Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. 2012

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FARENTHOLD. You know, we in this Congress or Congresses of the past have ceded a lot of our authority to executive agencies. We have given them lots of power to regulate. They are taking over and doing an awful lot. Know Your Farmer--Know Your Food is another example of an agency going beyond what needs to be done and is something I feel they should come back to Congress for.

With that, I would like to yield to the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx).

Ms. FOXX. I want to thank my colleague from Texas for yielding to me, and I want to respond to our colleague from California.

I am not afraid of a program. I am afraid, as my colleague from Texas has indicated, of the executive branch continuing to overstep its bounds and develop programs that have no authorization and do the things that it has no business doing without authorization from Congress.

I find it interesting that my colleague would bring up the fact that we went to war without authorization. I believe that was his President who did that, and I voted resoundingly not to do that.

I also want to sympathize with my colleague from California. I am certainly doing my best to lose weight, too. I think it is a struggle that most of us, particularly in this body, have. But I can tell you that I am not looking to the Department of Agriculture to give me my nutrition information. I know how to find that nutrition information, and I think most Americans know how to do that, and we don't need a special program in the Department of Agriculture to do that.

We have got to commit to bringing government spending under control, and we are going to do everything that we can. While no money will be cut from the appropriations by this amendment, it removes a program that is not authorized that gives part of the Department of Agriculture an argument for why they need money.

I think that in many cases what happens in these executive branch departments is that when their own entity begins to lose its need for being, they begin to look out there for, What is the latest trend? What can we do in this Department to justify our existence? I think that that is what happens in many, many cases, and you get the continuation. As Ronald Reagan said, the nearest thing to immortality is a Federal Government program, and I think that is what happens in many departments, not just the Department of Agriculture.

I have great respect for much of what the Department of Agriculture does, and I think it is providing vital services in many areas. But, again, this is not an area that we need the Federal Government to be involved in. We don't need this program.

Frankly, my colleague asked me what I am afraid of the program for. What I don't understand is why our colleague from Maine doesn't want reporting from this program. He didn't ask her that question. Why is she concerned that we ask for reporting mechanisms? Because we have asked the Department, How much money are you spending on this program? They cannot answer. What effect are you having? They cannot answer. There are no results. There is no cost-benefit analysis.

It is time that any program that says, We can't tell you how much we are spending; we can't tell you what we are doing; we can't tell you if we are having any effect, to be done away with. And any program that answers a Member of Congress that way should be immediately eliminated.

Mr. FARENTHOLD. Reclaiming my time for just a second, I too am trying to lose weight and would much prefer to work with my doctor and trainer than the USDA.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Chair, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to engage a little bit more in this conversation that we had, both about the previous amendment and about my good friend from North Carolina's concern about this particular program called Know Your Farmer--Know Your Food.

I have the great privilege of serving on the Agriculture Committee. I've heard the Secretary speak to us about his interest in increasing the number of farms in our country, in getting to know our farmers better, and in making sure people have more knowledge about where their food comes from.

I have to just stand back and say for a minute that it's after 8:30 on a busy night. We're still in the middle of debating this bill at a time when our economy is in peril, when we have huge challenges before us, when we are at war in two countries. I just personally have to say I am baffled about why we are even having this debate. I was baffled about why this report language would be there that slows down research on local farming, that tries to stop a program that's not even funded, and that coordinates a lot of good efforts going on in the Department of Agriculture.

I will say, I kind of think back to the way I look at our country. We were based on agriculture and farming. I had the good fortune to be born in Minnesota even though I represent Maine. Both sets of my grandparents were Scandinavian immigrants. They came because there was rich farmland, beautiful opportunities. My grandfather was a dairy farmer. My uncle was a dairy farmer. My cousin still runs a farm and works with livestock. I went to college to study agriculture, and I own my own farm today.

So I think about, isn't this what America is all about--knowing your farmer? knowing where your food came from? understanding what the basic principles are of growing and of using our land? What in the world are we talking about? It's as if black is white and white is black and as if everything is turned upside down.

I grew up in Minnesota and Maine. Both States have a rich farming heritage. We couldn't be more proud of the families and of the people who work hard on the land. We couldn't be more proud of having vigorous farmers' markets, of having people who are able to go to a farm stand and say to the farmer, ``How did you grow this? What's behind this? Tell me about what's growing in your field.'' I mean, this is America. This is how our country was built.

If there is one tragedy that's going on today, it's the reduction in the number of farms and in the families who can no longer hold onto their farms, whose mortgages are being foreclosed on, who don't have enough markets. If there is anything the Secretary is telling us it is that we want more people to know about their farms, that we want to have local access to farming, that we want to have people come to farmers' markets.

I spend a lot of time visiting school cafeterias, and many of the schools in my district are very engaged with buying food locally. They realize that, if they're going to deal with childhood obesity, one of the things they have to do is get kids to eat more vegetables. One thing that really works is to have those young people know the farmers, and many schools have little gardens out back.

