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

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PETERSON. The gentlewoman is exactly right. We would be happy to control the predators. The problem is they won't let us. And right now we're going through a delisting process in Minnesota on wolves. We just had a meeting a couple of nights ago, a big meeting up north. And part of the problem is, because of the budget situation and the pressure on that part of the budget, they don't even have the resources at this point, given the existing money, to be able to come in and help us control the wolves.

And they are going through a process where they're turning over the management to the local State DNR, and they're not allowing the farmers to go out there and control the predators, and they're eating their calves and their sheep. And there's even a program in Minnesota where they pay them because we can't control it. And we would be happy to, you know, we have been trying to get, we're happy they are finally being delisted. But the farmers would take care of this. But in this agreement it says that we can't do anything for 5 years. We can't hunt these wolves for 5 years.

We also have a problem in Minnesota and other States with cormorants. And we entered into an agreement with Mexico that we wouldn't shoot any black birds since 1973 under the Migratory Bird Act, and so we can't control cormorants. And Wildlife Services is the only way we can deal with that. And we've been making some progress on it. But prior to this treaty, we controlled these cormorants on these lakes by the local guys going out and hunting them.

So we would be happy, if we get the Federal Government to get out of this, to deal with it. We wouldn't need any money from the government. This is a problem caused by us, and that's why we need this money. And the last thing we need to do is reduce it. So I oppose this amendment.

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Mr. PETERSON. I also rise to oppose this amendment. As the gentleman from Texas has indicated, we have been trying to resolve this. We made significant changes already and there are some ongoing consultations or whatever you want to call them with the Brazilians. But he is right: They will not lay out what they actually want to resolve this situation, and frankly, from what I can see, I don't think there is anything that we can do that they will agree to. So we are trying to work through this.

But as I said when we had this discussion yesterday, it is very troubling to me that we are in this situation. With the way this WTO operates, the Brazilians have the most closed market in the world. You try to get any products into Brazil, and it is almost impossible. But do we care about that? No. They are spending I don't know how many billions of dollars of government money to increase production and increase agriculture in Brazil, way more than we are spending, and do we complain about that? No.

Some people say it is because of the agreements that we have entered into. Who knows exactly what it is. But the Brazilians are not lily white in all of this. They are utilizing some of the flaws in the WTO agreement to push this cause, and, frankly, we have let them do it.

So this needs to get dealt with in the regular order in the farm bill. This is not the place to do this on the floor of the House. We will deal with it. I think the chairman will back me up on that. We would love to have the Brazilians tell us what it is that they will agree to so we can resolve this. These discussions are ongoing. Hopefully they will be more forthcoming and we can get an answer to what it is that will solve this problem. Frankly, from my experience, I wouldn't hold my breath. So we will see.

So I oppose this amendment and I ask my colleagues to oppose it. This is the wrong place to do it.

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Mr. PETERSON. I rise in opposition to the amendment. We are, once again, debating ethanol. There is so much misrepresentation and misunderstanding of what's going on.

The ethanol industry has been one of the best things that has happened in rural America. We have created a tremendous amount of jobs in small towns that otherwise get bypassed, and they've been very successful. The way we've been able to do it up to this point is through the blend, by having people blend 10 percent ethanol. The EPA is approving going to 15 percent ethanol, but the industry has hit what they call a ``blend wall.''

Now, the blend was basically driven by the fact that the refineries and oil companies needed octane. Gasoline is low in octane and high in Btus. Ethanol is high in octane and low in Btus. Back in the old days, we used lead to raise the octane level. Then when lead was banned, the oil companies decided to create MTBE. We warned them against that, but they went ahead and built the MTBE plants, which, it turned out, poisoned the water in a number of cities in the United States. Then the oil companies and refineries went to the ethanol blend, which they should have done in the first place. That's working, but we're at a limit now.

If we're going to move ahead, we have to have access to the marketplace. The problem that we have is that we don't have the cars like Brazil has which can burn different levels of ethanol, and we don't have the pumps in the gas stations so that people can have access to ethanol. If we're going to get rid of the VTAC and the other programs that we have in ethanol, we're okay with that as long as the consumers have the ability to make the choice at the station. If they want to burn ethanol, they've got to have the ability to be able to do that.

