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Conference Report On H.R. 2997, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

I want to tell a story about Kika de la Garza who at one time was chairman of the Ag Committee. Chairman de la Garza came down to Georgia and visited the Kings Bay nuclear submarine plant. At that time, as it still is, our nuclear submarine plant was a marvel of technology and was really a floating and submerged fortress that was one of the most powerful weapons on the globe today.

He asked the captain, Tell me about this nuclear generator. Well, the generator goes on and on, and of course nuclear is a very powerful source of fuel. He said, Well, what would make you turn the submarine around? If the nuclear generation can make this submarine go all over the globe without stopping, without ever having to stop to refuel, what makes you go back to port? And the captain of the nuclear submarine looked at the chairman of the Agriculture Committee with some amazement and amusement and said, Well, Mr. Chairman, we turn around when we run out of food. That's a very profound statement. It's something that as we debate this bill, I think we should be aware of.

Our agricultural policies can be a little peculiar, can be a little bit difficult to follow, and can be open to a lot of criticism, but our food policy works. We have a large food supply, an abundant food supply at very low prices. Indeed, when you go into a grocery store, you complain if you can't get fruit 12 months a year or if the milk isn't at a good price or whatever it is. We have a good food policy in America and, as a result, we spend more time talking about obesity than we do hunger. So I think all Members should be very appreciative of the Ag appropriations conference report. We all support it in some fashion, sometimes not necessarily casting a vote ``yes,'' but the vote, nonetheless, isn't indicative of how we feel about the importance of agriculture.

I have some concerns about this bill. We have worked very closely as a subcommittee. We've had a lot of hearings. The chairwoman is a very vigorous, energized member and has a lot of passion on lots of different issues. We have a lot of great agreements and a lot of disagreements on some things that she feels passionately about and some things I feel passionately about. As she has mentioned, we both have very strong staffs on the majority and on the minority side. We're very appreciative of that, and I think we have got a good ag family. My concerns about this bill though, Mr. Speaker, focus on the spending levels.

This bill was higher than last year when it left the House, and now it's again higher, now that it's come back to the House from the Senate. The bill is nearly 14 percent higher than it was last year. The discretionary spending level is $23.3 billion, and it's about $2.8 billion over last year's level. The mandatory spending is 11 percent higher than 2009. Combined, the mandatory and the discretionary spending levels are about 12 percent higher than last year. I'm concerned about that because, you know, food prices haven't gone up that much.

Think about Social Security. Our seniors will not be receiving a COLA this year because, among other things, Social Security is based on inflation, which has a reflection of food. So they are scheduled not to receive a COLA, and yet people on food stamps are going to get a huge increase. I find that bothersome. If we look at some of the individual accounts, I could tick them off. But I would just say, if you look at some things, why is the spending up so high?

Well, take broadband. Broadband has about $4 million in it this year, yet in the stimulus package which was passed--the stimulus package which was financed not on tax dollars but on borrowed dollars and printed dollars. It's a package that our children's children will be paying for. In that package, the Rural Utility Service received $2.5 billion, not to mention another $2.5 billion--actually, about $3 billion--that was in another account that the Department of Commerce will be funding. None of that has been spent yet. So we've got $6 billion to $7 billion in broadband that came out of the stimulus bill that has not been used, yet this bill gives them another $4.5 billion. That defies common sense.

Food stamps, this bill has $4.3 billion more than 2009. Half of the mandatory spending is in food stamps, $58.3 billion. But in the stimulus bill, food stamps received a $19 billion slug of money. It wasn't because of an increase in food prices. It was allegedly because of new enrollment or anticipated new enrollment. But this bill still gives food stamps an increase. It's ironic, because one of the things this bill also does in reaction to falling milk prices is it gives the dairy farmers more money. So we're giving people who get food stamps an increase.

This bill does not fund Social Security, but just to think about this in a sequence, Social Security recipients do not get an increase; food stamp recipients do get an increase because of a rise in food costs and dairy farmers get money because of falling dairy prices. That's not consistent. I think we could do better than that.

Food for Peace gets $1.69 billion. That's an increase of $462 million on top of what they just got in the stimulus bill of $700 million. I don't think that is justified at this point in time. So I have some real concerns about our spending. Keep in mind that the Obama administration will have the historical record of the highest deficit in the history of the United States Congress, three times as high as the highest deficit in the history of the United States. I want to repeat that. The Obama-Pelosi deficit will be $1.5 trillion this year. That's three times as high as the highest deficit in the history of the United States of America.