I visited Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, Maine, just recently. Those kids have a little plot of carrots. It's not that every lunch has one of those carrots on the menu, but it's for those kids to say, ``I grew a carrot, and now I want to eat more of them.'' I was at the Bonny Eagle Middle School. They have a little greenhouse. I sat down to eat with those kids, and they were eating kale, kale and garlic; and they were proudly showing it off to me about how they grow kale, about how they know where it comes from. Many of them have visited with farmers. They've seen the farmers come down the road.

I can't possibly imagine why anyone would want to put language in that says you have to strike a program like this that's not even funded, that's just a way of the Secretary saying this is a good American tradition. It's a tradition in North Carolina, I am sure, where people are proud of their farmers and, in Maine, where we are exceptionally proud of the fact that the average age of our farmer is going down. We have more young people who want to go into farming. We have more and more acreage going into farming, which is a reversal of the trend that has been going on in our country for a long time. This is good for our health, and it's good for our environment. Fundamentally, this is a jobs bill, and that's what we're supposed to be here talking about. Every young person who has an opportunity to go into farming today and every family that gets to hang onto a family farm increases the number of jobs that are going on in our country.

What do we want this to turn into, big corporate agriculture where everything has to be trucked around the world?--where our carrots come from Brazil and our strawberries come from somewhere else in South America and where we buy our food from China? I mean this is America. This is a tradition of our country. How could we possibly think that anything is wrong with promoting or researching local foods and having a program that just coordinates it all?

Ms. FOXX. Will the gentlewoman yield?

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Absolutely not. As much as I appreciate my colleague from North Carolina, I'm not giving up one second to talk about the fact that in my State, we are proud of our farmers. We are proud of our big farms that grow potatoes and blueberries and that grow apples. We are proud of our fishermen, and we are proud of the fact that more young people want to get into farming.

There are more markets for farming than there ever were before today. Part of it is because people like to buy their food locally because they are so excited about the opportunity of going to a farm stand where you actually see the farmer, where you see how it's grown, where you feel comfortable about what goes into your food, where you know how it was slaughtered, where you know so much more about it, where we're raising our kids to say, ``You know what? Vegetables are good for you,'' and here they are right in front of you.

I can't possibly imagine why this report language was there in the first place, why my colleague would want to strike everything about Know Your Farmer--Know Your Food.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. KINGSTON. I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I want to make sure I answer this question, because I'm hearing from our colleague that she can't possibly imagine why we are against the program. We are against it because it's not authorized.

The President of the United States is now bombing in Libya. By the way, I voted with the Kucinich amendment because I feel very uncomfortable with an unauthorized bombing as the use of force in Libya. The Federal Government frequently obligates the taxpayers to new programs. Yet the United States Congress hasn't had an opportunity to vet these programs or to vote on them, so I, myself, don't understand why that is a problem that we can have this transparency.

Now, as I've listened to this, I've kind of felt, well, Know Your Farmer--Know Your Food is one of these harmless little Washington sort of ``feel good about things'' initiatives, but I'm beginning to think it's just one big databank. I don't know why the USDA needs to know all of this information about the farmers. I'm wondering about that. If we want to help farmers--and I've had the opportunity of representing lots of farmers for a long time--I'm going to give you seven things that I thought about in just sitting here during the course of the last speech.

Number one: This administration has declared war on the community banks, which are the fiber and the heart of small communities. That's where farmers get their loans. Farmers need credit. We need stability and banking laws to help farmers.

Number two: We need consistent regulations and regulations that don't send the EPA out on the farm to play ``I gotcha.'' You may know right now, Mr. Chairman, that for organic chickens--and I know my friend from California probably knows this--you have the FDA requiring that they be raised on a slab of concrete and the USDA saying, no, they can't be. So we have two Federal agencies with two different regulations for one product. Farmers need regulatory consistency.

Number three: We need an H-2A program. Absolutely, we've got to get labor out there and a good guest worker program that works.

Number four: We need free trade agreements. We have had sitting on the desk of the White House free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and this administration won't move them. That will create lots of markets for farmers.

Number five: We need estate tax relief. If you want to keep the family farm in the family, then get rid of the death tax so that it can be passed on to the next generation.

Number six: You need to have a good crop insurance program. More than any other farm program, farmers want a good crop insurance program.

Number seven: We need to cut the red tape out so that you can get to your local market. If you're a local farmer, it is impossible to sell right now to your local high school because of many Federal regulations. The small farmers can't compete with the big folks on this.

I want to say this about apples because the gentlewoman had mentioned apples. The average apples travel right now 2,500 miles to get to the consumer. Now, I don't find that horrible. We are a country of origin labeling laws, which our committee has debated for over a decade, and I don't know that it has made the world a better place. I think that consumers are actually driven by food safety, food taste and food price, and whether it comes from New York or whether it comes from the farmer down the street, those still are going to be the driving factors in making the decision. Carrots come 2,000 miles.

I would challenge my friends to look at Google food mileage and look at how much common, everyday food travels to get to your plate. What has it done? It has made America healthier. It has given us an abundant food supply, and it has given us a less expensive food supply.

But if we are serious about growing mom and pop farms--and I want to say
this to my friend from Maine--I am very interested in working with her on that. The seven things that I have listed, I can promise you, in any poll, farmers will choose before they choose to say what we really need to get farmers going in America is this program that is not authorized by the Congress, called Know Your Farmer.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FARR. I move to strike the last word.

