tv Agriculture Secretary Testifies on Presidents 2023 Budget CSPAN May 19, 2022 4:38pm-6:20pm EDT
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agriculture secretary tom postexposure lawmakers about president of biden's in 2023 budget request for his department, and he discussed the need for more funds for staffing research and ruralal housing, ad support for farmers experiencing financial hardship. the department serves americans at the county, state and national level with more locations. we are grateful for the work of the usda employees that support our farmers and >> will call the subcommittee on agricultural rural development fda and related agencies to order and good morning and welcome to the second budget hearing for this subcommittee for fiscal year 2023, secretary bill sacca, welcome back and think you for joining us, and we welcome you here and very are
glad to have both of you here today and the department of agriculture fast mission includes ensuring the health and care ever nations land, plans and animals as well as improving the quality of life and economies in rural america the department serves americans the counties state and national level even more locations overseas and we are grateful for the work of the usda employees the supporter farmers and ranchers at home, and abroad in the fiscal year 2023 budget request for usda's ambitious i am pleased that this request continues investment in climate resilience, as well as support for our rural economies and it also includes funds to ensure that socially and geographically disadvantage farmers, and ranchers are able to access the services and opportunities that
are essential to their success forward to discussing these initiatives among the many others included in your budget request and i am also pleased te budget continues to invest in programs that support our rural communities, the backbone of this country. rural development includes significant increases from broadband,p to housing, to watr and wastewater infrastructure and is inflation drives of homeownership, opportunities and rental prices, it is essential that we ensure rural america's have access to affordable housing so i am pleased to see had ever under number of increases rural housing programs and one issue that i know that's important to both of us mr. secretary is ensuring usda employees have the resources nkthey need to get the job donee spoke last week about some of the staffing challenges that you
face and i hope that we can have a good discussion pretty and how the subcommittee can be helpful in the subcommittee has a long tradition of bipartisanship and i look forward to working with the ranking member, as we begin the process of drafting the fiscal year, 2023 bill and thank you for being here this morning i look forward to your testimony and as hee has not yet arrived i think that we will recognize when we begin right now. >> thank you and i certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning i appreciate the attention of the committee members as well, honeyce start with a very important and i think, significant statistic but
the egg appropriations process. >> and when we take a look at the back room of the usda, the department middle administration, we have seen in nearly doubling of the procurement and responsibilities in the department, with more has been cut back 43 percent and essential necessary for us to talk to the staffing levels at the usda and also necessary for us to talk about research and while the healthcare research is understandably, a growing significantly by is much as 100 percent of the last decade,
research in the egg. as five high-minded after you take inflation into consideration and at one point in time, represented 4.3 percent of the overall nondefense research allocations and appropriations for the federal o government today is 2.3 percent is reallyur been cut in half and this despite the fact that for every dollar, we invest in agriculture research is and return of investment of $17 and i would say that mostly we would say that's a good return and we talk of the budget and we focus on the important role of agriculture research and human general housing and that is also a challenge, weak appreciate the additional supporting health this committee has provided in the space, but the reality is that we continue to have struggle to maintain adequate housing and we going to see over time, significant reduction in the number of units as the loans are paid off. and essentially what happens as those units convert from being
subsidized being available at market rates and so we are encouraging this committee to take a look att ways in which we can to decouple the in the mortgage and loans of the - we continue to be able to provide additional units and also investing the rehab of existing units of the housing is not only available but alsoou decent. i had, in the time that i have remaining, then we talk about something that is really of concern to me that's a bit outside of the purview of this particular p department but is this budget committee that it is something that we all ought to be concerned about, there are 61000, and a seven that are in the break, 61630 farm families either delinquent loans d usda,r they are bankrupt or pending foreclosure and this is a
riserious issue and pretty confident every single member of this committee probably has a nf those farmers living there states and it's important and necessary for us to put a spot light on the challenges and these are people who have borrowed from the usda or have had a guaranteed loan which means that they have not been able on their own, to go to a commercial bank and be able to secure financing. because of these are folks who need help, they need assistance and i represented farmers during the 1980s as a small town lawyer. i can tell you the pain i continue the stress i can tell you that the decisions that evokes me under the circumstances, that i can tell you very tragic decisions theyum make these circumstances and so i would hope that as we talk about the future of agriculture this country we don't lose sight of the 61670 farm families.
these are our attention in the deserve creative thought about how we may be able to assist them during this pandemic stripping stricken time and i sincerely hope that we can work collaboratively together in a bipartisan way to make w sure tt they haveak a hopeful future as opposed to one is currently stress filled us today i see the ranking members here so i'm h going to stop talking. >> the next senator. >> thank you, for joining us today is good to see the conversation earlier and of course, your testimony today. i welcome back in front of the committee and heard you say before, that the department of ag touches the lives of all americans every day in every way that's certainly true. probably more true now than ever. the current events and i like the importance of our food
supply and the importance of winter farmers andhe ranchers do for our country every single day and food security is national security. farmers provide the lowest cost and highest quality food supply thee world. and right now of course we are struggling with inflation and we see it obviously for farmers and ranchers we see it for consumers across-the-board we see it in the prices people pay at the grocery store and we see it at the pumps and today the gas in record price average across the country, about $4.40 a gallon in that range, and so we have to find ways to produce more energy in this country find ways to address the supply chain issues and the other challenges that are creating inflation and a farmers are big part of that in there seeing it in the price they pay not only for fuel for
the tractors, and other equipment that they have to run every year to plan crop and harvest a crop but also obviously in the fertilizer and is veryputs and so important we do everything we can i in terms of the department of agriculture as well as in the energy to address these issues and i know that you're working hard on it we need to continue to do that and of course making significant investments m here n this ag appropriations committee to make sure you're able to do that on behalf of of our farmers recent years, physical 22, usda programs actually received an increase of 6.2 percent over the 21 levels and that included putting increase of six and half percent for the research which is been amazing i in terms of what it's done for our farmers and ranchers and their ability to raise crops and animals across
this nation have seen in my own i believe you have seen it and it has truly remarkable and also the resources are incredibly important to help get our farmers through drought and through flooded's and search of whether into prices and some cases and trade agreements thata are not fair had a major role to play in keeping our farmers going. and i want too be sure that her commitment to support rural america is strong as ever and i know you share that. i know you have ideas on how to do then we do tune we will talk about those, this morning also i want to makee sure the funding that we have, is put in place for things like the livestock emergency relief program, and plus for the farmers to get those funds get out to our farmers and you and i talked about that will talk about it's
