Mrs. MEEK of Florida. Mr. Chairman, my amendment helps to protect United States consumers from unsafe foreign meat and poultry. What it does, it ensures fairness to protect our meat and our poultry products from unfair competition and it directs the United States Department of Agriculture to influence our current food safety laws.
What this amendment does is necessarily ensures that USDA will follow and enforce its laws. What it does is it will cut off funds for them for permitting the import of meat and poultry from any foreign country unless USDA determines that the inspection system of that foreign country is equivalent and actually provides a level of safety equivalent to what we require of the meat and poultry people in this country.
We want to be sure that that equivalency is established. If it is not, this amendment would certainly cut off funds to that foreign country.
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I want to rise in strong support of the gentlewoman's amendment and her efforts to protect our consumers. Without question, food safety has to be a number one priority and responsibility of this committee. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has been promoting this for a number of years. Why should not foreign meat imported into this country adhere to the same rigorous standards that our livestock producers here at home must meet?
Last year we know the Department, I think the gentlewoman referenced, allowed $3 billion, with a B, pounds of meat and poultry to be imported from 32 foreign countries on to our shores. This amendment simply requires USDA to enforce our food safety laws and protect our consumers.
I just want to make sure that the letter from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is entered into the RECORD as part of this amendment, and I rise in strong support of the gentlewoman's amendment.
Washington, DC, May 24, 1999.
Hon. CARRIE P. MEEK,
House of Representatives, Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR REP. MEEK: On behalf of the members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), I wanted to inform you that NCBA supports the language on inspection equivalency you plan to offer to the FY 2000 House Agriculture Appropriations measure. We appreciate your staff reviewing the proposed amendment with us.
NCBA strongly supports measures that work, through sound science, to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of the U.S. food supply. In addition, we are constantly engaged in trade discussions and disputes with other countries who use the ``equivalency'' issue as a barrier to U.S. beef and other livestock products. Your proposed amendment certainly would reiterate the Secretary of Agriculture's important role in making sure that any beef, other meat, or poultry products imported into the United
States adhere to the same rigorous standards that America's cattlemen and women, and other livestock producers meet.
Thank you for your leadership on this matter. We look forward to its successful inclusion in the Agriculture Appropriations package. Please let us know if we can be of assistance in this effort.
DALE W. MOORE,
Mr. SKEEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, we have sent this amendment in its earlier version to the USDA but received no formal comment. We have been told that the administrator of the Food Safety Inspection Service has concerns about the amendment, but we do not know what those concerns are at this time. I think we can all agree with the heart of the amendment, that imported food ought to meet the same standard as the domestic products. There are important trade and food safety considerations here, and I would have liked
some time to hear from the administration.
Nevertheless, I am prepared to support the gentlewoman's amendment, with the understanding that we will need to work together before the conference to give the administration an opportunity to be involved.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words. [Page: H3789]
Mr. Chairman, I want to go on record as supporting this amendment. As a physician and as a Member of Congress from a cattle and farm State, to me it is unconscionable that we can produce cattle and butcher it in the State of Oklahoma and ship it to Kansas under great quality standards, but, at the same time, meat produced outside of this country can come anywhere in this country and not meet those same standards.
I would like to say, as a Member of Congress from a cattle producing State, that this not only makes sense from a standpoint of food safety, but also is eminently fair to our cattle producers and our consumers. This will not raise the cost. What it will do is assure that the American consumer is getting what they paid for. The imported goods coming into this country ought to have to meet the same standard as the provider of goods in this country domestically produced. So I support the amendment.