5:17 PM EDT

Charles W. Stenholm, D-TX 17th

Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

First off, I think it is important that we know just exactly what the proposed increased spending is for. And I have great respect for the gentleman from Oklahoma, I do not believe he intends to misspeak, but this is an attempt to do something that many of us have been attempting to do since 1992, and that is bring the USDA into the next century technologically. And that is what these computers are all about. It is to allow our farmers to be served better by less people.

And that is what the cuts that are being proposed are all about, and that is why some of us have opposed these cuts.

But let me make a couple of other observations. If we want to save Social Security, let us bring a Social Security bill to the floor of the House from the Committee on Ways and Means.

Now, the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) and the gentleman from Washington (Mr. SMITH), on this side of the aisle, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. SHAW) and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. ARCHER) have brought bills and ideals but not to the floor. This is the wrong time for us to be picking on an agricultural bill, particularly making cuts that do just the opposite of what the gentleman from Oklahoma wants to do, in my opinion.

But the gentleman is correct in many of the observations that he makes with his amendments today. We have no appropriations strategy, ``we'' meaning this body, unless those who voted for the majority's budget are prepared to cut $6 billion from the Veterans Administration and HUD, unless they are willing to cut $11 billion in Labor HHS, unless they are willing to cut 8 percent in Commerce, State, Justice, and the energy and water bills, and unless they are willing to cut 20 percent from the Interior

and Foreign Operations.

Now, I did not vote for that budget, because I am not willing to make those kinds of cuts in those areas, because I believe it would be counterproductive, and I am perfectly willing to say what I mean. But I did vote for the Blue Dog budget, and the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) did also, which suggested that in the areas of agriculture, defense, education, health and veterans we might need to spend a little bit more on those areas, subject to the scrutiny of this body, which is

perfectly okay for any Member in this body to challenge the Committee on Appropriations at any time on anything we are doing, and I do not begrudge the gentleman for doing that.

We also, in our amendment, saved Social Security, and I would submit we did it really, and the gentleman agrees because he voted for it. We also provided for a 25 percent tax cut, or using 25 percent of the on-budget for cutting taxes. But we also recognized there was going to be a need for additional spending, and we are proving it today. And this is an area in which when I say ``we,'' the leadership of this House needs to look at the train wreck that they are leading us down by the proposed

302(b) allocations.

The gentleman from New Mexico and the gentlewoman from Ohio are doing what they were told to do. They were given a mark in the budget. This budget passed by a majority vote of this body. Therefore, that means a majority must support it.

Well, if it means a majority do not wish to spend that which has been designated for agriculture, vote against it. Cut the agriculture bill. Vote to adopt the amendment of the gentleman from Oklahoma, in which he will cut the very technology that we need in order to make the efficiencies to do more work with less people. That is what this is all about.

I know the gentleman has not looked into it. I have spent since 1992. I was the chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry that started us down the road of USDA reorganization, and I have been fought every step of the way by the bureaucracy. We have made some substantial improvements and changes, and one of the things that we must do now is provide our people with the technology that they need in order that they might do that which they are criticized

every day for doing.

Secretary Glickman has been criticized day after day after day because he has not been able to deliver that which our farmers expect. Part of the reason he has been criticized is we have [Page: H3563]

not given him the tools to use. So before we start blindly making amendments and trying to make points, let me just say this agricultural function is within the budget that passed by a majority of this House.

It does not meet the criteria of the Blue Dogs. Those who supported us, which was a majority on my side of the aisle and 26 on that side of the aisle, said, no, we cannot do that, we have some other needs, and we are willing to stand up and be counted for those needs in a very responsible way.

But if we truly want to save Social Security, let us bring a Social Security bill to this floor and do it tomorrow. Then we will have an honest debate about how we can best do it, not on an agricultural bill.

5:24 PM EDT

Allen Boyd, D-FL 2nd

Mr. BOYD. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I will not take 5 minutes, but I think it is wonderful that we can be in this position. When I was running for Congress in 1996, the major theme was that the Congress ought to live within its own means, it ought not to spend more money than it takes in. And I am proud of the U.S. Congress for what they have done in the past few years to get us there.

