tv Hearing on Sustainable Agriculture Practices CSPAN March 10, 2022 8:02am-9:31am EST
minutes. >> the 10:00 hour has arrived. the subcommittee will come to order. i think we have a good subcommittee hearing this morning. we have, i think, some very talented individuals who have hands on experience in production agriculture dealing with sustainability. economic sustainability. improving environmental conditions as it relates to their operations. and making it pay off. so as we do with typical subcommittee hearings, we will,
after opening remarks, members will receive testimony if our witnesses today and then we will open it up for questions and -- in consultation with the ranking member, rule 11, i want to make members of the subcommittee aware that other members of the full committee may join us today and we welcome their participation. and so we look forward to that. and the opportunity to get some things done as we look at the challenges facing american agriculture and issues involving american agriculture under these challenging times that we're living in. i think there's important for this subcommittee to focus on as we prepare not only for this year's legislative ayen da but
also we set the table for next year's farm bill. and i in my mind, look at these efforts as tied in in one fashion or another. i want to thank the members of the subcommittee and members of the the full committee that are participating because it's a good fun for us -- good opportunity for us to have the bipartisanship that's always been a hallmark of the house agriculture committee, one of the things we're all proud of. having said that, let me start by saying good morning. i want to thank our witnesses. and ranking member johnson. members of the subcommittee today for our opportunity to discuss the impacts of climate change, sustainability in the livestock sector. i think many of us are -- have personal relationships with constituents that are among the most innovative in the livestock community in america. i know i certainly do.
i'm very proud of those folks that are involved and engaged. i don't think we can waver from the impacts of climate change is having with regards to not only the air and the water and the other important resource issues that we consume but also the impacts worldwide. and as a third generation farmer, a person that's been engaged and seen a lot of chaims over the years, i like to say that i think farmers, ranchers, dairy men and women are among the most concerned of stewards of the environment. because the whole reneubility and the ability to maintain reneubility of that resource, the air and the water and the land, is essential, critical to their ability to maintain farming operations. the biden administration has
rejoined the paris agreement. i think this is an opportunity for us to look on how we work together not only in this country but around the world. that means reducing our carbon footprint as it relates to emissions in ways that make sense. working with industry and that's part of the reason for the subcommittee hearing. to figure out how we teal with the impacts and ensure we have measurable outcomes. i can tell you that in california we have been doing that for a number of years. i'm glad we have some witnesses from california that can share their experiences with us today. i think we all feel very strongly about agriculture and its important role in putting food on america's denner table every night. it is, as i think many of you have heard me say time and time again, a national security issue. and i think agriculture certainly the folks i work with at home understand that the issue of climate change is
important. water and snow melt, snow pack that we get in california's mountains are critical to our sustainability of having water supply. and yet we see increasing changes of our snow pack and our water availability and of course result of that in part is the horrific fires we have addressed in california. but like all farmers i'm an optimist. i think you have to be an optimist if you're a farmer. a rancher or a dairy man or woman. and i think the slip side of the value of these challenges we face is that agriculture can and is making a meaningful contribution toward reducing and offsetting emissions. today we will hear from producers and others to how they have advanced in their own operations, sustainability initiatives, so that we can better understand the challenges
on how farmers, ranchers, dairy men and women are coming together to deal what they can do, certainly when incentives are provided to impact climate change and what's the -- what the barriers are, incentives that we need to factor in to help them in achieving these goals. in addition, i think we need to account for the impact that in terms of cropping patterns, in terms of availability of water resources, in different regions of our country, and throughout the world frankly, that climate change is going to have. last lot of areas where the sustainability of agriculture around the world is going to be very difficult in semiarid regions because of a lack of water. and so we all have our -- i
think a responsibility here, deteriorating conditions as an example of grazing lands impacts live stock producers. i've got family that neernls west coast range mountains of california. and when they look at 10-year averages and the amount of precipitation they get to grow those grasses, to feed their cattle, it becomes a very difficult challenge in terms of the amount of years that they can count on enough feed to make that operation work. so that only puts a further strain on our food production. i think the panel that we have here is an impressive caliber of knowledge of what's being done to build sustainability in our livestock system. i know the two individuals from california certainly have a lot of experience there. look forward to a productive discussion with members of the subcommittee so we can work together in a collaborative
fashion, a bipartisan fashion, with our livestock producers to scale adoption of climate smart practices. i would like to introduce to my friend and colleague ranking member dusty johnson from south dakota for any remarks that he'd like to make at this time. mr. johnson: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank you and your team also for how collaborative you are in the leadup to these hearings. i want to echo what you said about this being an impressive panel. i'm look forward to hearing from these knowledgeable and solutions-focused experts. but let's be clear, there are threats because there are less knowledgeable and less solutions-focused people who are sharing their views in other venues, i was disappointed earlier this week to see "the new york times" had an opinion piece titled, and i'm not making this up, "meet the people getting paid to kill our planet." and the opinion piece made sweeping inaccurate statements about american agriculture.
the piece seemed oblivious to the findkind of progress we're making as a country. it was terrible and made worse by the fact that some members of congress including senator cory booker cooperated with them. the facts are not in dispute. in recent years the u.s. beef industry has reduced methane emissions by 40%. net emissions from u.s. beef production are 10 times lower than net emissions in other parts of the world. additionally u.s. rarchgers are producing the same amount of beef today as they did in 1977 with 33% fewer animals and of course less land being used as well. farm productivity was 287% greater in 2017 than it was in 1948. that's just incredible. 287% greater. so mr. chairman, you're exactly right. the american farmer, the
american rancher, they are producing more with less. they have made the united states the most efficient producer of food and fiber in the world. mr. chairman, that environmental progress will continue because of the solutions being worked on. by the witnesses on our panel today. as well as progress being made by others. and those solutions are coming in many forms. i would call out one precision ranching technology being developed by south dakota state university and the research and extension center. this is a neat project. they are deploying a series of precision measuring technologies in south dakota. what do they do? they're using g.p.s., they're using precision scales, to track individual cattle locations. and weight. on a daily basis. and these tools also allow producers to manage grazing rotations with a smart phone.
