Chairman Bishop Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2020 Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA Funding Bill

2019-06-04 12:20

Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA bill:

Thank you, Madam Chair.  I am pleased we are here to consider the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

I would like to begin by thanking our Ranking Member, Mr. Fortenberry. He is new to our subcommittee but he served with distinction on the authorizing committee for many years and he shares my deep passion for our farmers and our rural communities. It has been a pleasure to get to know Mr. Fortenberry better, and I’m proud that we were able to continue the bipartisan spirit this subcommittee is known for.

I would also like to thank Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Granger and the other members of the subcommittee, including those we welcomed to the subcommittee this year, as well as the subcommittee, full committee and associate staffs, both minority and majority, who have worked collaboratively to produce a very good bill. Lastly, I’d like to thank my personal staff.

Obviously, we do not agree on all matters, but we share a joint commitment to oversee the spending of the funds in this bill to provide the best possible services to the American people.  I’d like to thank my colleagues on the other side of the aisle for working cooperatively with us.

The work of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill touches the lives of every citizen on a daily basis. Many do not recognize the far-reaching jurisdictions and programs this subcommittee addresses – a little bit of everything from food safety to agriculture research to drug approval to rural development to protecting market integrity through the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.      

This year, the agriculture subcommittee received more than 7,200 requests from over 350 members. We worked in a bipartisan manner to include as many requests as possible. For Committee members, we had more than 1,200 requests and we met 96 percent of them in whole or in part.

The Fiscal Year 2020 allocation for this bill is $24.310 billion – four percent above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level, but more than $5.1 billion above the budget request. Once again, this bill rejects many of the Administration’s draconian cuts to programs that assist our rural communities and vulnerable populations. I’d like to take a moment to highlight key issues. 

The bill provides nearly $4 billion for rural Development programs, including $680 million for broadband programs to continue bridging the digital divide between urban and rural America and over $38 billion in loans and grants for rural housing, community facilities and water and wastewater infrastructure.

During a time of great uncertainty due to tariffs and natural disasters, this bill provides $1.8 billion for farm programs, including $30 million to assist the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill. It also prohibits the closure of county-level Farm Service Agency offices to ensure our farmers, ranchers and producers receive high quality customer service.

The bill includes $829 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to maintain its core conservation mission. There is also $167 million for infrastructure for watershed and flood prevention and watershed rehabilitation projects.

The bill provides $3.3 billion for agriculture research to ensure America retains its role as the leader of global agriculture science. It prohibits the use of funds for any relocation costs associated with the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Our hearing showcased a vast array of informed opinion, including expert witnesses with over 70 years of combined experience at the two agencies who all were opposed to the proposal.  I believe this is a bad proposal that jeopardizes the integrity of science and research at USDA.

The bill also rejects the proposed elimination of the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs. It provides $1.85 billion for Food for Peace and $235 million for McGovern-Dole. These programs send American commodities all over the world to address global hunger and are an essential tool for diplomacy.

The bill fully funds the SNAP and WIC programs to meet expected participation in FY 2020. The bill provides $10 million for School Breakfast Expansion Grants, the first time this program has been funded since 2012. And it funds the Summer EBT program at $50 million, a $22 million increase.

For the Food and Drug Administration, the bill provides $3.26 billion in discretionary funding, which is $185 million above fiscal year 2019. Increased funding is dedicated to fighting rare cancers, laying the foundation for more efficient generic drug reviews, improving our response to foodborne illness outbreaks, and the continued implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act.

The bill funds the Commodity Futures Trading Commission at $315 million, a necessary and overdue increase.

Finally, I’m pleased that this bill provides funding for several new programs that were authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, such as the 1890s Scholarship program, the Local Agriculture Market Program, Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, and the Competitive Research Equipment Grants program, to name a few.

In closing, this is a good bill and I ask for your support.

Thank you, Madam Chair. 

116th Congress