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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 2112) making appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and for other purposes:

* Mr. SIRES. Madam Chair, I rise today to express my deep concern regarding the drastic cuts being made to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in the Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012. While I understand the need to balance the budget, I cannot support cuts made to WIC, which has proven to be an effective tool in improving the health of our Nation's children.

* Over nine million low and moderate income women, infants, and children rely on WIC to provide them with quality nutrition education services and access to maternal, prenatal, and pediatric health-care services. WIC is a premier public health nutrition program and makes sure that our Nation's children begin their life as healthy as possible. During early childhood, infants with poor nutrition are susceptible to increased chances of anemia and negatively impact a child's ability to learn. WIC plays a vital role in ensuring that WIC infants are in better health than eligible infants not participating in WIC.

* With approximately one out of every two babies born in our country enrolled in WIC, it is a vital service that not only ensures infants' healthy well-being, but also saves health care costs. Up to $3.13 for every WIC dollar spent within the first 60 days of birth results in health care cost savings. Additionally, lower Medicaid costs are tied to prenatal participation in the WIC program. Preterm births cost our country over twenty-six billion dollars every year with the average first year medical costs for premature births costing over forty-nine thousand dollars and first year medical costs for babies without complications cost just over four thousand dollars. It has been proven that for every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for low-income Medicaid women, the results included fewer premature births, longer pregnancies, and fewer infant deaths.

* In my home state of New Jersey, the number of women, infants, and children that participate in the program is 171,060. Sixty-one percent of WIC participants are families with income below the poverty level--these are our constituents that are most in need. If the bill is passed, and depending upon the rate of food inflation, New Jersey may lose 3,700 to 6,500 WIC participants, and nationwide there may be a loss of 200,000 to 350,000 WIC participants. During the past fifteen years, Congress has been committed to provide enough funding to all eligible women and children who apply for WIC, and this legislation will break this promise. Indeed, if funding for WIC is insufficient, thousands of women and children will be put on a waiting list to receive the services they deserve.

* I urge my colleagues to oppose these devastating cuts, which so many of our constituents rely upon.

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