Chairman-designate Bishop Floor Statement on H.R. 265, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill
House Appropriations Committee Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman-designate Sanford Bishop Jr. delivered the following remarks in support of H.R. 265, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The legislation is a bipartisan bill to reopen federal agencies and ensure Americans receive their SNAP benefits in full and on time:
Today marks the 20th day of the partial government shutdown. Each day pushes many of our government’s vital services to the breaking point – further jeopardizing the 800,000 federal employees who are furloughed and the countless other Americans impacted by the shutdown.
The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is a critically important piece of legislation for the nation. From the food we eat to the medications we depend on, this bill touches the lives of every American. It must be passed now and the furloughed employees must be brought back to work.
Because of the shutdown, USDA has stopped making loans and grants for rural development programs, such as housing, water and wastewater facilities and community facilities. New grants to our universities for agriculture research cannot be made. Across the nation, Farm Service Agency county offices closed on December 28. Farmers applying for relief from retaliatory tariffs are in limbo waiting for the shutdown to end.
At the FDA, more than 10,000 employees are working without pay, while another 7,000 have been furloughed which is impacting everything from user fee collections to the reduction of food safety inspections - jeopardizing the food we eat.
According to USDA, nearly 9,000 people are working without pay to inspect our meat, poultry, and egg products. This bill would fund the Food Safety and Inspection Service at over $1 billion and restore our safety.
I will be the first person to admit this bill is not perfect. But no bill ever is. However, this is about opening the government and putting it back to work for the American people.
Specially, this legislation provides over $23 billion in discretionary funding for USDA and FDA. That is $225 million above the FY 2018 enacted level.
It provides $2.73 billion for agricultural research conducted by ARS and NIFA, an increase of $114 million from Fiscal Year 2018. These increases will help to ensure American agriculture remains competitive with other nations.
In my district, all of the USDA Farm County offices are now closed in Terrell County. These offices are often the primary line of communication for our farmers and ranchers by providing critical data, processing loans, and answering questions. Without this assistance and information, they are left in the dark when it comes to planning for next year’s harvest.
This legislation also makes significant investments in rural development by providing $3.8 billion, and takes a balanced approach with investments in water and waste, broadband, housing and rural businesses. Again, right now, as a result of the shutdown, loans and grants that help small towns across the country are not being made.
This legislation rejects the President’s proposed elimination of the Food for Peace and instead funds it at $1.716 billion, which is $216 million above the House bill. And the McGovern-Dole program, which was also proposed for elimination by the President, is funded at $210 million, slightly above the House level.
Finally, this legislation funds FDA at $2.97 billion, which is $159 million above the FY2018 enacted level – a six percent increase. I would also point out that this bill does better than the House bill in addressing the opioid crisis that is hitting every district in the country. It also provides more funding for food safety than the House bill.
After nearly three weeks of uncertainty, it looks like the nearly 40 million people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will keep their benefits, at least through February. However, the funds for SNAP beneficiaries for a single mother or a small shop keeper will run dry in March. This bill, which provides $73.2 billion in mandatory funding for SNAP, will end any doubt about this and give these recipients the peace of mind they deserve.
Through a diverse urban/rural coalition, this legislation includes our farmer safety net and our food and nutrition programs. Families, farmers, ranchers, and producers go to work every morning. So should their government. I urge my colleagues to support this bill