more here today i know you're coming up with some ideas to explain that and i appreciate that i look forward to working with youou on it and think you t for being here today and i appreciate it very much and thank you. >> thank you and we will now begin grounds of five minutes, questions and i will began. in rural america has historically lagged behind urban regions in a group and leducational attainment and poverty levels and overall well-being and data shows that rural america has been covered from the great recession of a slower pace, then urban america for recovery and it also has major applications for rural america's ability to adapt to the current economic and inflationary trends. i was excited to say usda formally launch the rural partners network which we
provided initial funding for the fiscalti year of 2022, appropriations act secretary, can you provide an update on how the rural partners network is being implemented and how it will target funding that stressed communities ando about thely, talk fiscal year 23 budget proposal ofro 39 million for this initiative, and what additional resources will theseso funds provide. and lastly a three-part question, what agencies usda and other departments play a role in implementation of this initiative. >> this is a pretty significant question that you have asked, rural partnership network is really designed to provide an intensive care and direction and focus on communities that have been persistently poor and communities that have had a poverty rate of in excess of 20 percent for that 20 or 30
years. and t they require folks on the ground, living and working and raising their ownwn families in these communities and then helping community leaders in buildingng organizations access the variety of programs available. we have started this in five states of georgia kentucky, mississippi, and new mexico and arizona. we have targeted communities within each of those five states printed when the process of hiring staff today who will actually live in communities within the states that we have selected three process the data process and those individuals will begin to identify programs and challenges hand projects to folks interested in pursuing and they will with 13 federal agencies and three commissions they will have want to call the rural officers in each of those agencies and so this is
transportation, hhs, education etc. predict those rural desk offices will be responsible for working collaboratively with vocal about it is five states and in those communities to identify the programs and short-circuit if you will, the process for applying for successfully resources. in our belief is that providing this intensive care in providing all of government approach will be in a position is to provide a meaningful progress the folks m will be able to see and there will actually learn if you well, how to participate in federal programs it was a federal government that is working collaboratively with the state and local governments to make life better an article and hope is will expense program ifsignificantly and we've asked for an additional $39 million essentially pay for individuals who will be living in those communities and working those communities as well as state directors overseeing those operations and will also provide roadditional training and we knw
that there is a significant amount of training which is required for community leaders who understand the processes they have to go through and in applying for various grasses of these resources will allow us to expand the program and we been designated an additional five stateses hopefully to be able to select by the end of this year, this fiscal here with his additional resources we would be able to significantly expand this effort across the united states in places where we've had public that just has not gone a way. >> thank you. and have you identified these five initial stages on the process of data collection effort. >> we have identified those five additional states, and i'm sorry, i know if you have them but i cannot tell you all actually think it was thought that one of them in north carolina, happens to be one of them and i cannot, i'm sorry i cannot remember the other. >> just please follow up after
this holy fire next i will recognize the sender for questions. >> thank you, mr. secretary, at the end of september, we had the funding both for livestock assistance and that was about $10,000,000,000.750 million, for what was referred to as the livestock relief program and then, 10.2, excuse me is 9.3 billion available for week plus and talk about both and we appreciate the working relationship an emergency livestock relief assistance isth out there for the loss livestock producers, about 560 million for the main part and i know you're working on this and we appreciate that and that is underway but i want to ask you about wic plus and in getting
out to farmers. >> appreciate the support from congress and we are in the process of finalizing the work that will allow us to pre- fill the application that will be required for the farmers to benefit from this program and the pass the roughly 250 awesome ahat would be farmer to be answered and to be able to apply for this funding and we will pre- fill that application and so i thinned of, it will be just a handful of boxes that will have to be checked inside hope and belief is that when the next couple of weeks we will announce the structure and the free market for help you go about applying for these resources so the payments can potentially start in june. >> and when you explain to me that i appreciate, is taken over the front and to get it set .2 and now said it has been quicker to get it out soon a correction we will do this into conscious
you mentioned livestock situation, 505 and 6 million has been provided in additional resources will be in the second tranche up from folks were not covered by livestock programmer they had loss that was not quite covered by some of those programs that what we have done is taken the information and data from those programs like the crop insurance program and we prefilled these applications for grain folks and then maybe people left out of the process as well so there will be a smaller second round funding after the june payments. >> we would like you to have so many get outod there with this d talk to the livestock group, he sees me the commodity farm group so we can explain it if that is something that you would work with us to do. >> absolutely her say folks continue to do this atol a state level and the directors as part of their responsibility makes for an make sure people understand. >> we will explain to the
producers and livestock program again we appreciate that wee hae had cab mortality not only in our statement of the places is a livestock program is very important and one of the things we talked about it that is for calves under 250 pounds which is typically we have a lot of the mortality, and these spring blizzards and our payment rate is really not reflective of the cost of those animals. .. making sure ever animals they get sick because of the weather they may not die right away but they get anthrax, ammonia and they died later, that the livestock indemnity program applies to those animals. would you address those things under the program? >> actually we are focusing on those two plus the issue of time limits. so those are the three issues were taking a look at. the payment rate is obviously a the payment rate is a challenging one because essentially we try to marry the
llivestock program to what we o on the crop aside where essentially we take a look at the was the market weight as being the cropping comparing and contrasting it to that. we are in the process of taking a look at this because you've raised the issue aboutpp what's happened in north dakota and we are taking a look at this and we are taking a look at the cause of the delay there may be a problem that occurred but it doesn't surface until many months later and we recognizeon and appreciate that. look at those issues are being looked at either team and we are trying to figure out ways in which we could potentially provide for more annual production information as we do ofe crops which may make it easier to have a better understanding of how to value livestock to pending onk the disaster. as it is now we have to collect
the data on the disaster by disaster thing. we are saying in that. category. that so we want to take a look at an we know you understand. thank you. thank you madam chair. >> thank you senator hoeven. i understand there's a special birthday today. happy birthday senator hyde-smith. and it doesn't put you up in the queue though, sorry about that. senator leahy. >> thank you. mr. secretary i wished the senator happy birthday earlier today.