I just want to point out that this amendment doesn't save one penny.

The Acting CHAIR. Does the gentleman ask unanimous consent to strike the last word?

Mr. KINGSTON. Reserving my right to object, I just want to remind my friend about taking two bites of the 2,500-mile apple. I certainly do not object but----

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Washington is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DICKS. I yield to the ranking member, the gentleman from California.

Mr. FARR. This amendment doesn't save one penny. Ironically, we just returned from the White House summer congressional picnic, and people ate food there. At every table, it listed where the food came from. Indeed, I remember because I went to the ice cream place and there was a stack of honey that came from the White House, that has a White House label on it, and it's a gift that the First Lady gives to visiting dignitaries from around the world as a sample of American honey grown at the White House. We just experienced Know Your Farmer--Know Your Food not more than an hour ago.

This amendment does nothing but be mean.

Mr. DICKS. Reclaiming my time, I just want to point out, also at the White House picnic, if you walked far enough down, you could see the garden with fresh vegetables and everything that was being grown. It had a label about what was what.

Again, I just don't see what the harm is here if they're taking it out of existing funds. I always thought that the farmers of America were supported on a bipartisan basis in this Congress and that we like to know who our farmers are. So I agree with the gentleman, and I hope we can defeat this ill-considered amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx).

The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.

The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from North Carolina will be postponed.

AMENDMENT NO. 20 OFFERED BY MS. WOOLSEY

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following new section:

Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out the directive in the committee report instructing the Food and Nutrition Service to issue a new proposed rule on implementing new national nutrition standards for the school breakfast and school lunch programs in the report of the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives to accompany H.R. 2112 of the 112th Congress (House Report 112-101).

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the gentlewoman's amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.

The gentlewoman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, for some families--too many, as a matter of fact--the meals served at school may be the only decent meal that their children get that day. Especially during this current economic downturn, with many Americans barely getting by, more people are relying on school meals to keep their children fed and ready to learn.

Why, then, is the Republican majority trying to turn back the clock on school nutrition? Why are they trying to undermine the quality of school meals by gumming up a regulatory process that is designed to ensure that our kids are eating healthy?

Mr. Chairman, I'm offering this amendment because it will stop the majority's attempt to block the implementation of scientific standards for school meals.

Here's the backstory. Since the Truman administration, Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture have set standards for school lunches and breakfasts. But for most of that history, those standards have not reflected the expertise of nutritionists and other health professionals.

Then, last year, Congress passed and the President signed a bill directing the USDA to make school meal requirements, for the first time, consistent with sound science and dietary guidelines issued by the Institute of Medicine. The bottom line: That would mean healthier food for our kids. It would mean the cafeteria line would have more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and low-fat milk, and less sodium and saturated fat. As instructed by the law that we passed, USDA wrote a regulation and received over 130,000 comments.

Now, just when the process is wrapping up, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to use report language in this appropriations bill to scrap the rule and compel USDA to write a completely new one. This is a stall tactic, plain and simple. Better school meals must not, can't be, from this act, a priority for the other side of the aisle. They apparently don't believe we need to do anything about the epidemic of childhood obesity that is rapidly becoming a major public health crisis, so they're looking for any way to put on the breaks.

The process has worked. We've had congressional direction and we've had mandates. We've had open comment period and rulemaking based on sound science. But the end result is not to the majority's liking, so they want a do-over. This is not only unnecessary, Mr. Chairman, but expensive, as there would be costs associated with starting the rulemaking over--going back to square one. In one fell swoop, the Republicans are showing themselves to be anti-science, anti-child, anti-public health, and anti-fiscal responsibility.

My amendment would stop their shortsighted and irresponsible scheme. It would prevent funds made available by this appropriations act from being used to require USDA to reissue a new rule.

Important advocates agree with me. My amendment has been endorsed by the National Education Association, the American Dietetic Association, Bread for the World, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and many other groups, which I will include in the Record.

Mr. Chairman, our children need balanced, healthy, nutritious meals, not costly bureaucratic delays. They need this to help them succeed in school and in life.

H.R. 2112, Amendment No. 20, List of Supporters

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Public Health Association, Association of State & Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors, Bread for the World, California Association of Nutrition & Activity Programs, California Food Policy Advocates, Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Community Food Security Coalition, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Education Association, National Farm to School Network, The National WIC Association, Public Health Institute, Trust for America's Health, The United Fresh Produce Association.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from California?

There was no objection.

AMENDMENT NO. 24 OFFERED BY MR. ROYCE

Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

Sec. 7xx. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide assistance under title II of the Food for Peace Act

(7 U.S.C. 1721 et seq.) to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much.

A couple of quick points here. One, the administration is actively considering resuming food aid to North Korea. And I understand the humanitarian impulse here, but the unusual circumstances of North Korea make this a mistake--and make it a very bad mistake, frankly--which this amendment would correct.

I remember the words of one North Korean defector, Kim Duk-hong. I had a chance to talk with him. He said actually in testimony here before the committee, we must not give food aid to North Korea because it is, in his words, the same as providing funding for North Korea's nuclear program. Why is that so? Because what invariably happens is they redirect these resources into support for the regime.

