Chairman Aderholt Statement on H.R. 4800, the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Chairman Robert Aderholt today gave the following statement on the House floor today in support of H.R. 4800, the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill:
"I yield myself such time as I may consume.
"I am pleased to begin consideration of H.R. 4800, making appropriations for fiscal year 2015 for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. The bill before us is unique in that the programs supported in this Bill will impact every American, every day of the year. We support America’s farmers and ranchers, who are vital to our Nation’s economy and our health and well-being. We support those at home in need with food and housing and provide rural businesses with low-interest loans and grants to help them sustain local economies.We help others around the world that face starvation and malnutrition. We support research and development in agriculture to improve productivity and stability.We support the oversight of commodity markets, providing confidence for businesses, traders, investors, and the public. We support a safe food supply and safe and effective drugs and devices. We are fortunate that as a Nation we can support these vital programs.
"The bill before us today reflects a delicate balance of needs and requirements. We have drafted what I consider a responsible bill for FY 2015 spending levels for the departments and agencies under the subcommittee's jurisdiction. We have had to carefully prioritize the funding in the bill and make hard choices about how to spend limited resources.
"I want to thank Chairman Rogers for supporting us with a very fair allocation and for helping us to move the bill forward. I want to thank the subcommittee ranking member from California, Mr. Farr, who has been a valuable partner and colleague. I appreciate his commitment and his understanding of the wide variety of programs in this bill, and I thank him for his help. While I and the other Subcommittee members have a wide array of agriculture in our districts, Mr. Farr represents an area of California sometimes referred to as the "salad bowl of the world. I want to thank all of the members of the subcommittee for their help and assistance and also thank Mrs. Lowey, the ranking member of the full committee. I want to thank the majority staff for their hard work -- Tom O’Brien, Betsy Bina, Pam Miller, Andrew Cooper and Karen Ratzow. I also appreciate the professionalism and cooperation of the minority staff. In particular, I want to thank Martha Foley and Hogan Medlin for their help during all of the long hours spent putting this bill and report together as well as Rochelle Dornatt, Troy Phillips, and Katie Whelan of Mr. Farr's staff.
"When the Subcommittee began the FY 15 appropriation process, I asked my colleagues to keep in mind three guiding principles. They were: ensuring the proper use of funds through robust oversight; ensuring the appropriate level of regulation to protect producers and the public; and ensuring funding is targeted to vital programs.
"These three principles guided us from the first review of the President’s budget request to the content of the bill in front of you. This basic framework helped us set priorities during our 10 budget and oversight hearings, which covered all of USDA’s mission areas, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
"They also formed a framework for us to consider the many requests we received from our colleagues. Specifically, we received more than 3,900 requests from 326 Members to support, reduce, or amend funding levels in the numerous accounts in the bill. Of course, we could not meet every request, but we have tried to address these requests in a bipartisan manner in the bill or report in accordance with House rules. As such, there are no earmarks in this bill.
"Total funding in this bill equals $142.5 billion. This is $1.5 billion below the President’s request and $3 billion below the FY 2014 enacted level. The bill includes $20.88 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is the same as the FY 2014 enacted level. Mandatory spending totals $122 billion or $3 billion below the FY 2014 level. These mandatory funds support USDA’s farm, conservation, crop insurance, and nutrition programs.
"I would like to briefly mention a few highlights of the bill:
"We provide a total of $2.8 billion for agricultural research. We received many, many letters requesting support for the land-grant colleges and universities. We were able to provide level funding for them. We also provided $325 million, as requested, for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, USDA’s premier competitive research grants program.
"We provide $870 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This agency works to eradicate plant and animal diseases and keep the bad bugs out of the country. I’m pleased we were able to increase funding to combat citrus greening disease and the viral epidemic affecting hog producers. This funding will supplement the emergency funding that the Administration announced last week for research and surveillance purposes.
"The bill includes more than $1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service. This is approximately the same as the FY 2014 level but $3.8 million above the request. It will maintain more than 8,000 inspectors at the more than 6,400 meat, poultry, and egg product facilities across the country.
"The bill provides $1.5 billion for the Farm Service Agency and does not allow the closure of county offices. This proposal made no sense when the 2014 farm bill is still being implemented in county offices across the country. We also fully fund the various farm loan programs.
"For the Natural Resources Conservation Service, we provide $869 million to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest land owners to conserve and protect their land and increased funding to help rehabilitate small dams.
"This bill is the only one of the 12 appropriations bills that truly focuses on rural areas. It provides a total of $2.6 billion for rural development programs. This includes funding to support $881 million in business and industry loans, $1.3 billion in loans for rural water and waste programs, and $6.2 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure. We also provide more than $1 billion for the single family direct loan program, $1.1 billion for rental assistance, and $30 million for the Mutual and Self-Help program.
"This bill includes both discretionary and mandatory funding for USDA’s food and nutrition programs.
"Specifically, it provides $6.6 billion for the Women, Infants, and Children program. This is $93 million below the FY 2014 enacted level and $200 million below the budget request. I want to be clear the decreased funding is because of a declining caseload and large carryover balances from the previous year. Every person who is eligible for the program will receive benefits under this funding level.
"The bill includes $20.5 billion in required mandatory funding for child nutrition programs and $82.3 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. This funding level helps more than 47 million Americans each month.
"To support those at this time of need in places like Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, the bill provides $1.7 billion for overseas food aid. We were able to provide a $66 million increase for Food for Peace grants and $13 million more for the McGovern-Dole education and child nutrition programs offset from savings elsewhere.
"The Food and Drug Administration receives almost $2.6 billion in discretionary funding in this bill. This is an increase of $23 million over the FY 2014 level. When the user fees are included, FDA will receive $4.5 billion in FY 2015.
"Within the total, the Committee provides a $25 million increase, the full amount requested for food safety activities in the President’s budget and drug safety activities are increased by $12 million.
"The bill provides $218 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This is an increase of $3 million above last year’s level and is intended to address information technology needs.
"Before I close, I would like to address one issue that has opened up a necessary dialogue in local cafeterias and schools across the country. This is the provision that would allow schools to seek a temporary waiver from the current school lunch standards if a school district has lost money over a six-month time period as a result of trying to implement the new regulations.
"I have had a constant stream of letters, calls, e-mails, and meetings this past year from school nutritionists, teachers, school administrators, parents, and students concerned about rising costs, increased waste, and declining participation. Well, to tell the truth, the students have been concerned about taste, variety, and quantity of the meals.
This is a very real problem in many school districts across the country. The bill acknowledges the concerns of schools and responds to their request for flexibility. It only allows schools more time if they need it. In fact, it provides something very similar to the flexibility USDA recently announced for whole grain requirements.
"The benefits to farmers, ranchers, consumers, businesses and patients provided for in this bill far outweigh any one or two objections a Member may have about this bill. The bill represents our best take on matching needs with limited resources. We have tried hard to produce the best bill we possibly could within the resources we had to work with.
"Thank you for your attention and I urge all Members to support this bipartisan legislation. I look forward to passing this bill today."