secretary it's great to see you crand i appreciate all the times you have been able to chat and is good to see you. i want to discuss a new initiative. i worked with senators baldwin hoeven and shelby in the fiscal year 2022 spending bill and the new investment for the department of health so it's a harder ship and when tropical storm ireneen tore through vermont devastating communities there were challenges brought upry around covid-19. we tried to find new ways to tackle these problems. the institute for rural partnerships the usda can plan for future challenges and it's up priority of this committee
that they can forge connections between public and private areas of government and i think it'snk extremely important. you probably more than anyone mr. secretary understand rural america. when do you anticipate it will move forward with this initiative and how do you estimate our ability to the best practices that can be used in rural areas? >> senator national institute of agriculture is the lead agencyna on this and they are in the process of working with staff to make sure we are structuring this program in a way that's consistent with congressional intent in the feed that we have recently received about how these institutions should be set up terry diversey they will work collaboratively with initiatives like the economic research
service to collect data and information. i'm sure that they will work closely with rural development to make sure we know what kind of programs with the rural partnership program and it you will bet interesting in studying the impact and effect of those partnerships and it will continue to work with the research aspect o of usda so the are great possibilities and potential. the challenge i think for us is to make sure we know exactly what it is you want us to do because it could be an incredibly broad array of things we could do. that's the reason we are spending r time listening. i would anticipate and expect that we'll get this thing going before the end of the fiscal year. >> one of things i'm sure you're hearing becausese of covid thers food insecurity in our country for food banks and probably in
about every state. schools are now facing n desperation and the nutritional labor has allowed them to expand into the summer months. i'd like to see the administration proposed increased funding for the food another areae's vermont has been a leader in rggrowing organic although it's difficult to get that included in natureha shown programs. can we find ways to get federal dollars more involved? >> senator we established local and regional food aspect this year in which we are asking state agencies to work with us to provide and we we are
providing roughly $600 million as an initial effort so the food banks would able to access locally grown and raised foods and organic so the state of vermont for example would encourageer that. the food banks as well asan the school meal program and what we want to do is create a stronger local and regional food system that complements our commodity agriculture so we haveco a more resilient system. >> and we will work with you anyway we can. i want to thank you mr. secretary. the spending package for fiscal year 2022 saw a very transparent return and i want to applaud the subcommittee for the way you work across the aisle. i know you are working with rod
bipartisan support so i thank you and i thank you chair. >> senator collins. >> welcome mr. secretary. priorr to your confirmation we have an in-depth conversation that led to my decision to vote for your confirmation. .we discussed to issues in particular and i'm going to follow up on those issues today and expressed my disappointment. the first is the issue of those forever chemicals and contamination. maine is at the forefront of efforts to address contamination on our farms from peace out's. i told you in 2015 and dairy
farmer had discovered the milk that was being produced by his cattle contained some of the highest levels ever recorded from a contaminant. since that time these forever chemicals have been found in seeds and soil and water and crops and livestock on farms all across maine. this is obviously devastating to these farmers and their life the heads and their families. they are facing extreme financialna hardship and we have learned the usda started an indemnity payment per gram and only covers fluid milk so it does not begin to cover all of the problems for these dairy farmers in particular. in october ofin last year i sent
you a letter and asked you to provide me with an update on what usda could do to assist these farmers. i have received no response. then in march i again sent you a letter that was side by all the membersth of maine's delegation requesting that usda use all of its authorities and programs to provide assistance. mr. secretary we have received a response to that letter at 1:24 a.m. this morning. we never received a letter to my october -- a response to my october letter and the letter to you that we sent in march we got the response literally at 1:24 a.m. this morning.
putting that aside will you work with us and i mean really work with us to identify programs that you either have now or that leaked asked to be modified so that we can assist these farmers? >> senator i was surprised by your question and the reason i am is because i'm under the impression that we in fact are providing an indemnity for livestock as opposed to fluid milk and we started this process basically paying for the milk that was damaged and realized that was not adequate so we are in the process of beginning to pay farmers for lots of livestock. we have taken action. certainly i apologize for not answering your letters. i can tell you the young lady behind me can attest to the fact
that i have done a concerted effortrt to get the response to congressional inquiries. and i'm embarrassed by this and i apologize for it. we are going to try to do better on the correspondent side which is why you got the response at 1:48 this morning. better late.m than never. certainly not responsible as it should be. the pfas issue let me explain what i think we need to do. we are working with the epa to establish a national standard on the acceptable level or not of pfas and the reason is so we can basically help supplied the level of assistance and help that's required. you are absolutely right it's not just in maine it's everywhere because basically sludge was used to fertilize farmrm fields for many many yeas without an appreciation of the challenge. i wouldso say two things. one, w happy to work with you in happy to work with the epa to set a national standard in happt
to work with this committee or whatever committee to establish an amount of resources that would help do with this issue. it'soi going to be a large amout and i would certainly say we need to make sure we continue to fund research because n i think will continue to find challenges that are now cropping up as problems. >> thank you i look forwardec to her second round.nr >> thank you madam chair. secretary last week president biden announced a major disaster declaration in new mexico as the result of multiple severe wildfires including one that was initiated by the u.s. forest service for a fire that escaped control pad i want to make sure that usda is fully prepared to help communities mitigate potential flood damages before this year's upcoming monsoon season which starts typically in early july.
the emergency watershed protection program is going to be really essential and that recovery. the village of her dose which was subject to a wildfire that caused several fatalities and destroyed over 200 homes have requested ew p. assistance and i'm expecting the number of communities in northern i new mexico will do so soon. my concern is really that the rcs office in new mexico has never had to deal with this quantity of ew p. assistance before and other resources to be able to conduct those assessments and implement recovery on the ground before we get hit by the understory was. given the severity of the fires destruction and the upcoming monsoon season i want to ask you woodworks within our cf. to make sure we can meet the urgent
need. >> happy to do it and we are adding additional personnel senator across, an rcs at capacities at the state level. >> that's great and one t of the other areas that will be important from the same perspective is like ew p. disaster programs within farm service agency's for example the livestock indemnity program will be another one of those places where it's just not set up for the scale of the demand we are going to see in the immediate aftereffects of these fires so i would also just ask that you look closely at fsa and make sure they are booked to get on the ground and meet people in these communities and get them to understand what they need to do to access these programs.
