|7:59 PM EDT||
Bernie Sanders, I-VT
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.