APPROPRIATIONS FOR AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2006--CONFERENCE REPORT--Resumed
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, today the Senate will vote on the conference report to H.R. 2744, the Agriculture Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006. Unfortunately, I cannot support final passage of this bill.
The conference agreement to H.R. 2744 appropriates about $100.9 billion in spending, an amount that is approximately $848 million over the administration's request, $258 million more than the Senate-approved bill and $660 million more than the House-passed bill. As is the case with many of the appropriations bills that come to the floor, this bill and its accompanying report contain earmarks and pork projects which have not been authorized or requested.
I believe that some Federal involvement is necessary to assist low-income families under the Food Stamp Program and that we ensure that our farmers stay out of the red. And to this end, many of the programs under the Agriculture Department are worthwhile and I support their funding. I know that many of my colleagues have spoken before the Senate about the economic struggles of America's farmers, but as Congress looks ahead towards legislating a new farm bill in the near future, we once again conform to the practice of diverting taxpayer dollars into an array of special interest pork projects.
Let's take a look at some of the earmarks that are in this bill: $350,000 for a report on the economic development of the sheep industry in the United States; $1,250,000 for the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center; $210,000 to the Little Red River Irrigation project, Arkansas; $1,800,000 for the Muskingam River Watershed, Mohican River, Jerome and Muddy Fork obstruction removal projects, Ohio; $1,000,000 for a flood prevention project in Kane County, Illinois; $200,000 for a grant to administer a private lands wildlife management program in Alaska; $1,000,000 for a grant to the Ohio Livestock Expo Center in Springfield, OH; $2,250,000 for a grant to the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives for pilot Wisconsin-Minnesota health care cooperative purchasing alliance;
$200,000 for a grant to the Utah State University for a farming and dairy training initiative; and $500,000 for a grant to the Nueces County, Texas Regional Fairground.
It is a violation of Senate rules to legislate on an appropriations bill, and this fact is far too often overlooked. Authorizing policy is a function reserved for the authorizing committees, not the appropriations committee. As is done far too frequently, this appropriations bill includes a variety of policy changes. Examples include:
The conference agreement authorizes the purchase of land by the Agriculture Research Service in Florence, SC.
The conference agreement authorizes the lease of 40 acres of Federal ARS land to the Colorado State University system.
The conference agreement authorizes the ARS to convey 19 acres of Federal land to Oktibbeha County, MS.
The conference agreement allows for the granting of easements at the Beltsville, MD, Agricultural Research Center.
The conference agreement amends the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 regarding Federal loans.
The conference agreement amends the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The conference agreement amends the Organic Food Production Act of 1990.
The conference agreement amends the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
The statement of managers that accompanies this conference report also includes hundreds of earmarks and questionable projects. Here are some examples: $300,000 for beaver management in North Carolina; $625,000 for game bird predation work with the University of Georgia; $50,000 for control of feral hogs in Missouri; $50,000 for animal tracking projects in the State of Washington; $380,000 to continue control measures for minimizing blackbird damage to sunflowers in North Dakota and South Dakota; $196,000 for geese control in the State of New York; $75,000 for research into peanut production, Dawson, GA; $75,000 for research into seafood waste, Fairbanks, AK; and $250,000 for turf grass research, Beaver, WV.
Despite high gas prices, despite a swelling budget deficit, despite our military operations overseas, and despite our domestic emergencies, pork continues to thrive in good times and bad. The cumulative effect of these earmarks erode the integrity of the appropriations process and, by extension, our responsibility to the taxpayers. We can do better for our farmers and the American people.