Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues on the Democratic side for not only their vigorous support for the things that they believe in today on this important bill but also for their consideration, participation, and bipartisanship yesterday as the Rules Committee considered this important bill.
I believe it is important what we are doing in the House. I think doing our work on a bipartisan basis should draw the attention of the President of the United States, who has said he will veto this bill, veto the bill before we even see what it looks like. I think that we should understand that what we are trying to do is work together. So, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Worcester, Massachusetts, my very dear friend, Mr. McGovern,
pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I can certify that at no time during this process have we vilified any poor people. We're here to help them. The Republican Party cares very much about families and children, moms who are trying to make a go of it.
We're the ones that are up here trying to lower taxes on everybody. We're the ones that are trying to make sure we've got jobs for people. We're the ones that are making sure that we're trying to take pedophiles and rapists and murderers off the rolls of government assistance so that it would serve those who need it the most.
We're trying to help prioritize and save this system. That is what Republicans are trying to do.
We would never vilify those that are disabled, or who are seniors, or who are men and women who richly deserve the opportunity for the government to help them.
But likewise, we believe that those who are able-bodied, those who really should be getting up during the day and trying to go find work do not take government assistance.
We are very concerned about the rights of seniors, about the rights of women, particularly women that have children, and about children and about the disabled. I work very extensively as a Republican with other Republicans and with Democrats on a bipartisan basis to make sure that we're looking at those needs of disabled people. So, I think it would be unfair to say, Well, this bill is aimed to vilify the people that we're intending to help, and that's why we are here today.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to a gentleman who is from Gainesville, Florida, and was a large animal vet. He understands a lot, not just about agronomics, but also about the men and women who take care of this country in agriculture, people who spend their lives there, people who have to take care of their animals and, day in and day out, the needs that it takes to make sure that we have the best farms and ranches in America, animals who are safe and consumers that get a good deal.
I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Florida, Dr. YOHO.
Mr. YOHO. I thank my colleague from Texas (Mr. Sessions).
This bill has been a long time coming. With over 3 years of reviewing every single USDA program, 11 audit hearings, and 2 markups, we've finally brought a farm bill to the house floor--and I need to remind everybody, with a lot of bipartisan support. This is hugely important for the stability and security of our Nation's food supply; and without that supply, a nation like ours cannot truly call itself secure.
I've worked in agriculture all my life, since I was 16 years of age, and I've seen the regulations that stood in the way of farmers and ranchers, and I've seen the regulations that have made sure our food supply is the safest in the world.
This legislation cuts through the red tape by eliminating and consolidating over 100 programs, while bolstering farm risk management programs so that our farmers can keep feeding America during the tough times.
I see a lot of theatrics and drama when we hear people talk about 50 million starving people in this country. I disagree with that. I think there are 330 million starving people at least three times a day. We call it breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But as far as 300 million nutritionally deprived people, I would beg to differ. The SNAP program does not take one calorie off the plate of anyone who qualifies for the program.
Let me repeat that. The SNAP program does not take one calory off the plate of those who qualify for the program. We simply close the loophole that allows States to sign people up into the program without the proper qualifications.
To have a secure nation, we must have a secure food source. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for the rule and for passing the underlying bill.
Ms. DeLAURO. I rise in opposition to this rule and the underlying bill. It includes severe, immoral cuts to the food stamp program, slashing so deeply into nutrition support for hungry families at a time of great need all across this country. It is cruel, it is unnecessary, and it's an abdication of our responsibilities to the American people.
Over the past 30 years of policies aimed at debt and deficit reduction, the key programs that help the most vulnerable among us to get by have always been protected from deep cuts. Recent examples: Simpson-Bowles. This has been a bipartisan tradition for decades. But this FARRM Bill destroys that tradition.
This bill slashes food stamps by more than $20 billion. It hurts millions of Americans in our economy. It will force up to 2 million Americans to go hungry. It kicks roughly 210,000 children from the school lunch program, and it changes the relationship between the food stamp program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which takes benefits away from seniors and from our families.