I know the gentleman from Oklahoma played an integral role in that, and I respect his right to bring these amendments. But I want to tell the gentleman that we have to live within these budget caps that we have imposed upon ourselves, or we are going to have a train wreck.

Now, I did not happen to vote for the budget that we are operating under right now. Like the gentleman from Texas, I voted for the Blue Dog budget, as did the gentleman from Oklahoma. And I think the major difference between the two was that we recognized, as Blue Dogs, that we could not do the cuts quite as deeply as were shown in the budget that came out of the majority of this House.

So, obviously, that Blue Dog budget went down, and now we are living within the constraints of the one that we have. And as my colleagues know, the main difference in those was the depth of the tax cuts.

So I just wanted to remind the gentleman from Oklahoma that, as I have listened to this discussion today, much of it has focused on senior citizens and the issue of Social Security. What has not been mentioned today is the fact that much of this bill that we are debating right now is of direct benefit to senior citizens. Actually, only 12 or 13 billion goes directly into the farm programs, the balance goes into WIC and some other programs that are directed at senior citizens.

Our rural housing programs, particularly the multifamily housing and rental assistance programs are heavily oriented towards seniors. We have housing repair loans and grants that help senior citizens fix their homes and rentals and repair handicapped access. Our community facility loans and grants build community centers that are used by all age groups in rural America.

A significant part of our research in this bill has gone for the elderly nutrition. This bill supports several feeding programs for senior citizens in urban and rural areas. This bill also supports people, the computers, the buildings and all other things necessary to make these programs work.

Now, I have spent most of my life in agriculture, and I go in and out of the FSA office regularly; and we have cut the staff in those offices, we have consolidated those offices to the point where we are doing a disservice to our farmers now all across this Nation. And the only way for us to be able to continue to sustain that is with technology. I am embarrassed when I go in and see some of the computers that they are using.

So I strongly urge the defeat of this amendment, and I certainly am thankful to the gentleman from Oklahoma for continuing this debate.

5:27 PM EDT

Duke Cunningham, R-CA 51st

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I thought one of the most interesting talks was given by the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. LARGENT). This is not about agriculture today, as far as what the gentleman is doing. It is about spending and it is about the future and, in the long run, farmers are going to be better.

I grew up in a little town called Shelbina, Missouri, which had a population of 2,113 folk, and I want to tell my colleagues that most of my friends were farmers, and most of them are having to have second and third jobs just to hang on to their farms. And I understand that. But when I look at this body and the argument, not just with our party, but with the other party as well, on total spending for the future, it is important.

Most of us could live within the budget caps, even national security. We could live under the budget caps set with national security if we did not have the Somalia extension, which cost billions; Haiti cost billions; Bosnia has cost $16 billion so far, and that is not even next year; Kosovo has already cost $15 billion; going to Iraq four times cost billions of dollars.

And all of this money, every penny of this, we could put in farms, we could put in Social Security, and we could do all the other things we want to. But this White House has got us in folly all over this planet, costing billions of dollars. So there is spending there.

I also look at the different things that we fight, and not just agriculture. Take a look at the balanced budget process. If I had my way I would do away with the budget process, and I think the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. FRANK) would too, and I would just go with an appropriations bill.

I would get rid of the authorization, and I would reduce the entire size of government so that we do not have to tax farmers so much, so that neither a State nor local nor Federal tax means more than 25 percent. That would help farmers.

[Time: 17:30]

Look at the Endangered Species Act. Look at how that hurts farmers. Increased taxes hurt farmers. All of these things that we talk about on this floor on almost all the bills, whether it is defense or environment or other things, affect farmers negatively.

The supplemental we passed, we passed a pretty good bill out of the House. It was clean but it went to the other body and it was a disaster coming back here. And that took money out from the things that we are trying to do in medical research and all the other things.

5:30 PM EDT

Tom Coburn M.D., R-OK 2nd

Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Texas talked about this office and this amendment. I want to get back to it for a minute.

I just want the American people to know, in 1964 there were 3.2 million farms in this country and there were 108,000 agricultural employees working for the U.S. Government. In 1997 there were 40 percent fewer farms, 1.9 million, and there were 107,000 Department of Agriculture employees plus 82,000 contract employees that did not exist in 1964.

