Opening Statement: Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis: To Review USDA Marketing Programs

Jun 25, 2015 Issues: Biotechnology

Remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon.  I would like to welcome everyone to the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research.

For the past several months, the Committee has evaluated aspects of agricultural marketing. As we have observed, consumers, ourselves included, are becoming increasingly savvy. As the number of choices available to us have increased, so has our desire to locate and purchase products that appeal to a broader set of criteria. Consumers are seeking more and different food products, not only appealing to price and quality characteristics, but now also relating to various production methods such as grass fed, natural, organic, or the use of technologies such as genetic engineering.

While many farmers and ranchers are in the commodity business, some have been able to achieve market premiums by appealing to this new consumer demand and creating niche market opportunities for their products.

By utilizing a variety of production practices, producers are distinguishing their products in order to appeal to unique consumer desires.

Today we will be hearing from USDA regarding programs that allow the Agricultural Marketing Service to help producers and processors address consumer demand through development of voluntary and unique marketing claims.

To distinguish and promote their products in the marketplace, USDA can assist producers using a variety of authorities including the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, and the Organic Foods Production Act. 

As this Committee has repeatedly observed, the keys to success in any marketing venture are voluntary participation, robust, transparent and meaningful standards, and comprehensive enforcement to ensure compliance.

Most people are aware of the USDA Organic label, but may not be aware of the policies and procedures of the National Organic Program.  Likewise, I'm sure many people have heard of and thoroughly enjoyed Certified Angus Beef, but may not  know where to find the standards that are in place for this program; nor may they be aware of the procedures in place to assure that this label claim is truthful and not misleading.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has long been in the business of assisting producers develop the programs and tools to take advantage of market opportunities.  As the Agriculture Committee considers proposals to develop other production based marketing claims, we felt it useful to review USDA's authorities and procedures.  It is my hope that the information collected from today's hearing will be of tremendous value as we continue to look for opportunities to improve agricultural productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Before I turn to the Ranking Member, I want to briefly discuss a recent Supreme Court decision on a marketing order within this Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  In the ruling on the Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture case, the Supreme Court held certain aspects of the raisin marketing order to be an unconstitutional taking.  As with all marketing orders, these programs are initiated by each industry and they have the opportunity to withdraw a marketing order at any time. Our responsibility is to uphold the integrity of marketing programs, as they are a proven useful tool for many industries, while ensuring our growers are not adversely harmed in the process. We are beginning to have bipartisan discussions with USDA to determine the impact of this decision and may conduct additional hearings as the situation warrants.

I now yield to the distinguished ranking member, Ms. Delbene.