This week we had reports that North Korea is making miniaturized versions of its nuclear weapons--ones that could fit atop ICBMs. That makes his statement all that more dire about the redirection of these resources into the regime's hands.

The situation in North Korea is heartbreaking. I've been up there. I've seen the depravation. But this is a disaster made by the dictatorship itself. And let me say unequivocally, the food we send does not reach the hungry.

So, who benefits from our good will? Well, the inner circle does and their military industrial complex does. We've had hearings in which the French NGO Doctors Without Borders--we're all aware of their good work around the world. They testified before the International Relations Committee that the vast majority of refugees they interview say they had never received any food aid. None of the children they had ever met had ever seen food aid during the years they worked up on the border.

And this testimony is backed up by a survey of 500 North Korean defectors in which 78.2 percent of them never saw foreign food aid. And the reason for this is because it goes, again, into the black market. It is sold for the hard currency that the regime needs for its nuclear program and other programs.

Some could argue that what we need is more oversight and maybe better monitoring on this food.

Let me tell you about the testimony we've heard on that, because the North Koreans, I don't think they've got a word for ``transparency.'' No matter how airtight any monitoring protocol may be, they cheat. We had a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing where a North Korean dissident told us how the regime would mark all the houses that had received bags of food and would return to collect them after the monitors had left. So North Korea is always going to cheat.

Some assert that the North is holding food, holding food for the future, hoarding a million tons of rice. That's the charge we hear from South Korea, from members of their Parliament. But the fact is that it's an asset that is converted by the North.

So I urge my colleagues to support my amendment for the sake of the North Korean people. Providing this aid not only allows Kim Jong-Il's oppressive regime to divert scarce resources towards its military program, one that has grown increasingly threatening, but it also delays the day when real structural reform will come to North Korea.

There is a Korean saying that ``pouring water into a cracked pot is worthless.'' Sending resources to Kim Jong-Il is even worse. It's enabling a regime with one of the world's worst human rights records but also with an atomic bomb.

North Korea has played us like a fiddle for years. Conditions for North Koreans have only worsened. It's time for a new North Korea policy. Let's start now.

I ask my colleagues to support the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KINGSTON. We have had a very difficult time with the Food for Peace program already, and if this helps secure another supporter of the bill, we certainly would work with you on this amendment and support it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. Royce).

The amendment was agreed to.

AMENDMENT NO. 25 OFFERED BY MR. KIND

Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

At the end of the bill (before any short title), insert the following new section:

Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide payments (or to pay the salaries and expenses of personnel to provide payments) to the Brazil Cotton Institute.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is very straightforward, and in a second I'm going to explain it in more detail.

For many, many years now, I and a group of bipartisan Members of this Congress have formed a coalition in an attempt to move farm bill reform forward, to try to end these large taxpayer subsidies that are going to a few, but very large, agribusinesses, subsidies that are not in fact helping family farmers, leading to greater consolidation in production of agriculture, driving up land values, making it more difficult for new beginning farmers to enter agriculture, and subsidies that are not fiscally responsible.

In light of the budget deficits that we're wrestling with, what better time to continue to move in the area of reform under the farm bill with this Agriculture appropriation bill, rather than waiting for the promise or hope that in a year or two in the reauthorization of another farm bill that this institution might finally come around and start making the long overdue changes.

Just to show you how perverted these farm programs have gotten, recently Brazil challenged our own domestic cotton subsidy program and prevailed in the WTO court. Now you would expect our rational response would be to reform our cotton subsidy program, to come into compliance with that WTO decision, to end these subsidies that you really can't justify here to our cotton producers, and we would solve this problem.

But that's not the approach that was taken. In fact, the administration recently set up a new subsidy program that is now going to subsidize Brazil cotton producers.

Let me repeat that. We are spending $147 million a year in order to bribe the Brazilian Government so that they don't enforce the sanctions that they're entitled to now because of our unwillingness to reform our own cotton subsidy program. That is wrong, and that is what my amendment would address. It would prohibit the use of funds through this Agriculture appropriation bill going to this new subsidy program to subsidize the Brazil cotton industry.

It just shows you what a pretzel our farm programs have turned this Congress into because of yet again the unwillingness for us to reform our own domestic title I subsidy programs. The answer to this is not to funnel out another $147 million a year until maybe we address this in the next farm bill, which could end up costing the American taxpayer over a half a billion dollars, when we can make that correction now, reform the domestic program, get out from under the WTO decision, start saving money by not sending $147 million a year to Brazil, and also start saving some money by reforming our own cotton domestic subsidy program.

That's the solution to this. That's something that we can fix tonight, rather than continuing this facade of maintaining these programs that many of us warned in the last farm bill would be challenged, and sure enough they did, and they're prevailing, and now they can apply economic sanctions against us.

So the time to act is now, not waiting for a year or two or whenever we're going to get around to reauthorizing another farm bill; and the time to start saving some real money is this night, by passing the amendment that we're offering. We can save $147 million, we can reform the cotton subsidy program and save more taxpayer dollars, and we have that ability to be fiscally responsible and start making changes tonight.

