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Public Statements

Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


FARM, NUTRITION, AND BIOENERGY ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - December 14, 2007)

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today to speak to an amendment that will improve the nutrition and health of our Nation's school children.

Annually, the United States spends approximately $300 million for nutrition education for the Women, Infants, and Children, WIC Program and $500 million for nutrition education in conjunction with the Food Stamp Program. However, there is virtually no funding being dedicated to nutrition education in our Nation's schools.

You might ask why nutrition education in the school setting is important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children between 6 and 19 years old are overweight or obese--a number that has tripled since 1980. Experts agree that the lack of physical activity and poor eating habits contribute to this epidemic. While national guidelines recommend 150 minutes of physical activity each week for elementary children and 225 minutes for older children, few schools meet these criteria. In addition, studies have shown that children who eat well-balanced meals at school are more likely to practice lifelong healthy eating and help their families make smart meal choices.

Accordingly, my amendment provides $18 million to States to educate schoolchildren on the importance of consuming a nutritious diet as well as increasing their level of physical activity. Funds will be directed to the Team Nutrition Network, which is administered by the USDA, and then distributed to the States in the form of a grant.

In addition, this amendment also calls on USDA to conduct periodic surveys of foods purchased by school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program. According to USDA, the most recent data on school food purchases are a decade old. New data would help USDA to provide guidance to schools to create meals that conform to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, better manage the types and varieties of foods procured by USDA on behalf of schools, and assess the economic impact of school food purchase on various commodity sectors.

During my tenure in the U.S. Senate, I have been a strong advocate for nutrition programs, especially those that are targeted at our Nation's children. During the last farm bill, I proposed an amendment that directed a portion of loan rates to increase food stamp benefits for the disabled and working families with children. This was a small price to help provide for some of the neediest in our Nation.

In addition, I have introduced legislation in past Congresses that would have encouraged the increased consumption of calcium-rich milk by school children, provided grants to schools to make available healthy food choices, and expanded the School Breakfast Program.

Federal nutrition programs are an important safety net for our country, especially our Nation's children. I hope my colleagues understand the importance of addressing this issue, and I urge them to support my amendment.

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Mr. McConnell. Mr. President, we have put a couple of good days together now.

Yesterday was a good step forward with the Energy bill. Now we are about to achieve something else.

It is no mystery why: When the majority decided to work with us on Energy, we achieved a consensus. And when they decided to work with us on the farm bill, same thing.

This bill contains some very good things. And for that we all owe a lot to Senator Chambliss. And I want to thank him for his outstanding work on this bill and for his patience. This one required a lot of it.

And I also want to thank the majority leader and Chairman Harkin for seeing this legislation through.

I am proud to represent one of the Nation's most important agricultural States and so many family farms, which enrich and sustain not only Kentucky but the entire Nation.

Kentucky farmers are the best in the country. And the families who run them and the rest of the people of the Commonwealth will all benefit from this bill's new investment in nutrition, renewable energy, and rural development programs, as well as additional incentives for conservation of natural resources.

We have had some real accomplishments this week--some genuine results achieved through cooperation.

And at the risk of repeating myself, I think there is a lesson here. Unless we find a commonsense, bipartisan path forward on legislation, we all end up empty handed.

But today, we will not have done that. And that, I think, is a very good thing.

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