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Public Statements

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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the fiscal Year 2010 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. This bill was unanimously reported out of Committee on July 7, and I believe it is a well-balanced bill that deserves the support of all Senators.

This bill includes total spending of $124 billion. Of that total, $101 billion is for mandatory programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, which is funded at $61 billion, and the Child Nutrition Programs, which are funded at $17 billion.

Discretionary spending totals $23 billion, an increase of $2.3 billion, and is within our 302(b) allocation. While this is a significant increase from last year, the President's request in just four areas--WIC, food and drug safety, humanitarian food assistance, and rural rental assistance--account for nearly 90 percent of the total increase. The depth and breadth of the responsibilities held by the USDA and FDA are far greater than I believe most Americans realize.

The funds in this bill are used to help ensure the most basic of human needs are met. This bill provides the funds for the two major agencies charged with keeping America's food and medical supply safe, something we nearly always take for granted. It provides funds to ensure that low-income families in rural America have access to affordable housing and opportunities for homeownership. It provides funds to ensure that over 11 million kids receive breakfast and 31 million kids receive lunch at school every day. It provides funds to make sure 2 million kids from low-income families receive a nutritious meal during the summer when their parents are not home. It provides funds to developing countries to provide meals to children when they go to school--which is often the only way to get them there. USDA is also responsible for important agricultural research, conservation activities, community development, animal and plant health activities, agricultural trade, and much more. It is an important bill--more important than many may realize.

There are many specific high notes to mention. Of the total funding provided in this bill, 69 percent is directed to nutrition programs. The WIC program is funded at more than $7 billion, which is an increase of almost $700 million over last year's appropriations bill. This is the amount necessary to meet the increasing need for this program, and will provide nutritious food to nearly 9.8 million low-income mothers and children each month. There is also language included to ensure that military families are not disqualified from the WIC Program because of increased combat pay--this is a small provision, but an important one in recognizing the sacrifices that our soldiers and their families make.

This bill includes $163 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides supplemental food to nearly 450,000 very low-income senior citizens and more than 30,000 low-income women and children. The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides free food to food banks, many of which have seen private donations decrease significantly, will receive $253 million in fiscal year 2010. An additional $7 million is provided to assist food banks in maintaining and upgrading their facilities and equipment so they can continue to serve those in need. In difficult economic times, these programs are vital to those that might otherwise go hungry.

In the area of food and drug safety, this bill provides the full budget request for both the Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is provided $2.3 billion, an increase of nearly $300 million. This increase, one of the largest in FDA's history, is necessary to continue the slow turnaround of an ailing organization whose responsibilities have vastly outgrown its funding over the past several years. The FDA is in charge of ensuring the safety of one-quarter of consumer products, and it is imperative that it has the funding to carry out its responsibilities. Similarly, the Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for ensuring that all of the Nation's meat and poultry is safe to eat. FSIS is provided the full budget request of more than $1 billion to carry out its mission.

This bill provides substantial funding to support international humanitarian food assistance. The PL 480, Food for Peace, and McGovern-Dole programs are funded at the President's request, which together is an increase of more than $500 million above last year. These programs are vital to helping relieve hunger in some of the most distressed parts of the world and to encourage children in developing countries to receive an education. To enhance those programs, funding is provided to support the use of micro-nutrient fortified foods and to develop new food aid products that can make a real difference in saving lives and securing long-term health benefits, especially for children. The bill also provides $13 million, as requested by the President, for USDA to help develop agricultural systems in countries facing severe food shortages. We believe that the development of sustainable food systems is the proper alternative to emergency food assistance. Therefore, this bill provides guidance and support for USDA, in partnership with the country's land grant institutions, PVOs, and others, to work together toward global food security.

America's farmers and ranchers face some of the tightest credit conditions they have faced in years. Agricultural producers are having difficulty obtaining capital necessary to maintain operations, and demands for Federal credit have skyrocketed. This bill provides over $4 billion of needed credit, representing an increase of nearly $750 million over 2009. These funds will help sustain agricultural producers as private credit markets stabilize.

This bill also provides increased funding for development of rural America, including housing, essential community facilities, business assistance, and infrastructure. In response to the recent housing crisis, USDA rural housing programs remain among the most important, and the most active, for Americans to achieve home ownership. Over $13 billion is available for housing loans and grants, including funds for new construction, repair and rehabilitation, and housing vouchers and rental assistance to ensure shelter for the lowest income rural residents. Almost $1.6 billion is available for loans and grants to small towns to support clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems that are essential for thriving communities.

Agricultural research agencies receive a total of $2.5 billion in the bill, an increase of nearly $130 million, not counting research funding provided in the 2008 farm bill. The Agricultural Research Service is USDA's premier in-house research agency. Funding is provided in this bill for ARS scientists to conduct increased research on bioenergy; improved livestock and crop production; human nutrition, including the prevention of childhood obesity; and the reduction of world hunger, among other issues. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, NIFA, formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, CSREES, funds research, education and extension projects at universities and other partners throughout the country. As part of NIFA, the bill includes an increase of more than $94 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative that awards competitive research grants throughout the Nation. These programs allow USDA the flexibility to adapt to meet changing research needs and to work with leading researchers throughout the country.

This bill makes substantial investments to protect the Nation's animal and plant resources from diseases and pests. Almost $40 million is provided to combat the emerald ash borer which has been found in thirteen states and threatens hardwood forests. Over $30 million is available to fight the Asian long horned beetle, and almost $46 million is provided to support the citrus health response program to combat citrus greening.

In all, this bill provides a proper balance among all the agencies funded and sets the proper priorities. Conservation, food and drug safety, farm programs, rural development, renewable energy, nutrition, trade, and the day-to-day functions of USDA and FDA are provided adequate funding and proper guidance. The programs funded by this bill touch the lives of every American numerous times each day, and impact the lives of people living on the other side of the world. These are important programs, and I urge each Senator to support this bill.

Mr. President, I would also like to recognize and thank my ranking member, Senator BROWNBACK, for his counsel and support in putting together this bill, and look forward at this time to his opening statement.

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