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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, today the Senate turns to the conference report for H.R. 2997, the Agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010. This bill spends about $120 billion in direct and mandatory spending. This is on top of the $108 million that was provided under the fiscal year 2009 omnibus bill, as well as the infamous economic stimulus package, which provided another $26.5 billion in Ag spending.
I acknowledge that many of the programs funded by this bill are valued for providing important services to the agriculture community at large, and I commend the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee for reporting this bill in a timely manner. I agree that we should ensure that our farmers stay out of the red, and that some Federal involvement is necessary to assist low-income families under nutrition programs. Unfortunately, Congress once again has conformed to the practice of diverting precious taxpayer dollars into an array of special interest pork projects which have not been authorized or requested by the administration.
When the bill passed the Senate shortly before the August recess, the bill carried with it 296 ``Congressionally Directed Spending Items'' a fancy new term for earmarks--totaling over $220 million. Now that conferees have had their chance to feed at the trough, the number of earmarks has grown to 461 totaling over $360 million. None of these projects were requested by the administration. Many of them were not authorized, or competitively bid in any way. No hearing was held to judge whether or not these were national priorities worthy of scarce taxpayer's dollars.
Let's take a look at some of the earmarks that are in this bill: $2 million for a fruit laboratory in West Virginia; $819,000 for catfish genome research in Alabama; $360,000 for a corn ethanol research plant in Washington, DC; $75,000 to promote childhood farm safety in Iowa; $250,000 for the Iowa Vitality Center; $700,000 to improve cattle health in Maine; $300,000 to develop ``Best Practices in Agriculture Waste Management'' in California; $1.3 million for greenhouse nurseries in Ohio, which weren't requested by the administration; $2.9 million for shrimp aquaculture research in Arizona and Massachusetts; $693,000 for beef improvement research in Missouri; $165,000 for maple syrup research in Vermont; $195,000 to research how to increase the lifespan of peach trees in South Carolina; $349,000 for pig waste management in North Carolina; $500,000 goes to the National Wild Turkey Federation in Nebraska, and $250,000 for the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for a workforce development program.
The largest earmark in this bill goes to Hawaii. The Aloha State bags $5 million to continue construction of an Agriculture Research Service Center to study agriculture practices in the Pacific. As my colleagues know, ARS construction is one of the most heavily earmarked accounts in government. So much so that the President's budget actually proposed zeroing out ARS construction for fiscal year 2010 because:
Congress routinely earmarks small amounts of funding for [ARS projects] located throughout the nation. The result of scattering funding in this manner is that ..... few if any of the projects are able to reach the critical threshold of funding that would allow construction to begin. Funding construction over such a long time significantly increases the amount of money needed to fully complete these projects, as well as postponing their completion for many years.
So here we have a program that is earmarked so severely that it delays and drives up the costs of approved construction projects. Not only are we funding this Hawaiian facility, but conferees approved 21 earmarks totaling over $71 million for ARS facility construction, some of them airdropped in conference.
During Senate consideration of this bill, I filed over 300 amendments to strike every earmark as well as cut funding to several USDA programs that the President proposed for termination including the ARS facilities account. It should come as no surprise that my amendments were defeated at every turn by appropriators on both sides of the aisle.
These projects may be meritorious and helpful to the designated communities, but considering our current budgetary crisis, it's inappropriate to include them on this year's agriculture spending bill, especially when they have been identified for termination or reduction. I hope my colleagues will agree that we have higher spending priorities that are directly related to the purposes of this agriculture bill. This bill is intended to address farmers, women, children, and rural communities with the greatest need, not for piggybacking pet projects that garner the support of special interest constituents.
I know that many of my colleagues have spoken about the economic struggles of America's hardworking farmers and low-income families. The farmers and struggling families I know are their tired of watching their hard-earned money go down the drain.
I will oppose this conference report and every other pork-laden bill that comes before this body.
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