Watch: Blunt Rochester Delivers Opening Remarks in Republican Farm Bill Markup

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Washington, April 18, 2018 | Kyle Morse (202-695-0494) | comments



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), member of the House Committee on Agriculture, delivered the following statement during the committee markup of the House Republican Farm Bill. Below are Congresswoman Blunt Rochester’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Peterson, as you know, I fought hard to get on the House Agriculture Committee. I fought for two reasons. First, for what it means to my state – 30,000 jobs, $8 billion in total economic impact, and preserving a way of life for our family farmers and those who depend on the Farm Bill to help put food on the table. And second, because of its reputation for being bipartisan and getting things done – that’s what the American people want to see. They want to see us get things done, and they want to see it in a bipartisan way.”

“As you can see, agriculture means a lot to my state, and it’s an honor to be the first Delawarean in 120 years to sit on this Committee and the first to take part in the Farm Bill.”

“I knew Ranking Member Peterson was a tireless advocate for farmers and families, and that he tries to find common ground. And given his nearly 30 years of experience across multiple Farm Bills, I deeply appreciate his leadership and the position he shared this morning.”

“What has excited me about the Farm Bill and Ag in general, is that it is comprehensive. It is urban, rural, and global; it covers family farmers, individuals on SNAP, global food security, biotech, research, and our land-grant institutions. And I was excited to join the urban-rural coalition that has traditionally made this process a bipartisan one.”

“Unfortunately, that is not where we’ve ended. We’ve seen our bipartisan work breakdown. That doesn’t benefit our country, and that certainly doesn’t benefit the farmers and working families in Delaware.”

“The goal of creating a thriving economy and moving people out of poverty is a common one. For me, it’s always been about jobs. Across my career, I’ve worked to connect people with fulfilling work. As Delaware’s former Secretary of Labor and Deputy Secretary of Health and Social Services, I’ve overseen both workforce development and economic safety net programs.”

“I believe in work. We believe in work. I am a strong proponent of workforce development programs. That’s why this proposal was such a missed opportunity. The Majority’s efforts essentially force individuals off SNAP to pay for an unproven, underfunded workforce training program. What makes this even more troubling is that the 10 pilot programs designed to give us best practices have not even been completed or evaluated.”

“Delaware received one of those pilot grants from USDA, and I recently had a chance to talk to the agencies working on it. I can report that there are some initial signs of progress in the pilot. But keep in mind, we will not begin evaluating these programs until 2019.”

“So, my question for the Majority is: If you’re really concerned with getting the policy right, then why aren’t we taking the time to be thoughtful and get the results of these pilot programs? To hear what these 10 states have learned before creating a one-size-fits-all system with little flexibility and transition time. Without the results, I think it is ill-advised to scale-up a massive employment and training program and change the work requirements. That’s not good government.”

“Nationwide, it’s estimated that we’ll need to add an additional 3 million slots to workforce training programs under this proposal, but with a billion dollars of funding, that comes out to less than $30 per person per month. That’s a drop in the bucket to provide workplace training to anyone.”

“On top of that, we’re creating requirements that don’t sufficiently take into account the challenges people face in getting jobs or participating in this new program – like finding affordable child care, transportation, or healthcare. What happens if your child gets sick? Or your car breaks down? Should that mean you and your child go hungry for up to a year if you’re sanctioned?”

“Again, I ask, if we are concerned with getting the policy right, why not wait until we have evidence-based data?  Then we can develop a program that feeds people and equips them with the tools they need to earn a good living in today’s economy. That is good government, that’s good use of taxpayer dollars, and that’s what the people of Delaware want me to advocate for. For these reasons, I cannot support H.R. 2.”

“I yield back the balance of my time.”

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