I know what the argument on the other side will be: wait for the next farm bill; we'll take care of it then. Well, there is a lot that we are moving forward on this year on deficit reduction, and I for one think that the farm bill should also be open for scrutiny for potential savings to reduce our deficit.

But that's not what's being offered tonight in reforming the title I subsidy programs. Instead, most of the deep cuts are coming under the conservation title, the nutrition programs, certain key investments that we have to make to empower our farmers to be good stewards of the land, to reduce sediment and nutrient flows and the impact it has on the quality water supply that we need in this country, the protection of wildlife habitat. In fact, three out of every four farmers applying for conservation funding assistance today are turned away because of inadequacy of funds. That number will only explode because of the deep cuts coming in these other titles of the farm bill.

We have an opportunity to start making some changes under title I, the subsidy program, first by stopping the additional layer of subsidy that's been created where we're starting to subsidize other countries' farmers. Let's start making that change tonight.

I would encourage my colleagues to look closely at this amendment. This is the reasonable response that we should be taking. Let's not defer this decision any further. We can do that. And instead of encouraging any type of trade war or sanctions with Brazil, we should move forward in reforming the cotton subsidy program starting tonight.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time and ask my colleagues to support this amendment.

Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. CONAWAY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

My colleague is very passionate, but he is also very wrong. This money does not go to Brazilian farmers. That's illegal for us to do that. What it does do, it does go to an institute that promotes Brazilian agricultural production. It may be a fine line to distinguish there, but it's inflammatory to say it's going to Brazilian farmers, that we're doing that, and he knows it and it is wrong, but it is a payment. It's a payment negotiated by the Obama administration in reaction to a loss at the WTO in order to buy time so that a trade war with our 10th largest trading partner in the world doesn't erupt that has actually nothing to do with ag protection.

The trade war that is being prevented, over $800 million worth of exports to Brazil, protects a broad variety of nonagricultural industries in this agreement. This buys us time until the 2012 farm bill could get done. We cannot tonight nor should we tonight delve into a very complicated farm safety net program that has worked well for the American people.

It is unquestioned that the American people enjoy the safest, most abundant and cheapest food and fiber source in the world, in the developed countries; and we do that because of the hard work, sweat equity, and risk-taking of the American ag producer. They rely in turn on a safety net that is relatively complicated and interwoven across a bunch of things that make it help.

The budget that we did pass says that the farm bill will be written in 2012. I understand my colleague's disdain for the process of the Agriculture Committee. He doesn't like the Agriculture Committee, he doesn't like the work product that we come out with, but that's the group that knows the most about the process of the safety net.

Doing this, what the gentleman would like to do tonight, would disrupt that trade agreement and undercut the U.S. Trade Representative and his ability to negotiate around the world because he's negotiated with a group who won't stick by their word.

The 2008 farm bill put in place a 5-year contract, 5-year agreement with the American ag producers, it goes to the 2012 farm bill--2012 crop year, and we ought to stand behind it and defeat this amendment.

So the money does not go to farmers. It does protect $800 million a year in exports of nonagricultural exports that are imported to this country, including intellectual property rights that would be abrogated if we back out of this deal that we've made with Brazil. So with that I respectfully request my colleagues to oppose the Kind amendment as being wrong-headed tonight.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Oregon is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BLUMENAUER. I listened to my good friend from Texas talk about deferring yet again to the Ag Committee, that somehow this payment goes to the Brazilian cotton industry and not to the cotton farmers, a distinction without a difference I would suggest.

I rise in support of my colleague from Wisconsin in this proposal. I've been in this Congress having watched three farm bill reauthorizations, and each time we find that there is expression on the floor of this Chamber for actual reform. We've asked for limitations. We are told well we just don't--the floor doesn't understand; it's too complicated. Well, it is complicated and twisted because this is an effort to try, through the complexity, to layer efforts here that cheat the American consumer, that hurt the environment, and pose serious problems for international trade.

And my friend from Wisconsin is correct. We were talking about this in the last farm bill, and we got our comeuppance, but instead of responding responsibly in reducing or eliminating the illegal cotton subsidies, we're shoving upwards of a half-billion dollars to the Brazilian cotton industry, and I'll be prepared to argue, it benefits cotton farmers. So we're subsidizing two countries because we fail to reach our responsibilities now.

I sincerely think this is wrong. I think $147 million could go a long way towards helping the part of American agriculture that grows food that we categorize as specialty crops who are dramatically shortchanged.

I would like to yield the remainder of my time, if I could, to my good friend from Wisconsin, the sponsor of this amendment.

Mr. KIND. Well, I thank my good friend from Oregon for his support of the amendment and for his support throughout the years in trying to lead the effort for meaningful farm bill reform.

Mr. Chairman, there is another solution to this that's going to be offered by our good friend and colleague from Arizona in just a little bit, Mr. Flake. He goes to the heart of the WTO decision to find out what changes we should be making in the cotton subsidy program to get out from under the thumb of Brazil, and I would support that amendment, and I hope my colleagues support his amendment as well because that is the ultimate solution to this: Instead of just cutting off the funding to Brazil right now, coming up with the cotton subsidy reform.

