Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said that innovation in American agriculture can help revolutionize global farming in order to successfully meet the needs of a growing and diverse world, but still faces many challenges to continue leading the world in productivity, innovation and sustainability. Her comments came during the first Farm Bill hearing, as the Committee prepares to reauthorize the legislation that sets agriculture policies every five years.
"Despite all of the economic and budget struggles over the last decade, agriculture has remained a bright spot: agriculture has continued to grow, farmers have innovated and become even more productive, and they have become even better stewards of our land and water resources," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "And we are not only feeding the world because of that innovation, but we're showing farmers in every corner of the world new strategies to be more productive themselves."
Chairwoman Stabenow highlighted the strides agriculture has made in the past several decades noting that the average American farmer feeds an estimated 150 people.
"It's easy to take our agriculture policies for granted - to assume that without them, things would work just the same as they do now," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "But when we look back at history, we can only marvel at how far we have come. Today, people in the western edge of the Oklahoma panhandle are enduring the longest drought on record, with nearly 220 days without rain. That's worse than the droughts experienced during the Dust Bowl. And yet we are not experiencing another Dust Bowl; the topsoil isn't blowing away. That's a testament to the good work our farmers and ranchers have done thanks to voluntary conservation efforts in the Farm Bill."
Barry Mumby, a third-generation, lifelong farmer from Colon in Southwestern Michigan's St. Joseph County, said American innovation in the last several decades has made it possible for agriculture to meet growing global demand for food, and new Farm Bill policies must continue fostering that progress while giving farmers the tools they need to manage risk.
"As you begin to consider a new Farm Bill I believe it is important to remember the successes and failures, of past bills and to address the needs of a hungry growing world population that demands a better balanced diet," Mumby said. "American growers can and will do their part in this endeavor because we have the land, the economic incentive, the technology, the infrastructure, the machines and genetic knowledge that is readily available to all U.S. growers. ... We need a safety net that buffers us from weather losses or unexpected financial meltdowns such as experienced in recent years. I believe that the U.S. farmer has realized that we have a moral obligation to be as productive as we can on every acre so that we can help feed the world masses. In 1990 there were about 5.3 billion people in the world to feed and now there nearly 7 billion."
Mumby said his 2,200-acre family farm has been in the family since 1933, passed down through generations, and he is now preparing to transition the family business to his own children.
"I am in the process of transitioning the land to my sons David and Sean and daughter Kate," Mumby said. "They have all achieved a higher level of formal education than I, but they continue to look upon 'The Farm' as their roots. I have been and continue to be a mere caretaker of the land during my lifetime, working to secure the benefits of production agriculture for my family. I will remain close to the soil that has provided a good living and an opportunity to prosper for three generations and hopefully the fourth fifth and beyond."
Additional witnesses included the Hon. Tom Vilsack, Secretary, US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC; the Hon. Dan Glickman, Co-Chair of The Chicago Council's Global Agricultural Development Initiative and former Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, DC; Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President for Science and Knowledge, Conservation International, Alexandria, VA; Mr. Douglas DeVries, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing Services, Agriculture and Turf Division, Deere and Company, Moline, IL; and Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy, the J. Thomas Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Applied Economics, Cornell University; and Professor of Agricultural Economics, Copenhagen University, Ithaca, NY.