U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said today that American agriculture is supporting 16 million jobs and is one of few industries leading the economic recovery. Stabenow made the comments at the Committee's first hearing of the 112th Congress, where Members and witnesses examined agriculture's effect on the U.S. economy. Keith Creagh, Governor Rick Snyder's newly appointed Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, testified at the hearing on the importance of agriculture, the state's second-largest industry, to Michigan's economy.
"Rarely have we seen a more positive outlook for the agricultural economy as a whole," Stabenow said. "This should come as no surprise to any of us: American farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most nutritious and most sustainable agricultural products in the world. In fact, one of the biggest success stories in our nation's economy is the strength of our farm exports. For the second year in a row, agricultural exports are projected to be over $100 billion ... Our agricultural exports will support over one million jobs this year alone -- and these jobs are not just on the farm but in towns and cities all across the country."
Stabenow pointed to her state of Michigan, where agriculture is the second-largest industry, as an example of a state poised to continue strengthening an already robust sector. "Agriculture represents more than $70 billion for our economy each year, and represents one out of every four jobs in my state," she said.
Keith Creagh, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, provided a snapshot the agriculture economy from a state perspective, highlighting agriculture's role as a jobs creator and also identifying new opportunities for investment and growth.
"Michigan's agri-food industry is a robust and high tech industry that will undoubtedly serve as one of Michigan's, and the nation's, foundations to our long term, sustainable economic recovery," Creagh said. "At a time when 850,000 jobs were lost in Michigan, our agricultural economy experienced a decade of growth. It expanded at a rate of more than five times faster than the rate of the general economy between 2006 and 2007. Further, since 2007, we have seen a 27 percent increase, making agriculture a cornerstone in diversifying Michigan's economic future. As a result of our diverse soils, crops, fresh water, and climate we are well-positioned to continue this growth and expansion at all levels of production. Currently, we produce over 200 commodities on a commercial basis; and lead the nation in 18 of these."
Creagh also thanked Stabenow for her leadership in agriculture and her commitment to strengthening Michigan's economy and workforce through continuing to work closely with state officials.
"On behalf of the State of Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder, and all of us at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, I want to express our appreciation for your commitment and leadership on food and agriculture issues," he said. "We also recognize the remarkable new opportunities for rural America, and we look forward to a continued partnership with you to assure Michigan's food and agricultural industry is strategically aligned to enhance our growth opportunities as we reinvent Michigan."
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack underscored the strength of the national farm economy in 2011, pointing to record-breaking growth in exports, farm cash receipts and farm income as key drivers.
"Cash receipts for producers are forecast at a record $341 billion in 2011, up $28 billion from 2010 and $57 billion from 2009 ... After adjusting for inflation, five of the highest income years since 1976 have occurred during 2004-11," he said. "As we enter 2011, the U.S. farm economy is coming off unprecedented increases in U.S. agricultural exports, farm cash receipts, farm income, and asset values the past few years."
Additional witnesses included Mr. Fred Yoder, a farmer from Plain City, Ohio and former president of the National Corn Growers Association; Dr. Joe Outlaw, an economist with Texas A&M; and Mr. Thomas M. Hoenig, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Senator Stabenow added, "I want to thank all our witnesses today, especially Director Keith Creagh from my home state. Director Creagh I look forward to working with you and Governor Snyder to create Agriculture jobs in Michigan."
Chairwoman Stabenow's opening statement is below and an archived webcast of the hearing can be viewed on the Committee's web site by visiting http://agriculture.senate.gov.
Photos available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorstabenow/sets/72157626076590624/
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:
Good morning. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will now come to order. It is a great honor and privilege to be here today to Chair this Committee's first hearing of the 112th Congress.
16 million jobs. That's an estimate of the total number of Americans who have a job because of American agriculture. And that's why we're here today.
I'm very proud to represent the State of Michigan, where we know how to grow things and build things. That's what we do, and we are proud of it. Agriculture represents more than $70 billion for our economy each year, and represents one out of every four jobs in my state.
That's why I want our first hearing to look at the impact of agriculture on America's economy - how important it is in terms of jobs -- because it's really a story that doesn't get told enough.
Someone else who understands the importance of Agriculture in creating jobs is our new Ranking Member, my friend Senator Roberts, and I want to thank him for being here today as well. He represents the Great State of Kansas, where I know at least 300,000 jobs come from agriculture.
Senator Roberts has been a wonderful champion for agriculture, first in the House and now in the Senate. I'm honored to work with Senator Roberts and my other colleagues on this Committee to address the numerous opportunities and challenges facing agriculture today.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has always been a bipartisan committee that puts the interests of producers, rural America and our nation above politics - I look forward to continuing that tradition in this Congress.
As I mentioned, today's hearing focuses on jobs in agriculture and rural communities. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Secretary Tom Vilsack, who will be our first witness. I also want to recognize Keith Creagh, who is the new Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, who will testify on our second panel.
I suspect that many of you have read the same reports that I've been reading - rarely have we seen a more positive outlook for the agricultural economy as a whole. This should come as no surprise to any of us: American farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most nutritious and most sustainable agricultural products in the world. We know this and the rest of the world knows this.
In fact, one of the biggest success stories in our nation's economy is the strength of our farm exports. For the second year in a row, agricultural exports are projected to be over $100 billion. This year, we expect to see a record high of $126 billion in exports. In fact, agriculture is among very few industries where we enjoy a trade surplus.
This is welcome news for America's economy. Here's some more good news: our agricultural exports will support over one million jobs this year alone -- and these jobs are not just on the farm but in towns and cities all across the country.
I am sure that each of our Committee members here today has a similar story to tell about the importance of agriculture to your states' economies and jobs. As we listen to our witnesses today, let's keep those 16 million Americans in mind, who are counting on us to continue to give them the opportunity to be successful. I will now yield to Senator Roberts for his opening remarks.