so collectively these tools are getting us unprecedented insight into the grazing practices of these cattle whrk they're eat, what that means for weight gain and what that means for food quality and sustainability. this is an incredibly fun project. it's an important one as well. so i would just call poncing this, mr. chairman. it's better, more sustainable future will not come if the harsh, scolding voices of the naysayers. it's going to come from the leadership and innovation of people like the researchers at scsu and our witnesses today. i'm looking forward to the discussion and with that, i yield back. mr. costa: i want to thank my friend and colleague from south dakota for making those points. i could not agree with you more. the constructive efforts on behalf of american agriculture on a region by region basis has been significant. yes we can do more, and that's
part of the purpose of the subcommittee hearing. the fact of the matter is that american agriculture does more with less as the numbers you have stated, i think, substantially -- substantiate. and yes we have challenges out there the fact is that nobody, i think, in so many different way, region by region basis, is trying to -- trying their very best to implement best on-site farm management practices that will ultimately produce results. but there's more obviously that we can and should do. as is the common courtesy of this subcommittee and other subcommittees, we always recognize when we hold these subcommittee hearings the chair and the ranking member of the full committee if in fact they are participating and they wish to make a comment. maintaining that tradition, my friend from pennsylvania, mr. thompson, is here this morning participating with us.
i would yield him time to -- an opportunity to make comments he may choose to make. mr. thompson: good morning. chairman, thank you so much. ranking member johnson. thank you both for this hearing. i want to align myself with the comments that have been made here. american agriculture from the very beginnings has always been science, technology and innovation. but that means we're not static. we are dynamic. and with incredible opportunities ahead, though it's always been science, technology, inknow vase, the rate of innovation today is happening exponentially. it's very exciting. very exciting for america and for -- certainly for our work together on the agriculture committee. i would also like to thank each of our witnesses for their participation today. as we heard previously, u.s. farm productivity and national practice have improved dramatically over the past 70
years. specifically productivity increased 287% while the inputs and land yaws have remained if not unchanged quit frankly less land, sadly, where we see acreage go out of agriculture production. in short wie producing much more food and fiber while using maybe the same amount but i would argue less resources than we did generations ago. i believes this something that isn't talked about enough. u.s. producers are the shining star when it comes to resiliency, sustainability and summarize that if you would prefer with the word climate. agriculture is the solution. it's not the problem. it's research and technology. just as they've done for the past 70 years, innovation and research has to remain at the fore front of these efforts moving forward. certainly at the forefront of our efforts as a committee. just as they have been for the
past 70 years, by those who, farmers, ranchers, foresters, innovation and research just incredible what -- it's so important as just an effective tool. from biotechnology promising live stock to precision agriculture, new cropping systems, support for development, adoptions, innovation, products and practices will be critical to ensuring farmers have the tools necessary to continue sustainability enhancing productivity. policies from washington should acknowledge agriculture's success and progress in sustainability, climate, economy. and build upon by it focusing on their efforts to voluntarily do more only by incentivizing pro growth solutions. that's why i introduced the sustains act which provides an opportunity for the private sector to partner with usca, to
further engage farmers and ranchers in supporting voluntary conservation initiatives. bipartisan solutions should revolve around a commitment to these proven programs, reducing bureaucratic red tip -- red tape and regulations. the opposite approach, burdensome top-down regulations and policies will harm rural economies while displacing u.s. production with that of less efficient foreign producers. i know that is something we all want to avoid. i certainly look forward to hearing from today's witnesses and learning more about their voluntary initiatives and thoughtful recommendations with that, mr. chairman, thank you so much for the opportunity and to be a part of this subcommittee hearing. i yield back. mr. costa: i thank the credit for his comments and i would like to request that members of the subcommittee submit their opening statements for the record so witnesses may begin
their testimony and so that we can ensure there's ample time for questions. as we have in some of the witnesses today before us have testified before and i'm trying to see if the witnesses have it available to them. it would be more help ffl they do. i can't -- i don't seem to have it on my screen. this new world we live in, virtual hearings, sometimes makes it complicated to participate. but there's five minutes time that is allotted for everyone's testimony. and of course members are allotted the same amount of time for their comments or questions that they wish to make when it comes their turn. so i'm pleaed to welcome our distinguished panel of witness here today as we have noted they bring a wide range of experience and expertise around the country.
on the issues of climate impacts and american agriculture so we thank you all for joining us. our first witness today is dr. kim stackhouse lawson. she has a ph.d. as the director of nextag and department of sciences at colorado state university in fort collins, colorado. one of america's premier universities and we're very pleased that dr. lawson -- stackhouse lawson, excuse me, that you're rabil today. i hope you have the screen available so you can see and that you can begin with your comments for five minutes and i'll try to be appropriate at the time that you're -- that your time is concluded. please begin your presentation.
ms. stackhouse-lawson: sustainability is defined using a three-pillar approach. no one pillar is more important. draw to the complexity and importance of animal agriculture systems we must consider interactions and solutions toward enhanced sustainability. by 2050, our planet's population will increase by 2.2 billion requiring increased food production. animal agriculture production will need to increase 100% to supply adequately for this grow grohing population. climate change will have a major
impact on the food supply chain. these changes will challenge and require improvements in the resiliency of farmers and ranchers and rural communities. there's no question that this will be the greatest challenge of our lifetime. providing this nutrition and doing so within the bounds of our planetary resources in an equitable way should be our focus. the critical nature and timeliness of ensuring security and doubling food production while also meeting sustainability goals is no small task. sustainability -- we must take a more inclusive and systematic approach to make sure we don't solve one problem and create other impacts. it is critical we develop solutions that are practical to adopt and economically viable. further complicating sustainability is the pace at which it is growing in importance. many leading companies and industries have announced aggressive sustainability goals including net zero targets by
2040 and 2050 that will have real and lasting impact os on the food system as we know it today. many governments including the u.s. have made similar commitments. while i appreciate the intention and miami um behind setting aggressive targets, the road maps to achieve these goals are elusive. more information is needed to inform these strategies. namely the development of appropriate baselines and real world solutions that result in tangible science-based outcome. this will allow the live stock industry, academia and policymakers to see how food production interacts with industry. it continues to actively explore how to measure, validate and continually improve livestock sustainability including reducing greenhouse gas emotions in a holistic and comp rehinsive ways. gases from live stock are difficult to measure and until the last decade, scientists
haven't have an effective meth to quantify greenhouse gas emissions. today they are based on models that use absolute emission data this is needed to fully understand mitigation potential. without a robust baseline farmers and ranchers and others along the supply chain lack and understanding of where to begin to reduce emissions which makes it difficult to determine if mitigation strategies are effective. an additional component of the research must focus on scalable solution that are profitable for producers to promote economic growth while ensuring the food system can produce the amount of nutrient dense foods required to meet the growing needs of the population over the coming decades to develop truly sustainable sloughs all stake holders need to be engaged in the process and this should include government entities. currently there's limited access
to funding grants and research in live stock systems. private investing in the space in sustainability is increasing and evolving faster than ever before. there's an opportunity to leverage these funds and this momentum as we work together to meet this challenge. while sustainability has become a major focus recently the livestock industry has been dead kayed to continuous improvement for several decades they feel majority of livestock production in the u.s. happens on farms and ranches where u.s. live stock operations are available to international consumers. pressure is being placed on farmers and ranchers without the appropriate tools they knead to be successful. as we move forward, as we move toward researching sustainable solutions, it is critical that these strategies generated are applicable to the appropriate rejond in which the operation is located and improve the overall
sustainability of the system. thank you for the opportunity to testify before this panel and i would be glad to address your questions and i look forward to the discussion. mr. costa: thank you, dr. stackhouse-lawson, for your comments and points. i think they're well taken. the ability to provide measurements that are understandable and solutions that can achieve those goals are critical toward our ability to manage this and your point about sufficient funding to do a lot of the research that is necessary is something that we should take into account as it relates to the next farm bill and some of the other efforts that are ongoing with legislation. i think your perspective really points out something i like to talk about regularly that i think makes the united states in some ways so different and other parts of the world and that's
our land grant university, our agriculture schools like yours, that have played an important role historically in terms of research that has allowed american agriculture over 100 years to really achieve levels of equality and production and best management practices that without that academic involvement i don't think would have been possible. so keep up the good work and our next witness today is a person in her family, roseie burroughs with the burroughs family farms, their grass-based products include almonds, beef, chicken, berries, eggs, sheep, olive oil, walnuts, birds and turkeys.
