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Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, I can't believe what we're hearing here. How quickly we forget.
It was your committee, Mr. Chairman, that passed the bill, the bipartisan bill, that created the Ocean Commission, which was signed into law by President Clinton, and then the appointees to that commission that were made by President Bush. Who was on that commission? The chair of it was Admiral Watkins--the former head of the Navy, the former Secretary of Energy, a great Republican, a great admiral who understood ocean policy.
Who else was on that commission? Oil and gas executives, fish processors, all kinds of people, because we set up a commission to look at these conflicts at sea. Why? Because, as was stated, America has more ocean water than any other country in the world because of the exclusive economic zone, which also applies to all the atolls and islands like Guam, Hawaii, and so on.
What was happening then? We were having all kinds of conflicts, conflicts between seismic boats that were going out to look for oil and gas, fishermen who had crab pots, stationary pots, buoys, everything that you could think of. And everybody came and said the only government that can resolve this is the United States Congress because these are all Federal agencies. They don't talk to each other and they don't have any coordination, but we need to resolve this.
So we appointed a commission, and they did their work and had hearings all over the United States and came back with their policies. Guess what we did like we do when we have commission work? We implemented those policies in a bill. I worked very hard on it, but I wasn't going to be the lead author on the bill because it was a Republican administration. So your colleague, Jim Saxton, authored that bill; your colleague, Congressman Gilchrest, authored that bill; your colleague, Mr. Jim Greenwood, authored that bill; your colleague, Mr. Curt Weldon, authored that bill.
These were Republican bills before your committee. And guess what? The chair at that time, Mr. Pombo, would not even hear their bills. Wouldn't hear them. Admiral Watkins came here and asked for a hearing on it. That policy has been lingering for over a decade, and all of the recommendations into that went to the administration. Guess what this administration did? They assembled every single agency of government, including DHS, the State Department, the Department of Defense. They were all in it because they all have issues.
We have an ambassador for fish, for example. It's in the State Department. All these things need to be discussed and resolved, and they came up with this ocean policy. This is to avoid conflicts. Everybody is satisfied by it. The Navy needs it. The military needs it for security purposes. You're nuts not to have it. To defund this because you say your committee hasn't heard it--which is just false, because your committee had that bill for not one session, two sessions, three sessions, about four sessions and never took it up and
never dealt with the policy. It was all there.
For lack of congressional action, this is now done by executive order. Thank God it's done by executive order and those--those were all the people that were opposed because they said these things may happen. Well, my God, are we worried about maybe because they're in Idaho and think that potato farmers are going to be affected by ocean policy? Come on. That's a stretch.
I tell you, this amendment is not only not good, it goes backwards in being able to deal with the conflicts at sea and being able to do what the United States Government has to do, which is to lead the world on ocean policy, not take a second seat to it.
I urge a strong defeat.
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Mr. FARR. Certainly I will yield.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Here is the crux of the issue right here. The gentleman started his remarks by saying that the committee, which I had the privilege to chair, created the Ocean Commission. I was not on the committee at the time, but I acknowledge that. We did create that.
And this is the crux of the matter right here. One of the recommendations that came out of that committee was that the policies--it said: The Ocean Council should work with Congress and so on to develop a flexible and voluntary process for the creation of regional ocean councils. States working with relevant stakeholders should use this process to establish regional ocean councils. That is exactly the process we should be going through, but the process of the executive process is 180 degrees from that. So the legislation the gentleman is citing is being used is contrary to what he is trying to promote. That's the whole point of this amendment.
Mr. FARR. You're absolutely wrong.
The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman from California has expired.
(On request of Mr. Hastings of Washington, and by unanimous consent, Mr. Farr was allowed to proceed for 2 additional minutes.)
Mr. FARR. Thank you very much.
As the President cannot create the councils by executive order, the councils have to be created by Congress. I would hope that the leadership of your committee and jurisdiction would create those councils so that they will have some bottoms-up authorities.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. FARR. I yield to the gentleman.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I just want to make this point. The gentleman makes the point of how maybe the process should work and the commission was created.
My objection--and I think the gentleman from Texas' objection--is this is being done by executive order. The way that the process is laid out totally ignores the recommendation that came out of that policy. That is the whole point.
Mr. FARR. Reclaiming my time, the responsible issue here is if you want to do that, let's have a congressional hearing, an oversight hearing on this ocean policy. I would be proud to defend it. But to take a meat-ax approach and whack it and say whatever it is, whatever it accomplishes, we're not going to allow it to be implemented I think is reckless and irresponsible.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. If the gentleman will yield, we have had five hearings on this, just to make a point.
Mr. FARR. I yield back the balance of my time.
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Mr. FARR. Thank you very much for yielding.
I think you can note the passion I've had on this issue because we worked at it a long time. And I want to assure you--I'm ranking member of the Ag Appropriations Committee. I probably represent more productive agriculture than anybody in Congress. I have just one county I represent that has 85 crops in it. We do about $4.2 billion of agriculture out of that county.
I can assure you that coastal States' agriculture is very much concerned about all of these issues that are coming up and really supports the ideas that we can have a coordinated effort. This is a long effort. We had the military involved in this. We've got FEMA involved in this. We've got the Department of Agriculture involved in this. We've got every other agency. And it's how you resolve conflicts that are there.
Yes, we in Congress have enacted an awful lot of laws. And I want to say there isn't anything the President has done or any of these agencies are doing that isn't authorized in law. We gave them those authorities. We just never required them to all sit down and talk about those conflicts and how to resolve those conflicts.
We have a huge responsibility here. This is a long effort to create a National Ocean Policy. It's the smart thing to do. It's got all the Federal agencies at the table, finally, and it's got all the user groups, both private and public.
So I just think that this is kind of a meat-ax approach. If you do have concerns, let's do it in the regular legislative order, not just say that we're going to eliminate that whole ability for them to resolve conflicts. You're going to end up with more lawsuits and a lot of concerns by people who are going to wonder what the future holds without a good, comprehensive plan.
So I again compassionately ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject this amendment. It would be a very dangerous thing for this country to do, to adopt this amendment.
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