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Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I support the conference report, which includes appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration. I am pleased that we followed the regular process to get to this point. It has not always been an easy process, but it has produced a good and well-balanced bill.
Overall spending levels in this bill are closer to the Senate bill than the House-passed bill. The conference bill is consistent with our allocation and includes a nondisaster spending level of $19.565 billion, compared to $19.78 billion in the Senate and $17.253 billion in the House. This funding level allowed us to protect important ongoing programs, while continuing to reduce spending from last year.
Some of the highlights of the conference report funding levels are as follows:
For the WIC Program, we were able to provide an additional $36 million above the Senate, bringing total funding to $570 million above the House level.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides assistance to food pantries, is funded at the fully authorized level of $140 million.
The Food and Drug Administration is funded at the Senate level of $2.497 billion, including increased funding to begin implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service is funded at $1.004 billion, an increase of more than $32 million above the House level.
The Public Law 480 Program, which provides international food assistance, is funded at $1.466 billion, an increase of $426 million above the House level.
Agricultural research funded through the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funded at $2.297 billion, an increase of $282 million above the House level.
Disaster relief funds for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, Emergency Conservation Program, and the Emergency Forest Restoration Program were provided based on the latest USDA estimates.
Beyond these important funding items, we also rejected many of the controversial policy riders that were included in the House bill. Among them were a provision prohibiting any food aid for North Korea, which would tie the hands of U.S. negotiators; a provision blocking enforcement of the Energy Independence and Security Act; and a provision blocking participation in a global climate change task force, as well as others.
Again, I think this is a well-balanced bill. We worked hard with our House counterparts to identify and maintain priorities that benefit the American people. I would like to again thank Senator Blunt for his help during this entire process. His insights were extremely valuable.
Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this conference report.
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