Let's make it clear: you cannot get food stamps unless you qualify for them. There is nothing automatic about it. Food stamps are our country's most important effort to deal with hunger here at home. Forty-seven million Americans are helped--half of them kids--and they are proven to curb hunger and improve low-income children's health, growth, and development. They have one of the lowest error rates of any government program. It's 3.8 percent.
I tell my colleague from Texas: Do you want to find money in this budget? Go to the crop insurance program, which is ripping off billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers. That's where the money is, not where the program is to feed our kids.
Food stamps are good for the economy. They get resources into the hands of families who will spend them right away. And, most importantly, they are the right thing to do.
Ms. DeLAURO. Let me quote the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
We must form a ``circle of protection'' around programs that serve the poor and vulnerable in our Nation and throughout the world.
Harry Truman said:
Nothing is more important in our national life than the welfare of our children, and proper nourishment comes first in attaining this welfare.
Let's pursue a balanced approach. I urge my colleagues to vote against this rule. Vote against the underlying bill. Balancing the budget on the backs of hungry Americans, especially children, does not reflect the values of this great Nation, and it abdicates our moral responsibility in this Chamber.
Ms. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM of New Mexico. I rise in opposition to the rule and the bill because I am absolutely appalled by the proposed cuts to the SNAP program in the FARRM Bill.
Now, I know how important the FARRM Bill is to American ranchers and farmers and to New Mexico ranchers and farmers. I want to vote for the bill, but I cannot support it if these disastrous cuts remain.
For the past week, I've joined dozens of my colleagues in the SNAP challenge, to take a walk in the shoes of the over 442,000 New Mexicans--half of whom are children--who have to eat on less than $4.50 every day, to show just how devastating any cuts to the food program would be. Nearly one in three children in New Mexico is chronically hungry. It's the worst in the Nation. It's unconscionable, and these cuts make it worse.
In addition to the SNAP cuts, this bill also cuts funding for nutrition education programs that teach SNAP recipients how to stretch their dollars further and feed their families nutritious food.
New Mexico's farmers, ranchers, and consumers need and deserve a farm bill. But this cut, this bill is morally wrong, it's cruel, and it's reckless--harming children, seniors, the disabled, and veterans in the process.
Mr. DOGGETT. Forty-five years ago, in a now famous film, Edward R. Murrow, for CBS, produced a program called ``Hunger in America.'' It described 100,000 residents of San Antonio--mostly Latino--who were ``hungry all the time'' and the indifference of some local leaders to their plight. This spring, with the inspirational leadership of Rod and Patti Radle, we re-watched that film, discussed the progress, and outlined the remaining challenges.
In one west side ZIP code, we still have 40 percent of the population in poverty and over one-third relying on SNAP. We cannot snap our fingers and snap away that poverty. But if we make these cuts five times larger than what the United States Senate approved, we will snap away food security from many needy families--people like Daniela, who lost her job and relies on SNAP to feed her young daughter.
Mr. DOGGETT. In San Antonio and Austin, a public-private partnership, across this Nation, involves responsible corporate citizens, like HEB, working together with local entities to see that there's food security. But without SNAP, they cannot do their job.
This bill has very little to do with reform and everything to do with denying a vital lifeline to school children and to poor Americans across this country.
Let us reject it.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to remind the young gentleman from Austin, Texas, that he'll have a chance to vote on this, and then we can make a determination. But it's pedophiles, murderers, rapists, those who should have enough money not to have government assistance, that's what we're trying to do here. And he'll have a chance to decide that today.
Mr. Speaker, at this time I'd like to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Taylorsville, Illinois (Mr. Rodney Davis), a member of the Ag and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.