their farming and ranching efforts are like california, diverse, and therefore we're very proud of their efforts and ms. burroughs, please, you have five minutes to present to the committee. looking forward to hearing your comments. ms. burroughs: good morning, subcommittee chairman cost tark ranking member johnson, members of the subcommittee, and members of the full committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify before you about my family's farm and our experiences farming with regenerative practices. my husband ward and i farm with our children and their families in the rolling foothill os they have san joaquin valley in california and northern merced county and in oregon. we are carrying on the burroughs family farming legacy which spans over a century and over the last 20 years we have formed
partnerships with our children. thank you for mentioning all our products under the burroughs family farms marketing flagship. our nation's greatest resource is the rancher and the farmer families who are the stewards of our grasslands and farm lappedz and are devoted to producing our country's food and fiber. our future survival depends on how we handle clay mat change and the extreme weather patterns of drought and devastating storms which are symptomatic of the warming of our planet. it is extremely important that u.s. agriculture responds to these problems by adopting reyen rahtive agriculture practices. as we started our farming-ranching journey as conventional farmers we didn't know what we didn't know and we were part of the problem. around 40 years ago we discovered the holistic approach to ranching and farming and 20
years ago our path to organic ranching and farming using regenerative practices. we take a moment to explain reyen rahtive agriculture, it is a system of farming principles and practices that seek to regenerate and enhance the entire ecosystem of our farms and ranches by concentrating on building soil health which increases soil plant biodiversity and organic matter leading to more resilient soils that can better withstand climate change impacts like flooding and droughts. reyen rahtive prakties help us fight the climate crisis by pulling carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the ground. healthy soils lead to strong yields and nutrient dense rich crops. to do this on our farms we're
using these practices to build soil health. in till or minimum till. planting cover crops. keeping the soil covered with the diversity of plants for as long as possible. and we have integrated animal grazing on our range land, irrigated pastures and orchards when possible we use copper and manure for fertility. research conducted by cal state east bay in a comparative study including our reyen rahtive almond orchard showed regenerative orchards can have a 30% higher soil organic matter, greater carbon sequestration and soil health. six times higher water infiltration rates, six times higher insect biomass, and measurably greater soil might be robeall activity and similar yield. this is proof that reyen rahtive
ag practices will work to ensuring our farmers and ranchers continue their work by being sustainable and viable while protecting our environment. we are very proud to be part of the regeneral trative agriculture movement which has been gaining momentum but we need more support to continue forward in research and education. i am here today to implore this committee to support funding in the new farm bill for regenerative agriculture practices. in close, i have listed more information with links to my written testimony. we are hosting a farm day on february 17 and i'd really like you to take special attention to the center for regenerative agriculture and resilient systems at c.s.u. chico and the foundation, both excellent resources on current research
and education. thank you for the opportunity to testify and share my experiences about our family's farm and i hope and pray you will take the information in this to support the sustainability of life subsistence. mr. costa: we thank you very much for your firsthand experience and trying to ensure that your farming operations are as sustainable as they possibly can be and the experiences you've had to deal with, you and your family, in making those changes and adjustments. we look forward to further opportunity to question you. on your february 17 farm day, please get my office the information. i don't know that it's possible that i could be there but if it is, i would certainly like to see it firsthand. our next our next witness is an individual a lot i've known for a -- who i've known for a number
of years, farmed in my area. his family has been active in dairy in california for generations. he operates medeiros holsteins in california. he's also a member of the executive committee of the national milk producers federation. and he is now working on, i think, melvin, the third ar fourth -- or fourth generation in your family to maintain that involvement. but you don't farm the way your father did nor your grandfather. nor do i. and we look forward to your comments. please, begin. mr. medeiros: thank you, chairman costa and ranking member johnson. i want to share the dairy's industry perspective. my name is melvin medeiros. i've been dairying since 1981 on a farm started by my father. today, my wife, kelley, and i
own and operate medeiros holsteins, a 1,600-cow dairy operation in california. i'm proud that all three of our sons work with us. i am testifying before you today on behalf of the national milk producers federation, of which d.f.a. is a member cooperative and i serve on the executive committee. u.s. dairy farmers are environmental stewards. we tend with great care to our land and water to improve the resources on our farms to ensure future generations can carry on the important work. we've don'ted technologies that have evolved over time. by a 2007 producing a gallon of milk using 90% of the land, 60% less water, a smaller footprint than in 1944. more recently, research shows that producing a gallon of milk in 2017 requires 30% less water, 21% less land, 19% smaller
carbon footprint, and 20% let manure than in by -- 2007. d.f.a. is always working to identifying new, innovative ways to commit to a 30% reduction in emissions across the cooperative by 2030. from a 2018 baseline, more broadly, in 2009, u.s. dairy industry launched a national dairy farm program that demonstrates the u.s. dairy farmers are committed to producing the best milk with integrity. the farm programs provides a comprehensive climate, greenhouse emissions and energy use on dairy farms with resources for farmers to improve their footprint. today, organizations representing 99% of the u.s. milk volume participate in the farm program. overall, with almost 80% of the milk volume participating in environmental stewardship portion. farmers are always striving to produce more with less. focused on continuous improvements in that area as
part of the commitment to provide the world responsibly produced dairy foods. in 2020, the u.s. dairy sector set aggressive new environmental sustainability goals to become greenhouse neutral or better, improve water quality, optimize water usage by 2050. my cooperative is determined to do its part in the dairy industry and achieve these goals. to do this, the dairy industry will need to identify technological and other advancements to accelerate improvements. national milk and the industry's partners have mobilized through net zero initiative to do just that. however, sustained low milk prices have created many challenges for dairy producers. they're eager for policy improvements that will unlock additional revenue streams and make advanced environmental protection a source as a strength in dairy farms. to help them their ongoing leadership, they need your support. there are two broad areas to improving policy.
