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Mr. KINGSTON. I want to commend the members of the Ag Committee on a
bill that is well put together in some parts. As the chairman knows, he has been very generous with his time, talking to me about the cotton section, the peanut section, and fruits and vegetables. I think there was a lot of good bipartisan support. I commend the committee for that.
Unfortunately, so much of this bill is not direct agriculture. So much of this bill, 60 to 70 percent, and this is true with all farm bills, it is the entitlement section, the school nutrition programs, there are a number of problems I have with that.
Number one, this tax increase is to support an increase in the entitlement section. It doesn't go directly to farmers or help the dirt farmer. It is not intended for that.
I have problems with the tax increase, and I do think it should have been gone through the Ways and Means Committee where it could have been thoroughly vetted and people could have decided what does this mean, because the truth of the matter is there are question marks on both sides.
The second thing, in agriculture appropriations we have had lots of hearings on the Indiana privatization of food stamps. I think it is a great program. I think reducing the government bureaucracy so that you can get more money to the people who need the food stamps, I think that is a good fundamental idea. I think it is one that President Clinton would have appreciated. It is searching for the third way. Not always a Democrat or Republican solution is adequate; you have to come up with something else. This is a hybrid program. This is a privatization program, and I know that is a bad thing for many on the fringe left, but I think most of us in the ag community will agree that it is a good thing. And yet this bill stops that.
The third thing is the special-interest payoff to the unions. Can you imagine, here we are at an energy crisis time. It is $3.05 if you shop all over town to find the bargain, and we are going to increase the cost of producing ethanol. We are going to say if you build an ethanol plant, you have to use the highly inflated union prevailing wages. It is a special payoff to the unions. We should not increase the price of producing energy during a fuel crunch. It is that simple. This bill does that.
Finally, one of the things that we all do, Republicans and Democrats, we want to balance the budget. We want to cut out the waste, as long as it is done in a different district than ours.
Now, the farm service agencies, there are too many of them. There are 58 that don't even have staff. This bill prevents them from being closed. We need to close some of the farm service agencies. Because of technological changes, we can do that without hurting the farmers, and yet this bill will prevent that from happening. One thing we are all hypocrites on is, hey, let's balance the budget; but, oh, not here where we have an opportunity to balance the budget. I think that is something that is ill conceived. I know there is bipartisan resistance on that, and it is very difficult for all of us.
I have four farm service agencies in my district that are being closed; and I tell you, it is tough. I hate to see any of them closed, but I realize in the big picture if you want to save money for the farmers for other programs, sometimes you have to make these decisions.