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Agriculture Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2010, and commend Chairwoman DeLauro and the subcommittee for their hard work in crafting this bill. I urge my colleagues to support it.

This bill will increase funding to many important programs that American families rely on for their health and well-being, especially during these challenging economic times. For example, the bill will provide $61.4 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), an increase of 15 percent above the funding currently available. With family incomes falling and unemployment rising, these funds are needed more than ever to enable low-income families to purchase food.

In addition, the bill provides $16.8 billion in funding for child nutrition programs, an increase of 12 percent above the funding currently available, and $7.5 billion for the Women, infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, a 10 percent increase above the currently available funding. These funds will enable children all over America to receive nutritious school lunches and breakfasts, and provide food packages containing nutritional supplements to children and pregnant and breast-feeding women who are nutritionally at risk because they lack the income to provide adequate nutrition.

The bill also includes $180 million, 11 percent more than provided in the prior fiscal year, for the Commodity Supplement Food Program, to provide nutritious food to over a half million low-income women, infants, children, and elderly citizens struggling to make ends meet. The bill will expand this assistance beyond the 32 states currently receiving it, to six new states: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Delaware, Utah, Georgia and my home state of New Jersey. The Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program also receive substantial funding: $50 million and $20 million respectively.

And the bill contains substantial funding for international food assistance, including $1.7 billion for the Food for Peace Program, 13 percent more than currently provided, and $200 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, to provide food security and education and developmental support for the world's neediest children.

And I am particularly pleased that this bill includes the full amount of funding for most of the organic programs I had requested funding for. For example, it includes $5 million for the Organic Transitions Research program, to facilitate the ability of farmers to convert to organic methods of production, $20 million for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and $5 million each for the Community Food Projects and Hunger Free Communities programs, to facilitate the development of community gardens, community supported agriculture projects, farmers markets, and similar community food security projects.

Especially, I am also pleased that my amendment to the bill to protect and strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) organic standards was included in the Manager's Amendment to the bill on the floor today. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the USDA Inspector General has the resources it needs to complete a thorough investigation, already underway, into whether or not current inspectors are ensuring that the most rigorous standards for certification are honored when determining if a product may bear the ``USDA Organic'' label. In addition, the Inspector General needs sufficient resources to investigate whether or not non-organic substances inappropriately remain allowed in small amounts in USDA certified products after organic alternatives have been discovered; as the Washington Post reported last week, since the list of allowable non-organic substances was created in 2002, the number of such non-organic substances has ballooned from 77 to 245, and only one such substance has been removed.

As noted in the Washington Post article, the program's lax standards are undermining the program and the law, prompting the author of the law, Senator LEAHY, to state pointedly that ``it will unravel everything we've done if the standards can no longer be trusted . . . if we don't protect the brand, the organic label, the program is finished.'' Indeed, the explosive growth of the industry itself requires us to increase our vigilance accordingly. Therefore, I thank and commend Chairwoman DeLauro for her support and leadership on this issue, and for including my amendment in the bill.

This bill funds many important nutritional and agricultural programs, and I urge my colleagues to support it.


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