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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. 2012

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAFFETZ. Madam Chair, this amendment deals with three different services within the Department of Agriculture. The idea and the goal of the situation here is that perhaps they could take a reduction in funding, not totally zero them out, and really look at these duplicative programs as being something that can be ultimately unified over the course of time. My amendment simply drives down the cost of these, and the hope and desire is that they will somehow unify to do and accomplish what these duplicative services are. This relates to the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, and the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Now, the one other one that I would also point out that is funded is the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, where we are not suggesting a reduction in the amount. But the overall goal here is to reduce the amount of the expenditure here 50 percent from 2011 and 43 percent from the current bill. I think this is common sense.

We have to make difficult decisions. We recognize the value the Department of Agriculture brings. A lot of people rely on these types of statistics and information that is needed so that we can make sure that we have the very best Department of Agriculture that we can.

But in these tough and difficult economic times, it is imperative that we make difficult decisions. And sometimes that means we are looking at duplicative programs, maybe scaling those back a little bit, and refocusing the mission so that they can actually do what matters most and prioritize their own mission.

So we think it is the financially responsible thing to do. I would urge my colleagues to look closely at this. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FARR. Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FARR. This amendment cuts ERS by $43 million, and that's the Economic Research Service for Agriculture. Then it goes on to cut another $85 million out of the National Agriculture Statistical Service, which is essentially the census of Agriculture. And then it goes on and cuts $650 million out of the Ag Research Service, which is two-thirds of the entire budget--and a budget that is absolutely to keep America competitive.

This is an agrarian world we live in. If we're going to stay ahead of the competition and not have all our food imported, we've got to stay ahead of the curve. That's the think tank, the creativity of America. It's also where we know whether we're getting all the bugs and infestation that's coming in. That's what agriculture research is all about.

It zeroes out the Food for Peace program. My God, in the world that we're living in now, we don't want to have any friends left? It puts all that savings into a spending reduction account, does nothing to help anybody except do a lot of damage for agriculture, for all the economics of agriculture, the research of agriculture, and the Food for Peace program. I think this is a very bad amendment, and I hope we strongly oppose it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. JORDAN. Madam Chair, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Ohio is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. JORDAN. I first want to thank the committee, and in particular the chairman of the subcommittee, for the good work he's done on the bill overall. But I support the gentleman from Utah's amendment. Any Member of Congress can do this in their district. You're at any group giving any speech and you say, Do you think maybe there's a little redundancy, maybe a little duplication, maybe a little overlap in the Federal Government? And the whole audience begins to laugh and everyone raises their hand because they get the joke.

In fact, we just had a hearing in the Subcommittee of Oversight dealing with regulation and overspending and the GAO was in there and they had done a study and we asked them, How many different means-tested social welfare programs are there? And they said, Well, we really can't give you a number because we can't tell; it's so ridiculous in government. But there are over a hundred.

They couldn't even tell us. But what they did tell us was there's a lot of redundancy, a lot of duplication, a lot of overlap. The gentleman from Utah's amendment just seeks to deal with that and says, Look, it recognizes a couple of facts. It recognizes that, yes, there is redundancy, but also we're broke. In fact, it's

not we're going broke. We are broke. And we have to cut some spending, just like every single family, every single small business in this country has had to do over the last several years.

Remember some of the numbers because at some point something has to give. And we've got to be willing to cut spending. We've got a $14 trillion national debt. We've run trillion-dollar deficits for the last 3 years in a row. The three largest deficits in American history have been in the last 3 years, and $200 billion we're paying each year in interest. Right now, interest rates are at lowest levels--historically low levels. They're going to go up.

Something has to give. And the gentleman from Utah has a basic amendment which says, Let's reduce the spending in five programs that the Federal Government doesn't need and, frankly, cannot afford. And it would save the taxpayers of this great country $1.8 billion at a time when we're going broke. Some people would say we are broke.

