Opening Statement of Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX)

H.R.2673, The FY 2004 Agriculture Appropriations Bill
(Items of concern to the BAC are highlighted in the text)

   

Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   (Mr. BONILLA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

   Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to bring before the House today the fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill for Agriculture, Rural Development, the Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.

   My goal this year has been to produce a bipartisan bill, and I believe we have done a good job in reaching that goal.

   The Subcommittee began work on this bill with the submission of the President's Budget on February 3rd. We had ten public hearings beginning on February 26th, and we completed our hearings on March 20th. The transcripts of these hearings, the Administration's official statements, the detailed budget requests, several thousand questions for the record and the statements of Members and the public are all contained in eight hearing volumes.

   The Subcommittee and full Committee marked up the bill on June 17th and June 25th, respectively.

   We have tried very hard to accommodate the requests of Members, and to provide increases for critical programs. We received more than 2,380 individual requests for specific spending, from almost every member of the House. Reading all of the mail I received, I can confirm to you that the interest in this bill is completely bipartisan. However, I would point out that my own support for a member's needs is dependent on that member's support of the Committee in general, and of this bill in particular.

   This bill does have very limited increases over fiscal year 2003, or over the budget request, for programs that have always enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Those increases include:

   Agricultural Research Service, $39 million above the request.

   Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, $38 million above last year, and $31 million above the request.

   Food Safety and Inspection Service, $30 million above last year.

   Farm Service Agency, $33 million above last year.

   Natural Resources Conservation Service, $23 million over last year.

   Rural Community Advancement Program, $223 million above the request.

   Food and Drug Administration, $14 million over last year.

   Mr. Chairman, we all refer to this bill as an agriculture bill, but it does far more than assisting basic agriculture. It also supports human nutrition, the environment, and food, drug and medical safety. This is a bill that will deliver benefits to every one of our constituents every day, no matter what kind of district they represent.

   I would say to all Members that they can support this bill and tell all of their constituents that they voted to improve their lives while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

   The bill is a bipartisan product with a lot of hard work and input from both sides of the aisle. I would like to thank the gentleman from Florida (Chairman YOUNG), and the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. OBEY), who serves as the distinguished chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Appropriations. I would also like to thank all my subcommittee colleagues: the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH); the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. KINGSTON); the gentleman from Washington (Mr. NETHERCUTT); the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. LATHAM); the gentlewoman from Missouri (Mrs. EMERSON); the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. GOODE); the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. LAHOOD); the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DELAURO); the gentleman from New York (Mr. HINCHEY); the gentleman from California (Mr. FARR); and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. BOYD).

   In particular, I want to thank the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR), the distinguished ranking member of the subcommittee, for all her good work on this bill this year and the years in the past.

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   Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, as we all know, we are proceeding with this bill under regular order. I would like to thank the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur), my ranking member, for once again helping to produce the best bill we possibly could under the circumstances. We were working under some incredible fiscal limitations this year versus last year, and this is a bill that was produced by a subcommittee that has a history of working together.

   The last time we had our bill on the floor, we had over 400 votes in support of the bill; and I am very proud of that. I think every member of the subcommittee understands that we try to work with every last person and try to honor every request that they have. We cannot always do everything that everybody wants, but we certainly give it our best shot. This is the year, as many Members know, that we also had to deal with over 2,300 individual requests. That is a lot of requests that our good staff has to keep track of day in and day out as we moved toward this day; and I would like to commend the staff, both the majority and the minority, as they have worked so diligently especially in the last few days around the clock to try to get us to this point on the floor so we could have a good bill to present to the folks.

   So I am very proud of this product. Again, nobody always gets everything they want in bills like this, but we certainly have done the best we can.