AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Senate - September 21, 2005)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, as certainly the Senate knows, we are considering the Senate appropriations bill. There is an amendment that the chairman has brought at the request of the national dairy industry that is of great concern to me. As a result of that, I stand today in opposition to legislation that would seek to divert funds from the National Dairy Promotion Program to be used as a one-time-only source to fund EPA's dairy air quality studies.
While I am wholeheartedly in support of the need for research money to carry out air quality studies, dipping into a program that all producers, large and small, are required to pay into to promote their products does not seem to meet the test of where we want to now reallocate this resource.
The Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983 was established to strengthen the dairy industry's position in the marketplace and to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and use for fluid milk and dairy products. The act does provide for research dollars to be spent but only on research projects related to the advertisement and promotion of the sale and the consumption of dairy products. So should this act leave the door open as a slush fund available any time a select group needs quick money for a proposed unrelated intent of the law? I would hope not, I would think not, and I am afraid the amendment takes us in that direction.
On September 9, 2005, I and the entire Idaho congressional delegation sent a letter on this issue to Secretary Johanns. I ask unanimous consent that this letter be printed in the RECORD.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, Idaho recently became the fourth largest dairy producer in the Nation, and coupled with that new status are our inherent growing pains. Over the past 15 years, Idaho's expansion in the dairy industry has been swift. So has the growth of the State's population. The two have come in conflict with each other over the need for Idaho's dairy industry to be good players in the environmental arena. That is a critical issue, and they have, in most instances, been successful in working out their problems.
Even with the increased pressure of urban encroachment and stringent environmental regulations--and our State has not turned its back on this issue--producers in my State continue to surprise me in their work, in their innovation, and the progressive thinking as it relates to resolving the environmental problems that I suggested are inherent with large concentrated herd and dairy development that is on going.
Idaho's industry realized a few years ago that it was vital they work collectively to support research to find new technologies and methods to mitigate the impact of the operations on the environment. So in 2004, Idaho dairy producers voted to assess themselves an extra half cent per hundredweight to fund environmental research. In other words, they didn't ask the country to do it, they didn't ask the Nation to do it, they did it themselves. This initiative raised about a half a million dollars per year, enabling the establishment of a broad-based research coordination team that includes Idaho and regional EPA officers.
This effort serves as an example of how the industry ought to be working to solve critical research problems rather than asking us now to dip into a fund that was dedicated to advertisement, promotion, and product development.
I am aware of EPA's work on the livestock ``air consent agreement'' to provide limited immunity from frivolous environmental lawsuits to producers who voluntarily allow EPA to conduct their quality research on their operations. I know that those who support this onetime dollar-dipping have good intentions, and I support all of their intentions fully. I have been working with them for a good number of months on other ways to shape Federal policy on air quality issues. However, asking Congress to allow a onetime-only access to the pool of money never intended for that purpose defies the integrity of the dairy promotion program that has worked so very effectively for now 22 years.
Supporters of this proposal say it would only cost around $5 to $8 million, but if it is that small amount, then if you look at the assessment that Idaho did on themselves, you would suggest that more and more could be raised if other States were to do as Idaho has done. The program assesses all producers to promote the products that these producers all provide to the consumer. The money from the promotion program that some, not all, in the industry now seek would only benefit a specific group of producers--about 1200--for a purpose completely unrelated to the intent of the program. Why should we allow a precedent to be set that robs Peter and the rest of his family to pay Paul? Never mind that this has never been done in the program's history.
Mr. President, again, I would like to express my support for the critical need for Federal investment in air quality and other environmental research programs for the dairy industry, but we should not open the gate to a flood that might never cease from a program that is intended for an entirely different purpose. With that, I will have to oppose the amendment.
Mr. BENNETT. Madam President, I listened to my friend from Idaho with great interest and great sympathy, and if, indeed, we could get all the other dairy producers to follow Idaho's example and put an assessment on themselves in order to come up with this money, I would agree with him this amendment is not necessary. Unfortunately, I believe there is an urgency here. The research needs to be done as quickly as possible, and this seems to be the logical place to which we should go.
I will say to the Senator from Idaho and to my other colleagues the fundamental problem here is not the research. The fundamental problem in my view is the absurdity of the EPA position with respect to the underlying question. That, as I said earlier, is not a matter for the appropriations subcommittee to deal with. It is a matter for the authorizing committee. But I will pledge to my friend from Idaho that to the degree we can have some influence on the EPA's position in conference, I will do everything I can to try to get a little common sense into this regulatory pattern.
With that, Madam President, I call for a voice vote on the amendment.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, prior to the call of the roll, I wish to thank the chairman of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee for his work on this issue and his cooperation. Certainly, this industry, as it is important to my State, is important to his State. We work very cooperatively together. We have a lot of commonness across State lines as it relates to the dairy industry, and we share a great deal of work and research. I appreciate the urgency of the need as he has expressed it, but I felt it was extremely important that Idaho's position be heard and understood by the rest of the States because this could be done by the industry itself from another resource, not unlike how Idaho has approached it. And I hope that other States would recognize the need to resolve this issue, and I certainly agree with Senator Bennett that the authorizing committee has a responsibility here and EPA needs to get their act together on this issue.