WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the hearing to consider of the nominations of Basil Gooden to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Summer K. Mersinger to serve as a Commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Good morning. Today we meet to hear from Dr. Basil Gooden, President Biden’s nominee to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, and the Honorable Summer Mersinger, who has been renominated as a CFTC Commissioner. I want to thank you both for meeting with us today.
As the son of a farmer, with roots in rural Buckingham County, Virginia, Dr. Gooden possesses a passion for rural communities that has underpinned his distinguished career.
When he and I spoke earlier this week in my office, he told me a story of his father dropping him off as a freshman at Virginia Tech and telling him not to return home to the farm. Instead, his father recommended he go where the jobs and opportunity exist. It is understandable that comments like these would hit hard for a young man leaving home for the first time.
Dr. Gooden draws upon these experiences in his current role as Director of State Rural Development Operations at USDA.
Throughout his career, Dr. Gooden has shown a willingness to work across party lines in the state of Virginia, having served under both Republican and Democrat governors, most notably as the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the State of Virginia.
If confirmed, Dr. Gooden will be charged with the critical mission of improving the economy and quality of life in rural America through three agencies: the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Housing Service and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
Much of rural America lacks basic necessities such as clean drinking water, sanitation, broadband, healthcare and childcare, among others.
Over the last decade, population decline has hit rural communities hard, compounding the difficulty of ensuring access to many of these necessary services. As residents leave for urban and suburban areas, municipalities lose access to tax dollars needed to improve water and electric infrastructure. Cooperatives are asked to do more with less, while maintaining affordable rates.
Dr. Gooden, I trust you will draw upon your previous experiences and familiarity with rural Virginia to represent rural Americans well and work tirelessly to advance their interests.
Turning to Commissioner Mersinger, she has served as a CFTC Commissioner since 2022, and before that served in other roles at the agency. That experience, along with her agricultural background, makes her especially qualified for this role. I especially enjoyed her visit to Arkansas last year, where she got to meet with various Arkansas agriculture stakeholders.
Through a pragmatic, principles-based approach, the CFTC has built and implemented constructive, workable regulatory frameworks for markets to function efficiently. Derivatives contracts serve as resilient risk management tools because the CFTC implements comprehensive rules, diligently polices the cash and derivative commodity markets, and protects market participants.
As sponsor of the CFTC’s Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee, Commissioner Mersinger has championed resiliency of agricultural and energy markets, which are essential risk management and price discovery tools for those who feed and clothe us, and who provide reliable energy sources necessary to power our daily lives.
Commissioner Mersinger has also led the call for regulators to deliver clear guidance in a timely manner, in order to reduce risk. I’ve appreciated your perspective on “no-action relief” and your recognition that while no-action relief is a good thing, extending it over and over again without fixing a broken rule creates risk and uncertainty.
I applaud Commissioner Mersinger for calling to codify repeatedly extended no-action relief, which will ultimately reduce uncertainty. I also hope that when the agency is going to extend no-action relief, it makes that decision sooner rather than later. Waiting until the last-minute to extend relief leaves market participants guessing and creates risk, especially in times of volatility.
Finally, Commissioner Mersinger has also appropriately recognized the global nature of derivatives markets and the importance of open markets. She appreciates that barriers to market access reduce liquidity, increase hedging costs, and weaken market resiliency.
Commissioner Mersinger is a champion for agriculture end-users and ensuring the derivatives markets continue to serve as a viable risk management tool for this important constituency. I look forward to supporting her nomination.
In closing, I am glad we can hold this hearing today and I look forward to getting you two confirmed soon.
With that, I yield back.
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the “Innovation in American Agriculture: Leveraging Technology and Artificial Intelligence" hearing.
Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing to examine the current and potential uses of artificial intelligence in U.S. agriculture.
We have a panel of experts before us who are able to discuss and educate this committee on the potential of this technology within agricultural industry. Thank you all for being here, I look forward to learning from you all.
While agriculture faces many challenges, there are also tremendous opportunities on the horizon. I am excited to explore some of those opportunities here today.
AI powered technology takes many forms across agriculture – making it difficult to pinpoint just one definition. Diverse uses such as monitoring of livestock for disease detection or climate monitoring to mitigate the chance and impacts of wildfire are just the starting point.
Precision agriculture powered by artificial intelligence holds promise for American agriculture. From targeted fertilizer and pesticide applications guided by dozens of high-resolution cameras to irrigation systems that can sense the source of leaks before crop losses. AI has the potential to dramatically increase efficiency, and minimize waste, resulting in improved yields and profitability.
AI also has a role to play in our food supply chain.
In 2023, researchers at the University of Arkansas were awarded a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to establish the Center for Scalable and Intelligent Automation in Poultry Processing.
This center will study ways to increase use of AI and robotics in poultry processing to reduce waste and detect pathogens. This technology may be a useful tool for processing plant employees to achieve consistency in the specifications of products while also mitigating the threats posed by pathogens and making our food supply even safer.
