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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Chairman, if it weren't for the lateness of the hour, I would be tempted to ask if any of my colleagues have had constituents call or write their offices to ask whether Congress has lost its marbles. I won't do that.

But I would point out the fact that the underlying bill we are considering tonight contains a provision to create a checkoff program, like many others, but this is a checkoff program for natural stone on behalf of the marble and granite industry.

To those of my friends who are supporters of the checkoff program--and again, there are many checkoff programs--I would simply ask for you to take a close look at my amendment.

Proponents of this checkoff have argued that stone is a natural product, and yes, it is. But is it just like the other products covered in the checkoff program in the agriculture arena?

To anyone unfamiliar, here's a sampling of the some of the other checkoff programs currently run by the USDA: dairy, eggs, beef, blueberries, pork, sorghum, watermelons, et cetera.

The common denominator between the some 20 checkoff programs run by the USDA is that they are all agricultural commodities. They all grow. They all can be raised. The statutory authority for this program defines precisely what an acceptable agricultural commodity is, and rock, no matter how natural it is, is not one of them.

Mr. Chairman, farmers in my district do not grow rocks. In fact, they don't like it when frost heaves and pushes new rocks up in their fields, as in my farm field.

My amendment is more than fair, Mr. Chairman, and is necessary for maintaining the integrity of the farm bill and not for expanding--for which our chairman earlier this evening expressed concern--more farm bill programs in assorted prior amendments. There are no laws preventing this industry from imposing a voluntary tax on their membership. If they are really insistent on having a government-run checkoff, they could have pursued a program under a more appropriate agency like the Department of Commerce or the Department of the Interior.

I would hope my colleagues, Mr. Chairman, would agree that rocks have no place in a farm bill, and would join me in removing this provision from the bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WALBERG. I would suggest that it's not voluntary for all of those in an industry, and I am certain that not all of them in the industry are asking for this checkoff.

Again, I understand there may not be the best infrastructure like the agriculture at the USDA programs for a checkoff like this. But again, I would ask the sponsor of this proposal: When have we grown rocks? Do we seed rocks?

When we look at the agriculture commodity as a term described and defined, it says that the agriculture commodity means agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, and dairy products, livestock and the products of livestock, the products of poultry and bee raising, the products of forestry. I could go on, but it nowhere says ``rocks.'' To expand the program in a farm bill issue and in dealing with something we can't grow, I think, establishes the wrong precedent.

I ask for support for the amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the respect, and I understand that. I appreciate the fact that the USDA has a good record of dealing with checkoffs. I'm not necessarily opposed to all checkoffs, but they ought to fit. Growing rocks--marble, granite--just does not fit in an agricultural program. I think that's apparent. So I ask my colleagues to support this amendment in order to keep the integrity of the farm bill in growing agriculture.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Chairman, propane and oil heat function as checkoff programs under the Department of Commerce and under the Department of Energy. The statutory authority for the USDA checkoff also does not include rock. So I respectfully request that my colleagues in this body support this amendment, which keeps free those things that don't grow and are not part of agriculture out of a farm bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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