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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. I rise in support of the Dingell amendment to partially restore the Food and Drug Administration funding to the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill.

I listened to what my colleagues said on the other side of the aisle. The fact of the matter is that today's bill slashes the FDA by $572 million, or 21 percent, below the President's request, and by $285 million, or 12 percent, below this year.

I beg to differ with the gentlewoman. This is not the time to be cutting the FDA's budget. We have had many scares. We have had many outbreaks. We have had people die. We have had people become seriously ill. That is why in the last Congress we passed the landmark Food Safety Act, because we wanted to have increased inspection of food manufacturing plants, increased scrutiny of imported foods, and development of the capability to more quickly respond to food-borne illnesses and minimize their impact.

I don't know about you, but when I go home, I hear a great deal of concern about the quality and the safety of our food supply and our groceries. When people buy food in the supermarket, when they go and buy it at a roadside stand, they are very concerned about the quality of the food and whether they are going to get sick. That is why we passed the landmark Food Safety Act. It is clear that we have just recently had the E. Coli breakout. The Nation's food supply is so extremely vulnerable, and the FDA must be equipped to keep it safe.

The FDA has important responsibilities to protect and promote the health of the American people. To succeed in that mission, FDA must ensure the safety of not just food, but drugs and medical devices that Americans rely on every day. They don't just need to oversee the safety of the products. They also need to be involved in facilitating scientific innovation that makes these products safe, effective, and more affordable.

Now, these efforts are especially critical today because I believe that American competitiveness depends on our ability to innovate. To do that, we must properly fund key agencies like the FDA that are essential to assisting in the development of new drugs and devices. FDA places a high importance on promoting innovation. In fact, they are currently developing a new Innovation Pathway, an initiative to help promising technologies get to market. But let me share something with my colleagues. One of the FDA's senior leadership staff testified before the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee recently and assured us that these cuts would prevent such efforts from moving forward.

What I am trying to emphasize is that whether you look at it from the point of view of the food supply, whether you look at it from the point of view of innovation, to make cuts in the FDA budget simply makes no sense.

It is crucial to job creation. It is crucial to people feeling safe about what they eat, and the government has to be responsible for facilitating an environment where Americans can continue to innovate. It is a key to creating new thriving industries that will produce millions of good jobs here at home and a better future for the next generation. If government abandons its role, we run the real risk of squandering too many opportunities that lead to innovative discoveries and great economic benefits.

Mr. Chairman, the bottom line is the funding level put forth in today's appropriations bill is inadequate. FDA is already an underfunded agency. If we don't continue to give the FDA the resources it needs to complete its mission, they cannot support initiatives that save lives and create jobs; and these are priorities that Congress should embrace.

I listened to what my colleagues say on the other side of the aisle. I understand we have to be concerned about funding and budgets and that we have a deficit. We also have to figure out what is important as a priority. The American people have told us that food safety is a priority. That is why we passed this landmark bill last year.

There has to be a significant increase in funds, even in this environment, if we are going to keep the food supply safe. If we don't do that, a lot of economic activity is also going to suffer, including innovation, including what we can do for the future to keep this country competitive. So I understand what she is saying, but I also think that it is very important to restore these funds.

I want to commend my colleague, Mr. Dingell, for putting forth this amendment, and I would ask my colleagues to support the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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