first, conservation programs must be instrumental in achieving sustainable goals, but we urge better programs toward manure and food management. emissions account for 1/3 of dairy greenhouse gas. for the foot print our key opportunity for progress and we support increasing program funding to keep and achieve these goals and grateful of members of both parties who put forth legislation to bolster conservation program. national milk spurs policies that adopt innovative technologies, practices. farmers seek digesters and to reduce emissions but lacks sustainable markets to for this energy produced on farm. similar, new animal feed additives significantly reduce emissions but current u.s. policy hinders timely approval and puts farmers at a disadvantage. to solve these problems, we support creating an incentive
tax credit to support digesters and we approve safe, effective animal feed ingredients. i want to say how critical sustainability is to remaining a competitive global supplier. more than 16% of u.s. milk production is exported. the u.s. dairy sector is well positioned to meet demands worldwide. our farmers have the lowest greenhouse footprint compared to others around the world. our competitors are continuously making investments, making their way of farming more sustainable. this type of support i have outlined today is needed to help us counter that. in conclusion, i want to note that the agriculture industry has been focused on sustainability for many generations. while we might have talked different, our goals have always been, leave the resources to our farms better for our children. your participation can help close these policy gaps and make further strides. so thank you for the opportunity to represent the dairy industry.
and i look forward to your questions. mr. costa: thank you, melvin. and your family and your comments. and we look forward to the opportunity to ask you some questions and get some veteran insight on challenges you're facing. our next witness is brackett family. brackett ranches in nevada, idaho border. lands where they graze cattle. and private lands owned by the family. they also have federal allotments owned by the federal government. and they manage and they partnership with federal agencies. they've had a long history and have been involved in the national cattlemen's beef board and the idaho cattle association. and have a long track record of experience and know what the challenges of the cattle industry faces. at this time i'd like to
recognize kim brackett for your comments and testimony and we look forward to hearing your thoughts. ms. brackett: thank you, chairman costa, ranking member johnson, and members of the subcommittee. my name is kim brackett and together with my husband ira and four children we manage brackett ranches which is a cow-calf operation on the nevada and idaho border. the lands where we graze our cattle are both private lands owned by my family and federal allotments owned by the federal government and mavengd in partnership with -- managed in partnership with federal agencies. i can tell you that we have a key industry objective to intensify efforts in researching, improving, and communicating u.s. beef industry sustainability. so i'm very happy to be here today to talk with you about that work. collectively, cattle producers in the united states manage livestock on approximately 815
million acres. that's neared 1/3 of our nation's continental land mass. in addition to providing grass for our cattle, pastures and rangeland provide important ecosystem services -- sequestering carbon in the soil, naturally filtering water, and improving wildlife and habitat. the beef cattle industry has a great sustainability story. this is proven by generations of successful production. according to the u.s. environmental protection agency, direct emissions from beef cattle only represent 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions. not only are these cattle not significant contributors to the full emissions profile, cattle and what cattle producers do help initiatives, like those from catastrophic wildfire and it makes land and drought more resilient. cattle ranchers are the original protectors of biodiversity. my family and our ranch are no
exception. one of the examples of this is that for us to get drinking water to our cattle in our country, we have an underground pipeline system that starts at the head of the mountain and goes across the desert. it is a prime example of the value of a holistic, systems-based approach to managing our ranch. that pipeline provides water for our cattle. it also brings drinking water to the wildlife and bird on our rangeland. by maintaining and expanding this pipeline system over the years, we have increased wildlife and bird habitat. thus, increasing biodiversity. another example of a sustainable program on our ranch is targeted grazing. when cattle are allowed to graze at the right time of year, it will reduce long-term spread of invasive annual grasses that can
be fueled for massive wildfires. preserving these large unbroken landscapes is critical for environmental health. when ranchers are regulated out of business, these vast lands are often divided and sold in small laker parcels. our industry came together last year to develop long-term sustainability goals. i'd like to share those with you. our industry has committed to, one, demonstrate the climate neutrality of u.s. cattle production by 2040. two, create and enhance opportunities that result in a quantifiable increase in producer and sustainability. three, enhance trust in cattle producers as responsible stewards of their animal and resources by expanding educational opportunities in animal care and handling programs to further improve animal well-being. and four, to continuously
improve our industry's workforce safety and well-being. our goals embrace the idea that sustainability is a three-legged stool. cattle operations and our industry must be environmentally sensitive, economically viable, and socially responsible in order to stay in business. every day, our industry loses vital grass lands to development for other nonagricultural uses. it is of the utmost importance that we preserve our legacy carbon feet across this country, especially our grazing lands. by creating private market value for ecosystem services, like wildlife habitat, water filtration and carbon sequestration, we can ensure that grassland managers are being compensated for all the services they provide. food production and conservation. congress also has an important role to play here by ensuring ranches can effectively be passed to the next generation and by working to protect cattle
producers from unaffordable regulatory burden. combating regulatory burden is necessary to maximize our industry's potential to reduce emissions. our family remains committed to remaining environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable for generations to come. thank you. mr. costa: thank you, ms. brackett, for your comments. and your illustration of how you've been able to manage your own family's livestock operation in a responsible way and your recommendations are well taken. i fail to note for members of the subcommittee and for our witnesses that we are being televised this morning today on c-span. so you can certainly let your constituents back home and those family members can see this being televised live throughout the country. our next witness, we have, is an
individual who in part closes i think the loop in our efforts to talk about the entirety of how we produce food, as i said, throughout the country on a regional basis that ultimately gets to america's dinner table. and clearly, as i said, food is a national security issue. and i get frustrated on occasion that sometimes too many americans think that their food comes from their grocery store, their favorite restaurant. not that that's bad. we obviously get our food from multiple sources. but it's important that we know ultimately the challenge of producing that food to our family's dinner table or to our favorite restaurant, which i think is a good lead on for our