So this is a commonsense amendment, something we should do. It builds on the good work that the gentleman from Georgia is getting ready to speak on, the gentleman from Georgia, who's the chairman of the committee, has already done. But it builds on their good work and respects the taxpayers.

I would urge a ``yes'' vote on the amendment.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FARR. I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FARR. Madam Chair, frankly, I think that statement is a flat Earth statement because it doesn't even look before you leap. It just says, Let's whack because there's redundancy. There is redundancy in our own body. We've got two eyes, two ears, two arms, and two legs. Why don't we just whack one of them out because you've got the other one.

Look at the consequences. ARS is the Agricultural Research Service. Do you know what they do? They look at how we can make a plant structure more healthy, how we can combat the bugs that come in. I represent a county where we have glassy-winged sharpshooters that affect the wine industry. It's a multimillion-dollar eradication program. We wouldn't know how to eradicate it without the research. We have the brown apple moth that infects nurseries, multimillion dollars of attacks. This is a war, just like those disasters you have been seeing on television that are natural disasters. These are natural disasters, only they're small little bugs. Or E. coli that we've talked about. Why would you want to cut the very service that keeps American agriculture healthy and competitive? This amendment wipes out two-thirds of the entire budget.

I'm one of those that thinks there's a lot of redundancy in government, but what I do is try to get the agencies together in my district and figure out where they overlap and how we can consolidate them, how we can get them to do joint operations. I think if you want to really consolidate a lot of Federal Government, it's going to take a lot more than just whacking away with an amendment making a list of zeroing out money for economic research for the census for agriculture. That's the last thing we want to do. It's a huge, huge market. You've got to have market information. As I said, you certainly don't want to whack ARS. That's the competitive arm. That's where America stays ahead of the rest of the world.

So redundancy is a problem, but it's not always smart just to knock off something because there's more of it, just like your arms, legs, and eyes. I ask for a ``no'' vote.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. GRAVES of Georgia. Madam Chair, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GRAVES of Georgia. I appreciate the gentleman from Utah bringing this forward. This is a time when we've got to be looking for every opportunity to be wise stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. And all we're asking here is $1.8 billion out of trillions of dollars of spending here in the Federal Government, $1.8 million more. I think the taxpayers understand that. They expect that.

I don't know that anyone here has criticized the use of these funds, where it is going. It's not that. It's just the fact that the money is not there. How can you continue spending money you do not have? I think back on the average American families at home. They have to make difficult decisions. There are a lot of things that the average family would like to do each and every week; but if they don't have the resources to do it, they wait until they can save up and do it at another appropriate time. They enjoy it at a later date when they have the ability to do that.

Madam Chair, right now we do not have that ability as a Federal Government. For far too long we've spent too much. It's not a partisan issue, necessarily. Both parties are responsible for the reckless spending that's gone on in Washington. But this is the day, this is the time that we can correct that course. We can correct the path. We don't have to continue down this same path that's been going on over and over and over again. The status quo is not acceptable.

In fact, the American people, they deserve better. We have an opportunity
right now to send a strong message to the American people that $1.8 billion is being sent back to the taxpayers. Just imagine that--taking money from the Federal Government that it's used to absorbing from the taxpayer and allowing the taxpayers to choose how they wish to spend it. What a great concept. How novel is that, to allow the taxpayers to choose how they invest their money, where they might spend it. Which leads to the number one issue facing this Nation--and it's jobs and the economy.

If we want to see the economy improve, if we want to see revenues here in Washington improve, it's not through tax increases. It's through the economy improving. It's through the GDP, the engine of this Nation moving once again. And how do we do that? We release the dollars we hold as a Federal Government and the additional dollars that we're borrowing from foreign countries and we allow the private sector to hold that, allow the private sector to make those investments, allow them to be the dreamers. Those that have the ideas, those that have the ideas, entrepreneurs, allow them to be the risk-takers, the job creators we know they are and they want to be.

