WASHINGTON, June 23, 2011 – Today, the House Agriculture Committee approved its activity report for the first quarter of the 112th Congress as required by House Rule XI, clause d(1). During the business meeting, Chairman Frank Lucas highlighted the committee's efforts on behalf of America's farmers, ranchers, and rural constituents. Some of the highlights include the committee approving two key pieces of legislation to improve economic growth, fulfilling its oversight responsibility with numerous hearings, and preparing for the important task of writing the next farm bill.

Read more for the full text of Chairman Lucas's opening statement.

"We're here today to approve our activity report for the first quarter of the 112th Congress.

"Six months ago, when we held our first business meeting of this Congress, I noted the extraordinary number of newcomers to the Agriculture Committee. Since that time, we've worked together on some important initiatives, and I believe we have all gained valuable experience.

"We passed H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, through the House. As you know, this legislation would eliminate costly and duplicative permitting requirements for pesticide applications. The Senate Agriculture Committee just voted that legislation out of committee, and we are working with our counterparts on the other side of the Hill to bring it to the Senate floor without delay.

"We also reported H.R. 1573 to the House. This bill will ensure that regulators have the time they need to implement Dodd-Frank correctly. It allows for more stakeholder input, and prevents regulators from rushing to meet arbitrary deadlines.

"Since January, Congress has passed not one, but two appropriations bills affecting agriculture. With lower budgets and tighter spending, we've faced some difficult decisions, but we've done so under regular order, with open debate. That's how democracy is meant to work.

"We have also held seven full committee hearings, five business meetings, and sixteen subcommittee hearings. During these hearings, we heard testimony from Administration officials on sixteen occasions. We worked hard to fulfill our oversight responsibility, asking challenging questions and requiring detailed, accurate answers.

"I believe that the hearings, mark-ups, and legislation we are including in our committee report today were all important in their own right. But they have also helped lay the foundation for the work ahead of us.

"The 2012 Farm Bill will be a challenging task, but one that is of utmost importance to our farmers and ranchers. We will kick off the process of developing the Farm Bill tomorrow, with the first Subcommittee audit of farm programs on crop insurance.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to remind all of my colleagues how important it is to use these audits to learn both the detailed operations of individual farm programs, as well as to develop an idea of how each program fits into the larger picture of farm policy.

"Earlier, I mentioned how many new faces we had at the start of the 112th Congress. Today, I'd like to welcome one more—Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota joins us today for her first Agriculture Committee Business Meeting.

"Ms. Noem is a lifelong rancher, so she brings practical experience and firsthand knowledge of farm life to our discussions. I know she will be a strong voice for our farmers and ranchers and a valuable addition to our Committee. And don't worry—you've joined us just in time to get down to work.

"I'm pleased with what we've accomplished in the past six months, but our work has only just begun. I hope the next six months see us continuing with the same dedication and commitment to progress that is evidenced by the report we are discussing today.