next witness, mr. ernie meier. he chairs the u.s. roundtable for sustainable poultry and eggs. and director of quality systems for u.s. supply chain. part of mcdonald's u.s.a. chicago operations. and a person that i think can provide some meaningful testimony. we all deserve a break today. and mr. meier, if you can provide us with that effort, we'd certainly like to get your insight on where you see the challenges facing putting that -- making that food available for the american consumer. you may begin your testimony. mr. meier: thank you, chairman costa. hello. my name is ernie meier and i'm the director of quality, u.s. supply chain, for mcdonald's u.s.a. and i'm the current chair of the u.s. roundtable for sustainable poultry and eggs. which i'll refer to as the roundtable, or us-rspe going
forward. as a multistakeholder, independent, and norn profit organization, the roundtable was put together to represent the entire supply chain of u.s. poultry and egg industries. we're grateful for the invitation to speak with this subcommittee and share what we've learned facing the same issues you are -- as a subcommittee and as representatives. we currently have full-time membership commitments from almost 100 farms, organizations, and individuals with national and international business reach that include more than 500 individual experts. they range across all disciplines of our business from those that directly care for birds to companies like mcdonald's offering poultry and egg products to our end customers. each of these individuals is plugged into the roundtable and working on our shared goal to continuously improve the sustainability of u.s. poultry and egg supply chains. we believe that the most successful sustainable tools are created by both those implementing them and those
impacted by them. every member has an equal vote in our structure to allow optle ma collaboration and much is open to public input. we're driven by a diverse group by varying resources and sizes. for more than three years, farmers, integrators, researchers, grocery stores, animal health companies, environmental groups, equipment companies and restaurant chains have been actively working to build the connections and tools we need to help meet modern food system challenges and continuously improve our sustainability. our approach to sustainability is pragmatic and holistic. we work to identify solutions that are environmentally sound, socially responsible, and economically viable. what's unique about the roundtable is that we are a community and catalyst for progress. we are encouraging improvement by helping facilitate connections, providing access to expertise, and remove barriers to advancements without
ostracizing stakeholders. the most effective sustainability strategies are based on sound data and comprehensive, repeatable measurements. the roundtable and its members have invested their own significant time and resources into developing the first-ever full supply chain sustainability framework for u.s. chicken, turkey, and eggs. which i'll refer to going forward as the framework. we completed the development process in december last year and are in full speed to create the software tool to collect the data within this year. and there's a lot of data to collect. the scale and importance of poultry in the diet of americans and our world continues to grow. poultry is the most consumed protein due to its accessibility to all cultures, affordability in relation to its nutrition and ease for at-home cooking and quick service food. it's also a pillar for the food and agriculture industry, generating more than $576
billion in annual economic impact and $41.9 billion in taxes with more than two million workers employed by the poultry and egg supply chains. what shifted lately is the push up and down supply chain. it's not enough for us to have fantastic sustainability programs at mcdonald's and at our suppliers. we must have everything put together from the very beginning, from the feed for the birds and to the delivery of our food across the country. mcdonald's has taken learns from the roundtable and committed and invested millions of dollars to increase the sustainability of its poultry supply chain. one example of this is the roundtable partnership and the us-roundtable sustainability poultry and eggs sustainability framework. another project example is the smart broiler project focused on innovation in outcomes-based poultry welfare assessments. i share this with you to ensure that the poultry supply chain is
improving and communicating about their sustainability, not resisting it. in poultry, we are not divided by industry or discipline but have found a way to work together at a higher, precompetitive level to find the paths that work for everyone. mcdonald's is proud to be part of this rapidly growing organization and its projects and to speak with you about this work. from investing in renewable energy and partnering with organizations such as the roundtable to advance sustainability and regenerative agriculture practices, we also want to help protect our planet for communities today and in the future. your efforts to secure funding and direction that provide resources to the number one most consumed protein in the united states will be put to good use and amplified by independent efforts like those of the u.s. roundtable for sustainable poultry and eggs. i'll do my best to entertain questions you have. i have specific areas i can speak to in my position and experience. i will take any questions i cannot answer back to the roundtable and tap into our
community of experts for more information. thank you for your time and interest in the u.s. poultry and egg sector. mr. costa: well, thank you very much, mr. meier, for providing that perspective of the egg and poultry section. and the issue of sustainability, which is obviously the subject matter of our hearing today. and environmental gain and economic viability. you did reference on a number of your comments the supply chain challenges we face. while it's not the subject matter of today's hearing, we have all been dealing over the last 20-plus months of this pandemic of the impacts, especially early on when we close schools and restaurants and really taking a very complicated supply chain for america's food and turning it upside down. certainly, there's been lessons to learn from that.
but we're now in the phase of the subcommittee hearing that i enjoy where members of the committee get a chance to ask questions or make comments to the various witnesses we've had here this morning and you've all done an excellent job. i want to thank each of you for your testimony this morning. so as by tradition, we will recognize members in the order that they have come to participate with the committee and committee staff as a list of all of you who are very patient in listening and waiting for your opportunity to ask questions to make comments. i will begin as the chair with recognizing myself for five minutes. and then refer to the ranking member for his five minutes and then we'll alternate, as is tradition, democrat, republican, democrat, republican, until all
members of the subcommittee have had an opportunity and the full committee that are participating to exercise the time available to them. as i mentioned previously, climate change, obviously, impacts not only regions of our country but regions of the world. given weather patterns and geography. so we continue to learn more each day on how we mitigate the impacts of these climate change. my first question is to mr. medeiros. as a producer, you, as noted, are stewards of the land. you and your family. and you've made many changes in terms of your dairy operation. what usda tools or programs do you think have been most critical in helping you accomplish these goals in reducing greenhouse gases and nitrate issues with your water,
and how can we improve those efforts in next year's farm bill? mr. medeiros: great question, jim. and i'm going to go back in history a little bit. i was actually -- 2005, i'd plied for -- applied for nrcs grant. and put together one of the first nutrient programs on my dairy at that time. i was one of the first daries to do that. you -- dairie, s -- dairies to do that. through that program i was able to implement a nutrient management program and started to see the benefits of being able to move manure more efficiently across my farm. and able to capture those benefits on my farm from a methane re -- reducing my methane output and being able to use that nutrient management program on my crops and better utilize that.
