BISHOP URGES TO REOPEN THE GOVERNMENT
Jan 10, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA02) released the following statement today after passage in the United States House of Representatives of the Fiscal Year 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 265). Representative Bishop is the Chairman-designate of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. H.R. 265 is largely the same measure that was approved by the United States Senate last year on a bipartisan vote of 92 to 6. Should this legislation, which the House passed by a vote of 243 to 183, subsequently be approved by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by the President, it would reopen those U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offices that are currently closed due to the government shutdown and retroactively pay federal workers who are being furloughed.
“The closure of the USDA due to the government shutdown has caused a real winter of discontent for our nation’s farmers and all Americans who depend on a safe and secure food supply,” said Bishop. “It makes little sense that rural communities in Georgia and across the country are being held hostage by an Administration that already has done much damage to farmers by his reckless tariff war. The shutdown becomes more and more precarious for all Americans every day that it continues. Whether it is reductions in food safety inspections or the delayed approval of innovative medicines conducted by the FDA, we all fall victim to this shutdown. I urge my Senate colleagues to vote on this legislation and send it to the President’s desk and end this shutdown.”
During the House debate, Congressman Bishop delivered the following remarks on H.R. 265:
OPENING STATEMENT FOR CONGRESSMAN BISHOP
January 10, 2019
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.