>> we will certainly do that and if itly turns out the staffing s not adequate there or surge teams you can put in place. we had a importantly far far too much experience with this in new mexico and many other western states celinda stan appreciate what we have to do. >> i appreciate that one of the related issues that i want too raise with you and it goes back to when you were talking about the rural partners network many of the communities affected by this particular wildfire are underresourced as i believe he described it. and because of the significant need for systems in the communities the delegation requested that president biden way the car share. i'd like to be able to work with you to look at the appropriate cost share for usda disaster
programs because these are the exact same communities on the new mexico list that you referenced before that were barelyha beat getting by before they were devastated by these fires so without to work with you to develop some guidelines for what might be an appropriate cost share. >> that's an appropriate request and to the extent we have the capacity to regulations and statutes do so i'd be happy to work with you. >> thanks. to shift gears for four a second blaster's agriculture g appropriations bill this subcommittee encouraged demonstration programs use for renewable energy systems like agri voltaire. i want to ask his u.s. d.a. have enough funding for the renewable energy infrastructure and the research expertise to really conduct some of these
demonstration programs? >> i think it has the expertise and i don't know we necessarily have the resources which is why part of what would be involved would be the national is it to have agriculture and we think we need more resources across-the-board not just in this area. in terms of staffingut and facilities and in terms of the capacity to do more work with universities. >> madam chair i hope the committee will w look at this ad we have had a number of places around the o country where thers there is then a direct conflict between taking land out of production to put into renewable projects and we have seen great success in a fews places where they've been able to effectively produce energy and farm on the same footprint and increased the income of farmers so it has a lot of promise.
>> senator hyde-smith. >> thank you chairwoman baldwin and thank you secretary vilsack for being here today and your willingness to serve. mr. secretary juno the usda natural resources conservation service be an rcs -- assist with water quality improvements pollution control and several things relateded to that are the watershed and operations program which is really important to a state like mississippi. mississippi and its people have been hit particularly hard in recent years by excessive rainfall flooding and other problems caused by natural disasters. the watershed operations program has been invaluable in allowing small towns to recover from big
events and to prepare for the next one because we know theep next one will be coming as well. in early june of 2021 mississippi experienced unprecedented rainfall in some receiving more than 12 inches of rain in less than 12 hours. i had been receiving phonecalls and videos all day. it caused flooding to bridges and failures of dams and levees and everything that would cause and thousands of mississippians affected and deaths occurred. fortunately we have programs like watershed prevention operations administered by nrcs. because of that i requested 8.4 million watershed operations funds in 2022 agriculture bill
for nrcs mississippi to address the challenges and the funds are used to support 10 or more projects in mississippi counties. thatat was under the consolidatd appropriations act of 2022 night big chair baldwin and ranking member hoeven for supporting my requests. we have a great respect in the whole we would do without nrcs and we appreciate the services that they p provide. mr. secretary what is the status of the watershed operations funding provided in that fy2022 on the plus and i'm looking for for -- that's being put to good use but please share any updates you may have as how the funds
provided by nrcs will help landowners and communities on these issues that i just articulated. >> the $8.4 million this nrcs folks aree working with sponsors that were identified to basically works through the implementation plans thatt processes in place in place. in addition the state of mississippi was the recipient of $47.8 million ofof additional resources under the bipartisan infrastructure law. the 500 million was allocated under that law ver ploeg -- flood prevention operations. nrcs is working on a r variety f projects. my staff will be able to give you the list of the projects that were identified ins that 47.8 million. we are working on for example a big project with madison county
owned the erosion issue and we know a lot of the sediment issues in mississippi are not thef result of losing topsoil. the result of the banks eroded over time and that creates challenges. i think you will see significant activity in this space in mississippi because of the money and resources provided through the appropriations process. >> wonderful. appreciate that answer. now i have a few seconds left. we will always be faced with these challenges and i wasr- pleased that they afford 2023 budget request included a funding in it as well. should congress provide funding for specific challenges through the fy23 and how confident are you that an rcs to put those funds to good use?
