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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - August 02, 2007)

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I commend the subcommittee and its chair for a good bill, and I wish to enter into a colloquy with the gentlewoman from Connecticut regarding funding for Community Food Projects and organic transitions research.

The 2007 farm bill that passed this House on Friday substantially increased the authorized funding for Community Food Projects, but it changed it from mandatory to discretionary. The CFP supports hundreds of innovative projects selected competitively, such as community kitchens, farmers markets, farm-to-school programs, in Connecticut among other States. I'm hoping that we can work toward finding discretionary funds for CFP.

Similarly, while the 2007 farm bill authorized a substantial increase in funding for various organic programs, funding for the organic transitions research program remained flat for the fiscal year. The market for organic food has reached $15 billion and is growing. Yet farmers need help making the transition from traditional to organic methods of farming, and without that help we will increasingly be dependent on overseas sources for organic products.

I ask the Chair to consider an increased level of funding for these programs.

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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008, and to commend the Committee and Subcommittee leadership for their efforts on the bill, but also to express my concern about the lack of funding for community food projects and the lack of an increase in funding for the organic transitions research program for Fiscal Year 2008.

The 2007 Farm Bill that passed the House on Friday substantially increased the authorization for Community Food Projects (CFP) funding, from $5 million to $30 million annually. However, it also changed the funding from mandatory to discretionary, and funding for CFP was not included in the FY 2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill that is before us today.

Hundreds of civic groups and associations throughout the country, as well as low-income consumers and farmers who produce for local and regional markets, benefit from this program. The program facilitates and builds the capacity of non-profit, community-based organizations so they can establish projects that meet the food needs of low-income populations; identify and address weakness in urban food systems, such as insufficient retail food stores in densely populations neighborhoods and poor access to healthy and fresh foods for schools; and promote comprehensive responses to food, farm, and nutrition issues by combining the resources of multiple sectors of the food system. From its inception in 1996 through 2007, CFP received mandatory funding under the Food Stamp Program and it has funded more than 240 innovative projects such as certified community kitchens, community supported agricultural operations, farmer's markets, agri-business incubators, farm-to-school programs and other projects.

I regret that the 2007 Farm Bill made CFP funding discretionary, if it remains so in the enacted bill, I hope that the Senate and House conferees will work to ensure that the prevailing level of funding for CFP will be provided in the enacted Fiscal Year 2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

In addition, I wish to stress the urgency of increasing funding for organic transitions research in Fiscal Year 2008. While the 2007 Farm bill will substantially increase funding for various organic programs, funding for the organic transitions research program has again remained flat for Fiscal Year 2008. The market for organic food has reached $15 billion and, according to the Organic Trade Association, growth in sales of organic food has been 15 percent to 21 percent each year since 1998, compared with 2 percent to 4 percent for total food sales. Although there are now 10,000 organic farms in the United States, that is not enough to keep pace with demand. As a result, organic food suppliers must increasingly look for organic produce and other agricultural products from overseas locations.

The Organic Transitions Program is a highly competitive grants program established as part of the Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. This national program has been extremely important to the organic farming community in funding research to assist farmers in overcoming the barriers to transitioning their farm operations into organic production. Through grants awarded under the program, for example, a university in the West has been funded to research ecological soil community management for enhanced nutrient cycling; a Northeastern university has been funded to research reducing off-farm grain inputs on northeast organic dairy farms; and another--a university in a Great Plains state--to fund research into the transition to sustainability.

The demand for research on a wide variety of topics related to organic agriculture has been increasing in proportion to the surging growth in the demand for organic agricultural products, and the benefits of this research accrue not simply to organic and other farmers, but to the entire health-conscious population. Notwithstanding this surge in demand, funding for organic research to facilitate the transition into organic farming methods has been holding steady at just under $2 million for the last few fiscal years, which represents only one-hundredth of one percent of the size of the industry the research is intended to support.

The organic transitions program has been extremely important to the organic farming community in funding research to assist farmers in overcoming the barriers to transitioning their farm operations into organic production. My amendment to increase funding for this program to $5 million passed in the House last year, and I hope to see this level of funding included in the enacted Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008.

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