Now, we had an opportunity to save some money. We had an opportunity to save $150 million, but instead, what we did in the conference report was air-drop five new pilot programs: a summer food program for $85 million; equipment assistance program, $25 million; WIC breast-feeding outreach at about $5 million; nutrition outreach for day care, $8 million; and direct certification expansion of $25 million. These programs may have some merit. Perhaps we can easily get these programs passed by Members of the House and Members of the Senate, but they did not come through the authorizing committee. They did not come through the Ag Committee. They were not debated. There were not hearings on it. They were air-dropped in this committee, and I'm not convinced that the administration formally asked for them.

There was a lot of discussion about these so-called pilot programs. But why not give the money back to the taxpayers? Why not say, Okay, we have got $150 million. Let's not go out and create new programs because we know what happens to new programs. Ronald Reagan said it best. He said, If you don't believe in eternal life, try killing a Federal program. It's impossible. You find out how many people have a brother-in-law who works for the particular agency anytime you try to kill any program whatsoever.

So I'm very concerned about the spending of the Obama-Pelosi team, and it has less to do with the Ag appropriations bill but much more to do with the direction of Congress. So my worry about this bill was

really tied into a bigger picture of spending.

As I said, I think we've done a good job this year. We've worked hard on a lot of things. Many of these accounts are things that I would fight for and I would certainly support 100 percent of what we're doing with them. But I am concerned about the big picture, because when I talk about that big Pelosi-Obama deficit of $1.5 trillion, that doesn't even talk about the $1.29 trillion health care bill that we will be facing soon, which I would say that even if you think a public option is great, if you think that the government who brought us Cash for Clunkers can run health care, you've still got to step back and say, But can you afford it?

So as we look at these appropriations bills, I think more and more people in America are saying, You know what? You Republicans spent too much money, but doggone it if it's not on supercharge right now. You've got to do something about it.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I'll reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make the point that an earmark that has not been vetted by the subcommittee, not been voted on by the full committee and appears in a conference report is an air-dropped earmark. In this case, the Education and Labor Committee debated these, but they never voted on it. And if they did vote on it, we could have had the vote on the House floor on suspension.

Maybe we could say it's an unauthorized earmark, but it did not come through the House, did not come through the Senate. It appeared in conference committee. And as my friend knows, I have been very steadfast and maybe the only Republican to constantly compliment the majority on a very good job of reducing the number of earmarks. In fact, I have said that at the subcommittee level, at the full committee level, and at the conference committee level. So credit where credit is due. But I really think on this one these things have been air dropped because they did not come through our committee and they did not come through the Senate. Maybe there's a better word than ``air dropped,'' but they were not voted on by the committee.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about some of the great research that we have done in agriculture which I think is important.

A few years ago I was talking to an ag researcher down in south Georgia, and he's an entomologist and has been doing some work with wasps, and he found out that wasps react differently around gunpowder. And it was a fascinating study because they thought maybe there would be an application in the war on terrorism with wasps, and they might be cheaper than using these very expensive canine dogs to sniff cars. I thought that's pretty interesting. I don't know how they're going to do it. I don't want wasps let loose in my car the way these dogs are. But that's just one example of some of the research that's being done that could potentially save us money.

Another example of some of the great research is, take a city like New Orleans. They have a huge problem with subterranean termites. Termites are a fascinating animal. The more you learn about it, the more you appreciate them. They actually can change sexes. They can live underground in colonies for years and years. But when they run out of wood, they start burrowing holes in all directions trying to find another piece of wood, and when they can't find one, they start coming up to our foundation. Now, that is millions of dollars a year, millions of dollars a year that we have in termite damage that this bill seeks to study.

Another thing, and it doesn't affect my friend up in Connecticut, but everybody in the South who has ever eaten a proper breakfast with grits knows that if you leave the grits in the cabinet too long, it doesn't matter how good your bug spray is. There are grubs coming up. I know I shouldn't be telling you this before I invite you over to eat at my house. But a problem in any household that has flour or something is that after a while, if you leave it on the shelf, you start getting these bugs that get in it. And you wonder how do they get in there? They actually come as part of the meal, and that's not the meal you eat but the meal from the meal. And the question is, how do you stop that problem? Ag research is doing that kind of work, and it's an example of some of the things that we're looking at in this bill.

So while we do have some disagreements on the funding, we both believe passionately, as Mr. Farr said, let the smart guys with the white coats in the back room study these things and come up with new inventions and new technologies.

At the University of Georgia one of the labs is studying getting fuel from algae. And, of course, we know algae can be a problem. If they can figure out how to make fuel out of it, it would be a wonderful thing. Kudzu, a plant that we actually imported from China maybe 60 or 70 years ago to stop erosion in the South, has grown wild, and yet the University of Tennessee is trying to figure out can you get fuel from kudzu?

They're doing the same thing with pine trees. Can you make cellulosic ethanol out of pine trees and, if so, a State like Georgia, which is about 66 percent in trees, we would become the Saudi Arabia of cellulosic ethanol. So it would be a great thing.