>> i'm confident they can and as long as we continue to increase the staffing levels could be key is not just increasing the resources. n making sure we can implement these resources in a proper way of. >> thank you madam chairwoman. say thank you. senator feinstein. >> thank you madam chairman. it does want to say the very tough job to a t start with. my understanding is the west has become a real problem for fire. in 2017 wildfire has burned 10 million acres in my state of california and killed nearly 200 people and destroyed more than 32,000 homes. even as we speak i understand large wild files -- large wildfires are burning in new mexico and arizona. so what do we do? agency has been chronically understaffed and many federal wildlands fires are moving to
states particularly my state is the pay is better. mr. secretary and want to know what you think m would help the most? is it that rise in pay or what is it as we got to hire enough people to handle what's going to happen with global warming and that articulate goes for my state and i'm very concerned. >> senator thanks for the question. it's important for us to do three things. one transition some of our part-time people to full-time statusns which would revive them additional pay and benefits and we are doing that. we are literally transitioning hundreds of firefighters and to a new classification system for wild land fires. we are in the process directed by congress andss the presidentf working with department of the interior and the office of tepersonnel management to develp
a new classification to create a more competitive salary scale probe wildfires and three we will continue to implement the additional resources under the infrastructure law to provide additional pay this year that will allow us to do a better job of recruitingo and retaining our workforce of those three things are in the process of being done and i think you are going to see more firefighters on the ground which is going to be aptly necessary because we aren't going to seen abatement of these wildfires for some time. >> in your recently raised 10 year strategy to address this crisis you indicated your focus would deonte communities most at risk and this is especially important for more rural communities in california at the wildland urban interface. it's myy understanding that your fire shed map identified that
many at risk communities in california are not near federal lands which means they won't be eligible for most service funding or wildfire mitigation. how is the department going to help rural communities especially those not adjacent to federal land to reduce their risk and become more resilient? >> your support and the support of others in the senate for the bipartisan infrastructure law is in response to that question because $1.5 billion of the resources you allocated for the forest service will be provided to state and local communities for that very purpose giving them resources to work collaboratively with w us. it is a collaboration and the fact that they are not a particular map doesn't mean we won't provide assistance. we do that all the time. now we have the resources and
local and state resources to be able to provide more community preparedness more training more support for their volunteer fire departments etc. so that $1.5 million is incredibly important. >> i want to say for the largest state in the union my concern about fire in the last 10 years has gone straight up. i see these fires and they see what can happen and i really don't know what we can do to give you the resources to put up the ability a to stop big massie fires in our state. >> the ten-year fire mitigation strategies designed to do that and certainly the high partisan infrastructure law was to start in terms of the financial o resources necessary. committees are going to have to continue to provide that support
over the next decade for us to see a significant reduction in the risk because we have hundreds o of millions of dead trees as a result of climate and we have a substantial amount of fuel buildup. we have got them for the next couple of years in the key will be to continue that effort overu a ten-year period. >> i would be most interested in helping with a plan if you have one to see that we can provide what we need to provide. i'm really very worried because california's extraordinarily dry and fire is the real enemy. >> we love work with you senator. >> thank you. appreciate that. >> senator blunt you're next. >> thank you chairwoman and secretary great>> to see you and your parents may be some kind of
the record because of your log service inf this job and i'm grateful that you have done nothing continue to be willing to doo it. you and i have talked about this before, i was a supporter of relocating headquarters at ers to another location and it turned out to be in kansas city and ofnd course i was even more pleased with that. there was a report issued by gao that statedy the previous administration's decision to relocate those agencies was not fully consistent with the evidence with an evidence-based approach. you or the department pointed out that the gao use metrics to establish after the relocation and that was not exactly a fair analysis of what they would have been looking at that time. i've been to that location
recently for the first time. a great space. orhighly underutilized because people have been working from home. i'm wondering based on your previous role and respect if you have if you have seen away that this move alters operations or applications a three hour car drive from a grit different land grant universities was one of the principle advantages. have you seenfu a difference in operations there or would you see in terms of filling job vacancies in that location? >> we have a goal of 750 peopleo between the facility and the mission area. we are 650 and four to 50 folks have been hired so the hiring
has been robust and people are anxious and interest in working in that environment and we have great people and they turn out the work regardless of the pet pandemics and whatever the challenges may be. we have a moral issue which we are dealing with and i think as we hire more folks the issue becomes less of an issue. the work is getting done and it's getting done on time and the reality is those agencies have great working relationships all across america. i think i would say as we look at this concept the challenge is to do it in a way that provides less disruption than the way it wasn handled before and i think there are ways to do that and i think we will see you got a -- a lot of good work coming out of that facility. ii appreciate that and lots of
reasons like cost-of-living and other reasons and other locations as we thinkhe about expanding their removing some rough and i appreciate your sons on the impact on the current work or send how you c may transition is important they are. those agencies among others are looking carefully at world food needs right now and what happens as a result of what's happening in ukraine. what concerns do you have and what should the department do? should we make more american acreage available in some foreseeable window that my nap be available otherwise and if step back from taking more acres off line as we figure out what happens with this great food producing part of the world being so impact did in africa and other places that benefited from that raw unprocessed food
stuff to be impacted? >> senator i'm traveling to germany tomorrow andnd into pold in order to get a first-hand look at the situation in ukraine. we have a twin challenge here. we have them immediate global six food security challenge with the disruption that is causing the impact on unstable conditions in the northeast and africa. we need to address that. it's quite a challenge and making sure it's replenished which i think is important and a the appropriations bill that you ngare considering would begin tt process in the other challenges the transportation costs. it costs more than the value of the product that we are
transporting to get that food to ethiopia andf some of our africn countries so it's an opportunity to look at ways was that can be addressed. the chess second schansman have the vision of climate because that will impact their long-term capacity and i'm really excited about direction to the climate forestry partnership. the afford it 50 applications from touring and 50 organizations commodity groups non-profits organizations all 50 states and three to four times a billion dollars heol put on the table so there's tremendous interest in doing that as well. we have to figure out ways in which we can do both in one thing wech could do is to look r creative ways to help expand the number of counties thator are insured and figure out ways to make it easier for farmers to reduce the risk of double cropping.
>> i may have more questions for the record for a second round if we have one. >> where having right now and i recognize myself for five minutes in the secondel round. mr. secretary i want to ask about climate smart agriculture. our farmers and ranchers andte experienced firsthand climate change and i appreciate the whole of government approachro o combating the climate crisis including the department of agriculture's efforts to protect the nation's national resources while enhancing economic growth and creating new streams of income for our. can you give the committee an update on the agriculture to be of the department and what is the department doing to ensure
that farmers ranchers and of all backgrounds are able to access and strengthen their climate smart agricultural practices? >> there are 33 ways that like to respond to that question. first there has been a significant effort on the part of an rcs to catalog and characterize climate smart activities t to be climate smart further reducing greenhouse gases or sequestering more carbon.ca and we are going to continue to do a bettero job up in tenuate that information. an rcs has worked with the grant program with 118 different organizations that are connected to minority and disadvantaged
and underserved in the effort to make sure those individuals who may have had a hard time accessing that information get that information in that program will continue. it's something we feel strongly about and that's in addition to the initial technical assistance and efforts underway at the american rescue plan underr section 100610 to expand. we currently have 20 larger organizations connected to minority that are working to make sure they have a full array of an rcs programs. secondly as i just mentioned to senator blunt we are excited about the response to the billion dollars that was put on the table to ask to put together pilot demonstration projects. the fact that we have borne of 50 applications from trainer 50 different organizations across all 50 states even at the
minimum we are talking about $2.2 billion some of those applications are for $50 million or more. probably three or four times what we put on the table so it is obviously tremendous -- they are and we are provide the tools and technologies and the capacity for farmers to have a betterno understanding of what climate smart means to verify and visualize. >> thank you. i know we are in our second round of questions.ro i'm going to interrupt the back-and-forth between democrats and republicans to allow senator tester of first round of questions. >> goodness if only i knew what i was going to ask her to want to first of all thank you for being here secretary vilsack.