Instead, we hear again opposition which says, no, we know better as the Federal Government. Let us keep that money. Let us take it from your wallet. Let us distribute it out as we know best. I think I heard a speaker earlier today say the Federal Government is better at making decisions than the American people. I mean we've heard that concept expressed here already, that we know better. Well, the fact is the American people know better how to spend their money.

So the gentleman from Utah brings up a great amendment that says $1.8 billion in additional cuts, saving the taxpayers once again additional money. That only adds to the savings that the chairman of the subcommittee has already fought for, and I'm happy to serve with him on the committee. He's done a fabulous job of taking us back to 2006 spending levels, an amazing effort on behalf of the subcommittee, and this just takes it back just a little bit further. Surely we can do that for the American people tonight in this House.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Madam Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I rise in opposition to this amendment.

I heard a very instructive quote. Even as important as this legislation is, in actuality it appears that my friends on the other side of the aisle simply want to zero out this whole appropriation for the important agricultural work that is done in this Nation, just zero it out. Mr. Chaffetz's amendment seeks to zero out a very important program, which includes zeroing out Food for Peace, and it apparently ignores the basic purpose and the crisis that we're facing dealing with food insecurity in the world.

The United Nations World Food Program acknowledges severe acute malnutrition affects an estimated 20 million children under the age of 5 worldwide and is responsible in whole or in part for more than half of all the deaths of children. Malnutrition kills approximately 1 million children each year, or an average of one every 30 seconds.

This is not the direction we want for the world or the United States. There are priorities. And I ask my colleagues, what are their priorities?

Now, I have a deal for them. Let's make a deal. Let's take the $10 billion that we're spending every month in Afghanistan and spread it out on deficit reduction. I will take up that challenge and accept that challenge. In fact, we will be able to put $1 billion or $2 billion every week for a 4-week timeframe in deficit reduction if we bring the troops home from Afghanistan. And while we do that, we'll have the opportunity to answer the question that I'm asking to my colleagues: Who will stand by while a child dies, one every 30 seconds around the world?

Food for Peace is a program that our farmers have bought into from the perspective of the service and the Good Samaritan that they do by providing the goods of the world's bread basket. The United States is the world's bread basket. We have been blessed with the bounty of topography and weather, in spite of the disasters we've now faced, to be able to feed the world. And Food for Peace is that program.

Just a few hours ago, I stood on the floor of the House and I mentioned my colleague, the Honorable Mickey Leland. Some of my new friends should read about this unselfish man. I know she didn't ask me to call out her husband's name, but those of us who knew Mickey knew that he loved Congressman Emerson and Congressman Hall. They had a passion for finding out how can we stop the devastation of hunger. So they circled around programs that dealt with it, programs like Food for Peace or the Select Committee on Hunger or a number of other programs around the Agriculture appropriations, not to waste money but to partner between the great agricultural agrarian society of the United States, and its ability to grow food, to also be able to provide for those who cannot.

Do I have to say it again? We buy the food from our farmers. Let me make it very clear. In the very places where, as I showed earlier today, the devastation of tornadoes and floods, these people are trying to come back. Some areas did not suffer. They're trying to get their goods to market. It cuts here in the very jobs that we are saying that we want to keep. We're cutting jobs. We're throwing people out of work, the work that farmers love. You try to get a farmer off his land or her land. They don't want to go because they love the soil. They love producing food. They love helping people. Yet my friend wants to come and cut this program that creates jobs, buys the food, and sends it to starving, dying children.

I don't understand. In the legacy of our friends, some of them you did not know, but if you read about them, you will understand their passion and their heart.

Mickey Leland used to bring us to tears because he would leave the devastation of Fifth Ward, Houston, where there was poverty, and he'd get on an airplane to deliver food to the dying around the world. He lost his life in the course of delivering food.

My final word, Madam Chairman, is to ask my colleagues not to support this amendment and to support Food for Peace and support the underlying message of providing the jobs and a helping hand.

The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.

Mr. KINGSTON. Madam Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KINGSTON. Madam Chairman, I oppose this.