Now, let's remember the context in which we find ourselves this evening. Cotton payments are almost at a world record high price right now, yet these subsidies are still going out. There's just very little relationship right now with the subsidies under title I to the grain producers and cotton producers of our country and the price they receive in the marketplace. And in a time of tough budgets, when everyone else is being asked to take a haircut, whether you're a supporter of conservation programs or vital nutrition programs for our children and seniors, for us to not even look and consider the title I programs in the context of this agriculture appropriation, it's beyond the pale. There's just no justification to it.

These programs are outdated. They are impossible to justify with the American taxpayer, especially with the deficit reduction that all of us are interested in participating in this year. This is a small, but I think significant, step down the road of reform with the farm bill finding savings that can be applied to either other programs or for deficit reduction.

That's why I commend my colleague from Arizona for the amendment he's about to offer, but my friend from Oregon, too, will have some important amendments for us to consider, a payment limitation limiting the overall amount of subsidies that go to our producers. And folks, this is going to agribusiness, many of whom have mailing addresses in Manhattan, in Chicago, in San Francisco. These aren't even family farmers working the land, and they're some of the primary recipients of these agriculture subsidies.

Mr. Blumenauer's amendments address that, along with Mr. Flake's AGI cutoff at $250,000 a year. That's 250 thousand dollars of profit, and if you're an entity making a profit of over a quarter-million dollars a year, should you really still be receiving taxpayer subsidies for the business that you're running? I think not, and we'll have another opportunity to consider that later tonight.

So I appreciate the gentleman yielding me this time and further explaining what this amendment is all about. And if we are serious about deficit reduction, if we are serious about reining in some of these programs that are tough to justify, then we should be serious about supporting this amendment tonight.

Mr. BLUMENAUER. And Mr. Chair, on that note I, too, commend what my friend from Wisconsin is doing. I look forward to the comments from my friend from Arizona. If we're serious about reform and saving money, it's time to move in this area.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Arizona is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Kind amendment. I commend the gentleman from Wisconsin for offering this.

You know, we've heard here that we need this program to make us trade compliant. Many of us warned when we did the last farm bill that if we did this level of subsidies that it would run afoul of our trade agreements. Yet we plowed ahead and did it anyway. And then April of last year is when our farm programs, which on their best day are out of step with reality, moved into the realm of the absurd when we hatched a program to actually fund an institute in Brazil to fund the cotton industry there to start subsidizing the Brazilians so that we could continue to subsidize our own farmers. Is that not absurd? Why are we continuing to do this?

It was raised before that we've got to do this to make us trade compliant now where tariffs might be imposed. That is true, but I offered an amendment in the committee earlier on that would have taken money from the direct payments that we currently pay to cotton farmers and paid off the Brazilians with that money rather than raid the Treasury and raid the taxpayers once again. And guess what? That passed in committee but was stricken when it came to the floor.

So when you hear all this rhetoric about, hey, we want to be trade compliant, we could have done that. We could have simply allowed that amendment to stick in the bill, and then this would have been trade compliant. But the Brazilians would have been paid off not with new taxpayer money but with the money that is making us non-trade compliant in the first place.

So don't believe what you're hearing about, we just want to be trade compliant; that's what this is about. We offered an alternative to that, and it was rejected. And so here we are asking the taxpayers to once again this year, $147 million to the Brazilians to make us trade compliant. We've got to stop this.

Nobody really believes that we're going to do a farm bill this year. Nobody really believes we're going to do one next year. And so we're going to be doing this year after year after year, so that means that we're going to continue to do this unless we stop it. I can tell you if we pass the Kind amendment tonight, we will be back and we'll reform our cotton subsidies in a way that will make us trade compliant. We'll go back and accept the Flake amendment that passed in the Appropriations Committee that perhaps took the money from the cotton program.

We don't need to continue to ask the taxpayers to pay off the Brazilians so that we can continue out-of-step subsidies to our own farmers. That's what this amendment is about. I commend the gentleman for offering it.

And I would yield to the gentleman from Wisconsin.

Mr. KIND. I appreciate the gentleman yielding, and I appreciate his support of this amendment and the leadership that he's shown not only in committee but throughout the years when it comes to sensible farm bill reform.

The easiest way for us to come into trade compliance isn't by bribing the Brazilian government to get them to not enforce the sanctions that it can under WTO; it's fixing this domestic program, and doing it now rather than waiting years from now, as my colleague just pointed out, for the next farm bill. I know this isn't easy, and I know the committees wrestles with a lot of different constituent problems. I used to serve on the committee.

I'm not asking anyone here tonight to do anything differently than what I'm asking my producers to do in my district of Wisconsin and in my State, and that's taking a haircut. The reforms that I've been proposing through the years would require my district to take a haircut on these agriculture subsidies. It's not always easy standing up to groups that are getting something from the government and saying we can't afford it, nor can we justify it, with the market and with the deficit. But that is what it's going to take for this body to come together if we are going to be serious about deficit reduction and getting the spending under control.

