Rep. DesJarlais fights for farmers in Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Agriculture Committee held its first hearing of the 115th Congress to investigate “The Rural Economic Outlook,” in order to develop solutions in the next major farm bill to falling commodity prices, which could force a wave of farm closures across the country.
Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D., heard testimony from expert witnesses that foreign subsidies and increased production abroad are driving down prices for U.S. agricultural products. Domestic farmers and ranchers also face high tariffs that reduce their ability to compete on the international market.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that from 2013 to 2016, net farm income fell 45 percent.The Wall Street Journal estimates incomes will drop another 9 percent in 2017, “extending the steepest slide since the Great Depression.”
Committee Chairman Michael Conaway singled out China’s generous wheat subsidies, a possible violation of international law, as an especially grave threat to U.S. grain prices.
Rep. DesJarlais (TN-04) focused on improving trade policy, a particular concern for Tennessee ranchers in his Fourth District, who require access to foreign markets to grow their businesses. “With the current Administration viewing some trade deals unfavorably, what can I tell my folks at home about opportunities for our cattlemen in Japan and South Korea?”
The USDA’s chief economist, Dr. Robert Johansson, said the department “is eagerly awaiting confirmation hearings and looking forward to the new (Agriculture) Secretary coming on board to provide a better response for the record.”
Senate Democrats have been delaying Donald Trump’s appointment of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to lead the USDA and a thorough review of agriculture policy.
“We ordinarily kick things off every year with the Secretary of Agriculture offering testimony as our one and only witness,” said the Chairman. “However, our new Secretary has not yet been confirmed. I believe he is an excellent choice and hope that he can be confirmed in short order, so that he may begin his important work.”
Rep. DesJarlais serves on three subcommittees: Livestock and Foreign Agriculture; Commodities and Risk Management; and Nutrition.