However, while AI holds great potential, we should ask tough questions about the potential risks.
New regulations may be needed to ensure that consumers are kept safe, especially when it comes to the use of applications that handle sensitive data.
For decades, the United States has led the world in innovation. One third of the $5 trillion global information technology market in 2022 was located in the U.S. Since the beginning of the technological revolution, America exercised a light-touch approach toward regulating this budding industry while others like Europe took a different approach. We must determine if that approach is appropriate when it comes to regulating AI and it’s uses in agriculture.
Before concluding, I would like to discuss the pending farm bill extension.
Text was unveiled this weekend outlining the agreement among Chairwoman Stabenow, myself, and our colleagues leading the House Agriculture Committee. We have agreed to provide a 1-year extension of the 2018 farm bill and to maintain funding for the orphan programs.
I want to thank Chairwoman Stabenow for her leadership and partnership to provide certainty to our farmers and ranchers, so they can go about running their businesses as we continue our work to reauthorize the farm bill.
It is more important than ever to pass a farm bill that reflects the needs and challenges of today and gives certainty to those responsible for producing the food and fiber that feeds and clothes the world.
We owe it to them to get this farm bill done right.
In closing, I am encouraged by the work of my colleagues on this committee to explore risks and regulatory remedies needed to protect Americans from potential risks posed by AI while also encouraging innovation to thrive.
Before, I end my remarks I wanted to recognize a member of Senator Ernst’s staff. Steph Carlson, who serves as the deputy legislative director and ag advisor to Senator Ernst. Steph is returning to her home state of Iowa to be closer to family and to work for the National Pork Producers Council. I was fortunate to spend some time with Steph this spring during my visit to Iowa. There is no question that Steph is committed to helping Iowa’s farm families. I appreciate her contribution to the work of this committee and wish her the best.
Thank you again, Madam Chair, and I look forward to today’s discussion.
Ranking Member Boozman Opening Statement at Senate Ag Hearing on Foreign Ownership in U.S. Agriculture
Sep 27 2023
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, delivered the following remarks at the hearing on foreign ownership in U.S. agriculture.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for convening this hearing.
We’ve traveled the country, we’ve held hearings in Washington, listening to farmers and ranchers discuss their priorities for the upcoming farm bill, this topic has been brought to the committee’s attention on numerous occasions. I have been asked many times for my thoughts on this matter and my answer has always been that we need to better understand the problem before we can provide a solution. Today’s hearing is a good first step in bringing more information to the discussion. My hope is that at the end of today’s hearing we will have a clearer picture of the scope and scale of the issues foreign ownership of US farmland poses to our country. So, thank you Madam Chair for working with us to get this hearing scheduled.
Many of our Senate colleagues, on and off the committee, have given considerable thought to the issues of foreign land ownership. We will have the opportunity to hear from many of them this morning and I look forward to hearing about what their states are experiencing and how they believe we should address their concerns.
As we move this discussion forward and consider various proposals, there are several considerations and questions that I would urge my colleagues to keep in mind. First, whatever we do, we must respect and protect the private property rights of U.S. citizens. Second, land use issues have historically been decided at the state and local levels. Are state laws sufficient to address the issues posed by foreign ownership? Does the federal government need to play a larger role? If the federal government does get more deeply involved, what are the impacts of increased regulation on asset values and liquidity that may hinder investment in agriculture and rural America?
Finally, let's not forget that there are other parties, aside from foreign operators, that have made significant investments to acquire America’s farmland, pastureland and forests that are not the subject of this hearing. Yet, these purchases also impact farmers and ranchers ability to compete for land access, and they impact our nation's food and energy security. There is more work to be done and I look forward to future efforts by this committee to explore the overall ownership of U.S. agricultural land and how it affects rural economies across the country.
In conclusion, I would like to join Senator Stabenow in welcoming four guests to the agriculture committee. Like several members on this committee, our esteemed colleagues Senators Tester, Rounds, Baldwin and Lankford have each introduced thoughtful legislative proposals, and I am grateful for their engagement. I look forward to working with each of you as we move forward.
Thanks again, Madam Chair, for working to make this possible. I look forward to today’s discussion.
U.S. Senator John Boozman, a senior member of the Appropriations Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Subcommittee questioned Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler about a number of topics, including how the SEC’s aggressive agenda could hurt an already shaky economy. Boozman pointed out that the SEC’s rulemakings could restrict access to capital, and the SEC has failed effectively analyze the economic impacts of its proposals. Boozman also highlighted the overreach extends to its own administration as the agency has reached out of its jurisdiction and failed to coordinate with other regulators. Boozman is committed to continue pushing back against the SEC’s overreach as the agency’s aggressive agenda and lack of economic analysis puts an already fragile economy at greater risk.
In early 2023, legislation U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) championed was signed into law designating the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail. Boozman recently visited the National Postal Museum and talked with the curator the importance of this route to our nation’s history.
Apr 26 2023
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the hearing entitled “Oversight of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).”