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Public Statements

Full-year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I am voting for the funding bill before us today but not without deep reservations. Each of the appropriations subcommittees considered bills for Fiscal Year 2011, but only two were brought to the floor for a vote. All twelve appropriations bills deserved a vote by the full House. Instead, we are freezing spending levels across the board and carrying forward most of the spending decisions made last year without a full and fair debate on the consequences for today's economy and today's needs. Surely this action does not live up to the responsibility that our constituents have entrusted to us.

The results of our failure to fully weigh the tradeoffs of our spending choices are not inconsequential. Even though serious questions remain about the effectiveness and safety of full body imaging devices, this bill increases funding for the Transportation Security Administration to procure, deploy, and staff new full body scanners in America's airports. To keep spending levels constant, the bill unilaterally ends funding for certain election reform programs, reduces funding for high speed rail, and forces the Department of Energy to raid funding for renewable energy and basic science programs in order to pay for the Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy. This one-year funding bill freezes the pay of our dedicated public servants for two years even though non-military federal worker salaries did not create our deficit and a freeze will not solve our budget problems. While I'm pleased that this bill includes funds for a 1.4 percent military pay raise and additional funding to help our troops and their families, I regret that the bill includes tens of billions of dollars for ongoing combat operations in Afghanistan. Our continued military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not making us safer, and the billions we are wasting on these wars is money that could be far better spent at home--to hire more police for our communities, build new schools, and replace our aging and increasingly dangerous road and rail bridges.

Yet even with these and many other significant problems, this bill will keep our government operating and uphold many of our important commitments. Low-income working families will receive badly needed childcare and housing assistance. Our military personnel will receive the benefits and care they need, and our veterans will have their benefits claims processed in a more timely manner. We will fully fund our aid agreement with Israel and maintain assistance programs for other countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan. Students will continue to receive Pell grants, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have the resources necessary to respond to natural disasters.

The choice presented to us in the form of this bill should not be. We are putting off the tough decisions that deserve careful consideration and reasoned compromise. We can and should make that effort. Yet on balance, I believe this bill is necessary, even if the process and the product are clearly insufficient.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, and to commend the Senate for its hard work in crafting and amending the bill to ensure that it would not adversely impact small and family-owned farms.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, each year 76 million people (25 percent of the population) become sick, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die from foodborne illnesses in the United States. In recent years, the United States has experienced many incidents of food contamination, caused by biological and man-made toxins, from spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria, to imported wheat gluten from China contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, to the largest beef recall in United States history--more than 143 million pounds of beef products--due to downer cattle having entered the food supply, to another of the largest food recalls in the nation's history when Georgia-based Peanut Corporation of America recalled all of its peanut products due to salmonella contamination.

These clear instances of food contamination highlight that we are long overdue in passing comprehensive food safety legislation. I was pleased to support a strong House version of this legislation when it was considered in July 2009. While I am sorry we cannot win final approval for our stronger legislation, the bill before us today includes many of those important reforms, and represents the most comprehensive set of food safety reforms put forth since the 1930s.

The bill would provide the FDA with direct mandatory recall authority, replacing the current system which depends on individual producers to issue recalls. It would also require food producers to develop food safety plans, including identifying potential risks of contamination or other hazards, and identifying the mechanisms through which those risks would be controlled. Hazards required to be identified and controlled are very broadly defined, including biological and chemical hazards, natural and man-made toxins, pesticides, drug residues, parasites, allergens and other contaminants, whether intentionally or unintentionally introduced. The bill would increase the number of FDA inspections at all food facilities. In addition, the bill establishes a food tracing system through which consumers could rapidly be identified and deaths and illnesses could be minimized in the event of a contamination outbreak. Finally, importers would be required to verify that all imported foods comply with United States food safety requirements, and the FDA would be allowed to deny entry to a food that lacks FDA certification for high-risk foods, or that is from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors.

In particular, I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate for responding to many of the concerns raised by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, NSAC, and constituents from my district that the bill would negatively impact small and family-owned farms, and value-added producers. As stated by the NSAC, ``[a]s a result of grassroots mobilization and much negotiation this bill now provides scale-appropriate food safety rules for small farms and mid-sized farms and local processors that sell to restaurants, food coops, groceries, wholesalers and at farm stands and farmers markets.''

The bill before us today includes several key Senate amendments that addressed the NSAC's concerns. For example, the Tester-Hagen amendment clarifies existing law exempting from FDA registration requirements farms that market more than 50 percent of their product directly from the farm or from farm stands or farmer's markets. In addition, it provides less costly alternatives to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Plans, HACCP, to farms that directly market more than 50 percent of their product to consumers, stores or restaurants within their state or within 400 miles of the farm, and have gross sales of less than $500,000. The HACCP is a system through which food safety hazards at producers are identified, evaluated, and controlled, and the Tester-Hagen amendment allows qualifying farms to satisfy HACCP requirements by documenting that they comply with state laws or by providing the FDA with documentation identifying potential hazards, controls implemented to address those hazards, and monitoring mechanisms.

The Stabenow amendment establishes a competitive grant program for food safety training, giving priority to small and mid-sized farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and small food processors. The Bennet amendment alleviates paperwork requirements applicable to all small farms, and requires the FDA to allow on-farm processing and other flexible mechanisms through which small farms may comply with the preventative control plan and produce standards requirements of the bill. Other important amendments that protect small and mid-sized farms would allow the FDA to exempt farms that engage in low-risk or no-risk value-added processing from regulatory requirements, exempt small farms from traceability and recordkeeping requirements if they sell directly to consumers or grocery stores, and remove requirements that negatively impact wildlife and wildlife habitat on farms.

I thank my supportive colleagues again for their leadership and comprehensive action on this matter, and I urge my undecided colleagues to support this bill.

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