Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, again this is an increase of $4,509,000 on a budget. Last year was at $65,000. What we are seeing is a 6.8 percent increase, and the question that I would ask again is if we are going to increase this $4,509,000, and ultimately when it is all said and done the money is going to come out of the Social Security surplus, that we ought to have a great explanation.
If my colleagues read the committee print on this, and I will take the time to read it, there is not a valid explanation of what we are doing here, and again I would query the members of the committee. Maybe we are supposed to be doing this just to give us a good answer, and I will try to withdraw this amendment. But the fact is that we have silence on the issue.
Let me read what the committee print says.
``For the Economic Research Service the committee provides an appropriation of $70 million, an increase of $4,509,000 above 1999 and an increase of $14 million above the budget we have. The committee has provided $17,495,000, an increase of 300 above the budget request, for studies and evaluations of work under the Food and Nutrition Service.''
Now I am for our elderly food nutrition programs, I am for our WIC programs, but I want to know how we are going to spend this money, and I want to know why we are spending it in the direction and the increase, if, in fact, the committee expects ERS to consult and work with the staff of the Food and Nutrition Service as well as other agencies to assure that all the studies and evaluations are meeting the needs of the department. Is there an area where we are not supplying that need with the $65
million that we had last year? Is there money that could go to our farmers that are out there starving? Could some of this $4,509,000 go directly to farmers?
As my colleagues know, we say we want to help farmers, and some gentlemen have said today that some of our amendments have hurt farmers. Well, if they have, help us take this and change this and move it to the farmers instead of spending it on bureaucracies.
Again, we are going to have a process by which at the end of the appropriation day this $4,509,000, whether we want to hear it or not, is going to be taken from the Social Security surplus. Most people in this room know that. It is apparent that that is what is going to happen, regardless of whether we have another omni-terrible bill or not. The money on increased spending is going to be taken from the Social Security surplus, and I believe that it is the honorable thing for us to do to stand
up and admit that, and then say I believe we ought to take from the Social Security surplus an additional $4,509,000 to run this branch of the Department of Agriculture.
Mr. SKEEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I oppose this amendment, and we have been hearing talk of efficiency, and this is one area where the committee strongly believes that we have been very efficient.
The funding in this account is made up of two parts. One is the base economic research program for USDA, and the other is in the studies and evaluation for the feeding programs in this bill. By consolidating the studies and evaluations funding in this account, we have found that the program can be managed more efficiently.
The increase to this account is made up by corresponding increases in the child nutrition, food stamp and WIC accounts, and if we cut this account there will be no way of determining whether or not the $36 billion that we are spending on feeding programs in this bill are meeting their goals.
Ms. KAPTUR. They will not be doing research in this evaluative research. We changed it because we thought that perhaps they had too much of a vested interest in continuing programs the way they were, and the monitoring might not have been as objective as it should have been.
This may not work under ERS. We are not sure it will work, but we think it is a way of being more objective.
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. Chairman, I want to assure my colleagues that I do not have 150 amendments, not even 50, only 2, and I believe the majority is going to accept one later. So this is it for me, and I would appreciate support for this amendment.
This amendment is cosponsored by the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. NEY), the gentlewoman from Georgia (Ms. MCKINNEY), the gentlewoman from California (Ms. LEE), and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. HALL). This is a very similar amendment to the one that the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LOBIONDO) and I introduced last year, which won in the House by a strong vote. Unfortunately, the conference committee did not support the effort that we had made in the House.
The purpose of this amendment is to increase funding for a nutrition program of extreme importance to many low-income senior citizens, small children and pregnant women, and that program is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
This year, the President requested $155 million for the Commodity Assistance Program, which contains the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. However, the program was funded at $14 million less than the President's request. We are attempting now to add $10 million to the program, which would still be $4 million less than what the President had requested.
Mr. Chairman, it is no secret that malnutrition and hunger among senior citizens is a serious and tragic problem in the United States. Throughout our country, food shelters see more and more use, and hospital administrators tell us that thousands of senior citizens who enter hospitals in this country are suffering from malnutrition. We know that programs like Meals on Wheels have long waiting lists and that large numbers of seniors throughout this country are simply not getting the nutrition
that they need.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is currently operating in 20 States. Other States are on the waiting list and still more are in the process of applying for the program. We have been told by the USDA that unless additional funds are given to this program, there simply cannot be an expansion, which would be a real tragedy not only for seniors, but for pregnant women and young children who also utilize this important program.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment is offset by cutting $13 million from the Agricultural Research Service. At a time of very, very tight and unreasonable, in my opinion, budget caps, this particular program received a $50 million increase this year, which brings the program up to just over $830 million.
I am not an opponent of the Agricultural Research Service. I think they do a lot of good. I come from an agricultural State, and they do important work. But it seems to me that we have to put our priorities in a little bit better place.
At a time of significant and growing hunger in the United States, it is frankly more important to be funding nutrition programs than adding $50 million to ag research in such programs as funding a geneticist plant breeder for lettuce to develop red snapper agriculture, aquaculture, to conduct golden nematode worm research and rainbow trout research.
I do not mean to make fun of those programs. I am sure that they make sense and are useful. But I think in terms of our priorities, when we have seniors who are hungry and small kids who are not getting the nutrition that they need, I think we should do better; and we can do better by supporting this nutrition program.
I want to thank the cosponsors of this amendment, one of whom is the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. NEY), and the schedule has been so thrown off today that I do not know if they are going to come and speak to this right now. But the gentlewoman from Georgia (Ms. MCKINNEY), the gentlewoman from California (Ms. LEE), the gentlewoman from California (Ms. WOOLSEY) are also cosponsors of this amendment, and I would ask for its passage.