I know that the Agriculture Committee has their hands full, and I know they would rather just defer this next decision until the next farm bill and put it off. But we don't know when that's going to be. But the thing we do know for certain is there is $147 million going out the door every year right now that we can stop doing tonight with the passage of this amendment.

Mr. FLAKE. I just want to make a point that everybody needs to take a haircut here if we are going to get this debt and deficit under control. We shouldn't ask the taxpayers once again to pay off the Brazilians so we can continue out-of-step subsidies to our own farmers.

We have a cotton industry in Arizona. They may take a hit because of this, but everybody has to take a haircut. Everybody has to contribute here to getting this deficit and this debt under control. And if we can't start with a program like this, I don't know where we'll start.

After this amendment, I plan to offer an amendment that will go after the programs that actually make us nontrade compliant. I will be glad to give up on that amendment, not offer it at all, if this amendment is allowed to pass. But if it is called for the ``noes,'' then I plan to offer the amendment after this.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Minnesota is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, you know, this is kind of a surreal debate because I don't think we're talking about the real issue here. You know, the cotton program isn't perfect. A lot of the programs that we have in the Agriculture Committee aren't perfect. Freedom to Farm, it was passed in '96. It got us into some of these problems. I opposed. It saved a little bit of money, and then we ended up spending 10 times as much money bailing people out when it collapsed. So you have got to be careful what you are doing.

But the problem here is, we're arguing about something that no longer exists. This program that they sued us under no longer exists. We have fixed it two or three times. We tried to address this. It was never good enough for the Brazilians. But we made some changes, and we made some more changes, and then we made some more changes in the 2008 farm bill. It's still not good enough for them.

Cotton went through some very difficult times. I don't have any cotton in my district. This is not a parochial issue for me. But if they wouldn't have had that safety net, we would have been out of the cotton business. But what was going on at the same time? We had Brazil using government money to increase cotton production in Brazil. And this is something that isn't considered in the WTO because we are such geniuses that we agreed to this agreement that tied our hands and gave our competitors the ability to eat our lunch. And that's what's going on.

You know, JBS, which just took over a big part of the livestock industry in this country, is financed by the Brazilian Government. They own 30 percent of JBS. Nobody complains about that. The Brazilian Government created most of this competition that collapsed the cotton prices worldwide.

And then we agreed to let China into the WTO, and they promised that they weren't going to go into cotton production. We shipped our textile market to China and collapsed all of our textile industry. And what happened? They increased production like crazy. India increased production like crazy. Our cotton prices went down below the cost of production because of these trade agreements that we got involved in. But the way they're structured, there's nothing we can do about it. But they're going to sue us over a little step two program that we now got rid of, trying to keep our people in business.

Now, if you want to ship the whole cotton industry to Brazil and China and India, you are on a good start to doing that. And if you keep on this road, you're going to ship the rest of agriculture to these so-called developing nations that are not developing nations. If you've been to Brazil, in agriculture, they are anything but a developing nation; but they're protected under the rules that we agreed to in this WTO deal.

So is this a perfect solution? No. But we couldn't get the Brazilians to honestly sit down and work this out because they don't want to. They're trying to use this for other reasons, for other advantages in these trade negotiations and so forth. And I don't think we can ever do anything to satisfy them.

So there's more to this than people are talking about here. This is not about saving money. This is about making sure that we can have a safety net in this country so we can maintain production of agriculture in the United States and not ship it all to other countries and not get dependent on foreign countries for our food, like we've become dependent on foreign countries for our energy. That would be the worst thing that could happen to us.

So I just hope people understand all of the different ramifications. This isn't a perfect deal; but for the time being, it's probably the best solution that we can come up with.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Oklahoma is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment.

I want to return for a moment, I think, to the focus of the discussion. I want to be absolutely clear. If this amendment passes, it will--it could incite a trade war. Brazil could immediately impose $800 million in retaliatory tariffs on a variety of U.S. goods.

I promise you, they won't retaliate against U.S. agricultural products. They'll go after ag chemicals and biotechnology products. And they'll go after veterinarian medicines and software and books and music and films. They'll go at everybody outside of production agriculture with their $800 billion in retaliatory tariffs.

Now, we can debate how we got here; and my colleague, the ranking member, gave a very good history of what led us to this point. But this amendment right here, right now would expose the U.S. to job-killing sanctions on goods valued at $800 million.

In 2010, the Obama administration finalized a framework agreement with Brazil that was a critical step in resolving this dispute about the U.S. Upland Cotton Program and export credits. And, yes, under the agreement, Brazil agreed to delay trade sanctions, trade retaliation until the 2012 farm bill was developed and put together. This amendment would circumvent the legislative process in what could only be described as a haphazard way that should be a relic of the past.

This amendment is an attempt to circumvent regular order, the democratic policy process, by changing policy on an appropriation bill. Now, I can assure you, I plan and we will have a full and open process when we start the farm bill debate. We'll debate the relevant issues dealt with in this amendment.

And on that note, I would serve a notice for record that next week, we plan to start the process of conducting an audit of all farm programs. This audit is just the beginning of the comprehensive and transparent process we'll use to draft the 2012 farm bill. Policy changes will be considered carefully with the input from industry stakeholders and constituents and within the larger context of improving the competitiveness and long productivity of American agriculture.