so, you know, funding through nrcs equip programs, those are all extremely valuable tools for producers today. you know, and going forward, you know, we need that funding to continue because, y test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. test. manure management and through technology. we figured out there are ways we can move manure, separate manure and apply manure so much more efficient today and utilize those benefits on our farms. and with collaborating with nrcs and the equip programs, those give us the resources so we can do it on a volunteer basis and address all the climate changes. mr. costa: i have to come out and see some of the changes you made there. let's try to schedule that soon. ms. burroughs, you talked >> i'm going to have to come out
and see some of the changes you made. let's try to schedule that soon. miss burrows, you talked about being on the front line of farmers in sustainable practices that made your farm more resilient. how do you think they can be scaled up on a larger basis as we look at next year's farm bill? you are muted here, rosie. >> thank you. before i answer your question, i wanted to first compliment all the others that have testified and thank them for the wonderful comments. we have been a ranching family for over a century as well. in terms of all the different programs that are available and the practices that we are using, they are all part of the
solution. but the first thing that has to happen is education. so research and education are the most important things to have these practices work throughout the nation. it isn't a cookie cutter. what works in one particular area may not work in another. but these practices can be implemented across the nation. i think the one thing that has to change is our paradigm of feeding cows. our cows, both dairy and beef, are grazers. i believe that god created the symbiotic relationship between cows, grass and the sun. i think that depending on what your certain farm or ranch is, every one of these practices that we talked about can all be
implemented. and it's through education. >> we appreciate that. finally, dr. stackhouse-lawson, you talked in your testimony about trying to develop ways to more accurately measure issues of emissions and develop strategies that can achieve goals of reducing those emissions. how do you think we best fund that effort in quantifying our data in ways that are meaningful as we try to improve our impact as it relates to emissions? and what is your university and other universities doing together? i think we need to be combining resources, frankly, as we try to achieve these goals? >> yeah. absolutely. so i think when we really think about measuring greenhouse gases from these systems and actually
trying to quantify the gas, it's really complicated. right? so we know that methane is produced. they belch that. we know based on different diets the animals have different amounts of the gas that they will emit, if we measure that on a dry matter intake the basis. but the challenge that we have had as scientists is that our methods that we use to measure these things, up until very recently, we will to put animals in chambers or their heads in respiration chambers. use very tame animals. we would sort of encapsulate their heads so we could understand the emissions or put them in whole animal chambers. when we do that, it changes the animal's behavior and their desire to eat.
they continue to eat. but they are not eating as much. so we believe that a more accurate representation of what the animal is actually emitting in their production environment is very important. the other thing we don't understand is, how does that change? right? how is it different on kim's ranch in the forages that she has available in idaho versus what rosie has and the forages that her grazing animals are consuming? generally, we think that there may even be differences. so the levers that kim may be able to pull on racket ranch to reduce emissions may be different than the levers that rosie can pull reasonably. we need to understand the baseline emissions but how
solutions can be applied that is place based. we heard that over and over and over. one size fits all doesn't work in animal agriculture systems. how do we balance? there's a good point. how do we balance knowing everything that we possibly can, because that's not reasonable -- that's an unreasonable expectation -- with the amount of knowledge that we need to move forward with the most appropriate strategies? rtnershi institutions that have complementary facilities. different facilities to ours. one example would be we are setting up a green feed platform where we'll have six green feeds and what we'll call climate smart pens but we're partnering with texas tech, for example, who has the head box chambers or we might partner with davis who have the full animal chamber approach. i do believe we need to be very smart and not duplicating, right, these very precious
resources and really work together to develop. mr. costa: i think your comments are well taken. my time has more than expired. you i wanted to make sure we get the academic perspective in here. i really do believe as we look toured, you know, money is always a challenge as we try to provide ample resources but that we combine our research efforts in ways that makes sense through the academic -- incredible academic resource we have in this country on a regional basis without further ado, my friend and ranking member of the subcommittee, dusty johnson, it's your opportunity here with your five minutes. look forward to hearing your questions and comments. mr. johnson: thank you,
mr. chairman. and just great witnesses. i mean, really, really a topnotch panel. you can tell how much they agree on. these are happy, optimistic solutions focused people who want to make the world a better place. they have done a great job. i'll start with dr. stackhouse-lawson and we'll go to ms. brackett to a similar set of questions. i thought your testimony, doctor, talking about the progress we made as well as some of the ambitious proactive goals our country has on a go forward basis. and we want to feed the world. we want to do so sustainably. and that kind of a landscape, it seems we should be doing everything we can to have american producers feed even
more of the world because we do it better. we do it more sustainably. i feel like so often these producers have a target on their back rather than being viewed as the solution. just sort of your reactions about that. dr. stackhouse-lawson: i think one of the things that i didn't mention in the testimony that is really important is that sustainability is certainly tripled approach, environmental, social, and economic. and we need to take that into account if we're thinking about nutrition globally. but the other thing that i didn't mention that sustainability has is an emotional element. when people think about the way that they define sustainability and what may be most important to them, emotions play a role in that. some of the perceptions that exist around our production systems today are challenging. and in some ways it's in line with the science is that we -- with the science that we know and some ways they don't. i think, representative johnson, it is a -- it's very challenging. i think our farmers and ranchers should be commended for the incredible work that they have done. but this sort of target on their back, unfortunately, oftentimes
makes it difficult for, i think, all of the great minds that we have that could come together to really identify collaborative solutions moving forward. and i very much agree with you that those collaborative solutions are necessary and that our farmers and ranchers should be part of those conversations because at the end of the day, they're the boots on the ground that will mitigate the impact. mr. johnson: and so tell me if i'm looking at this too simplistically. because sometimes elected officials do that, right? if we really care about -- i think so many people are thinking that producers need to do less, right? we need fewer that type of that production or less of that production. when in reality we care about sustainability and really effective solution would be to ask the american producers to do even more to help feed the world. dr. stackhouse-lawson: right. and i think i think we will get there. you described some of the technology on precision ranching technologies. i'm equally excited about that
technology. could we actually with a phone app move cattle to a place on the ranch at the right time the forage is growing and optimize the landscape and nutrition and also minimize that impact? because you could move them off potentially during -- if there's perhaps a migrant bird that needs to nest in that particular environment. so our ability to move virtual fences without actually building fence is -- i mean, it's phenomenal. and the opportunity to get even more utilization off of landscape but actually enhance the landscape i think is very real. i think technology is only going to enhance that for us. i think at the same time we have to be very cognizant of the fact that measurements to continually benchmark ourself and then
document improvement will continue to be important. mr. johnson: thanks, doc. i have 50 seconds left. ms. brackett, it is yours. any observations? ms. brackett: i would concur with what dr. stackhouse-lawson just said. i think to add on to that, i would going to your comments about the efficiency of the u.s. beef system. cattle are upcyclers. people don't recognize that most cattle ranches exist on land that's considered marginal. it can't grow crop for human consumption. so cattle can go in there and graze that grass that's not human edible and they convert that into highly nutritious form of protein for our fellow americans. i think that's really important. the other thing when we talk about cattle diet, they also consume a lot of our human food waste that would otherwise go into a landfill. they are definitely upcyclers. in several segments of our industry. mr. johnson: well said. thank you, mr. chairman. and i yield back.