it's always good to see you. you make sure that family farmers and ranchers have a shot out there and we know that rural america has been declining and it will continue to decline unless we do some things a little differently. and you know where i'm going with this. a few weeks back the senate added committee and i am sure you are watching it held a vote on two bills when it comes to the cattlens industry. you know the statistics -- control over 80% of the marketplace and capitol and some doesn't work in situations that we want there to be competition in the marketplace so cow calf operatorsto and consumers can rp
the benefits of a good competitive system. the president's budget ask for $35 million for packers. given the issues that i just brought up with beef and poultry and others in a similar situation do you think the level of funding is adequate that 35 million? >> it would represent a significant increase senator and would be adequate for us as we strengthen packers and stockyards as the three rules coming from the department to strengthen the unfortunate capacity of the department of those resources would be important to be able to do that. >> you are the key to unlocking the department so making sure you have the resources to deal with the situation the fairway is critically important.
i'm not wanting to put anybody out of business. we just haven't had the enforcement capabilities. i don't need too tell you abouta historic a bad drought west of thee mississippi. last year was the year ever in 44 years. with the exception of 1919 in 1920 after homesteading because of drought. this is the year it's ever been a by the way if we don't get rain it's going to be than last year. we passed $10 billion in disaster relief last fall including 750 million bucks for livestock.
this is life and death. truthfully. the bottom line is prices are going through the roof and there has been no grass resource because there has been no water no crops are raised because there's no water. can you share any update on the progress of getting that $10 million of flood disaster relief out the door? >> by veteran $60 million last month and this month and there'll bel a second round of funding for the livestock. they took information from those programs are basically prefilled the application silicate move the money outle more quickly. in terms of the crop side we are announcing this month a structure for how the crop reimbursements will take place
or that will involve three applications and there are 250 questions that are asked of a to be able to access it. most of those questions will be prefilled through crop insurance on that data and we expect the checks will come out in june. >> doing some quick math in my head there are about 190 million livestock had to be allocated? >> we want to make sure we cover those that we didn'tdu necessary have and didn't qualify for one of those programs. the information would have been able to -- available so we go through the process of applying for the resources read. >> i was talking to the airport lastst thursday and i was talkig to a man who said he received
money on cattle shipping to be able to move his cattle. i certainly have no problem with that but the price of fuel. are you aware of that program?m? >> we have expanded the indemnity program to include additional systems for transportation. i think it's transporting the capitol to where there may beat feed. we have expanded the program to include reimbursement. >> that was a great idea. thank you. thank you madam chair. nick thank you. next, senator moran. >> thank you chair island. mr. secretary hello. it seems like every conversation with the secretary of agriculture since i've been in the congress has been disaster. i want to highlight a problem we
have with emergency livestock reading program we have had drought and wildfires across our state. most recently in december of 21, 160,000 acres across 13 counties of kansas burned grassland and other feed that they depend on. these are not eligible for lfp and not being helped by disaster assistance. usda described in the announcement on march 1 that phase 1. will phase 2 for the disaster assistance provide support to livestock reducers who lost grazing lands to wildfires outside of normal grazing land? >> we are in the process of developing as non-cover disasters as the one you just mentioned to make sure we have a
comprehensive solution from that list will make a determination of how best to invest in the second tranche or resources. certainly understand what you've outlined at i will tell you the concerns you expressed her on the list and placed on the list. i want to make sure we check with their folks to make sure i'm right when i say we will consider this seriously. i don't know if we'd necessarily made a decision on who gets what. i know it's on thewh list. >> you would give me the chance to make the case that would be high on the list i would appreciate that. >> does usda expect additional funding for ad hoc disaster -- >> i'm never going to stop asking the question for additional resources the problems such greater disasters as its programs are one-size-fits-all and the reality is we are learning their
multiple types of disasters in multiple areas involving multiple commodities in multiple different a ways and it will be necessary to have enough flexibility and resources to be able to tailor the disaster assistance to the disaster as opposed to one-size-fits-all. sometimes folks don't fit in and that's unfortunate. more resources. in addition to more resources let's make sure we can use it for multiple disasters. >> i always like that flexibility until it doesn't cover something that needs to be covered. i appreciate the conversation and perhaps leveraging the disaster assistance. input costs for a rise in prices. i've asked the subcommittee and i'm the republican that has jurisdiction over the department commerce. we are trying to do something
about countervailing duties stop the implementation of nitrogen or laser. can you be an ally in any of this? >> we have looked at those countervailing activities and we try to t >> resources on the tail the seal on the table as he awakened in the united states to produce more fertilizer and we are working with on w crop choice tt could potentially reduce fertilizer use and we are focusing on nitrogen policies for crop insurance that will cover crop losses to have to nitrogen application. we are working with state attorney general to look at whether or not the fertilizer being made by farmers are legitimate. it there's an interesting graph and you can look at the history of fertilizer andhe crop pricess
crop prices go up so the fertilizer prices. >> mr. secretary thank you for that understand the love affair with countervailing duties on components. the double cropping issue planting soybeans after winter wheat just announced a week or so ago i would remind you that sorghum is a major food crop for many african nations and it's a crop that can be planted behind wheat and many parts of kansas. additionally much of the world sunflower oil comes from ukraine and other crops can be utilized in a fashion. why does this supplemental adrequest only incentivize soybn and not other food crops like sorghum? >> it was a conversation starter
and you are absolutely right in there's a reason we couldn't include it and we should. >> with that include the 10-dollar. acre incentive click spam to the extent that they are incentives extent that there incentives at we are looking at and flexibilities that we are looking at. we will try to be as comprehensive as as we can be. >> thank you mr. secretary appreciate your answers. >> thank you.er next i'm going to go little bit out of order. senator porter is scheduling issues so i will call on you for the second roundnd in senator braun for the first-round. >> secretary vilsack you want the surprise at the second issue i'm going to bring up with you today concerns potatoes. potatoes are a nutritious vegetable and they contained
more potassium than. they are a good source of fiber vitamin b6, vitamin-c and very important today for families that are startling to buy groceries they are affordable. during the obama administration and i want to relive what we went back and forth on whether potatoes shouldin be restricted from school lunches in the school breakfast programs in the wake programs and they were not. when you appeared before the subcommittee last year i questioned the usda proposed elimination of funding for the highly successful potato breeding research program. congress on a bipartisan basis not only reject it the elimination of that program. ratherer than zeroing out it
