Dr. Coburn Comments on Ag Spending Bill
Says Politicians Stealing Critical Ag Dollars to Pay for Earmarks
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement concerning the fiscal year 2007 agriculture appropriations bill:
"This legislation is a bailout for politicians, not American farmers. Politicians in Washington, D.C., are using farmers as political cover for their wasteful and deceptive spending practices. The hundreds of earmarks hidden throughout this bill will siphon millions of dollars from critical programs designed to protect our food supply, enhance agricultural production, and directly assist farmers," Dr. Coburn said.
Between fiscal year 2000 and fiscal year 2006, the number of earmarks in the agricultural appropriations bill has increased by 92 percent. Among the more egregious earmarks in the 2007 spending bill are $3.7 million to study termites in Hawaii and $2 million to study seafood waste and its possible use as a pet food or other alternative products.
Also, the legislation redirects hundreds of thousands of dollars in research funds for the Agricultural Research Service to the World Food Prize, a group which boasts $2 million cash on hand and another $14 million in stock assets. The bill also redirects funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - the country's front line of defense against everything from avian flu to 'Mad Cow Disease' - to an animal breeding program at the Chicago Zoo.
Additionally, Dr. Coburn said some are trying to use the agriculture spending bill as a vehicle to add so-called emergency aid that will not directly benefit most farmers. The emergency aid package contains more than $300 million for small business grants, $6 million for Hawaiian sugar beet growers and $20 million for additional Farm Service Administration (FSA) employees to administer the emergency aid. Dr. Coburn also noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture has more than $8 billion in unobligated balances.
"I believe we should help the farmers who need assistance but we shouldn't ask the next generation of Americans to pay for it when there are many places in the federal budget to find savings. Rather than add new money or non-emergency programs to an emergency aid package, Congress should be making the tough choices about spending now," Dr. Coburn said.
Dr. Coburn also noted that those farmers who took precautions, bought federal crop insurance but were unable to plant crops should be the primary recipients of disaster aid.
"Once it's paid for in the federal budget, emergency aid should go directly to farmers impacted by disasters rather than special interests groups in Washington," Dr. Coburn said.
Also, Oklahoma farmers should know it is likely H.R. 503, a bill to end the practice of horse slaughter, likely will be attached to any agriculture spending bill considered by the Senate.
"I oppose any efforts to ban horse slaughtering as a last alternative. Though I don't want to see any horses being slaughtered, it must remain an option for horses that aren't granted proper care and for which all other options have been exhausted," Dr. Coburn said
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Quarterhorse Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners oppose the horse bill. Under the passage of H.R. 503, as many as 90,000 horses could be abandoned.