|1:24 PM EDT||
Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-MO 9th
Mr. LUETKEMEYER. Madam Chair, I would like to congratulate the Appropriations Committee and the chairman for their fine work on making some difficult choices.
Obviously, our budget times are tight. We have to prioritize our spending, and we have some emergencies here in this country which are abnormal, extremely abnormal from the standpoint that our weather patterns have changed dramatically this past year and as a result we have a lot of our citizens that are really suffering right now.
In my district, I have the Mississippi River along the one side, I have the Missouri River running through the area as well, so both of those have been dramatically impacted by the massive rain storms that have run through the area as well as some of the tornados that have gone through the area as well.
So I want to put a face on some of this for just a moment. You know, we have today a number of farmers who no longer can drive to their homes. They have to take a boat to their homes. They have 5 feet of water. Some of them are looking at the roofs instead of their homes, and their crops are gone. And when they are gone, whenever a flood occurs, it doesn't just occur and wipe out that year's crops. Quite often times it takes 2 or 3 or 4 years. And sometimes the ground is damaged to the point
where it can never be reclaimed.
The gentlewoman from the southeast portion of our State, some of her area that was devastated by some of the levees that were blown up, those crop lands may never return to fertile ground because of what happened. Again, well, people say, well, it's just farm land. No, it's not. This is the business of farming. This is their business location.
And if you look at their farms, it's not just land that's laying out there. They have irrigation systems, they have thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in irrigation systems and the berms and the ground that's been cultivated and excavated in a way that it can utilize all the waters that they irrigate with or whatever.
So they have a huge investment in this property. It's not just land. It's a huge investment in their business. We are interested in continuing to help those folks rebuild those levees, rebuild their lives, rebuild their businesses because this is what they are about.
One of the things that has happened in my area right now is with, basically, a tsunami coming down the Missouri River basin. In Montana they had an unusual amount of snow that fell this year, a late snow melt. And then on top of that they had a whole year's worth of rain in a 2-week period, and we have literally a tsunami coming down the Missouri River basin.
Fortunately, we had a flood control set of dams in there that have minimized it; but even at that, this is a 100- to 500-year flood that is devastating everything in its path. And so those folks, in fact, right now from Kansas City on north, there isn't a single private levee that isn't either breached or topped.
Let me repeat that: There isn't a single private levee north of Kansas City that is not breached or topped. That's how severe and how devastating this situation is this year.
When we start talking about the uses of the river, it's important to note that barge traffic on rivers--the gentleman from Louisiana a moment ago talked about the usage of how much corn and grain goes up and down the Mississippi. The normal barge can carry 900 trailer loads of grain, 900 trailer loads of grain.
Think of all the vehicles we are taking off the roads. Think of the environmental impact of none of those vehicles being on the road. It's very significant.
Yet, in our area, the Missouri River is being underutilized because of some of the new mandates that are being put on it by different bureaucrats here in D.C. with regards to trying to worry about a fish or a bird that lives along the shore and/or for recreational purposes.
So we have some interesting debates going on right now. Those we will decide at a later date, but the problem we are facing today is the devastation that it has had to life and property and the safety of those. We believe that these funds are necessary for people to recover from this devastation that has occurred.
And just as a side light here, we also would like to thank the Appropriations Committee for not only finding a way to do this, prioritizing Federal funds without adding to our debt, but there is an interesting fact here as well. I want to note, it was from a report back in January of 2009 with regard to the Congressional Research Service that said had supplemental appropriations been fully offset--which this is since 1981--Federal debt held by the public could have been reduced by at least 23
percent, or $1.3 trillion. This could have reduced interest payments to the public by $57 billion a year.
I think while it's difficult, I know that our friends across the aisle and some of the folks here discussing the prioritization this morning are not happy with this. I think these are difficult times. We all have to realize that reprioritizing things sometimes is not easy.
But in this situation I believe that it's justified, and we certainly support what fine work the Appropriations Committee has done.
I yield back the balance of my time.