I serve on the House Agriculture Committee, where I work to promote nutrition in our schools, safeguard the rights of farm and forestry workers, support California's thriving agriculture industry, and advance the use of renewable fuels in our country.
My top priority on the Agriculture Committee is to create positive partnerships between the agriculture industry and the American public in order to improve nutrition in America and encourage healthier lifestyles, particularly among our nation's children. As Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry, I continue to play a key role in the debate on federal nutrition policy.
The 2008 Farm Bill expanded nutrition benefits for over 13 million American families. But with the current economic crisis, record numbers of families are suffering from unemployment that too often leads to food insecurity. My Subcommittee has remained active on exploring ways to expand access and eligibility to federal nutrition programs like SNAP and the school lunch program. The Agriculture Committee has led the way this Congress in expanding programs and funding that encourage the development and use of renewable fuels that can take advantage of the wide variety of natural crops and fuel sources we have available to us to fight climate change and lower our dependence on foreign oil.
From specialty crops to poultry to dairy products, California has a wide and diverse agricultural tradition, and I will continue to fight for these interests as we move forward in 2010. I have been active in the fight to provide our struggling dairy industry with the support and price mechanisms needed to survive the economic downturn.
I am also dedicated to upholding civil rights within the agriculture industry, particularly in regards to ensuring the legal rights and workplace safety of thousands of farm and forestry workers across the nation. I am also working to bring greater success to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Civil Rights, and have encouraged the USDA to settle its outstanding discrimination lawsuits with minority farmers and ranchers.
As Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry, I have hosted a number of hearings this 111th Congress to examine how to best improve the nutrition and health of the American Public. These include:
* Hearing Studying the Economic Impact of Obesity in America: Held in March in Washington; expert witnesses spoke on the health and economic effects of obesity on America. A strong focus was given to childhood obesity -- and the need for better nutrition education and prevention programs. All total, it is estimated that obesity costs the American public somewhere between $77 to $118 billion annually in illness, and lost worker productivity.
* Field Hearing in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Review New Approaches to Nutrition and Wellness: Held in August, expert witnesses spoke on new and innovative ways to improve nutrition and wellness programs. Currently, more than two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight, and health related spending on obesity has risen to $147 billion annually. We must study how to best combat this epidemic and lower the burden of health care costs we all share.
* Field Hearing in San Bernardino County, to Review Snap Participation Rates and Obesity: Held in January of 2010 at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, the hearing examined strategies to enroll more struggling families in federal nutrition programs like SNAP, and the importance of better nutrition outreach and education in fighting the obesity public health epidemic.