Ms. HAHN. I wasn't able to attend my usual congressional Women's Bible Study this morning, but I am still feeling the command of scripture. So, today, as we begin the consideration of the House FARRM Bill--the FARRM Bill that takes $20 billion from the hungry in cuts to SNAP, $20 billion from the plates of fellow Americans who are struggling to feed themselves even with this meager benefit--I am holding in mind the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew:
Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
In my communities alone, 145,000 people rely on this benefit. Over half of them are children. This bill takes food from their mouths.
I hope all of my colleagues will remember what that means and will join me in supporting the McGovern amendment, which will reverse these cuts, or else vote down this immoral bill.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I submit for the Record a letter to the Congress from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, which opposes the cuts that are contained in the FARRM Bill.
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR,
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS,
Boston, MA, May 30, 2013.
Hon. Harry Reid,
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate,
Hon. John Boehner,
Speaker, House of Representatives,
Hon. Mitch McConnell,
Minority Leader, U.S. Senate,
Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
Minority Leader, House of Representatives,
DEAR SPEAKER BOEHNER AND LEADERS PELOSI, REID AND MCCONNELL: As you continue your work on the 2013 Farm Bill, I write to ask that you consider the importance of the following priorities, which, while not an exhaustive list, will help ensure that we continue to provide the most vulnerable Americans with access to healthy and affordable food, as well as strengthen our many diverse farms that are integral to the Commonwealth.
In Massachusetts, over 880,000 individuals are served by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 40 percent of who are children. SNAP helps lift families out of poverty and works to bridge the gap so that struggling Americans can put food on the table. I urge you to protect the overall integrity of SNAP and refrain from restricting eligibility, reducing benefits or funding for this critical program. Specifically, I urge you to protect the highly successful Heat and Eat state option.
In Massachusetts over 125,000 households currently participate in this program and if it were eliminated they would see a decrease of about $70 per month in their SNAP benefits. Eliminating or placing new burdensome requirements and restrictions on this successful state option will simply lead to increased food insecurity for more of our most vulnerable residents.
In addition, households receiving benefits through a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant are currently categorically eligible for SNAP. A proposal in the House bill would restrict this categorical eligibility. Many low-income individuals, particularly the elderly, would no longer be eligible for SNAP. This population is already under represented because they are either unaware they are eligible for SNAP benefits or too proud to apply. This change will result in many elders
going without the food assistance they need and deserve.
I agree that program integrity is important for SNAP. Your committees can emphasize the importance of program integrity by increasing the percentage of administrative costs reimbursed by the federal government for those states, such as Massachusetts, that invest in efforts to improve program integrity, such as in data sharing and mining software designed to identify household composition, income, assets and participation in other public assistance programs.
As we continue to combat childhood obesity and the increased risk of diabetes, we should do all we can to promote and provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables for our SNAP families. I therefore also urge you to authorize appropriate funding to promote the acceptance of EBT in all farmers' markets and other non-traditional produce vendors.
Bay State farmers have averaged $490 million in cash receipts and employ over 12,000 workers across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in active production. In Massachusetts, approximately 80 percent of our farms are family-owned, making it all the more important to maintain an inventory of farmland for future generations. For this reason, I urge you to authorize robust funding for conservation programs in the 2013 Farm Bill, including the Farms and Ranchland Protection Program, which
has helped the Commonwealth preserve and protect nearly 14,000 acres of farmland. I also urge you to provide adequate mandatory funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which helps our farmers plan and implement conservation practices to improve soil, water, plant and related resources, as well as Conservation Innovation Grants, which have directly assisted the implementation of over 100 farm energy projects in Massachusetts, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Further, programs funded under the Energy Title have been critical to helping Massachusetts farmers and rural business owners [Page: H3781]
lower their energy bills through renewable energy installments and energy efficiency improvements. I urge you to authorize robust funding for the Rural Energy for America Program to help our farms continue to make key energy improvements. Since 2009, REAP has helped to fund 44 biomass, solar, energy efficiency and wind projects
in rural areas of Massachusetts.
