Bishop statement at subcommittee markup of 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill
Thank you for yielding Mr. Chairman.
As Chairman, you have always set a cooperative tone and I want to thank you for continuing to be inclusive as we work through this process. I believe the Chairman has worked very hard with very limited time and an even more limited allocation to get to this point. Though the President’s draconian request gave me severe concerns about what this bill would look like, I am pleased that you’ve rejected so much of it outright.
First, the bill provides mandatory funding for SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, and child nutrition that is consistent with current estimates. And does it without including the onerous legislative proposals put forth in the budget request. School kitchen grants are funded at $25 million: the Administration’s request had zeroed them out. WIC is funded at the request level, which is slightly below the FY 17 level—based on USDA current estimates, this level should not have any negative impact on the program.
I was also pleased to see that the bill provides $1.4 billion for Food for Peace, which was zeroed out in the President’s request. McGovern-Dole is funded at $185 million: there was no funding for it in the request either. While both programs are below the FY 17 level they are far above zero, and I hope that we will be able to work to increase funding for both as we go through this process.
A major area of bi-partisanship is that we did not abandon rural communities, as proposed, in the White House budget request. Instead, we came together to ensure important improvements to rural housing and rural water programs were added in this bill.
While there are things to praise, Mr. Chairman, I do so in the context of a lower allocation and a Presidential request that provided no leadership: the 2018 allocation is 5% lower or $1.126 billion below the final 2017 number. Resulting in funding reductions being spread across program accounts to make them less painful. However, our communities need these programs more than ever and they need the necessary funding levels to be successful. Therefore, I look forward to us making improvements to this bill before it is signed into law.
Turning away from the bill for a second; Mr. Chairman, I am disappointed to point out that, although it’s the end of June, we still have no budget resolution, no top-line spending number, the debt limit is rapidly approaching, and we have no full list of subcommittee allocations.
Marking up just one bill at a time without a full list of allocations leaves us effectively working in the dark. Further, without a bipartisan budget deal, we will also be forced to cope with the real potential for the return of sequestration.
This operational strategy results in an inequitable distribution of funds between the defense and non-defense related accounts. While our defense related programs are vital to the nation, our non-defense accounts are equally important in providing for the least of these. If history proves correct, we are again in danger of having a broken appropriations process. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that it will be unconscionable for any of us to help pass spending bills that shift burdens onto working families and the most vulnerable among us. Agreeing to subcommittee allocations bill-by-bill puts us at a great danger of doing just that.
These mark-ups represent our first step in a long process with a very limited amount of time. I look forward to continuing the cooperative relationship we have developed to address these issues moving forward in the appropriations process.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and I yield back.