mr. costa: i thank the gentleman always for his good questions and upcyclers, i like that term, ms. brackett. i have to remember that. it's not one that i've used. but our next member to be recognized is the gentlewoman from virginia, my friend, ms. abigail spanberger. you're recognized. ms. spanberger: thank you, chairman costa. thank you, chairman costa. i am so thrilled we're having this hear on livestock and conservation today. i am the chairwoman of the conservation and forestry subcommittee and i know that our producers across the country and particularly in virginia are really the original conservationists. i'm also very excited about today's hearing because of the large presence of livestock producers in virginia, many of whom are actively engaged in usda conservation programs. in december, i was proud to host usda leaders in orange county, virginia, in my district, to meet with virginia livestock
producers and i heard directly from cattlemen and small processors about their most pressing needs. they discussed the recently announced usda investment that will help keep america's cattlemen and their families competitive in a global ag economy and it was a really wonderful, wonderful way to focus on these programs and the value that they have to our producers. one way our producers stay competitive is by bringing conservation practices into their day-to-day operations. that's why i'm proud to cosponsor the bipartisan growing climate solutions act with my colleague, congressman bacon. it touches on nearly every sector of agriculture, including livestock production. and this legislation would help virginia cattle and poultry producers receive additional revenue sources for the climate smart practices that they are already embracing. the bill is supported by nearly major every farm group. many major environmental groups. and several fortune 500 companies because it makes sense.
notably, the bill passed the united states senate with 92 senators voting in favor of it. and it continues to stun me that the house of representatives has failed to act on a bill that gashers so much support. we don't see that every day. -- garners so much support. we don't see that every day. and we should pass it in our chamber. it is crucial for the farmers, the rural communities, and the health of our planet, particularly the farmers and producers in virginia who are advocating for it. it's certainly long past time. so thank you for allowing me that moment. but mr. medeiros, i have a question about your testimony, because you mentioned that current usda programs don't focus enough on manure and feed management and that's a key area of opportunity and the sustainability question related to dairy production. i heard they have strong expertise on conservation, we need more related to livestock. could you perhaps share your experience and what you've experienced and provide us with any sort of feedback on what that looks like from your
perspective? mr. medeiros: sure. you know, dr. stackhouse talked a little bit about different feeds and knowing how that would react to the different feeds and what is actually emitting. in the dairy sector out here in california, we feed about 40% of our rations are byproducts. you know, and through those byproducts, we really don't know how much emission reductions we're getting through those byproducts. so the question is still out there. and at u.c.-davis there's been a lot of studies on oil-based additives, plant-based additives and how that's working on reducing emissions. we need more funding to go in that category. we need less restrictions from f.d.a. when they take a look at those additives because they're looking at that as an antibiotic and having to go through that
process is cumbersome, it takes a long time. time is of the essence, right? and some of that stuff, we need to streamline that process. ms. spanberger: and some antibiotics are natural plant-based, isn't that correct? mr. medeiros: absolutely. absolutely. they're either oil-based or plant-based. a lot of them is seaweed. when we take a look at these options, we need to streamline that process and we need to put more funding towards that. because companies, when they start taking a look at the process, they're not willing to invest, right? it's taking too long, it's too expensive. those are the avenues. we have to remember 45% of emissions comeling coming from a cow is enteric, and we have to remember, especially in the dairy sector, not everybody's going to be able to put a digester and if we can target 45% of that emissions on
the enteric basis, that's extremely valuable. ms. spanberger: thank you. you talked about the digester. my bill would include agricultural producer cooperatives that want to meet the high demand for the program by increasing the available cost share, particularly as it relates to digesters. i'm running out of time but i will be following up with questions for dr. stackhouse-lawson related to the program and what additional access might look like. particularly for livestock producers and our dairy industry. so thank you so much, mr. chairman, for this fantastic hearing. and thank you to all of our witnesses for your work and the knowledge you brought to us today. mr. costa: well, thank you very much, representative spanberger, and your focus with your own subcommittee and how we can collaborate together with efforts on conservation and we look toward next year's farm bill is critical for all of us in terms of looking at america's livestock industry to achieve even better results.
so our next witness is ranking member of the full committee. i introduced him once before so i don't think i need to introduce him again. my friend, representative thompson from pennsylvania. you need to un mic, g.t. mr. thompson: thank you for assembling just a tremendous panel on this topic. just outstanding. i could listen to these folks all day long. this is these are the types of voices we need to have as we prepare for the 2023 farm bill. in this space of sustainability climate, while many private companies made major climate commitments, they're struggling to find ways to achieve their goals. and i think to achieve their goals in truly meaningful ways that are effective with in line with their goal.
despite having significant financial resources. simultaneously, usda conservation programs and i -- conservation programs -- and i would would put our agriculture committee at the forefront of that, because we have authorized what it is at usda in the conservation space, specifically. those conservation programs are oversubscribed and agriculture producers have difficulty accessing these vital programs. so for these reasons, i introduced the sustains act, which would allow usda to accept and match donated private funds to stretch the federal dollar. the idea is that the third parties could really be able to demonstrate their climate credentials. they can be climate champions by -- when they directly partner with usda to fund conservation programs, more conservation projects, and expand those through the existing programs.