So the question that I am wanting to raise, the philosophical question is why [Page: H3564]

can we not get the government smaller if we have fewer farmers, they are more efficient, they are doing better, and send more of the money that we have for agriculture to the farmers? How is it that we cannot do that? We can do that. It is that we choose not to do it.

5:33 PM EDT

Duke Cunningham, R-CA 51st

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. They want increased spending. They want increased government control. They want increased taxes. They want to cut defense by 50 percent. And every single one of those hurts farmers.

So this is about spending. And they in the minority want to increase spending. They want to increase taxes. They want to increase government control. All of those things hurt farmers.

So this bill and this debate is good, because it is not about agriculture. It is about a principle of spending and taxes and whether Congress is putting us in the hole for future generations or not.

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN

5:33 PM EDT

Duke Cunningham, R-CA 51st

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. They want increased spending. They want increased government control. They want increased taxes. They want to cut defense by 50 percent. And every single one of those hurts farmers.

So this is about spending. And they in the minority want to increase spending. They want to increase taxes. They want to increase government control. All of those things hurt farmers.

So this bill and this debate is good, because it is not about agriculture. It is about a principle of spending and taxes and whether Congress is putting us in the hole for future generations or not.

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN

5:34 PM EDT

David Minge, D-MN 2nd

Mr. MINGE. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, last Sunday afternoon I spent 3 hours at the Emmanuel American Lutheran Church in rural Fulda in Minnesota. The Fulda Ministerium had organized a service to minister to the anguish of the farm community. The local Catholic priest and several ministers participated.

Farm families are struggling to decide if they can continue to farm. Business families are wondering if their businesses will survive. Churches are wondering if they will survive. Teachers are wondering if their schools will stay open in the small communities in rural America.

As I sat in the service, I looked up at the wall in the front of the sanctuary and I noticed that the Ten Commandments were there. The Seventh Commandment states, ``Thou shalt not steal.'' The Seventh Commandment, which states, ``Thou shalt not steal,'' had a very strange and eerie relevance to the meeting that afternoon.

What is happening is this country has a cheap food policy and we have been stealing from America's farm families for decades. We are driving, by our national cheap food policy, thousands of families from the farms of America every year.

This year we are struggling with the first appropriations bill, Agriculture Appropriations. It is a humble bill. From my reading of the approach that we are taking, there is no real policy in this bill. We are not making progress. And I fear that the American farmers are getting rolled again in fiscal 2000. Their bill comes up first, and there is all this debate about whether their bill is too high.

Well, I can assure my friend from Oklahoma that we are not investing enough in agriculture. It is far from the truth. And the 100,000 employees he is talking about at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they are not dealing with our agricultural programs. Almost all of them are dealing with nutrition and Forest Service and other programs. It is not agriculture.

Let us quit treating our farmers like dirt. We expect them to farm in the dirt, but they deserve to be treated with dignity. I do not see any progress in this series of amendments. We are squandering hours of floor time on a frivolous debate over these amendments.

What we need to do, Mr. Chairman, we need to recognize the fact that, as we move through this appropriations process, one appropriations bill after another is going to exceed the caps. The Agriculture Appropriations bill is probably the one that is considered easiest to pass without protracted debate over whether we should not be spending more.

Tragically, when the end of the year comes and we have the new CBO budget baseline and the pressure is there for other programs, we will start to find ways to explode the caps. I think all of us know that. But for agriculture, no, there is no new program. There is no crop insurance reform for fiscal year 2000. We are not increasing the loan rates for fiscal 2000. We are not providing additional money for new and beginning farmers in fiscal 2000. We are not investing in our rural communities for

fiscal 2000 to a greater degree.

We have a static program. We are regressing for America's rural communities in fiscal 2000. And I think to blame the White House, to blame this and to blame that, is absolutely wrong. It is asinine. We need to look at ourselves and blame ourselves for the fact we are not doing justice to America's farm families.

I urge that we defeat this amendment and that we move on to consider the substance of this bill so that we no longer are insulting rural America.