of farmers and ranchers from across the country here today to give us their perspectives on marketplace opportunities and challenges in the livestock and poultry sectors.
Who better to testify before this Committee than producer leaders representing these industries that play such an important role in the economic stability of rural America and certainly in my home state of Kansas.
It’s been 5 years since our last Committee hearing on the state of the livestock and poultry sectors, and I know everyone is interested to hear about the many events that have taken place during this period that have impacted the economic standing of your industries, as well as future opportunities and challenges for growth.
While the livestock and poultry sectors weather ebbs and flows every day, one could argue that recent years have seen greater volatility and unpredictability than most.
Today’s livestock and poultry producers are operating in a highly cyclical marketplace. One year they may receive record prices for their animals, and then the next see a dramatic drop in value, like we have seen recently in the beef sector.
Other events, like the diseases that have ravaged the egg, pork and turkey sectors, can leave producers with little to no income for months on end.
Unfortunately we know there has been significant erosion in farm equity due to these disease outbreaks and marketplace volatility. Some producers were unable to weather that storm.
Add into this equation the reality that this is an industry where the “good-times” are typically composed of margins of a few cents or a few dollars per animal and you begin to understand what a tough business animal agriculture is.
This reality demonstrates just how savvy today’s farmers and ranchers must be in order to make a living and that this is a livelihood not for the risk averse or faint of heart.
Yet, I am confident that even in the face of today’s challenges, the industries represented here will continue to lead the world in delivering safe and affordable meat products to consumers.
The importance of this sector to my home state of Kansas is immense.
Eastern Kansas is known for its rolling Flint Hills, spotted with grazing cattle, and western Kansas is home to some of the country’s largest and most modern beef feedlots.
Kansas is the third largest beef producing state in the country, and it’s also experiencing growth in pork production which is a boon to many of our small, rural communities.
These sectors present here today are a significant driver of our rural economies.
In fact, according to the most recent USDA agriculture census, the beef, pork and poultry sectors account for 36 percent of total agriculture sales on an annual basis—and that number is only going up.
Sales of cattle, hogs, poultry and eggs also accounted for $141 billion annually. That’s billion with a b.
Those are impressive numbers.
Thank you for taking the time away from your farms, ranches and businesses to educate your elected officials about your industries.
Also, I ask for unanimous consent to include in the record testimony submitted by the Livestock Marketing Association.
I now recognize the Ranking Member, Senator Stabenow.