REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS SUPPORTS RURAL TENNESSEANS AT AG SECRETARY’S FIRST TESTIMONY SINCE CONFIRMATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D., got his first chance to question new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee today. Entitled “State of the Rural Economy,” the hearing addressed subjects from trade deals to crop insurance and food safety that affect Tennessee producers and consumers.
Rep. DesJarlais, who represents Tennessee’s rural Fourth District, is a returning member of the Committee. He focused on his state’s historic Walking Horse industry, worth approximately $3.2 billion, as well as an avian flu outbreak that recently struck Middle Tennessee chicken farms, and trade deals to expand international markets for U.S. beef.
“The Tennessee Walking Horse industry directly or indirectly employs over 20,000 people in largely rural areas and farming communities where economic hardship is commonplace,” said the Congressman, criticizing the previous administration’s lack of cooperation with his constituents. “Can folks in Tennessee count on you to be supportive... and facilitate scientific, objective inspection methods to eliminate soring, so people can continue to enjoy this time-honored tradition?”
Echoing legislation Rep. DesJarlais has introduced in Congress, the Secretary promised to balance industry support with preventing inhumane treatment of animals. Secretary Perdue touted shipments of U.S. beef to Brazil and future shipments to China, as part of a Trump Administration trade deal, which opened that country’s market.
Tennessee is a top beef-producing state.
Rep. DesJarlais pressed the Secretary to negotiate better access to Japan for Tennessee cattlemen, and to help chicken farmers in his district to enhance bio-security. In March, local authorities reported outbreaks of avian flu at Tennessee poultry producers, two located in Lincoln County in the Fourth District.
Poultry within a six-mile radius was quarantined or destroyed, containing the outbreak. “I’m very pleased with the reaction of your Tennessee state authorities in conjunction with [federal authorities]... There was very timely action toward depopulation and eliminating the potential spread of that disease,” said Secretary Perdue.
“The system is working,” he said. “But we can always do better.”
Today’s hearing also addressed education and infrastructure, such as broadband deployment, which would increase opportunities in rural America, where farmers and ranchers are coping with an economic downturn and the poverty rate is higher than the national average.