increases to $3 million a year. given the strong congressional support i was very surprised to see that your legit is again proposing to zero out this program especially when the administration is seeking an overall increase of more than $2 billion inan discretionary spending for usda. the university of maine is the leader in research and this program and has worked with growers to develop a new variety called the care of the rest that that's producing hight' yields that is i much more disease resistant and the recent outbreak of the potato bahrain prince island canada. to understand the importance of continuing to invest in research
that produces hardier crops. my question for you given congress's actions last year even with a small amount this is in the context of your entire budget why are you against seeking to completely eliminate funding for the potato research program which has been proven successful in helping our growers prevent agricultural and economic growth? >> senator i rely on the professionals to give me a list of their priorities and it goes back c to my earlier comments about the importance of investing moree money in ars. the reality is these a flat line for an extended trade of time
and obviously if congress is to maintain the program we obviously will. i would hope it does so in the context of significantly increased resources including four facilities spread one of the challenges we are facing in the facility project roughly 30 are fully or partially funded and that leaves quite a few that aren't so it's a matter of resources. we have more resources we can do more work. >> i'm going to give you the chart that i was handout on potatoes and which you received for me previously but it doesn't make sense you end up spending more money if you have to provide disaster assistance or other types of assistance and if you invest upfront in the research that produces a more disease-resistant crop. >> that would be true if that
,was the only crop that we had o be concerned about and the only research program but it's not enough the problem. we discussed the multiple -- a multitude of disasters and that's a shame if we have more resources we can cover more -- see potatoes do not receive price support. >> they don't receive that support but their 9.9 billion pounds of food that we purchased a rare commodity purchasing programs which includesn potatoes. there's a tendency to forget the other ways in which we provide assistance for specialty crops and that's one way but not the only way. >> your previous effortss to eliminate the university of maine during the obama administration and restrict the
use of potatoes despite the institute of medicine study that there was no basis for doing so. i just can't figure out -- >> that wasn't the reason for the decision as we have explained before but it was a situation where we were trying to encourage folks to purchase those items that they would not otherwise purchase withh resources. it wasn't that we didn't decide potatoes are nutritious. with expanded opportunities for potato exports and mexico. there's nothing against potatoes. >> senator braun. >> i didn't grow up in a farmer who lived on once integral to my hometown and fell in love with the agriculture in indiana we were 90% courses at one time and
got assistance farming cut down to 5% and to the tune of 30 or 35% and value-added. as it's equal to if not exceeds the value add to get from t growing crops and that's something that most people to understand. they see the vast fields of cors and soybeans so it's important to keep thatat in mind. to keep our forest owners healthy and to make sure that's part of the equation is the row crop side is. trees just growing get larger and don't -- it's a generational crop. what i care most about currently is two things. it would be a concentration tag when it comes to industries across the input spectrum that
used to have so many local options and fewer and fewer companies. i think that is something we have to be aware of. the individual farmer has gone from small acres to many area acres to keep the me of scale in place. frustrated each year they got fewer options. i liked your comment on is that side of farming in peril because markets aren't as broad and available as they used to be. we recently discussed it on the ag committee on the meatpackinge industry. would you want to weigh in on that? >> senator think there are two issues here. one you identified which is the concentration and that's absolutely true. we are dealing with fertilizer issues right now and it's a very concentrated industry this point and we are trying towe address
that with the work we are doing at usda. the second issue and you alluded to it is the fact that there is a non-limited number of ways in which farmers today profit. they grow crops and sell them what they grow crops and feed them toro the livestock or sell those products. whato we need to do is. additional ways in which profit income sources can come from the farm and that's why your work and your senator stabenow's work on the effort wasto important because it creates the platform and the structure for that possibility and climate related activities can create a profitable dream and a revenue stream that we are in the process of trying to support so the key here is for us to address the concentration issue but also to address creating multiple income streams on the farm.
>> it prospers over time. iran one for 37 years. when you knock it out of the park currently it's five -- surely to be different five or 10 years down the road and agriculture is a model. it's got to reflect what you are talking about in thee other concern i hear which is palpable is what farmers are going to do in 2023 putting the cost aside.t that would be challenging in this year most ended up getting the input they needed to get their crop out. with the current dynamic in place with dependency on certain inputs that look like they are in places of peril do you think farmers will be able to get the inputs for 2023 setting cost aside? i hear real concern about we just limpedo through 2022 and what are? we going to do for
2023? >> one of the things are looking at is whether or not there's a possibility of taking a look at our storage programs because they are they will be the capacity to purchase -- to get them through the 2023 crop year and we work on strategies to reduce the amount and that takes us into precision agriculture. i will share with you there's a technology team developed at iowa state university suggests 30% a of acres in the midwest do not require fertilizer so they can accelerate that research and accelerate the a capacity of farmers to have that resize information about their farms we may build -- may be able to get them through the process maybe not 2023 but the future where they aren't is reliant that they have been. >> levering technology and finding new markets would be the hallmark of our economy and
never more applicable than agriculture today. thank you. >> senator hoeven you are now recognized for her second round. madam chair. did you get yours and? >> yes i did. >> secretary concerned about sugar producedon in raise twice 170,000 tons more recently. in april it was 220,000 tons and more recently 170,000 tons of 400,000-ton increase. i know some of this came from a shortfall in michigan. can you address that? >> i want to be able to check our numbers with your numbers because we are under the assumption that it's less than what you outlined. having said that the key from
our perspective is to maintain a proper balance and the stocks to ratio has historically been somewhere between 13.5215.5 only got it down to 12.5 and what we've been able to do with this initial purchase is to put us within that 13.5215.5 range of that's where wear comfortable way the programth works particularly well on thing the equities. statement we are concerned it will take us above that range so again we want to make sure those increases do keep it in that region. rural broadband obviously not significant funds in terms of rural broadband and the priority and the bipartisan priority so where are we at with getting those dollars out?