Let's not incite a trade war. Let's return to regular order. And if nothing else, my friends, remember, this bill is 13 percent lower than the previous spending bill. This Ag approps bill takes us almost back to 2006. We are giving our share in this appropriations process. And everyone in this room knows that whether it's the regular farm bill next summer or if we have some grandiose understanding on the national debt ceiling and spending, the deficit, we could well have a farm bill dramatically quicker than next summer, and we'll have a farm bill that reflects a dramatic reduction in resources compared to past farm bills.

Let the Ag Committee in regular order craft the policy, and then when we bring it to the floor--all of our friends, expert ag economists, we all may be together--you will have your shot, as you've had before. But please don't incite a trade war. Please don't ignore the regular order of appropriation authorization. Please be rational in what you do. We've got tough decisions ahead of us. Collin and I and the rest of the committee, we know that. We're going to do what we have to do. But let us do it in regular order, not in this fashion.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I move to strike the requisite number of words.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Let me just say this: Georgia is the second-largest cotton-producing State. It accounts for approximately 10 percent of the U.S. cotton production. In 2011, Georgia farmers intend to plant almost 1.5 million acres of cotton.

The average farm-gate value is more than $600 million. There are approximately 2,800 businesses directly involved in the production, processing, and distribution of cotton. Accounting for the broader economic effects, the Georgia cotton industry supports more than 46,000 jobs, and it generates economic activity of approximately $11 billion.

Now, the proponents of these amendments target provisions in the cotton programs that are at the center of a WTO trade case which Brazil has against the United States. The U.S. and the Brazilian Governments have scheduled a series of consultations designed to identify the modifications in policy that will resolve the case. The intention is to reach agreement on carefully thought-out provisions that can be included in the 2012 farm bill.

These hastily drafted amendments are not guaranteed to resolve the dispute, 1, since the U.S.-Brazil consultations have not resulted in any specific agreement and, 2, since these approaches will certainly undermine the future discussions as the two countries attempt to reach a final resolution that's fair and that is reasonable.

The amendments target cotton farmers in an effort to reduce government spending. The 2008 farm bill, including the cotton provisions, was fully paid for, offset, and did not add one single dime to the deficit. They cite the years in which the government's support for cotton was historically high, but they ignore the years when the support actually is at historic lows. We need to maintain the safety net so that it's there when it's needed but not utilized, as it hasn't been recently, when it's not needed.

Farmers understand the current budget pressures. They understand that very well. But they expect to be a part of a debate involving all of the agricultural stakeholders, and not be singled out for ad hoc budget reductions with hasty policy decisions.

These proposed amendments would nullify the basic component of cotton policy. If these amendments are enacted, they would take effect October 1, and, as a result, USDA would have to change the cotton program rules in the middle of the marketing year and change them back effective October 1, 2012. This would undermine the confidence in commodity programs, especially among agricultural lenders.

This would compromise our agriculture policy, a policy that has been vetted very carefully by our authorizing committees and relied upon by our growers and our lenders in making their business decisions going into 2012. The reauthorization of the farm bill in 2012 is the proper forum to debate the cotton agriculture policy, not here on this appropriations bill.

We have got to do what is right in regular order. This is not the time. It's not the place. And what we're doing tonight, if they go forward with this, is pulling the rug out from under our cotton farmers and our agriculture when they have made financial plans through 2012. It is unfair; it's not right, and we should not do it.

I urge my colleagues to reject these amendments. They are ill-advised.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FARENTHOLD. I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FARENTHOLD. I would like to speak in opposition to this.

The ranking member gives a great history lesson on how this comes out. The previous farm bill--passed by primarily Congress controlled by your side of the aisle--created a situation with our cotton subsidies that has caused a problem with Brazil, and we are trying to work it out.

My colleagues on this side of the aisle and many of the colleagues on the other side of the aisle are also concerned that this government as a whole, through the regulatory process, picked the regulatory agencies, making it very difficult and unpredictable for businesses by changing the regulatory environment.

Our businesses are holding back, not investing, not creating jobs. But we're about to do the same thing ourselves right here with this amendment by yanking the rug out from under our cotton farmers, who have built their businesses, made their plans based on the promise of the last farm bill.

You know, I love to save money for this government. I'm none too happy to see this money going to Brazil. But we basically lost a lawsuit and we're having to pay the damages. And we're going to fix it in the regular order without yanking the rug out from under the farmers, who are the backbone of this country, by changing the rules in the middle of the game. Give us until next year to get that farm bill out, and we will address it.

Even though it didn't rise to the point of order, this really does rise, in my opinion, to the level of legislating within an appropriations bill.

I don't like spending the money. I don't like sending it offshore. But we cannot change the rules in the middle of the game. We cannot move the goalposts for our farmers, many of whom are small, private farmers who have built their future, taken out loans, decided to buy more land, decided to buy more equipment, based all their business decisions on the promise that this government made to them in the last farm bill. And changing the rules at this point is absolutely wrong, and I encourage my friends and my colleagues to vote against this amendment.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top