We're excited about this. There are so many great mysteries that we have yet to solve in our plants and animal world that this bill does study.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. DeLAURO. I would be happy to accept an invitation for breakfast. I love grits with butter and salt. What do you put first, the butter or the salt? I'll take your advice on that.

Mr. KINGSTON. If my friend will yield.

Ms. DeLAURO. I'd be happy to yield.

Mr. KINGSTON. The great thing about really great grits is you put cheese in them.

Ms. DeLAURO. Amen.

Mr. KINGSTON. But the invitation is open.

Ms. DeLAURO. With that, let me yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Davis).

Mr. DAVIS of Tennessee. I thank the chairman and ranking member for their work in bringing before the floor the conference agreement between the House and the Senate.

I rise in support of the conference agreement for H.R. 2997, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010. I believe this is a robust investment in America's farming and rural development needs, and it ensures a brighter economic future for all Americans.

I am particularly pleased with the investment in America's farmers, both through funding for agriculture research and for farm production. As a long-time farmer, and also a former employee of the United States Department of Agriculture, I understand firsthand how focused investments make concrete differences in America's food production as well as the folks that work tirelessly to provide it.

Contained in this conference agreement, the Agriculture Research receives a 5 percent increase from the current level of funding. This vital service provides research in a variety of areas, including bio-based products, bioenergy, floriculture, and nurseries. Included in the approximate 100 research locations nationwide that are funded by ARS is the University of Tennessee; the Institute of Agriculture, which is conducting bioenergy research on converting switchgrass into cellulosic ethanol. Research on clean bioenergy is vital to America's quest to become energy independent.

Also included is increased funding for research to provide early warning technologies for the detection of crop disease to prevent crop failure from natural causes or a terrorist event. The research addresses needs to produce such a system that could take advantage of biotech advances to develop a precision agriculture tool for guarding America's crops.

Further, I am pleased by the increase in funding for the Farm Service Agency. The FSA administers major commodity programs and farm loan programs such as the Farm Ownership and Farm Operating loan programs. Farm Ownership loans, which received a 47 percent increase through fiscal year 2009 funding levels, often provided the initial investments to help farmers acquire and expand land ownership. Farm operating loans, which receive a 43 percent increase from fiscal year 2009 funding levels, allow farmers to purchase equipment, livestock, and seed. This funding is critical to ensure the continued role of America as the world's greatest agriculture producer.

As a lifelong farmer representing the district with the fourth largest percentage of rural residents, I am proud to support these investments and urge passage of the conference agreement for H.R. 2997. Saying that is the fourth largest congressional district, as far as rural residents that I represent, means we have a variety and probably one of the most diverse agriculture districts in America: cotton, soybeans, corn, nursery stock. We have timber; both beef cattle and dairy cattle.

We also have a large poultry, the broiler industry, across the Cumberland Plateau, in the southern part of the plateau and the northern part of the plateau.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Weiner). The time of the gentleman has expired.

Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Speaker, I am happy to yield the gentleman an additional 1 minute.

Mr. DAVIS of Tennessee. I am pleased that in this legislation it at least addresses import and reimportation of poultry that may be produced here in America. There are some guards and some guidelines that I think we must have.

I have been a poultry producer of broilers as a youngster growing up on a farm in Fentress County, Tennessee; and I know if we allow the poultry industry to be run out of business, it will destroy many of the farms in the Fourth Congressional District that I represent.

So I am pleased that our chairman was willing to work an agreement that would at least require certain inspection to be sure that safe food was imported into America from poultry and to also help protect our poultry industry in America and certainly in the Fourth Congressional District.

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I just wanted to thank the Chair and the majority staff for all of the good work. We have had a very good process. I congratulate you on passing this bill as among the very first--and let the record show that if it was up to Agriculture, we would adjourn on time, whenever that may be.

And also I want to thank you for working with us on poultry, as Mr. Davis said. It's very, very important to particular States especially. And having a Chinese market is important but at the same time--you know, what Ms. Kaptur said is very interesting. She said we don't need to be importing food; we need to produce our own food and then exporting that which is left. And yet as important as that is economically, you have always focused on the food safety as you should as the number one value. And I think that's important because if you are importing or exporting food that is not inspected and it is not at the highest quality and standard of food safety, then we're not doing our job.

So I certainly commend you for keeping that bar very high, and yet we were able to work something out. I've enjoyed the whole process.

My concern with the bill--as you know I've been very open about it--has something to do beyond this room, if you will, in terms of the spending picture. But having been in the majority, I know that your job is to come together with lots of different factions and philosophies, and I think you have done a great job on it. I am proud to be your ranking member and look forward to a long relationship, and you are going to love my grits.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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