AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 23, 2006)
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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the chairman of the committee, Mr. Bonilla, for the great job that he has done, and the leadership that he has provided. And I thank my friend, ROSA DELAURO, for all the good work that she has done and the bipartisan cooperation that we have had on this bill. We don't agree on everything, but we agree on ag policy and trying to look out for the farmers together, and all of the various commodities and programs that are in this important bill. And this is certainly one of the greatest subcommittees in Congress.
Mr. Chairman, farmers today have lots of challenges, financing. Long-term financing for farmers, they can't get loans the way business people can get loans. They have problems with labor. The immigration issue is the hot issue of the day right now. Well, it has been a hot issue down on the farm for years as they have tried to get labor who will go out there in the hot sunshine and pick apples and pick peaches and pick onions, and trying to work with the H2A program that can be very difficult to comply with.
And while farmers are trying to work with H2A, along comes legal services funded by the Federal Government and suing farmers for technical violations often and not really substantive violations.
They have problems with environmental issues, in that we have very strict EPA laws, which their international competitors do not always have. And Ms. Kaptur, our friend from Ohio, often talks to us about Ohio tomatoes. And yet we know in Mexico they make tomatoes that can be competitive with those of Ohio tomatoes, but they do not have to follow the same labor or environmental laws.
Mr. Chairman, that is just one of the examples. And then we talk about unfair trade practices and what is subsidized and what is not. And so often the WTO, which is an organization most Americans do not even know about; yet the farmers, they are very mindful of what the WTO is up to, because so often the rulings seem to come down against American farmers.
Mr. Chairman, despite everything that farmers are up against, our food program and our food supply is the best any world has ever seen, any nation in the world at any time. Americans spend 11 cents on the dollar on groceries. We spend 43 cents on the dollar on recreation, from skiing to jet skiing, to boats, to fishing to buying CDs and going to movies and shows; we spend 43 cents on the dollar, but only 11 cents on the dollar for food. And for that, we have fruit all year long. We have meat in great abundance at low prices all year long. We have, as Mr. Obey knows well, milk. And there used to be milk shortages all over the country. And yet we do not have those kinds of shortages anymore. We do have a very complex, hard-to-explain agriculture system in America, and yet the product on the shelf in the grocery stores across America beats all in the world.
We need to all support this bill. It is a bipartisan bill. It is well thought out, well debated. There are going to be things I am going to comment on later on.
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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, in less than 6 months, farmers will begin to plan for the next crop year. Without extending the storage and handling fee program for peanuts, all over the Southeast there will be problems in the ag world. As we know, when we did away with the peanut quota program, the farmers went from a support price of over $600 down to $355. Now, in exchange for such a reduction in the support price and elimination of the quota program, farmers were also successful in negotiating a $50 per ton storage and handling fee.
The reason why this was important is because when peanuts are ready to harvest, the market might not be at the optimal selling price for the peanuts. Likewise, when the shellers and the folks in manufacturing and processing need peanuts, there might at times be an abundance and at other times there might be a deficit. So for everyone involved in the peanut food chain, having a good storage and handling program is important. You can't just put peanuts in any warehouse and keep them in fresh order. You have to have a specialized warehouse, and that is why this program is important.
This program is important not just to those in the peanut business directly, the farmer, the producer, the processor, the user, and the shelling facility; but it is also important for rural southeast America. The peanut program is bigger in poor counties across the southeastern States. You don't have a problem with the peanut program in Atlanta, Georgia, or in Birmingham, Alabama, or St. Simons Island, Georgia, or Savannah, Georgia. You have it in the small areas, like Cook County and Berien County and Candler County and Bulloch County, counties that do not have the growth in many cases of those in the urban areas.
This program has been successful from South Carolina to southern Mississippi to Alabama. Just one example: in Donalsonville, Georgia, the American Peanut Growers Group, a co-op comprised of 85 different peanut producers, invested in a shelling facility after the last farm bill and created 50 new full-time jobs and six new buying points throughout the region, a great success story.
In Tifton, Georgia, over $18 million has been invested in a new dome storage peanut shelling facility that employs 60 people. This is a product of 56 different peanut producers in making this shelling plant.
Examples of this are all over here. And I know the gentleman from Alabama is here and he has seen it from his own area, but even though the chairman of the Ag Committee has been a good supporter of farm programs and the peanut program, striking this language on a point of order actually hurts us at this time. Because as these peanut farmers are making growing decisions, we have just taken away one of the great economic tools they need to successfully decide if they are going to be planting peanuts or planting corn or planting soybeans or cotton.
What I would say to the members of the committee is as this bill moves through the process without this language in it, it is quite likely our friends in the other body will restore this language, and I am hoping that the Senators from Georgia are able to do that. The language was put in the bill by me, Mr. Bishop, and Congressman Boyd, bipartisan support and southeastern agriculture support, and we are hoping to get it restored at some point along the line.
So I just wanted to come down here on the point of order to make sure folks know that even though this is going to be stricken today, we do feel like it does not kill this, but for the time being.
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