Roberts ends tenure with hearing on ag research, food security
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., presided Wednesday over a hearing on agricultural research and food security that is likely to be his last before his retirement.
During the hearing, many committee members as well as the witnesses praised Roberts’ tenure on the House and Senate agriculture committees. Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., presented Roberts with a set of photos and a gavel.
“While we will deeply miss your leadership, wit, and determination on the dais, you will always be watching over us through your newly unveiled portrait in our committee hearing room,” Stabenow said. “From showing you around Michigan to marking up our bipartisan farm bill, it’s been an honor to be your partner on this committee and your friend. Looking back on all we have accomplished together, I know your legacy will live on through the words you’ve written into law and the relationships you’ve built to carry on your work. In recognition of all your dedication and hard work, the committee presents you with the chairman’s gavel.”
In his opening remarks, Roberts said that during his tenure on the House and Senate committees, “We have provided certainty and predictability by transitioning to a market-oriented farm policy. We have also fostered continuous improvement in research, science, and new technologies such as biotechnology.”
He noted that in fiscal year 1981, “when I began my service in the House, $1.4 billion in public funding was provided for U.S. agriculture research. By 2015, that annual investment more than tripled to more than $4.5 billion. Even more impressive, private sector investment in food and agriculture research rose over 660% over that same period — from $1.6 billion to more than $12 billion per year.”
Roberts added, “There is still a great deal to do. We must take a fresh look at what agricultural security means in terms of the defense of the agriculture sector and our food supply.”
Dan Glickman, a former agriculture secretary and House member who represented the Wichita area, testified that exactly 51 years ago, Wednesday, Dec. 2-4, 1969, “President Nixon hosted the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, a seminal event bringing leaders from the public private sector to discuss ideas on how to improve nutrition in America.” That conference led Congress to create many of the federal food and nutrition programs, Glickman added.
Glickman highlighted the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which was authorized by Congress in 2014 with the specific “parentage” of Roberts and Stabenow as an “important out-of-the box public-private sector model to enhance food and agriculture research, very much like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.” He also said that “the Feed the Future initiative, coupled with sustained U.S. financial assistance to the World Food Programme, has continued to be transformational in feeding a hungry world during these turbulent times.”
Glickman said he hopes the committee “will continue to provide the leadership, in collaboration with the Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees, and the White House, to maintain and even increase support for global humanitarian efforts and the necessary research to support those efforts.”
Amy France, who farms near Marienthal, Kan., alongside her husband, Clint, testified “sorghum producers have seen how investments in not just cutting-edge, but bleeding-edge science, where academics and industry are incentivized to collaborate and develop market-based solutions, can result in significant leaps forward.”
Stephen Higgs of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University testified about threats to the U.S. food supply.
Steven Rosenzweig, a senior agricultural scientist at General Mills in Minnesota, testified that more research is needed in regenerative agriculture, agricultural resilience and ecosystem service markets.
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