U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Missouri
Statement on the
FY2012 Agriculture, Rural Development
& Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Bill
Conference Report to HR.2112
Congressional Record - November 17, 2011
Mr. President, I am pleased to join Senator Kohl in supporting the conference report, and I particularly want to talk about the agricultural programs in the report.
This is my first year as the ranking member of the agriculture subcommittee, and I have certainly enjoyed working with the chairman. He has been generous and kind to me, including me in many of these discussions.
In these days, it is no small feat for an appropriations bill to get through the Senate in what is pretty close to regular order, and so I am glad we were able to work closely together to get that done. I hope we can do the same thing next year and have hearings and floor time to pass the Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA bill again next year and maybe in a way that is even closer to the timing and the order we would like to see.
The conference report we are considering today reminds us that we can and should return to the regular way of doing business on appropriations bills. Even though the conference report includes three separate bills, they were all vigorously debated on the floor, and more than two dozen amendments were accepted. The process has certainly yielded a better outcome than a large omnibus appropriations bill would have.
The chairman has reviewed the details of the Agriculture bill, so I will touch on only a few of the highlights.
Discretionary spending for agriculture programs is $350 million below the fiscal year 2011 level and significantly below the fiscal year 2010 level. We are slowly but surely reining in discretionary spending.
To reduce overall spending, we have made difficult decisions. Most programs in the bill that related to agriculture were reduced by 5 percent. We have, however, prioritized those programs that protect the public health and help maintain the strength of our Nation's agricultural economy.
I am particularly pleased we have been able to maintain funding for formula research and competitive agricultural research programs in this bill. Smart investments in American agriculture have been made by the Federal Government for well over a century now, and this bill continues that process of promoting competitiveness and is critical to helping our farmers increase production and produce a food supply that is safe, abundant, and affordable.
With unemployment still hovering around 9 percent, now is not the time to place unnecessary restrictions on the competitive marketplace. Therefore, this plan prohibits the Department of Agriculture from moving forward with a costly and burdensome rule--GIPSA--that Agriculture released earlier this year. This rule would have negatively impacted poultry and livestock markets and damaged the overall strength of the farm economy.
I am also glad the Agriculture bill includes funding to help farmers and communities recover from natural disasters. Missouri has seen unprecedented devastation from both tornadoes and flooding this year. Funding included in this bill for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and the Emergency Conservation Program is necessary to help those areas recover. It is important that we support our farmers as they clear debris and as they regrade and rehabilitate their land for the next growing season.
As the ranking member of the agriculture subcommittee, I have limited my comments to agricultural funding, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out the significant contributions of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee and the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee in developing this conference report.
This bill, although it may have been referred to as the agriculture minibus, doesn't do justice to the great efforts of my colleagues, Senators Mikulski, Murray, Hutchison, and Collins, and their staffs. They have all contributed a lot of time and effort to get this report this far. It is not exactly what any of us would have done, but none of us are exactly in charge of doing it all by ourselves.
I hope my colleagues will join me and join Senator Kohl in supporting this bill.