Harris Remarks at FY23 Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration Full Committee Markup
Thank you, Chair DeLauro. I want to thank you and Ranking Member Granger for your leadership in moving this process forward. I also appreciate the hard work of Chairman Bishop in crafting the fiscal year 2023 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that is before us today.
There are a number of programs and provisions in this bill that I support, such as funding for rural broadband programs, rural electrification and telecommunication loan programs, critical research programs, and protections to ensure we have safe food, drugs, and medical devices.
I also want to thank Chairman Bishop and the committee for working with me to assist the State of Maryland in achieving their environmental and bay restoration goals by allowing seafood processors to more easily produce a safe product while avoiding duplicative regulatory burdens. While there are many things to like about this bill, the total discretionary spending level of $27.2 billion – or an 8 percent increase over the previous year’s funding - does not acknowledge the economic reality our nation faces.
As Americans are all too aware, inflation is soaring at a 40-year high of 8.6 percent, and the U.S. economy shrank by 1.5 percent last quarter. Gas prices have hit a record $5 a gallon nationwide, and food prices rose 12 percent - the largest 12-month increase since 1979. More government spending only ends in higher prices for the American people and adds to the inflation problem created by the Biden Administration’s reckless spending.
Increases across the board are included in this bill, most notably for the Food and Drug Administration, which would receive an overwhelming and unnecessary 10 percent increase. Based on how the FDA has handled the infant formula crisis, it’s clear that strong leadership is needed at FDA, not a significant increase in funding.
The bill also continues the increase for the WIC fruit and vegetable benefit. These increased benefits began as a one-time increase in the American Rescue Plan with zero discussion or input from Republicans. I understand the importance of making sure WIC participants have access to fruits and vegetables, but this policy and funding change was not debated and agreed to by both parties. This bill simply continues a program that was meant to be temporary without regard to the inflationary pressures and soaring food prices already squeezing American taxpayers.
I am also extremely concerned about providing the administration with unlimited spending authority for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at the end of the fiscal year. The administration claims this authority is needed for an unexpected increase in SNAP participation, but the president continues to tout record-low unemployment rates, which should translate into a decrease in SNAP participation. Furthermore, the program has a reserve fund of $9 billion so providing USDA with a blank check is just irrational and irresponsible.
In times like these, as stewards of taxpayer dollars, we must make tough decisions in the greater interest of the American people. While I support a number of programs in the bill, I cannot support the bill at this spending level.
As this process moves forward, I want to work on these issues, as well as some of the animal welfare provisions in the bill. I certainly want all animals to be treated humanely and believe we can find a way to protect animals without taking important tools away from our regulatory agencies.
Again, I want to thank you for your leadership, Chairman Bishop, and I thank your Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee staff led by Martha Foley for their work and collaboration. I also want to thank Pam Miller with the Agriculture Appropriations Minority staff for her efforts.
This bill touches the lives of every American and I am hopeful we can find common ground to support America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. I look forward to working with you - Chair DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, and Chairman Bishop - as this process moves forward. Thank you, Madam Chair, I yield back.