Stabenow opening statement at hearing to consider USDA, Farm Credit Administration nominees
November 9, 2017
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at the nomination hearing to consider Glen Smith to be a Member of the Farm Credit Administration Board, and Stephen Vaden to be General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Stabenow's statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
I am pleased to be here to consider the final two nominees pending before our committee.
Mr. Vaden and Mr. Smith, congratulations to both of you, and welcome to your families here today.
Considering presidential nominations is a key responsibility of the Senate – and one that this committee takes very seriously.
This committee has worked hard to move nine USDA and CFTC nominees this year in an efficient and bipartisan manner.
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I am glad to see two more nominees before us today.
Mr. Vaden, being the top lawyer at one of the largest federal departments is a very important job.
If confirmed as general counsel, your work will touch every corner of USDA – from advising the secretary, to enforcing civil rights and workplace protections for nearly 100,000 employees across the department.
You will oversee the implementation of rules that protect our farmers and families. Additionally, it will be up to you to ensure that USDA's own rulemaking is fair and transparent.
Mr. Vaden, you have been a senior leader at USDA since Inauguration Day. Today, I look forward to learning more about your role over the past 10 months.
I also have a few questions about your previous work as an associate at a law firm handling voting access cases, which I hope you can address today.
Overall, I'm interested in hearing about your experience, qualifications, and vision for this important position.
Mr. Smith, while we have considered several USDA nominees this congress, you are the first nominee before us for the Farm Credit Administration.
Throughout this year, I have underscored the importance of having qualified and dedicated leaders to serve our farmers and ranchers across the government – and the Farm Credit Administration is no exception.
The Farm Credit System ensures that rural communities and agricultural producers of all types and sizes have reliable access to credit.
This is especially pressing given the recent slowdown in the farm economy and devastating natural disasters.
We also know that new and beginning farmers face unique challenges in accessing capital as they look to start a career on the farm.
In my home state of Michigan, Greenstone Farm Credit provides more than $6 billion dollars in loans to producers, including more than 17,000 small, new or beginning farmers.
Now more than ever, it is critical that our farmers and rural communities have a dependable source of credit they can count on.
I am very proud of how this committee has worked together to consider qualified leaders as quickly as possible.
These gentlemen are the last nominees pending before our committee.
In order for us to continue to fill vacant leadership positions, we need the administration to nominate qualified candidates to the senate.
As of now, we are still waiting to receive nominees for almost half of the senate-confirmed positions at USDA.
I urge the Trump Administration to nominate experienced and qualified people for these roles as soon as possible, so we can ensure the department is running at 100 percent.
Our farmers, ranchers and rural communities deserve no less.