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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. MARINO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

My amendment is simple. This amendment finally brings some transparency and public accountability to the 80-plus billion dollar food stamp program. It directs the Government Accountability Office to establish a pilot program in nine States that will allow the GAO to collect and make public information showing how our food stamp dollars are being spent.

As a prosecutor, I presented all of the facts to the jury so that they were able to make an accurate decision based on the evidence. It is inconceivable to me that at a time when all Americans are demanding accountability and transparency in government, we are allowing 80-plus billion dollars a year to go out the door with virtually no idea on how it is being spent. To put that into context, $80 billion a year is more than double the amount of money the Department of Homeland Security received in the appropriation bill we approved on June 6 and roughly the same amount that was cut by sequester.

I have had several interesting arguments made to me against this bill, driven primarily by Big Business, who are more interested in protecting profits rather than taxpayers. Opponents have argued that this would be costly for retailers to implement.

First, the information required to be reported and made public is information that retailers are already required to keep under existing law. I also find it ironic that opponents are arguing that because there may be a compliance cost for a program that is voluntary for retailers, we should just forego any meaningful oversight over how these taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Some opponents claim that this is food surveillance. This amendment is not food surveillance; it is oversight and accountability. At a time of high debt and deficit, it is incumbent on Congress to scrutinize fully every Federal dollar spent.

I have also heard opponents argue that SNAP is efficient because USDA says that it only has a 3.8 percent error rate. This is a false, red herring argument that is meant to distract from what this amendment would do. The error rate referred to involves the percentage of benefits that either went to ineligible households or went to eligible households, but in excessive amounts. The error rate has nothing to do with how the taxpayer dollars are spent.

Having that information is critical, especially as we debate things like how much to scale back the SNAP program or whether it is inappropriate to allow the purchase of certain items with SNAP dollars. I have heard that there were no hearings about the SNAP program in conjunction with this FARRM Bill. I agree that there should have been hearings. Nevertheless, those hearings would be more productive if they had all the information as to how programs are operating.

My amendment would give us and the American people the ability to make informed policy decisions about the program. That is why my amendment is supported by a range of groups from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to Americans for Limited Government.

Mr. Chairman, I want to again emphasize that this amendment is about transparency. It is about oversight and accountability. We have to have the facts at our disposal to determine what, if anything, to do. It is about good government.

I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this commonsense amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MARINO. You know, keeping track of this, it's already done by a bar code, so there's no additional cost. And there's no surveillance. There's no cameras. There's nothing checking on anybody. We're not asking who is buying. We're asking what is being purchased. With my colleagues, it's always a war. It's a war on women, and now it's a war on people using food stamps.

We should be doing this anyhow. It's a law that should be done by the stores. It is just not being enforced. Hardworking taxpayers deserve accountability. They deserve to know how their $80 billion is being spent and on what. I wonder what my friend across the aisle is concerned about, perhaps what the results will show. But we don't know at this point. The American people are entitled to know how their money is being spent.

As I said, there's no cost associated with this. They're doing it by bar code anyhow. Everything that goes through a store now is bar coded, so it's just reporting the information. If anything is misguided, what is misguided is $80 billion in 2012 and $82.5 billion projected in 2013 that's going to be spent and there is no accountability for it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. MARINO. Mr. Chairman I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, my amendment would provide for the elimination of the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program subsidy. This is one of a series of duplicative programs.

This program gives money to not-for-profit organizations that inform fleet operators and the public on the so-called benefits of using biodiesel fuels rather than fossil fuels.

Mr. Chairman, this program is yet another example of corporate welfare--taxpayer dollars not being used wisely. The American taxpayer should not be forced to foot the bill for a proposed program in an industry that would be nonexistent if it were not for government subsidies.

The Biodiesel Fuel Education Program incorrectly informs the public that biodiesel fuel is ``better'' than fossil fuels, oil, or natural gas. I am supportive of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but Congress need not be in the business of picking winners and losers. These industries should stand on their own merit, and the consumer should decide what is the best product. We should not be wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars on groups that have a bias against fossil fuels. We should use this money to develop our current natural resources and create jobs.

My district is in the heart of the Marcellus shale, and I have seen the jobs and opportunities created by domestic energy. The unemployment rate is below the national average. I cannot support any program that favors any one type of energy over another.

I am not debating the merits of biofuels, and I am not against or opposed to biofuels; but there are over 20 other energy programs in the FARRM Bill alone. By continuing to funnel money to these programs to not-for-profit organizations going toward salaries, we are preventing other new energy technologies from breaking ground.

We are $17 trillion in debt and borrowing more and more money every day. Let the taxpayers determine what they prefer, what source of energy to use, not the government using hardworking taxpayer dollars. This program is nothing but a colossal government subsidy that is not profitable at all.

Again, I am not against the biofuel itself. I am against using taxpayer moneys going to not-for-profit organizations to promote this.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MARINO. Once again, I'm not against the use of biofuels. I'm against the use of taxpayer dollars going to not-for-profit organizations to promote the use of biofuels. There is not one vehicle that runs 100 percent on biofuel that I know of at this point. And it does save money. If this program is eliminated of hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions of dollars per year, then that money should go back into the taxpayers' pockets, or at least pay the debt down.

We should use taxpayer dollars to create jobs like building the Keystone XL pipeline and like developing natural gas exploration that we have an abundant supply of. So let's stop borrowing money to promote a product where we pick the winners and losers. As I said earlier, that's up to the consumer. They can choose what best product to use.

But I just oppose the fact that hardworking, middle class taxpayer dollars are going for propaganda and advertising.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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