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Providing For Consideration of H.R. 3161, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KINGSTON. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank the chairman pro tempore of the Rules Committee for an open rule on this. I think it is important, and we appreciate that.

I certainly thank the chairman of the committee, Ms. DeLauro, for her hard work on it, and I have had a lot of input on it. We've had a lot of good debate on this bill. So it is my intention to support it, but I do have some concerns about the rules which I will address later, but I wanted to go over the bill a little bit.

First of all, I wanted to get Members a little bit focused on the Ag overall picture. Number one, the whole bill is about $100 billion. We're actually debating $18 billion. There's another $79 billion in what we call around here mandatory spending, which is not mandatory, by the way. It is just that we don't want to go back to the bottom line and start all over again. That's what the farm bill's going to do or whatever, but I just wanted to point out, it's real important that the ag programs are actually about one-third of the entire bill, that there's a lot of nonagriculture, nondirect farm programs.

That's important because the rural community comes under such criticism that, well, why is the farm bill so big when less than 2 percent of our population are farmers? Well, the reason is, of course they feed 100 percent of us and we all eat their product, which is food. I wanted to point that out and then show you this mandatory versus discretionary portion of the bill.

The red portion we don't really debate; we don't control in the Appropriations Committee. That's what they do in the Ag Committee, and I don't think they did a very good job this particular year in all the parts of it because they didn't delve into some of this stuff.

The discretionary portion, again, is $18 billion. It's above last year's, and it's about a 3.6 percent increase over last year, or 5.9 percent. Because of that, it's going to be a veto target by the President. The Republican Party says the spending level is too high, and I think that we have to know that we can't pass this by a veto-proof majority, and so perhaps if we went back to the drawing board here it would be good.

The second point I want to make ties directly into this debate that's going on on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now, this agriculture bill, should we pass it tonight or tomorrow, will go to the Senate, and it will sit, and unlike wine, it doesn't get better over time. It just sits, and what's going to happen, more and more people will delve in and more and more special interests will, and it will pile up with the rest of the appropriation bills.

It's a little bit silly. In fact, we're maybe like the little lab rats going round and round in a circle in hopes of getting somewhere when we know doggone good and well all that's going to happen in the Senate is this thing is going to sit. And yet, because of that, because of our urgency to pass Agriculture, we're going to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And it doesn't make sense not to just stop a minute or an hour and get that done and then come back to Agriculture because it is not going to move.

There's some concerns also that I wanted to bring out when it comes to the Food and Nutrition Service. Now, my friend Mr. McGovern has worked very hard on hunger, and he has a sincere passion for that, which is important. But the charge that we have underfunded hunger in the past years under Republican control is really not accurate at all.

Here is the spending chart on food and nutrition programs since 2001, and as you can see, it goes up in a linear manner, and now under the Democrat rule it goes up about the same. There's not some huge deficit in hunger. In fact, I would say to you quite clearly, we spent more time talking about obesity than we did hunger, and I'm not saying hunger's not something that we all have a lot of concern about, but let's make no mistake. The spending on nutrition and food has gone up steadily under Republican control, as it has under Democrat control.

I want to say also, I don't think increasing food stamps participation is an achievement that the U.S. Congress should be patting itself on the back. We should move to getting people independent, not more dependent on government largess. We need to work with people to get them independent. And so often our poverty brokers in this world have a perverse incentive to make sure people don't become independent, and I think we need to be mindful of that on any government program.

The Chair has pointed out what we're doing on renewable energy, and that is something that we think the Ag can and should lead on with ethanol and biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. We've taken great strides in this bill, and I am confident that we are going to have some great progress and great bragging rights on that.

One other issue that we're going to get into later is this overgrab on the horse regulation that, if this bill passes in its current form, you will not be able to export your horse or import a horse. That's not the business of the Federal Government, at least not in a constitutional sense. I believe that a horse is private property and that you should have the right to sell your horse to folks in Canada and Mexico, if you so choose, or take it to a horse show over there. We will debate that later, and I thank the gentleman and I thank the Chair.

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