Statement of the Honorable Blanche L. Lincoln, Chairman

Statement of the Honorable Blanche L. Lincoln, Chairman

Hearing to Consider Nominations

September 30, 2009

“The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will come to order.

“Allow me to begin on a personal note since this is my first opportunity to officially Chair this Committee.  It is a tremendous honor to serve as Chairman of this Committee and I will endeavor to be the type of steward of this position that the American people and the people of Arkansas deserve.

“As all of you know, the Senate Agriculture Committee has a well-earned and time-honored reputation for bipartisanship and for working together to promote policies that are borne not out of partisanship but out of consensus as to what policies are proven to work.

“I have the privilege and benefit of serving beside five previous Chairmen of this Committee and one previous Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, each of whom served with great distinction and from whom we have learned a lot.

“Also, among our Committee’s membership, I count four chairmen and three ranking members of other very important Senate Committees, as well as a former Secretary of Agriculture, and the Senate Republican Leader, each of whom adds to the collective experience, strength, and wisdom of this panel.

“Let me also say that I truly appreciate the regional diversity that is reflected on this Committee and the unique areas of expertise and interests possessed by each of our Members.  Despite significant policy challenges that we have faced over the years, and even differences of opinion now and again, this Committee has always pulled together and risen to the occasion.

“In short, I am very proud of each Member’s contribution to this Committee, and I appreciate what each of you brings to the table.

“I look forward to working with you to promote economic opportunity and jobs in rural America; to meet the nutrition needs of our school kids, the elderly, and low income families; to continue to build on our successful resource conservation efforts; to enhance America’s energy “independence; and to ensure that the men and women who have clothed and fed this nation in a manner that is unrivaled in history continue doing what they do best.

“In this last regard, I would like to quote our late President, John F. Kennedy, who said, “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.”

“With 6.8 billion people sharing this world we live in today, compared to the roughly 3 billion in 1960, President Kennedy’s words ring truer today than ever before.

“Whether you are from Iowa or Arkansas, Georgia or Vermont, California or Idaho:  if you work to feed and clothe this nation, and people all around the globe, this Chairman and this Committee are firmly on your side.

“I know that the Ranking Member of the Committee, my friend Saxby Chambliss, shares these goals and sentiments.  I could not have a greater friend or a more respected Senate colleague than my partner on this Committee, Saxby Chambliss.

“Today, the Committee meets to consider six nominations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and the Farm Credit Administration.

“Specifically, we consider two USDA nominees, Mr. Harris Sherman and Mr. Edward Avalos.

“Mr. Sherman has served as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources for Governors Bill Ritter and Richard Lamm.  In this capacity, Mr. Sherman gained experience working on policies that he would be responsible for if confirmed as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, including management of the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“Mr. Avalos has been nominated to serve as the Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs.  If confirmed, his mission would touch upon virtually all of American agriculture.  The three agencies under his jurisdiction, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration; and the Agricultural Marketing Service, have broad ranging and important responsibilities within the Department.

“Mr. Avalos was raised on a family farm in New Mexico, where a variety of specialty crops are grown, including chili peppers, pecans, onions, as well as staple crops like cotton and wheat.  His career in agriculture includes 29 years of service at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture where he successfully worked to implement trade and promotion initiatives aimed at increasing U.S. farm exports.

“Mr. Sherman and Mr. Avalos are also nominated to serve as Members of the Board of Directors of the Commodity Credit Corporation.

“We also meet to consider three nominees to the CFTC:  Bart Chilton, Jill Sommers, and Scott O’Malia.  The CFTC is tasked with regulating commodity futures and options markets, dealing with critical issues from cotton futures to financial derivatives.

“The CFTC polices markets that affect everything from the food we eat, to the gas we put in our cars, to the loans we borrow at our local banks.  The CFTC protects market participants from fraud, manipulation, and other abuses while making certain that the markets are fully functioning.

“Congress and, in particular, this Committee will soon consider financial regulatory reform and the CFTC will have a front-and-center role in this effort.  In light of this, I am pleased that the Committee is moving as expeditiously as possible to consider these three nominees who bring years of experience, knowledge, and diverse perspectives to the Commission.

“The Commission and the staff at the CFTC face significant challenges and a heavy workload in the coming months so it is vital to have this highly qualified team on the job.

“Finally, we consider the nomination of Kenneth Spearman for the Farm Credit Administration Board.  The Farm Credit Administration is responsible for regulating and examining the banks, associations, and related entities of the Farm Credit System and Farmer Mac.  In 2007, the Farm Credit System held about 34 percent of the farm sector’s total debt.  As such, those who serve on the Board play an extremely important role in ensuring the continued availability of stable and adequate credit in farm country.

“Mr. Spearman brings a wealth of experience to the Farm Credit Administration Board.   His work in cooperative banking and on financial policy issues over the last 28 years will be an invaluable asset to the Farm Credit Administration.   Mr. Spearman is nominated for a term that expires next year and for a full xi-year term that expires May 2016.

“I look forward to the statements of nominees and their answers to questions that Members of this Committee may have.

“I now yield to the Ranking Member, Senator Chambliss.”