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

2019-05-23 10:02

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 Subcommittee's markup of its fiscal year 2020 bill:

The Subcommittee will come to order.

Welcome everyone and good morning.

Before we begin, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the life of Farm Credit Administration Chairman, and former USDA undersecretary, Dallas Tonsager, who passed away this week. His tireless work to improve rural communities and his commitment to public service are greatly appreciated by the Committee. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Before us, today, is the Chairman’s mark for the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The bill - and accompanying report - are products of a lot of hard work that began in January.

The subcommittee held eight hearings on funding and oversight matters regarding USDA and FDA, the rural economy and the administration’s proposed relocation of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

This year, the subcommittee received more than 7,200 member requests. We worked in a bipartisan manner to include as many requests as possible. For subcommittee members, we had over 400 requests and we met 96 percent of them in whole or in part.

Our fiscal year 2020 allocation is $24.310 billion – four percent above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. This is more than $5.1 billion above the budget request.

I’d like to take a moment to highlight the priorities and funding levels in this bill.

First, as Chairman, I’ve stressed the importance of investing in our rural communities. The bill provides nearly $4 billion for Rural Development programs, an increase of $290 from FY 2019. This includes $680 million for broadband programs to continue bridging the digital divide between urban and rural America. There is over $38 billion in loan 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. This allows NRCS to maintain its core conservation mission and expand conservation efforts across the country. 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 also 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. All evidence this committee has received indicates that 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 includes a $2 billion increase in the SNAP reserve fund, which was requested by 86 members, a quarter of whom made it their number one priority.

Key nutrition program funds of interest to subcommittee members are well-funded.

  • The Summer EBT program is funded at $50 million, an increase of $22 million.
  • Healthy Food Financing Initiative is funded at $10 million, which is a 400% increase.
  • We also include $10 million for School Breakfast Expansion Grants, the first time this program has been funded since 2012.

For the Food and Drug Administration, the bill provides $3.26 billion in discretionary funding, which is $185 million above the FY 2019 level. 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, I ask for your support of the bill. It is a strong bill that makes extremely important and necessary investments in our rural communities, farm programs, and vulnerable populations.

116th Congress