U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today expressed disappointment in mischaracterizations of his amendment to the emergency war supplemental spending bill that would have provided emergency farm relief in a fiscally responsible manner.
The Coburn amendment would have stripped all non-emergency items, such as $30 million for salaries at the Farm Service Administration and $40 million for a Christmas tree assistance program, from the emergency spending bill so scarce resources could be maximized for crop and livestock disaster assistance. The amendment also required the emergency funding be paid for from existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds.
"My amendment did not kill emergency assistance for farmers and ranchers and I'm disappointed at attempts to characterize it as such," Dr. Coburn said. "Emergency spending bills go around the normal budget process and essentially amount to the Senate charging billions of dollars to a credit card which our children and grandchildren will have to repay. I don't know any Oklahoma farmer or rancher who wants their grandchildren to pay for emergency farm aid when there's more than enough existing money at the USDA and more than $200 billion in waste, fraud and duplication in the entire federal budget."
According to the chief financial officer at USDA, the agency would rank as the sixth largest company in the United States if the USDA were a private enterprise. The Office of Management and Budget estimates USDA has more than $7.4 billion in unspent money for fiscal year 2007. The agency also lost $1.65 billion due to fraudulent payments by the Food Stamp program.
"We should responsibly help our farmers with needed aid and pay for it upfront without asking the next generation to pay it back with interest," Dr. Coburn said.
The Coburn amendment, which was supported by Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe also, was defeated 24-73.