Chairman Bishop Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2021 Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA Funding Bill
WASHINGTON — 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 2021 Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA bill:
Thank you, Madam Chair. I am pleased we are here to consider the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
I would like to begin by thanking our subcommittee’s distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Fortenberry. This is our second year working together and I really appreciate the Ranking Member’s intense commitment to rural communities and his devotion to establishing and maintaining a healthy dialogue that makes this process much easier and effective. In fact, we were on the phone yesterday evening hammering out the final details. The Ranking Member is always thinking of creative solutions, and I can positively say that we improved the bill in the last 24 hours through several items in the manager’s amendment. We have developed a great bill that will make life better for millions of Americans and I am grateful for his friendship and cooperation during this process, which has been anything but normal.
I also want to say a special thank you to Chairwoman Lowey, as this will be her final Agriculture appropriations markup. If I had command of all the words and all the languages spoken by all the people in all of the world, I would not have enough words combined to adequately express the gratitude we feel and the appreciation we have for your service to this Committee, to Congress, and to the American people. It is impossible to fully thank you for everything you have done but it has been a tremendous pleasure working with you over the years. I have great admiration for your dedication to public service and humankind. As I mentioned at our subcommittee markup, you and Ranking Member Granger have set a fine example for how members from different sides of the aisle can work together in a bipartisan way through our differences on issues to arrive at a consensus that benefits the American people. You inspire us all.
Now to the business at hand.
Our subcommittee received more than 9,000 member requests, a large increase over last year. We were able to fund the vast majority of member requests on both sides of the aisle.
Our fiscal year 2021 allocation is almost $24 billion – two percent above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level and more than $4.1 billion above the budget request – once again rejecting the administration’s draconian cuts.
That starts with broadband access. Over the last several years, starting with former Chairman Aderholt, this subcommittee has invested close to $1.5 billion to expand broadband access. This year, as the Coronavirus pandemic forces students and workers across the country online, we double down on our commitment. The ReConnect program, which has broad bipartisan support, is funded at $990 million, an increase of $435 million or 78 percent. In total, the bill provides more than $3.2 billion in budget authority for Rural Development programs to fund critical infrastructure, such as water and wastewater systems, and rural housing needs. The bill once again includes the 10-20-30 anti-poverty formula provision for Rural Development programs that is designed to target much needed federal resources to rural communities in need. Persistent poverties communities for too long have suffered from neglect, this provision will assist in reversing that and help these communities thrive.
The bill provides $1.83 billion for farm production programs. I am proud to say this includes $33 million in loan authority to resolve ownership and succession of farmland issues, also known as the “heirs property” issue, which predominately affects black farmers and has led to the loss of millions of acres of privately held farmland dating back a century. These funds will help owners navigate ownership disputes and help families keep their farmland. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, black farmers account for only 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.4 million producers. The number of black farmers has increased since 2012 and I will do everything I can to make sure that trend continues.
The bill provides $3.3 billion for agricultural research to ensure America retains its role as the leader of global agricultural science. That number includes an increase of $29.5 million for programs that support the 1890s Land-Grant Institutions.
I am happy to say we rejected the administration’s proposed elimination of the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs. Respectively we provide $1.775 billion and $235 million for these programs, an increase totaling $65 million, to ensure American agriculture remains an essential tool of diplomacy.
The bill fully funds the SNAP, Child Nutrition, and WIC programs to meet expected participation in FY 2021. It also blocks two unconscionable SNAP rules – the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents final rule and the Standard Utility Allowance proposed rule – designed to restrict program eligibility. These are rules the administration refuses to reconsider even in the middle of the pandemic that has caused massive unemployment. I just think that is wrong.
The bill funds smaller, but critical, nutrition programs that are proven to reduce hunger. The Summer EBT program is funded at $50 million, and School Breakfast Expansion Grants are funded at $15 million.
For the Food and Drug Administration, the bill provides $3.2 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $41 million. Increased funding is dedicated to new initiatives that would advance influenza vaccine technologies, enhance the safety of medical products and the nation’s food supply, especially in light of COVID-19. The bill, if we adopt an amendment I will offer next, will give the FDA the same mandatory authority to recall prescription drugs that it already has to recall unsafe food and medical devices—a need that has become increasingly apparent in the past few weeks.
Finally, I want to thank my personal staff, Michael Reed and Maya Solomon and the subcommittee staff, Martha Foley, Diem-Linh Jones, Perry Yates, Joe Layman, Randy Staples and Justin Masucci for their hard work on the bill. And certainly, we thank and appreciate the cooperation we have received from Tom O’Brien of the minority staff of the subcommittee as well as the minority staff of the full committee. And a special thanks to our Majority Clerk, Shalanda Young, for her strong leadership, steady hand, and tremendous insight in leading the majority full committee staff.
In closing, I ask for your support of the bill. It is a strong bill that continues important investments in rural and farm production programs, agriculture and medical research initiatives, international aid, and nutrition. It is a bill that meets the moment and I look forward to moving it through the process.
Before I yield back, I again want to thank our Chairwoman for her passion and dedication to the Committee.
Thank you, Madam Chair!