>> there two pots ofmo money the first pot came from the american rescue plan and programs and that has gone through several rounds in recently completed around that received during the five applications for $1.5 billion for those applications were in the neighborhood of two to three times that amount so obviously of great interest. we also received the bipartisan infrastructure resources at 1.9 billion we are now taking a look at analyzing applications of three to five applications to determine whether or not there's a possibility of accelerating utilizing some of the money and not third round because essentially they would potentially qualify for the same requirements that would allow us to put several billion dollars in two rewards to get action this year and the balance of whatever is left from the
infrastructure law we would announce availability sometime later this year probably the early part of 2023. >> in other words you will continue on. >> yes. >> when you anticipate funding? >> this summer. we will complete -- we'd be able to make his announcement sooner. we want to see if there's a way to accelerate the money into this round and that requires us to analyze where these applications are and how many of them would in fact qualify and it's going to take time. i think by the latter part of this month we will have a better understanding of how much of that money could be incorporated into this around and that will be in a set of announcements this summer. >> on the child attrition waivers what steps are you
taking as we get back to the traditional program to get ready for next year? >> this is going to be chaotic. make no mistake that failure to have these waivers will create chaos in schools across the united states. there are very limited things we can do. we don't w have the flexibilityo provide waivers did the extent we provided them. we can't increase the reimbursement rate and we can expand universal preschool meals so we focus on community a likability and will focus on the limited waivers that we have and will take a look at any additional capacity we have with theco resources in terms of commodity purchases that schools will have a very difficult time make no mistake about it. >> madam chair have a couple of questions left i'm happy to differ.
>> we can give you a special third round. senator hyde-smith. see if mr. secretary in recent years the subcommittee has made historic investments in developing methods to better understand and respond to chronic wasting disease and incurable always fatal disease of deer and other members of your family. they are beenta many questions about the disease and thanks to be researched by usd in this university partners along with better surveillance and response efforts carried out by the state wildlife agencies we are starting to make great strides and hunting and outdoor recreation contributes billions to the american economy more than 2.7 billion in annual economic output. would you agree that our investments are paying off and
we are seeing a positive return art oursi investment and would u agree we need to continue investing in a given these related to chronic disease in fiscal year 2023 and beyond that? >> i would answer that yes, yes and yes. we have 35-hertz and there's no vaccine or cure yet so 25 states their additional resources and those resources will allow us to do more surveillance and testing and management and hopefully more responsive activity so clearly we need additional resources.er >> thank you madam chairwoman. >> senator hoeven. >> i want to commend senator hyde-smith in general. specifically for setting up my question because we have legislation to do more with chronic t wasting disease. we have others on both sides so
clearly based on your last comment to support that b legislation for more fundingis r research relative to wasting disease because it affects domestic and wild animals. >> yes. >> okay, great. fsis over time we have food safety inspection challenges i guess. we have worked challenges every. we have challenges so we included some provisions to give flexibility so where aree we at with implementing that? >> it's implemented senator vitter problem is it's you but to do it every year. it does give us a tremendous amount of flexibility and reduces the stress. we still have the option. for whatever reason this gives
us the ability to continue to keep the plant open and have the flexibility to have inspectors on staff. >> which is unique right now. >> absolutely in my last question relates to there's also workforce question and that is gettingt the hd way ellidge of- eligible people through the process and on the job and there are two aspects to it. you know ukraine is so similar in terms of their ag basin in fact some of their livestock and so forth come from my stay where have flown breeding stock in 747s. maybe you've seen some of that. it's unbelievable. >> iowa started that a long time ago. >> it's a really impressive. >> we did it with japan in the 60s.
you would think they would go by boat but they put the money siege aircraft. it's really amazing. you didn't mean it literally necessarily. h-2a applications give these folks who are eligible and folks who've come before and you know the need for workers in the ag area. these ukrainians are coming here expediting their ability for work permits. that's one aspect of the question and the other is in terms of flexibility. they can be out there and do field work in that kind of stuff in farm work. we also need folks in the processing plants and their visa doesn't allow them to but it's a continuation of pretty much the same thing. it has a seasonality to it so is
there a way we can help with the labor issue? >> i will make you a deal. >> well, maybe. >> i will help you with this problem if you can get your colleagues to vote on the ag workforce modernization act and get this things solves them in a permanent way. this is just what's going on here. we are nick lengend diming and putting a band-aid on it and constantly talking about h2 way when we all know fundamentally we have got to fix the immigration system and the ag community and the labor community says here's the fix would like to see in our part of the industry and it passed the house and bipartisan way and i don't understand why it can't pass this body. >> yes beholden to everything else you know that.
you know how that process works. in the meantime. things we can do. >> in the meantime we will continue to look for ways to deal with it but it's a temporary fix and it's not going to solve the problem and relieve the underlying lack of confidence that farmers feel they just don't know whether they will have the workforce and they are scared about this. they are really concerned about it. >> that's where the merit-based aspect comes in and it's very important. again our guys are concerned about getting this through the system. people who are eligible now -- >> i'm happy to help and i would hope that you would help me get 59 other senators to vote for the ag modernization act. >> thanks for your work on
albies and we had a secretary to work together eight years during the obama administration. thank you for being here today and you have a lot of folks out there working hard farmers and ranchers an expression my. she. >> mr. secretary want to add i want to thank you both you and mr. -- are being here and i think we have had a good discussion i look forward to working with you as we begin as a preparation process for this school year 2023. questions for the record are due by next tuesday may 17 and we would appreciate responses from the fda within 30 days and -- >> madam chair if i could ask one thing because senator hoeven was not here when i gave my
opening comments are maybe he got in on the tail end or that just want to leave you with the same statistic that i left with the rest of the committee workers -- committee members. 6670 former workers are on the brink. these are people who barred from espn. there had delink what are bankrupt and it's an issue. thank you. >> thank you mr. secretary but that the subcommittee is adjourned. [inaudible conversations]