The dairy industry generates over $50 million in cash receipts from milk and other dairy product sales in Massachusetts. Small dairy farms, which predominate in Massachusetts, are particularly vulnerable to changes in the dairy industry, such as the wide fluctuation in market prices of milk and animal feed. At times, such market fluctuations drive down the price of milk while simultaneously driving up the cost of production, often resulting in low or negative margins. To ensure that the dairy
industry continues to sustain and improve in Massachusetts, long term solutions including supply management and margin protection are crucial. I therefore support the inclusion of the Dairy Production Margin Protection Program and the Dairy Market Stabilization Program in the 2013 Farm Bill.
Finally, Specialty Crops Block Grant funding is critical to our agriculture economy, as specialty crops, including our vibrant cranberry bogs, make up a majority of our food crops. With over 400 growers producing approximately 35 percent of the nation's cranberry supply, cranberries are the number one food crop in Massachusetts and have a crop value of $104 million. I respectfully request that you authorize yearly funding for the Specialty Crops Block Grant at the FY2013 $55 million level, at
a minimum, to allow us to continue to enhance the competitiveness of our specialty crops.
As you continue your work on the Farm Bill, I urge you to protect these important programs and vital benefits in order to provide certainty and stability for low-income families, our farmers and rural small businesses.
Deval L. Patrick,
Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding me time this morning, and I thank everyone who has been on the floor to talk about the unconscionable and unthinkable cuts to SNAP benefits. This will have a devastating effect on my home State as it will across the country.
I want to mention one other thing. Just over a week ago, Speaker Boehner promised a fair and open debate on the FARRM Bill and said:
If you have ideas on how to make the bill better, bring them forward. Let's have the debate and vote on them.
Lots of people brought ideas forward, ideas that would help farmers in States like mine, but we aren't getting a chance to debate those ideas here today.
The biggest programs in this bill, the revenue loss program and the price loss program that benefit big farmers, they won't do anything for the farmers in my State or many others. They won't make them more vital, as the Chair on the floor has said today. That's not going to happen.
A bipartisan amendment that I submitted--and this is just one of the 117 denied consideration--would benefit diversified farmers in every State. This is an amendment that has zero cost and is supported by over 400 organizations from 46 States. It's an amendment that would help the tens of thousands of small businesses that did $5 billion in local food sales last year.
I'm glad we will get to vote on the amendment to roll back the outrageous SNAP cuts in this bill, but I am very disappointed that local food and sustainable agriculture has been left out of the farm bill debate.
This is not an open process, and I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against the rule.
Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts for his profound leadership on this issue.
You know, I rise in opposition to this rule because there are many amendments that were not made in order, but there's enough pork in this farm bill to make a dead pig squeal. I want to talk about just some of the silly things that are in this bill that were made in order as amendments for us to take up this afternoon, including pennycress as a research and development priority at the Risk Management Agency, or an amendment to direct the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture to conduct an
economic analysis of the existing market for U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish.
But an amendment I had that would have given veterans waiting for disability claims to be processed the opportunity for SNAP as a disabled person was not made in order.
And another amendment that would have made crop insurance subsidies that taxpayers in this country pay, some $9 billion a year, transparent--not in order. There are 26 companies in this country, agribusinesses, that are receiving more than $1 million apiece in crop insurance premiums, but we don't get to know who they are. That was an amendment I had that was not made in order, even though Grover Norquist thinks it should be made in order, U.S. PIRG thinks it should be made in order, and the
Environmental Working Group thinks it should be made in order.
Ms. SPEIER. But we're more interested in talking about the Atlantic spiny dogfish, or pennycress than dealing with issues around veterans accessing SNAP and whether or not the public has a right to know when we spend $9 billion a year on premium payments for crop insurance, just another name for what has historically been a farm subsidy.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I'm down to the bare minimum time I have left, and I'm going to reserve my time to close. I will close whenever the gentleman is prepared to do the same.