I want to say to my friends who have offered it, I did support this budget on the House floor and did support this 302(b) allocation in full committee. However, as I pointed out several times to my Democrat friends during the course of the debate today, the only budget that has passed is the Ryan budget. The President's budget failed in the Senate 97-0. The RSC budget fell on the House floor. The Congressional Black Caucus budget fell on the House floor. The Progressive Caucus budget fell on the House floor.

Our job is to try to move this under the circumstances that we have and the restraints that we have. The bill before us represents a cut in discretionary money of 13.4 percent, which is one of the largest cuts that we will be considering in the 12 appropriation bills.

I want to point out also that in terms of P.L. 480, that account alone has been cut 31 percent. And I met with the World Food Program three different times now and certainly expressed lots of concerns about America's role around the globe. We need to be engaged in the countries that we are engaged in. Sometimes this program is oversold as national security, which I believe it contributes to. It is not necessarily everything people want it to be in national security, but it is a program that keeps America engaged around the world and therefore promotes stability around the world. And when you have instability, there is a concern in terms of national security. It also actually does have an implication for the merchant marine because there's a cargo preference clause to it. It keeps the American merchant marine healthy, and those are the ships that take our military equipment overseas during engagements such as what we have going in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ms. Jackson Lee had raised some of the points about the war. I voted for the Kucinich amendment the other day because I do not think we should be in Libya at this time. I'm very concerned that that's going to be one of those classic cases of mission creep, that right now we're saying no troops on the ground, but after we get through blowing up their buildings, who do you think is going to rebuild it? It's going to be America. So that mission is going to morph into troops on the ground in one form or another. That's why I thought the Kucinich amendment was appropriate.

I want to just conclude, though, that I think the spirit of the gentlemen--and they're very consistent in terms of their fiscal restraint, but, again, the only budget that has passed any body is the Ryan budget.

One of the balancing acts of this, if you go too far, you lose votes; if you don't go far enough, you lose votes. The Ryan budget got over the finish line and did not get all the Republicans voting for it, so I'm going to have to oppose this amendment, but I want to say to my friends, I appreciate the vigor in which you've offered it and your consistency on things.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mrs. LUMMIS. Madam Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman from Wyoming is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mrs. LUMMIS. I yield to the gentleman from Utah.

Mr. CHAFFETZ. Thank you. I will be brief, Madam Chair. I recognize the spirit in which you are doing this, and I appreciate the process and the back-and-forth.

I did want to say for the record, I would join with the gentlewoman from Texas, and I have advocated for a long time that we pull out of Afghanistan and that we put that towards deficit reduction. But I also think we have to bring back discretionary spending even further.

And I would like to mention to this body that really what happens with the so-called Ryan budget, the budget that this House passed, is that sets ceilings but it doesn't set floors, and I believe that one of the greatest threats in security to our future is the out-of-control debt and deficit that this country is encompassing.

Let's also remember that we spend in the neighborhood of $40 billion on U.S. aid. We haven't been able to take care of our own pocketbooks in our own country, and so it's very difficult to justify not only a very healthy and robust USAID budget--by the way, having conducted oversight is not necessarily accountable. You can't go back and actually look at the accounting and see where all this money is flowing and what it's doing. But let's also remember that then we still have tens of billions of dollars to help people across the world. We have 149 countries in this world that are getting USAID money. They're getting aid from the United States of America through various programs.

So, again, I would just want to briefly say I do think we can do better. I think we have to do better. The out-of-control spending in the past puts us in a perilous position where we spend $600 million a day just in interest on our debt. And so when I look at $1.8 billion in reduction and I look at the fact that our interest payment is $600 million a day, the best thing we could probably do for the world and certainly for ourselves is to get that deficit under control. We could do a lot more good in this world if we were to take care of our own financial pocketbooks, and we have not yet done that.

I thank the gentlewoman for yielding to me. I appreciate the spirit of this body allowing me to add this extra comment.


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