AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- HON. TIM HOLDEN
* Mr. HOLDEN. Mr. Chairman, I am greatly concerned about cuts that have been made to Farm Bill programs through this agriculture appropriations bill. I believe that using mandatory Farm Bill money to pay for an annual spending bill is unacceptable, and it's simply not fair to our farmers.
* Appropriators and authorizers have long fought over mandatory and discretionary dollars; however, since 2004, we've seen a large increase in the amount of mandatory money used to pay for programs in the appropriations bill. We all worked very hard during the last Farm Bill. We agreed and put together a safety net for all farmers, and dedicated money to conservation, rural development, and other programs, but have since witnessed a significant portion of our annual funding be redirected.
* With falling farm income because of higher energy and production costs, along with lower farm gate prices, now is the worst time to cut this funding for our agricultural producers. I'm worried about dropping the bottom out from underneath our agricultural producers and rural citizens through cuts to conservation and rural development programs, which have already taken disproportionate reductions in funding.
* Conservation programs assist our farmers and ranchers in strengthening their environmental stewardship, which is so important for looking after land and water that we will pass on to our future generations. By investing in enhanced environmental protection of land and water, the public benefits from an overall improved quality of life; affordable food, cleaner, safer, and more dependable water supplies; reduced damages caused by floods and other natural disasters; abundant wildlife; scenic landscapes and an enhanced natural resource base. Cutting important conservation programs while we're facing a huge backlog of producers waiting to participate in these programs will hinder these efforts.
* I am especially concerned about cuts to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection program. Since 1996, the program, in partnership with state and local governments and nongovernmental organizations, has kept over 440,000 acres of productive farmland in agricultural uses. FRPP is an excellent way of preserving farmland for many years to come, and helps provide a means for maintaining a viable rural economy.
* Additionally, rural development programs are vital to ensuring that our traditionally-agriculturally based communities do not simply vanish because of farm and job loss. I am concerned about cuts to an important rural development program that assists farmers in adding value to their products. Rural development initiatives help to advance our rural communities, develop new markets, and provide economic growth.
* Mr. Chairman, I respect the appropriators in the difficult task they have been given in this tight budget climate, but I ask that they respect the funding amounts put forth in the Farm Bill, and not make cuts to mandatory programs.