So we need to get the pumps in the station. We need to get the car companies to start building vehicles like they do in Brazil, which run a 25-30 percent blend. The American companies are building these cars in Brazil. Every gas station in Brazil has ethanol as opposed to those in the United States. That's one of the reasons they have been so successful and why they are now completely independent from any foreign sources of fuel for their vehicles.

What we're trying to do here is eventually eliminate the subsidies that people have complained about--the VTAC and other things.

But in order for us to be able to maintain this industry and maintain these jobs in rural America, we have to be able to have the infrastructure. We have to have the blended pumps. We have to have the cars. The right blend is 25/30 percent. You will get the best performance, the best mileage. Brazil has figured this out. They've been doing this for a long time. Their blend is 26 percent. We have people that have put in amendments that say we can't blend above 10 percent. We have this foolishness about how it is going to ruin small engines and so forth. This argument has been going on since 1975, and you know, we've been blending ethanol, we haven't ruined any engines yet.

So we need to defeat this amendment because this goes in the wrong direction. If you want a market that's open and lets consumers have a choice, the way to do it is to get the infrastructure in place. I ask my colleagues to oppose this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. PETERSON. I rise in opposition to this amendment.

As Chairman Lucas just indicated, we spent a lot of time working through this. This has a much bigger impact on my friends in the South than it does in our part of the world, although it does affect some of our folks. But one of the reasons is the way they finance and operate in the South, where they have a lot of shared rent. We are pretty much cash renting up in our part of the world now.

But you've got folks that have land that get caught up in this AGI, and it causes problems in terms of financing their operations and the way that they have structured agriculture in the South.

When I've been down there in Arkansas and other places--Mississippi, Georgia--the people that have been the most opposed to this are the bankers. And if you're concerned about having family farmers and keeping as many people on the land as possible, this is exactly the wrong way to go about it. You're going to upset the whole apple cart in doing this.

Having said that, why do we have an adjusted gross income limit on farmers? Why don't we have it on everybody? If this is such a good idea, why don't we have anybody that gets any money from the government be subject to this AGI? If it's good enough for farmers, then anybody that makes $250,000 doesn't get anything from the government, period, just like farmers. That's how much sense this makes.

The other thing that everybody talks about is that 80 percent of the people only get 10 percent of the payments. Well, people need to understand that we have a definition of ``farmer'' that is flawed and we should get rid of. They claim that we have 2 million farmers in this country. But do you know what it takes to be a farmer, the definition? If you could produce $1,000 of farm income--you don't have to, just if you could produce $1,000, you're considered a farmer. The true reality is we have 350,000 commercial farmers that produce over 90 percent of the food, and obviously they're going to get the payments because that's the way the system works.

We have worked through this on the committee. I didn't agree with these AGI limits and payment limits that we put in the bill, but it was something we had to work out and we worked it out. This should not be dealt with on the floor. Once again, people who have made decisions based on the 5-year farm bill--they've made a lot of investments, they've put a lot of money into their operations based on how this thing is structured--we should not come in and pull the rug out in the middle of the deal here. And we should do this in the regular order in the farm bill. That's where it needs to be done.

This is a bad amendment. I urge my colleagues to oppose it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. PETERSON. That is a very important thing. This is getting to be a bigger and bigger problem. We've had the problem in the Midwest. They have had the problem in the Northeast. But there's a lot of problems I know in Alabama and Mississippi and some of those States as well because these birds migrate.

As I said earlier, the reason we got into this problem is because we entered into this migratory bird treaty with Mexico and Canada back in 1973. In Mexico, blackbirds are sacred as part of their culture down there. And so there's a prohibition in that treaty against any hunting of any blackbirds, whether it be crows or cormorant or whatever it is. So that has tied our hands in terms of trying to deal with these issues.

We've been able to make changes on kind of a pilot basis in certain areas, but we need to do this all over the country because these birds migrate. They go all the way from Canada, down to Mexico, and back and forth. They cause a lot of damage to fish farms. In my part of the world, it's sport fishing lakes. A cormorant will eat three times its weight in fish a day. They do tremendous damage when they get in there.

So I support the gentlewoman and hope we can extend this program around the country.

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