Moran Opening Statement on FY16 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Subcommittee, today issued the following opening statement as part of a subcommittee hearing to review the FY2016 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration,and Related Agencies
Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery
Hearing on the FY2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture Budget Request
March 17, 2015
This hearing will come to order.  Good morning. The purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss the Department of Agriculture’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, and thank you to Secretary Vilsack, Dr. Johansson, and Mr. Young for being here today.  Secretary Vilsack, I enjoyed getting to visit with you the other day and look forward to having another discussion about the Department’s budget and priorities for the year.
Agriculture remains one of the bright spots in our nation’s economy, supporting more than 16 million jobs nationwide and forming the backbone of our rural communities.  American farmers and ranchers are the best at what they do when given the opportunity to compete on an even playing field.
After a long, arduous process and a great deal of economic uncertainty, Congress enacted the Agricultural Act of 2014 one year ago.  The Farm Bill authorized sweeping changes to commodity and crop insurance programs, consolidated and reinforced conservation efforts, and reauthorized vital research and rural development programs.  Agriculture is Kansas’s #1 industry - directly responsible for 37% of the state’s economy.  Enactment of a new Farm Bill was welcome news for producers, research institutions, and rural communities in my home state.
It is now the responsibility of this Committee to continue oversight of Farm Bill implementation and provide USDA the resources it needs to ensure its effectiveness.  Producers are facing a series of important decisions for their operations in the coming weeks, and the Department’s guidance will be vital in educating farmers to determine which program best suits their interests.
The challenges farmers and ranchers face are not limited to factors in their control.  Unpredictable weather conditions and volatile foreign markets wreak significant impacts on a producer’s bottom line.  Many parts of the country are still suffering from persistent drought conditions, and this year’s snowpack deficit appears to offer little relief to western states.  Pests and diseases also pose significant threats to plants and animals – and their respective industries – as we are witnessing with citrus greening and avian influenza.  Investments in agriculture research help mitigate these impacts, both environmentally and economically, and prepare producers for future adverse conditions.
This year’s budget request for the Department of Agriculture proposes a $900 million increase above the enacted levels in fiscal year 2015.  I support many items in the request, but we must work to prioritize investments based in fiscal reality.  As Chairman, I look forward to working with Senator Merkley and other members of the subcommittee to identify those priorities and make the most effective and efficient decisions on behalf of American taxpayers. 
I look forward to discussing these issues and others with our witnesses today.  I would now like to turn to our Ranking Member, Senator Merkley, for his opening statement.