i think in terms of land-based solutions, we see the documentation shows overall our farmers, ranchers, foresters, sequester 4.1 gigatons greenhouse gas emissions. the research goes to show that there's a -- that is plus a little over 10% which shows our farmers, ranchers, foresters are climate heroes but we can do better because we know that there's new innovations because agriculture -- american agriculture is science and technology innovation. i want to start with mr. meier or whoever would like to respond. i'm curious. do you see a value in a concept where we form a public-private partnership for those organizations of all sizes, not just large corporations but small mom and pop businesses that would like to become -- get their climate champion
credentials, could, you know, help us fund additional conservation programs, do you see any value in that concept and we'd appreciate your concepts? ms. burroughs: this is rosie burroughs. this is an outstanding idea. we need all hands on deck working to solve our problems. so any and everything, working towards the good of our -- and i'd like to change it to not just sustainability but to viability. and it's about the health of our planet. thank you. mr. thompson: thank you. any other thoughts on that type of approach of public-private approach with our conservation programs that we may have through the usda? mr. meier: i think the legislation could be helpful but one thing to keep in mind is that the programs are built for producers. so that means the underlying usda conservation programs must
be accessible to poultry producers and provide the environmental performance to drive results towards goals per dollar invested and we're supportive of those practices and technologies. mr. thompson: i agree with you. i mean, we need to look at the programs so that all of our producers are benefitting. whether we're talking crops, trees, our livestock. it all has something to offer, right, tremendous forces for good for the economy and the environment. dr. stackhouse-lawson: i love the notion of this public-private partnership idea. i truly believe that's where our solutions are going to come and those tangible outcomes are going to be made available. if i could provide a few things you could add. the ability to actually measure the outcome we have achieved would be powerful.
if we have these climate champions and they could say they reduced x amount of tons or they've helped sequester x amount of tons, i think that would be really helpful for a lot of these more corporate strategies. the other thing i might encourage, it's certainly climate -- i love the name of climate champion. it might be really interesting to also measure the improvements in water holding capacity. so it will help more broadly. and even biodiversity in the soil. i think as we begin to help and -- help soil health and we see these phenomenal wins, win, wins, i think that's where value lies as well. mr. thompson: absolutely. thank you to the panel. and chairman, thank you for convening this. and i yield back. mr. costa: you're welcome. the gentleman is always appreciated with his appreciation.
-- participation. dr. stackhouse-lawson, we appreciate your enthusiasm. we need more of that. i hope it spreads to -- i know many of the members' subcommittees are expressing their enthusiasm as it relates to today's hearing. the next representative, my friend from connecticut, who is very focused on these issues, representative hayes. please, you have five minutes. mrs. hayes: thank you, chairman costa. and thank you for having this hearing today. connecticut's fifth district is a hotbed of sustainable livestock farming. there are countless farmers that -- from my district that operate small family dairy farms with a focus on sustainable and organic agriculture. one example is a farm, a diverse, direct market farm and educational program in falls village, connecticut. it is part of a national organization which advocates for agricultural and environmentally
sustainability in connection with the jewish faith. and then there's another farm, a fourth generation, 1,100-cow dairy farm which makes sustainability center of their practices by composting manure and reselling it as organic fertilizer to the local community. the owner of laurel brook is christian. he's the chairman of the dairy cooperative and extremely active in the connecticut dairy community. in connecticut, rather than treating sustainability as an afterthought, our farmers know that good stewardship over our land and environment must be central to all agricultural practices. however, connecticut family farms are struggling. consolidation in the dairy industry has hit us hard, leaving connecticut with fewer than 100 remaining dairy farms, having lost nearly 200 in the past decade. my questions today are for ms. burroughs.
given that you run a diversified sustainable farm similar to those in my district, can you share details about the effect of consolidation on the uptick of sustainable practices throughout the livestock sector? specifically, what are the implications that larger operations pose for the adoption of sustainability measure? ms. burroughs: thank you, representative hayes, for the question. it is -- i think it's the key to our future to have the ranchers and farmers and grazers that are able to utilize their farms and ranches in a way that protects the environment and brings health to the planet. there are more microbes in one teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the planet. and these microbes, with the symbiotic relationship between animal grazing and the land,
they create the water infiltration system that replenishes the aquifers when it does rain. and when we lose a farmer to his farm or land because of consolidation or because of efficiency in bigger, more corporate type of farms, we've lost our farms and ranchers forever. they will not ever get an opportunity to come back. we ourselves have had two grass-based organic dairies, and they were the premiere grazing dairies that worked beautifully and we can show you all the research and the good things about it. but the economic -- and i like what kim said. the economic viability did not work because we do not have an equal playing field when the n.o.p. has not enforced pasture
rule uniformly across the nation. and congress has directed the n.o.p. to publish the final rule on origin of livestock, but the n.o.p. has not done that. so number one, we need an equal playing field so that those of us that are using grazing practices can be rewarded by the consumers who support and businesses that support our type of farming that is bringing benefits to the planet and health to all people. from the birds in the air to the microbes in the soil. thank you. mrs. hayes: thank you, ms. burroughs. i'm smiling because my next question is how would finalizing the n.o.p. help organic farmers avoid similar things that you experienced in your organic farms and you led right into it because it's all connected. exactly what you have just talked about is what i'm hearing from small farmers in connecticut. our landscape in my district is
just outlined and created by the farmers. their investments in the communities. what they do for neighbors, for our schools, our agriscience programs and it would be devastating for connecticut's fifth district for these farmers not be sustainable and for us to continue to lose at the rate we've been losing. so thank you so much for your work in this area. and for your very thoughtful comments. mr. chair, that's all i have. i yield back. mr. costa: i thank the gentlewoman from connecticut for your comments and your insight. our next member is the gentleman >> thank the gentle woman from connecticut for your comments and insight. our next is the gentleman from indiana who represents the fourth congressional district, i believe. good to have you involved, my friend.
>> thank you, mr. chairman and ranking member. i really want to add my appreciation to all the witnesses here today. the expertise they bring to this committee is really beneficial to our ability to make decisions as we talk about the farm bill. we have heard several people mention not only the witnesses but many members talk about the significant improvement agriculture has made in almost 50 years, 70 years of 287% increase with very little change in the kinds of inputs that we put into agriculture. so i'm really glad we are giving farmers and ranchers the credit they deserve for all the conservation efforts and the things that are important toe maintaining our environment. the things -- there's many things i would love to talk about likel